Monday, September 30, 2013

Mailbox Monday ~ Zealot

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth ~ by Reza Aslan, 2013, biography
Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived:   first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor.  Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God.  This was the age of zealotry — a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews.  And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Click here for a 27-minute video interview with Reza Aslan, along with a long excerpt — the entire nine pages of the book's Introduction.

This book arrived in my mail a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't mentioned it yet here on the blog.  Mailbox Monday is a place for readers to share the books that arrived in the past week and explore other book blogs.  Different bloggers host the meme each month, and Yolanda @ Notorious Spinks Talks is our September host.  The monthly tour schedule is on the right sidebar of Mailbox Monday.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Salon ~ three trips

Trip to the museum
My great-granddaughter enjoyed her visit to the Creative Discovery Museum a week ago.  This is the least blurry photo of that occasion.

These show her personality.  Raegan is outgoing and loves to make people laugh.  (Click to enlarge the photos.)

Trip to Atlanta

Donna and I went to Atlanta overnight so we could hear Barbara Brown Taylor speak at Emory University on "Learning to Walk in the Dark."  The subtitle is "Nourishing your soul when you can't see the way ahead."

I've read three of her books and consider her an excellent writer.
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, 2006, rated 9/10
Anyone who has experienced doubts about his or her chosen vocation, or those drawn to worship God in a community but who have a hard time finding their place in church, will find a kindred spirit in Taylor.
Altar in the World: Geography of Faith, 2009, rated 8/10
She shows us how to discover altars everywhere we go and in nearly everything we do as we learn to live with purpose, pay attention, slow down, and revere the world we live in.
Mixed Blessings, 1986, rev. ed. 1998, required reading in seminary
The topics of these sermons range from conversations with Abraham and Moses to our awareness of the communion of saints and how to recognize a miracle when one comes our way.
I graduated in 1987 and haven't been back on campus more than a few times since then.  Not for several years now.  A lot has changed, and traffic seems to have doubled or tripled.  I checked into the Red Roof Inn, wondering how in the world I'd ever be able to turn left onto the six-lane street to get to the event that night.  I'll probably post more about her talk later, but for now I'll share this thought about darkness:
The extent of the darkness in her life — and ours — may be "reading a good book by a low-watt lightbulb."  Maybe it's time for a walk in the dark.
Trip to the vet

Sammy is 18 years old.  That's old in cat years, and she may have feline Alzheimer's, since she can't always remember to use her litter box.  She steps in and paws the sandy litter this way and that — and gets out to do everything else beside the box or on the living room carpet.  Since Kiki died last summer, Sammy has been fighting the cat in the closet-door mirrors, unable to grasp it's herself she sees.  With Kiki gone, Sammy feels free to come out of "her" room (she's my roommate's cat) into "Kiki's room" and jump on my bed to talk to me.  She discovered a nice hidey-hole behind my desk, traversing the knee-hole and turning right into the corner.  She thought no one could see her until the day she glanced to the side and could see me looking at her from beyond the desk.  I was afraid I'd soon be writing an "R.I.P. ~ Sammy" post like the one I did last year for Kiki.  But the only thing the vet found wrong was that she may have a hyperthyroid condition, which can be treated.  He seemed unconcerned with possible Alzheimer's, which may have something to do with its being untreatable.  Sammy was relieved when we got home and headed for her special spot behind the desk.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Beginning ~ with a beveled-glass door

Clara and Mr. Tiffany ~ by Susan Vreeland, 2011, fiction (New York), 8/10
"I opened the beveled-glass door under the sign announcing Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in ornate bronze.  A new sign with a new name.  Fine.  I felt new too."
Who's this "new" person?  That's what this first paragraph makes me want to know.  She — I assume it's Clara because of the title of the book — looks around the showroom as she enters and notices:
"It was the oil lamps that bothered me.  Their blown-glass shades sat above squat, bulbous bases too earthbound to be elegant.  Mr. Tiffany was capable of more grace than that."
So now I wonder if she knows him or merely knows ABOUT him.  This book is off to a good start, in my opinion.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Salon ~ banned books week


Last Monday, a school board in North Carolina banned the novel Invisible Man from its reading list.  Although one board member said at the meeting, "I didn’t find any literary value ... I’m for not allowing it to be available," Ralph Ellison won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953 for this book.  In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Invisible Man nineteenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.
Invisible Man ~ by Ralph Ellison, 1952

As a first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.  The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.
They banned the book just in time for Banned Books Week, which begins today.  Read about other books that have been banned or challenged on my Banned Books blog.  We'll be posting several times on that blog this week.

DIVERSITY means acceptance and respect

Joy Weese Moll, a librarian who writes about books, posted a list of the 45 books her Diversity Book Club has read, so far.  As I read down the list, I noted the ones I've read and found others I'd like to read.  My library has the one about Elizabeth and Hazel.

The names Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan Massery may not be well known, but the image of them from September 1957 surely is:  a black high school girl, dressed in white, walking stoically in front of Little Rock Central High School, and a white girl standing directly behind her, face twisted in hate, screaming racial epithets.  This famous photograph captures the full anguish of desegregation — in Little Rock and throughout the South — and an epic moment in the civil rights movement.

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock ~ by David Margolick, 2011
In this gripping book, David Margolick tells the remarkable story of two separate lives unexpectedly braided together.  He explores how the haunting picture of Elizabeth and Hazel came to be taken, its significance in the wider world, and why, for the next half-century, neither woman has ever escaped from its long shadow.  He recounts Elizabeth's struggle to overcome the trauma of her hate-filled school experience, and Hazel's long efforts to atone for a fateful, horrible mistake.  The book follows the painful journey of the two as they progress from apology to forgiveness to reconciliation and, amazingly, to friendship.  This friendship foundered, then collapsed — perhaps inevitably — over the same fissures and misunderstandings that continue to permeate American race relations more than half a century after the unforgettable photograph at Little Rock.  And yet, as Margolick explains, a bond between Elizabeth and Hazel, silent but complex, endures.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Beginning ~ with fear of Muslims

Click to enlarge

God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World ~ by Stephen Prothero, 2010

Because this book is about eight very different religions with an extra chapter on atheism, I'm sharing the first words of each chapter, as well as the introduction.

"At least since the first petals of the counterculture bloomed across Europe and the United States in the 1960s, it has been fashionable to affirm that all religions are beautiful and all are true" (p. 1).
1.  Islam ~ The Way of Submission
"Most Europeans and North Americans have never met a Muslim, so for them Islam begins in the imagination, more specifically in that corner of the imagination colonized by fear" (p. 25).
2.  Christianity ~ The Way of Salvation
"Every Christmas Eve when I was a boy, my family would gather around the fire to hear my father read The Christ Child (1931).  The children's book borrows its voice from the stories of Jesus's birth and youth in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke" (p. 65).
3.  Confucianism ~ The Way of Propriety
To many Westerners, Confucianism seems about as relevant as a fortune cookie (p. 101).
4.  Hinduism ~ The Way of Devotion
At the beginning of any new venture, Hindus call upon Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of good fortune, lord of thresholds, and remover of obstacles" (p. 131).
5.  Buddhism ~ The Way of Awakening
"Buddhism begins with a fairy tale.  Unlike Cinderella or Rocky, however, this is no underdog fantasy of someone who has nothing and gains the whole world.  In fact it is just the opposite — a story of someone who has everything and decides to give it all away" (p. 169).
6.  Yoruba Religion ~ The Way of Connection
"In my introduction to religion courses I ask my students to invent their own religions.  They form groups and dream up new religions.  They then pitch their religious creations online and in class" (p. 203).
7.  Judaism ~ The Way of Exile and Return
"Judaism begins and ends with a story.  If Christianity is to a great extent about doctrine and Islam about ritual, Judaism is about narrative.  To be a Jew is to tell and retell a story and to wrestle with its key symbols:  the character of God, the people of Israel, and the vexed relationship between the two" (p. 243).
8.  Daoism ~ The Way of Flourishing
"Modern life is purpose-driven.  Though much of it is conducted in an office chair, it is nonetheless about speed and efficiency — 'galloping by sitting.'  Wandering, by contrast, is slow, unproductive, and open to surprises" (p. 279).
9.  Atheism ~ The Way of Reason
"Atheism is not a great religion.  It has always been for elites rather than ordinary folk.  And until the twentieth century, its influence on world history was as nonexistent as Woody Allen's god" (p.17).
Do any of these chapters draw you in?  I'm intrigued by how he starts the chapter on Yoruba Religion, about which I know nothing, even though I taught religions of the world at Chattanooga State as an adjunct for about a decade.  I read enough of that chapter just now to tell you that some of Prothero's students came up with a religion remarkably like the Yoruba religion.  Now I'm really curious.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Library Loot ~ September 18-24

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions ~ by Rachel Held Evans, 2010
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith.  Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask.  She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve.  Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years.  In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, this book is her fearlessly honest story of survival.
On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century ~ by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka, 2013
For years Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Argentina, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka were tenacious promoters of interreligious dialogues on faith and reason.  They both sought to build bridges among Catholicism, Judaism, and the world at large.  On Heaven and Earth, originally published in Argentina in 2010, brings together a series of these conversations where both men talked about various theological and worldly issues, including God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization.  From these personal and accessible talks comes a first-hand view of the man who would become pope to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world in March 2013.
The Day the Crayons Quit ~ by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, 2013, children's
Poor Duncan just wants to color.  But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing:  His crayons have had enough!  They quit!  Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon.  Black wants to be used for more than just outlining.  Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water.  And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking — each believes he is the true color of the sun.  What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages us to share titles of books we’ve checked out of the library.  Add your link any time during the week, and see what others got this week.

Chenille bedspreads ~ memories are made of this

Dusty Old Thing wrote about Karen Fortny's photo of her mother's chenille bedspread:
"Tradition has it that a young woman from Dalton, Georgia, in the late 1890's, saw an early candlewick spread and set out to recreated it with a more tufted finish.  "Chenille" is French for a hairy caterpillar.  The making of chenille spreads became a cottage industry in Georgia and parts of Tennessee. Many were sold along major roads leading to Florida.  In the '50's major textile companies were making them by machine.   The end of their popularity probably came in the mid '60's.  Travelers to Florida or the Smokies were, by then, going on Interstates."
I was given a chenille bedspread when I married in 1959 and remember seeing them sold on roadsides in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  I still have one on my shelf that's very plain and all white, not nearly as beautiful as this one.  As a teenager, I hated the patterns they left on my skin when I stretched out on my bed to read during the day.  Does anyone else remember these bedspreads?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Mindfulness ~ breathe

"How does one practice mindfulness?
Sit in meditation.
Be aware of only your breath."
— Buddha

Friday, September 13, 2013

Beginning ~ with the apocalypse, which has already arrived

The Idolatry of God : Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction ~ by Peter Rollins, 2012
The Apocalypse Isn't Coming, It Has Already Arrived
This is the title of the introduction, which is better than the first line of the introduction:  "In popular religious literature, we find a deep fascination with the apocalypse."  Or the first line of the first chapter:  "Whether we look at our own personal history of reflect upon the history of civilization, it is difficult to avoid the sense that we feel a lack in the very depths of our being, a lack that we try to cover over with any number of religious, political, and cultural remedies."  This is on the back cover:
In contrast to the usual understanding of the “Good News” as a message offering satisfaction and certainty, Rollins argues for a radical and shattering alternative. He explores how the Good News actually involves embracing the idea that we can’t be whole, that life is difficult, and that we are in the dark. Showing how God has traditionally been approached as a product that will render us complete, remove our suffering, and reveal the answers, he introduces an incendiary approach to faith that invites us to joyfully embrace our brokenness, resolutely face our unknowing, and courageously accept the difficulties of existence. Only then, he argues, can we truly rob death of its sting and enter into the fullness of life.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Words ~ quandary

Quandary is a noun (the plural is quandaries), which means a state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.
"Kate is in a quandary."
A few synonyms of quandary are
predicament, plight, difficult situation, awkward situation; trouble, muddle, mess, confusion, difficulty, dilemma.
And then there are these informal possibilities:  sticky situation, pickle, hole, stew, fix, bind, jam.
"Conflicting appointments left us in a quandary."
Have you had any interesting quandaries lately?

Cross-posted on my Joyful Noiseletter blog.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Complete Gospels ~ edited by Robert J. Miller

The Complete Gospels : Annotated Scholars Version ~ edited by Robert J. Miller, 1994

Presents for the first time anywhere all twenty of the known gospels from the early Christian era, offering a fuller and more fascinating picture of early Christian origins than found in the four canonical gospels alone — or in any other source.  Each of these gospel records offers fresh glimpses into the world of Jesus and his followers, including:
  • GOSPEL OF THOMAS reveals that Jesus, contrary to the popular image of him as an apocalyptic preacher of damnation and salvation, was actually a wisdom teacher who taught about the true origins of humankind.
  • GOSPEL OF MARY suggests that women held prominent roles in the early church, and provides a startling look at what may have been the first attempts to suppress their leadership.
  • SAYINGS GOSPEL Q, the controversial reconstruction of the first gospel used by Jesus' original followers, contains only Jesus' sayings and none of the dramatic stories about his life later told in the New Testament gospels.
  • SIGNS GOSPEL is almost entirely a catalog of Jesus' miracles, intended to demonstrate that he was the Jewish Messiah, the Anointed.
  • SECRET BOOK OF JAMES relates that immediately prior to his ascension, Jesus imparted a private revelation to James and Peter, which James presents here as a letter.
  • GOSPEL OF PETER contains what may have been the original passion narrative later adapted in the New Testament synoptic gospels' accounts.
Four new pieces have been added to this third expanded edition: the three Jewish-Christian gospels and the Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas.  Each gospel is translated into lively, contemporary English, recapturing the spirit ofthe original.  Exciting both to read and to hear, this Scholars Version (SV) translation has — as one reader put it — "a vitality that jumps off the page."

A New New Testament ~ edited by Hal Taussig

A New New Testament : A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts ~ edited by Hal Taussig, with a Foreword by John Dominic Crossan, 2013

 Over the past century, numerous lost scriptures have been discovered, authenticated, translated, debated, celebrated. Many of these documents were as important to shaping early-Christian communities and beliefs as what we have come to call the New Testament; these were not the work of shunned sects or rebel apostles, not alternative histories or doctrines, but part of the vibrant conversations that sparked the rise of Christianity. Yet these scriptures are rarely read in contemporary churches; they are discussed nearly only by scholars or within a context only of gnostic gospels. Why should these books be set aside? Why should they continue to be lost to most of us? And don’t we have a great deal to gain by placing them back into contact with the twenty-seven books of the traditional New Testament—by hearing, finally, the full range of voices that formed the early chorus of Christians?

To create this New New Testament, Hal Taussig called together a council of scholars and spiritual leaders to discuss and reconsider which books belong in the New Testament. They talked about these recently found documents, the lessons therein, and how they inform the previously bound books. They voted on which should be added, choosing ten new books to include in A New New Testament. Reading the traditional scriptures alongside these new texts—the Gospel of Luke with the Gospel of Mary, Paul’s letters with The Letter of Peter to Philip, The Revelation to John with The Secret Revelation to John—offers the exciting possibility of understanding both the new and the old better.

The ten included with the traditional New Testament books:
  • The Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • The Gospel of Thomas
  • The Odes of Solomon
  • The Thunder: Perfect Mind
  • The Gospel of Mary
  • The Gospel of Truth
  • The Acts of Paul and Thecla
  • The Letter of Peter to Philip
  • The Secret Revelation of John

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Salon ~ Phillis Wheatley

I ran across Phillis Wheatley this week, in my reading of America's Women by Gail Collins (2003).  A few years ago, I read My Name Is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom by Afua Cooper (2009) and wrote a short teaser from that book (click on the book's title to read it).  Gail Collins, covering 400 years of the history of American women, devoted almost a page and a half to Phillis Wheatley:  born in Senegal, enslaved at age seven or eight, purchased in Boston by John Wheatley as a personal servant for his wife, taught by their daughter to read English, writing poetry by the time she was thirteen.  Phillis was an exceptional person.  John Wheatley freed her, when they returned from England.
Small slave house door on Gorée Island, through which slaves departed Senegal
"Her work began appearing in New England newspapers, and she became a regional celebrity. ... Treated more as a daughter than a servant by the Wheatley family, Phillis became known for her poise and conversation as well as her writing.  In Britain, the Countess of Huntingdon admired one of her poems, and arranged the publication of a book by 'a very Extraordinary female Slave.'  The high point of Phillis Wheatley's life came in 1773, when she traveled to England, where she was taken up by the literary celebrities of the day and invited to be presented at court. ... she was the first American writer to achieve international fame" (p. 77).
Notice that it says Phillis Wheatley was "the first American writer to achieve international fame" — not the first African-American writer.  Benjamin Franklin read her work, and George Washington invited her to visit him during the Revolutionary War.  "None of her three children lived past infancy, and she was working as a servant in a cheap tavern when she died at the age of thirty-one" (p. 78).  What a loss.

My friend Jelani, looking over the Atlantic from that Gorée doorway in 2003

The New Yorker gives a brief history of the hashtag, manicule, diple, pilcrow, and ampersand in The Ancient Roots of Punctuation.

This pointing hand is a manicle. The word manicle comes from the Latin maniculum, meaning "little hand."  The writer would draw a little hand in the margin of a manuscript to point out something important.  This manicle points out the fact that Bonnie's Books reportedly had 601 pageviews on August 29th.  I haven't had that many (that I was aware of) since the 749 pageviews on April 16, 2012.  I have no idea what prompted these larger-than-usual numbers.
The pilcrow symbol is related to the cent sign on the right.  Can you see a similarity?  Read the New Yorker article to learn about the hashtag (also called hash mark, octothorpe, and number sign, which is what I call it when I write that I live in apartment #515).

The Sunday Salon's Facebook page has links to other blogs.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Caturday ~ 1Q84

Over at my Book Around the World blog this week, Amy recommended 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami as a good book for our Japan category.  I used a different book cover to illustrate the post, but what fun to find a literary cat reading the same novel.  The size of the book — at 1184 pages — intimidates me.  Have you read this one?  Is it worth the time it will take to read it?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Five ~ Let's eat!

Today's Friday Five topic comes to us from 3dogmom at RevGalBlogPals:
"My first ever Friday Five is dedicated to Nikki MacDonald, sister RevGal, who was hungering for an opportunity to write about Haggis. With that introduction, today’s FF is all about food!"
1)  Is there a food from a foreign land whose reputation led to trepidation when you had a chance to give it a try?  Did you find the courage to sample it anyway?  If so, were you pleasantly surprised or did you endorse the less than favorable reputation that preceded it?
Escargot:  The man I was dining with had gotten his doctorate in France, and he insisted I try the escargot with garlic butter he had ordered.  It didn't taste anything like I expected — on the other hand, neither did I particularly care for it.  He kept trying to give me another bite, another escargot, dripping with butter.  After one or two, I suggested he eat it, since he loved it so.  The taste, to me, seemed bland, like eating the eraser on the end of a pencil.  Not that I've ever eaten an eraser, of course, but that was the image that came to mind that day.
2)  What food from your own country/culture gets a bad rap?
Click to enlarge
Okra:  When my mother-in-law moved from Pennsylvania to Tennessee — in other words, from the North to the South — someone who didn't know what they were talking about (probably another Northerner) told her to BOIL the okra, as in a gumbo, I suppose.  Never again, for the rest of her life, would she taste okra, and she lived to be 95.  Southerners know okra is supposed to be FRIED.  I have found one restaurant in my entire life that can fry okra that tastes like my mother's.  It's really an odd coincidence that, just this morning, I ran into the man who fries my okra "extra crispy" — I was eating breakfast with a friend and he came in for his own breakfast.  You know the food must be good when an excellent cook buys food at another restaurant on his way to the one he owns!  (Full disclosure:  his doesn't open for breakfast.)
3)  Of what food are you fond that others find distasteful?
Sweet potatoes:  My friend Donna insists that sweet potatoes should not be classified as food.  Since we are roommates and sometimes eat together at home, I make a regular baked potato for her when I have a baked sweet potato (or yam) for me.
Click to enlarge
4)  Is there a country’s food, not native to you, that you go out of your way to eat?
Japanese:  I enjoy Japanese food — and watching a chef prepare it on the grill in front of us.  I took this dramatic photo a couple of years ago.
5)  What is your guilty pleasure food?
Glazed donuts:  Yeah, plain ole Krispy Creme glazed donuts.  I generally don't care for desserts, but I can eat several of these at a sitting.
Bonus:  What was your most memorable meal (good or bad), either because of the menu, the occasion, the company, or some other circumstance that makes it stand out?
My children's theatrics at having to eat something they had decided ahead of time they weren't going to like — some of those were memorable.  My rule was one bite.  They had to try a single bite.  One day, Barbara refused to eat spinach.  I told her that MY mother had told ME (that way I didn't quite exactly say whether it was true or not) that our taste changes every seven years.  She said, "I'm seven, so I'll try it."  She did, and she declared, "I like it!" and ate a whole serving.  Whew!  It worked.

Beginning ~ with a beach walk

Intrusions ~ by Ursula Hegi, 1981, fiction
Megan Stone was walking along the deserted beach.

You will probably ask, Why another book about another woman walking along another beach?  Another deserted beach, to be more specific.  And you will sigh impatiently, wondering how soon Megan is going to arrive at some monumental insight..."
Okay, I stopped that long sentence because it's all speculating on what Megan Stone might do — or not.  I don't know if Megan Stone is the protagonist (main character) of this novel or protagonist of the novel within this novel.  The back cover tells me Hegi has written about an author who interacts with her main character.  From the back cover:
Brilliantly stretching literary conventions, Ursula Hegi, author of the best-selling Stones from the River, creates a funny and original novel within a novel to explore the doubts, decisions, and 'might-have-beens' that mark not only the writing process but life itself.  As her 'author' and her fictional heroine deal with their intrusions into each other's lives, Hegi reveals much about the choices women make, the ambiguities they face, and the often surprising ways reality and fiction merge.
Last week, I ran across an email to our book club leader in which I had suggested three books.  I'd read two of them and hadn't read one, I said.  Twelve years later, I recognized the two I'd read and this as the one I still haven't read.  So I ordered it through, and it arrived yesterday afternoon.  Knowing this unusual twist — Hegi writing about an author interacting with her book's character — I opened the book at random and read this on page 183:
I want to make a confession.

Something has been bothering me since Chapter 61.
Chapter 61?  I looked, and this was chapter 103.  Must be short chapters.  I can tell it's going to be a weird story.  You have now read as many words from the book as I have.  Do you think Megan Stone is the author inside the book?  Or the author's character?  Both, of course, would be Hegi's characters.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Library Loot ~ September 4-10

The Witch of Cologne ~ by Tobsha Learner, 2003, fiction
The Inquisitor, Carlos Vicente Solitario, charges a young Jewish midwife, Ruth bas Elazar Saul, with heresy.  Ruth may be the daughter of the city's chief rabbi, but this is no protection against the Inquisition's accusations.    Detlef von Tennen, nobleman and canon, cousin to the Archbishop, suspects that something other than religion drives Solitario to persecute Ruth.  Determined to ensure that justice is done, Detlef joins the investigation -- and finds his passions fully aroused by Ruth's impressive intelligence and darkly exotic beauty.  All her life, Ruth bas Elazar Saul has thirsted for knowledge, despite the price she paid by concealing her gender and being cast out of her father's house.  Her faith sustains her through all, even the attentions of the Inquisition.  Then, in the very heart of danger, God blesses her with the greatest love she has ever known.
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story ~ by Michael Hainey, 2013, memoir
Michael Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on his family's back door one morning with the tragic news:  Bob Hainey, Michael's father, was found alone near his car on Chicago's North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack.  Thirty-five years old, a young assistant copy desk chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, Bob was a bright and shining star in the competitive, hard-living world of newspapers, one that involved booze-soaked nights that bled into dawn.  And then suddenly he was gone, leaving behind a young widow, two sons, a fractured family-and questions surrounding the mysterious nature of his death that would obsess Michael throughout adolescence and long into adulthood.  Finally, roughly his father's age when he died, and a seasoned reporter himself, Michael set out to learn what happened that night.  Died "after visiting friends," the obituaries said.  But the details beyond that were inconsistent.  What friends?  Where?  At the heart of his quest is Michael's all-too-silent, opaque mother, a woman of great courage and tenacity — and a steely determination not to look back.  Prodding and cajoling his relatives, and working through a network of his father's buddies who abide by an honor code of silence and secrecy, Michael sees beyond the long-held myths and ultimately reconciles the father he'd imagined with the one he comes to know — and in the journey discovers new truths about his mother.  A stirring portrait of a family and its legacy of secrets, this is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.
Kingdom of Strangers ~ by Zoë Ferraris, 2012, fiction (Saudi Arabia)
A secret grave is unearthed in the desert revealing the bodies of 19 women and the shocking truth that a serial killer has been operating undetected in Jeddah for more than a decade.  However, lead inspector Ibrahim Zahrani is distracted by a mystery closer to home.  His mistress has suddenly disappeared, but he cannot report her missing since adultery is punishable by death.  With nowhere to turn, Ibrahim brings the case to Katya, one of the few women in the police department.  Drawn into both investigations, she must be increasingly careful to hide a secret of her own.  Portraying the lives of women in one of the most closed cultures in the world, award-winning author Zoë Ferraris weaves a tale of psychological suspense around an elusive serial killer and the sinister forces trafficking in human lives in Saudi Arabia.  (A Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi Novel)
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages us to share titles of books we’ve checked out of the library.  Add your link any time during the week, and see what others got this week.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I learned the word palimpsest years ago, as I studied Greek and looked at photos showing papyrus scrolls of ancient biblical texts or writings like those found at Nag Hamadi or the Dead Sea scrolls found near Qumran.  Who knew that I'd ever run across this word in a picture like this?  Palimpsest is a rather esoteric word, used mainly by people who study or work with old manuscripts.  Wikipedia defines it thus:
A palimpsest /ˈpælɪmpsɛst/ is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped or washed off and which can be used again.  The word "palimpsest" comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος (palímpsestos, “scratched or scraped again”) originally compounded from πάλιν (palin, “again”) and ψάω (psao, “I scrape”) literally meaning “scraped clean and used again.”
Is that definition esoteric enough for you?  Here's an example of a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-used.  (Click to enlarge the image.)  You can clearly see the remains of larger Greek letters.  Someone cleaned it and turned it sideways to write again.  I've seen pictures of war-time letters, where the writer turned the page sideways like this and continued to write — and it was indeed possible to read the words that intersected each other.  That's one way to save paper.

Back to the picture at the top.  Maybe I should consider acquiring a small blackboard and posting a "word of the day" on my patio, to be perused by my neighbors (mostly young adults and college-age couples) as they come and go.  Think they'd kick me out of the apartment complex?

Cross-posted on my word blog.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Book Seer

The Book Seer has been on the Links to Interesting Sites on my sidebar since at least February 2010, when I first wrote about it.  But I've discovered it again and want to share it with you.  Enter a book title and author, and The Book Seer will suggest other books you might like to read.  I entered:
Honest to God ~ by John A. T. Robinson (a 1963 book I read in the early 1970s and one that's important in my understanding of God and religion)
and the Book Seer came back with this list of similar or related books that might interest me:
  • The Plague ~ by Albert Camus (I read this 1948 novel as an English major in college, about the same time I read Honest to God)
  • Introducing Liberation Theology ~ by Leonardo Boff (I haven't read this 1987 book, but have read articles by Boff)
  • Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668 ~ by Thomas Hobbes (I haven't read this 1668 book, but I did study Hobbes as an undergraduate philosophy major)
  • On Liberty ~ by John Stuart Mill (same here, I studied and taught Mill, but read only excerpts of this book published in 1859)
  • A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying and How a New Faith is Being Born ~ by John Shelby Spong (I read this 2001 book and several others by this author)
  • Sexism and God Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology ~ by Rosemary R. Ruether (when I read this 1983 title, I glanced to my right and took it off my shelf)
  • Situation Ethics: The New Morality (Library of Theological Ethics) ~ by Joseph Fletcher (I read this 1966 book for a philosophy class and wrote one of my most memorable college papers about situation ethics)
  • Waiting for God ~ by Simone Weil (I read this 1951 book several years ago.  Albert Camus described her as "the only great spirit of our times.")
  • The Trial and Death of Socrates ~ by Plato (I also read this in a college philosophy class)
  • Dynamics of Faith ~ by Paul Tillich (I've read this 1957 book on the philosophy of religion and several other books by Tillich)
All in all, I'd say The Book Seer does an excellent job of instantly finding comparable books.