Friday, May 24, 2013
“Fiction and reality sometimes come together in a riveting way. Sometimes the imagined work of a novelist, almost in a prescient way, tells the story of life and death. And this is certainly the case with the Dancing Priest novels as the author, Glynn Young, draws us into the future of the British Royal Family in ways that are almost uncanny.”
To continue reading, please see this article by Mark Sutherland at Royal Central.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
A young man living and working in Germany returns to his native Argentina. His estranged father is in the hospital, unconscious and presumably dying. His mother, brother and sister are there, but the young man knows he is returning not because of an impending death but because he has come to understand he doesn’t know his father, and that means, in many ways, he doesn’t know himself.
There’s little to be done at the hospital, so the young man sits in his childhood home, and finds a stack of folders of reports and newspaper stories on his father’s desk. It was as if his father left them there for the son to find. He begins to read, and finds himself confronting not one by several mysteries. The articles are in chronological order. An older man disappears; a search is mounted; eventually his body his found and suspects arrested. What connection is there to his father?
And then he finds it, and continues reading, finding more connections, and then discovering the connection was not to the dead man but someone else, and the lines of connections start in the 1970s, during the military dictatorship, the time when thousands of people of the wrong political belief disappeared.
My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron defies easy classification as a genre. It is a mystery, but more than that. It is a political novel but deeper than that. It is also history and biography, autobiography and memoir. It defies classification likely because it is a story told the only way a story addressing what it does can be told – swirling all these genres together because The Argentina of the 1970s and its aftermath can only truly be recognized as a swirling of genres. Recognized, but not understood.
The father is a journalist; the son is a writer. The son examines the material in the folders, and considers writing a book.
“…I wonder what he would think, as a journalist and therefore someone who paid much more attention to the truth than I ever did. I’ve never felt comfortable with the truth. I had tried to stonewall it and give it the slip…I wondered, still and again, what my father would think of my writing a story I barely knew; I knew how it ended – it was obvious it ended in a hospital, as almost all stories do – but I didn’t know how it began or what happened in the middle.”
But he knows how it ends, and that is at least something.
Pron, a native of Argentina, lives and works in Madrid as a translator and critic. He’s written four previous novels and three short story collections, and received several writing prizes.
In My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain, he has written a riveting story. Its factual, straightforward style, relying on short chapters and truncated news reports, moves the story quickly. And when it is done, we ask ourselves if we truly can know how the lives of our fathers shaped our own lives, especially when our fathers, and mothers, are caught up in circumstances that seek to obliterate and disguise memory.
Photograph by Mikaela Dunn via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
If I said the word “law,” what comes to mind?
I think courtroom. Litigation. Lawsuit. Rules. Speed traps (we have a notorious one close to our home.) Lawyers. Judge. Trouble. Trial. The Old Bailey (I watched all the Rumpole shows on PBS) (and read the books). Perry Mason. Matlock.
The fact is, we associate the word “law” with rather negative things.
We think of the Ten Commandments, for example, as a kind of summary of “the law.” All the do’s and don’ts. All the thou-shalt-nots. And all that quintessential micromanagement in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The Old Testament seems like it was one mean place.
Perhaps we’re overlaying our modern attitudes about “law” onto something that was a very different place, a very different time. Perhaps the problem isn’t the law as delineated in the Old Testament, but our own contemporary attitudes applied to an old understanding.
When I hear the word “law,” about the last word I think of is grace.
I don’t think of lawyers and grace in the same sentence, unless the lawyer is named Grace. (I knew a lawyer named Grace once, and it was definitely an oxymoron.)
And yet the concepts of law and grace are not an oxymoron.
“When we trust and obey,” writes Andy Stanley in The Grace of God, it becomes clear that the law of God is actually an expression of the grace of God…When we see God’s law the way he intended it, we understand that the grace of God and the law of God are not opposing concepts. There is no tension between the two. One is simply the expression of the other.”
Think of the implications of that statement. There is no contradiction between the Old and New Testaments. It’s not the mean God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament. It is not the law versus the gospel of love. The major divisions of the Bible do not oppose each other – they explain each other.
All those arguments, all those superior attitudes about how the Bible is divided into two different gospels – meaningless.
Our minds are so attuned to modern-day understandings of “law” that they rebel against the idea of anything else.
It’s almost like trying to imagine that a lawyer could be aptly named Grace.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing Stanley’s The Grace of God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Ruled by Grace,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph: The Royal Courts of Justice, London, by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The next groups of poems from our recent poetry jam on Twitter is posted today at Tweetspeak Poetry. The poems take a turn toward swans and petals, green skies and blue music, gourds and story-weaving. The prompts for the jam were taken from Annie Dillard’s volume of poetry Tickets for a Prayer Wheel: Poems.
To continue reading (and see the poems), please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph by Petr Kratockvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
Monday, May 20, 2013
I watch very little television – virtually nothing on network TV, except for one or two shows on PBS (Call the Midwife! and Masterpiece Mystery). And I watch virtually nothing on cable, so I’ve missed out on all the hoopla over Duck Dynasty and Iron Chef.
My reasons are various – time, little that I find interesting, too much network programming given over to political correctness and agendas. I haven’t disengaged from TV culture, but I do keep it minimal.
But even with what I do watch, and beyond television, what I read and view online, I do something that suggests a larger confinement and disengagement from popular culture. I deconstruct what I watch, what I read and what I see.
Deconstructionism is a term and literary process originally popularized by post-modern academics like Jacque Derrida. The text is everything, and everything is a text – you have to closely examine each text, take it apart, and see what it says about such things as power relationships.
I use the term much more loosely – I “deconstruct” texts, movies, programs and other aspects of the culture by asking certain questions. (If it sounds complicated, it’s not; once you start it becomes like second nature).
Instead of “deconstructing,” what I do is closer akin to “filtering the bull.”
I’ll consider a TV show, a magazine article, a movie, a book (especially non-fiction), a review, a political ad, a statement by a politician, a company or an organization – and ask myself a few questions.
What’s the point? What are they trying to communicate?
Are “agenda statements’ slipping in disguised as something else?
What isn’t be said? What’s being left out?
Could it be better said another way?
Is this only entertainment, or is it something else?
What aspects of my own prejudices or worldview does this appeal to or offend?
We have a movie reviewer for a local newspaper who prefers R-rated, and often violence-filled, movies. He panned the movies “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables.” He’d prefer a movie like “Pulp Fiction.” So we’ve learned to see his reviews as some kind of personal agenda-setting, and not simply his view of what movies should be.
Political ads are easier to deconstruct. Generally, I avoid them. I’m appalled by “advertising by assassination. My philosophy of voting is that a candidate is only as good as the worst attack ad he or she authorizes.
Even the church isn’t free from cultural influences, say Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold in The Life of the Body. Music, teaching and preaching are all subject to influence by the culture. The issue of “worship wars” has been with us for some time.
This doesn’t mean that culture permeates the church, and there’s no recourse other than everyone sitting there accepting it or going to war over it. Not all cultural influences are bad. Not all influences can be escaped.
But we are surrounded by the culture; we intellectually bathe in it every day. But once we’re aware, can learn how to discern and understand what is happening in the culture, especially in the entertainment media.
Led by Laura Boggess, we discussing The Life of the Body over at The High Calling. Today, Duane Scott takes up the third section of the book – with a focus on what the culture tells us our bodies should look like.
Photograph by X posid via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
I sought the secret things
in the mind of God,
the things to explain,
to light the dark or clear
the path, untangle
the thicket, thistle
I sought the secret things
in the mind of God;
the secret things remained
as a dove flew overhead.
Photograph by House of Flowers. Used with permission.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Window light envelopes
the metal coffin, white,
in front of the altar, leaving
minds in darkness, and hearts.
Brain synapses fail to connect,
the flow of blood constricts.
We remain, left with only
the window light enveloping
the metal coffin, white,
in front of the altar.
Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.