Several years ago I read a book called Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing by Charles Richard Johnson. I have no idea where this book came from, but it hit when the time was right. It was about what I did know (writing) and what I didn't know (Buddhism.) I remember thinking, "In a few years this will probably mean more."

At that time I put one of his books on my bookmooch wishlist. It was only a few weeks ago that it came available and turned up in the mail.

I LOVED the beginning of The Oxherding Tale. It is set in the antebellum south and is about the mixed-race son of a plantation owner's wife and a black butler. The origin tale is bawdy and funny... and the whole book is kind of a tragicomic meditation on on eastern spirituality via western philosophy. Which means my peeps the Transcendentalists are referenced, but so are a million other things.

Read more... )
Brilliant interview with author Marilynn Robinson on John Calvin:

Start at 22:30

"The thing that Calvin valorizes beyond all things is the presence of the mind in the world."

When he asks why they are viewed as so severe she says they were on the losing end of many wars, and as the leading voices of Abolistionism in the US refused to find humor in human bondage... that is an interesting interpretation, and also one that resonates a little more than it ought.

For more about Calvin's links to 19C literature (inc her description of reading Moby Dick & the Institutes side by side) and her take on 'election' (aka pre-destination) listen to the interview!

This is a very different take than you will get elsewhere. And while Calvin certainly deserves the reputation he no doubt enjoys, and while all the nasty things you've heard about him are also true... she is right on the mark.

Loved Gilead, hated Home. Haven't read Housekeeping, but clearly need to keep up on her essays. Not very many people understand this interpretation. It's no wonder people keep sending me her books!
Absolutely exhausted last night. I came home from work after a 10 hour day, finished Elizbeth Wein's book Code Name Verity, which arrived in the mail this week, and went to bed.

Do you know how some books cast a kind of spell over you? A mood not easily broken? This book is still humming all around me. I suppose it's because it was so real. And it's interesting I should say that about a work of fiction that is very much concerned, itself, on the line between fact and truth.

Read more... )
Kate Beaton nails it in this week's book covers:

I gave a crazy lecture in CR about Puritans and American legal structure.

This summer I was lucky enough to get to review Catherine Fisher's Relic Master series, published in four consecutive months this summer. As a reader, I loved this approach. It gave me something to look forward to each month and less time between books to forget what had happened. I'm curious as to whether it worked from a publishing standpoint.

Catherine Fisher's work resonates very strongly with me, to the extent that I'm not sure I can view it objectively. While I think her book Incarceron---one of the best books of 2010---had a more intriguing premise, on a personal level Relic Master probably touched me more deeply. It almost *hurt* to read and I still have difficulty articulating why. The series certainly has some weaknesses and blindspots, but it does not lack in resonance or heart. You will not be surprised that the character I identified with most is Carys, the Watch spy, whose doubt is one of the central features of the story. Moved by Galen's certainty and Raffi's kindness, she comes to doubt the iconoclastic brutality of the Watch whose structure has shaped her life. For me, her experiences are the most interesting part of the series.

Read more... )





P.S. One of the unlikely characters in this series is a dwarf warlord named Alberic who has a fierce yearning for gold. I started the series before I saw The Ring, but now that I have finished the series I think that the reference is either unintentional, or a tiny clue to alert readers in the know that this Anara is experiencing its Götterdämmerung... the twilight of the gods in a world that they have abandoned.
I am an enormous fan of The Archers, the team of mid-20C filmmakers who have made some of my all time favorite films. Among them, The Red Shoes about a ballet dancer torn between love and her art slowly losing her mind, and I Know Where I'm Going about a woman traveling to the outer islands of Scotland to get married, only to become stymied by the weather. LIfe, it seems, has other plans for her. I've seen several of there other films, including Black Narcissus about British nuns in India who slowly go mad as they come to the realization that there are forces --- including the possibility of cultural or supernatural ones --- far greater than the faith of their cold island, and The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp an unusual piece of war propaganda following the career of a military officer from the Boer War through WWII. He befriends a German officer early in the film, only to have to fight against him in WWI and to have to protect him during WWII. This is so far my least favorite of their films, but it's still an interesting meditation on lives and loves far grander than the latest conflict. Among other things it has an unusual love triangle. The woman both men love is far less interesting than their deep bond of brotherhood, which stays with them beyond nearly 50 years of their countries in conflict.

Last night I saw their film A Matter of Life & Death (released as Stairway to Heaven in the US, since the studios refused to release anything with the word 'death' in it immediately after the war.) This is a psychodrama, in addition to a piece of post-war propaganda about Anglo-American relations, and memorial for the dead. It was made just after the war, but the action takes place in the last days of the war, with characters uncertain of the future and not knowing the outcome of their sacrifices.

Read more... )
So, I just heard that Gil Scott-Heron is dead, which is a strange feeling, because while I knew who he was, I'm not sure I ever had consciousness he was alive. It's more like he lived in an alternate universe: maybe the 4th world with Sun Ra or P-Funk's Mothership. His best known piece is 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.' I include a link below, watching it invites a kind of cognitive dissonance, because one of the tropes of 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' is a negation of image. He tells you what the revolution will not be: bringing the image to mind and shutting it down. Here we have a reinsertion of the image.

But will it be tweeted? )
Today is the anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the United States. Even though I knew about women's suffrage, it surprised me to learn that this right was only 90 years old. My grandmother was older than the right to vote! When I consider the relatively short period it's been with us, I feel a little more forgiving about the progress that's been made.

Tangentially related, Deborah Tannen's 'He Said, She Said' and, of course, poetry and Puritans! )
I caught this article on John Calvin at Spiked today:

A great critical overview of the life, thinking, and influence of John Calvin. I especially like the TULIP reference, which I had never heard before, but describes the philosophy (and the adherents I know) to a T:

Total Depravity (of mankind)
Unconditional Election (of the lucky few who are saved from damnation)
Limited Atonement (no luck for the rest)
Irresistible Grace (the elect can’t reject the gift), and the
Perseverance of the Saints (God won’t take it back even if they’re really bad).

I suppose I should note that my father is currently attending a Dutch Reform church.

However, the connection with Mark Driscoll's mega-church seems like a stretch. Mars is best known for its masculinist Xtianity, not it's Calvinism. (Because, you know, traditionally Xtianity is for girls...*)

Anyway, part of me thought it might actually be fun to take a John Calvin tour. The whole everything surrounding this was equal parts intriguing and hilarious. And considering that there has been such wide discussion of both JC and JC on this blog that it might be relevant.

Also: I'm thinking of starting a new tag. Should it be 'Puritan' or 'Protestant?'
The Stillborn God by Mike Lilla on the separation of church and state. (No mention of my hero Roger Williams, but then every book can't be that good.)

On relics and exorcism: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio and Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead by Peter Manseau



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