The Book of Ruth & The Book of Esther—Old Testament Bible

As those of you following this blog know, one of the books listed in the Top Ten Books, was the Bible.  Now as many of you probably know, the Bible isn’t a short read.  It makes Les Miserables look like The Lorax.  So, I am covering the Bible in sections.

For who listed the Bible as their favorite book, see my original post here.

I read the two books in the Old Testament that are named after women and whose main characters are women.

The Book of Ruth comes first in the order of Old Testament books, so I’ll discuss that one first.

Ruth is about a woman (oddly enough, named Ruth) who marries an Israelite who is living in Moab (a neighboring country) with his mother, father and other brother.  Over the years, his father dies, then he and his brother die.  This leaves only Naomi, his mother.  She tells Ruth and the other daughter-in-law that they should return home to their families, that she is returning to hers.  When they protest (they have been with her for ten years after all) Naomi says;

“Turn back my daughters; why will you go with me?  Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?  Tuyrn back my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband.  If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown?  Would you therefore refrain from marrying?  No my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord as gone out against me”.

Orpah leaves then to return to her Moabite family.

Ruth states;

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you.  For where you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you”.

Naomi accepts Ruth’s insistence and they return to Naomi’s people.  There they are reliant upon others for sustenance.  Naomi sends Ruth to the fields of a kinsman, Boaz.  Boaz views Ruth with kindness and allows her to do even more gleaning than is typical.  In these times, people could follow threshers and glean leftovers that had fallen for sustenance.  Naomi tells Ruth to go lay at Boaz’s feet.  She does.  Naomi has her husband’s property for sale.  Boaz goes to a man, who (even though not identified as such) is a relative of Naomi closer in genealogical terms than Boaz and offers the property to him first.  Then when the man says yes, craftily informs him that it includes Ruth, the widow.  The man demurs, not wanting to mess up his own inheritance line.  Boaz then agrees to buy it and take Ruth as wife.  The bargain concludes (as they did in this time) with the man handing Boaz his sandal.  (Yes, I know.  Next time you strike a bargain with someone, a sock might be a nice touch! 😀 ).

The literary standpoint:  This is actually a story that could easily be fleshed out into an entire novel.  There are all sorts of plot devices, and as evidenced by the fact that you still hear it in all sorts of literature etc, the whole “For where you go I will go” speech is obviously a very well written statement.

My Christian standpoint:  I believe that the book of Ruth gives us instruction on how we should be with our inlaws.  Many of us do not like them.  However, as our spouse’s family that raised him, they deserve respect.  We should treat them as Ruth treats Naomi, by refusing to leave her and like Boaz treats Ruth before he falls in love with her (I assume this is what happened after she laid at his feet).  I can’t articulate better what I mean, but all those petty things that make us want to slap our in-laws?  We have to stop that shite.

Interesting side note:  It just hit me how Ruth’s behavior also parallels Chinese culture.  A woman in historical China (I assume not today but I could be horribly wrong) would leave her ancestral home and when she did, she became a full part of her husband’s family, with her allegiance to her mother in law.

Second interesting side note:  Most of you that aren’t familiar with the Bible have heard of David (of David and Goliath fame).  David was part of the ancestral lineage of Christ.  Per the genealogical end of Ruth, Ruth & Boaz were David’s grandparents, making Ruth also an ancestor of Christ.

The Book of Esther:

The book of Esther never mentions God.  In fact, Esther is a story (however, one based in history) about a woman who was Jewish and living among exiles in Persia.  The Queen at that time, refuses to *cough* entertain the King.  And he is told by an advisor; “…let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus.  And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she”.  This advice pleased the King.

The King’s young men who attend him let out a cry; “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the King!  And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the capital, under custody of Hegai, the King’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women”.

Well no wonder King Ahaseurus was so pleased with the idea of deposing Vashti, that upstart queen.

Anyway, Esther is one of the beautiful virgins.  She is an Israelite, whose cousin is a man named Mordecai, who is raising her.  He tells her to keep the fact that she is Hebrew a secret.  So she does.  Of course the King picks her (I doubt the book would be named for her or the story told if this didn’t happen).

Now the King had a bad  man serving as his very top right hand man, Haman.  Haman hates the Jews.  Mordecai won’t bow or pay homage to Haman.  So Haman vows to destroy all the Jews.

So Haman gets an edict sent out with instructions “…to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods”.

Mordecai contacts Esther in the palace when he finds out about this.  He asks her to intercede.  She replies.

“All the king’s servants and the people of the King’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law–to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.  But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days”.

(My theory is that he was out enjoying the hundreds of other virgins that probably got shoved into his harem).

Esther finally sucks it up (sorry to those of you that find this blasphemous, but I’m just summarizing in my own words) and on the third day approaches the king in her royal robes.  He holds out the scepter to Esther.  Then asks her what is it, what is her request.  He tells her he will give her anything, even to the half of his kingdom.

“If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.”

So the King summons Haman, and they both are at the feast.  After, when they are drinking wine the king asks Esther what her wish is, and what’s her request?

“My wish and my request is:  If I have found favor in the sight of the King, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said”.

Haman leaves all full of joy thinking that Esther loves him (not in that way! yeesh folks!) and that he is making even more inroads with the King.  And as a reward, he decides he will hang Mordecai.  He builds a gallows even (apparently, hanging Mordecai will be a great stimulant for his appetite for the feast in the morning).

The king can’t sleep that night, so asks for the book of memorable deeds.  They were read to him.  (I always enjoy a good chronicle of memorable deeds before bed myself).  Well he discovered where Mordecai had told about two eunuchs who had plotted to kill the King.  The King asks what distinction had Mordecai been awarded.  He is told that nothing has.  The King asks Haman when he comes in what should be done to a man whom the King wants to honor.  Haman of course thinks the King is speaking of him.

“For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set.  And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials.  Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city proclaiming before him:  ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor”.

So the King turns to Haman and gives him his robe and tells him to take it to Mordecai and to do all that he said should be done.  With nothing left out.

Mordecai goes to the King.  Haman goes home crying (well…”mourning and with his head covered”).  His wife Zeresh and his wise men state “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him”.

He goes to the feast with Esther and the King.  On the second day of the feast, again while drinking wine, the King asks what is it that Esther wants.

“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request.  For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.  If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction Is not to be compared with the loss to the king.”

The King asked who dared do such a thing and where are they.

“A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!”.

The King angrily strides off (well…”the king arose in his wrath”) and Haman begs for his life to Esther.  The king returns and sees Haman falling to the couch where Esther is.  And the king thinks he is assaulting Esther.

A helpful eunuch, Harbona, in attendance on the king (I think maybe Haman was a bit rude to Harbona at some point)

“Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.”

Of course, we all know where this is going.  Haman is hanged on the very gallows that he built.  Then the King’s wrath was abated.

Esther still has to beg to the King to reverse the decree that went out, by writing a new order to revoke the letters devised by Haman.  The King basically gives Mordecai carte blanche;

“Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews.  But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked”.

So, Mordecai sent out decrees stating that the king allowed the Jews to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them…and to plunder their goods.

So in the 12th month, the month of Adar, on the 13th day when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, the Jews gained the upper hand over all the masters that had hoped and dreamed of their destruction.

And, so they did.  They took their own revenge, and plundered and annihilated etc. etc.

And so Purim was born (per the Biblical text of Esther).

Literary note:  If you can’t see how amazing a story this would make, or a movie or a play…well then I would assume you had no sense of imagination at all.  This has all the notes of a great drama.  Beaten down people, one man in power bent on revenge against another, beautiful virgins, the powerful man being hung on the gallows he himself built.  Wow.

Biblical note:  Even though God is never mentioned, due to the other books of the Old Testament, it is known that nothing happens to the Israelites that God doesn’t know about.  And that in the past God has given others the means to rescue his people (Moses.  David.).  So, I believe God is in fact all over the book of Esther.

The end.  Thanks for tuning in.  Sorry for the length.

 

 

The Stand by Stephen King.

I have a confession.  I _didn’t_ read the Stand in the last week.

However, I feel eminently qualified to talk about it here, as I have read it at least 12 times in my lifetime.  You tend to remember a lot about a book when you read it that many times.  Yes, it is a favorite.  I read it for the first time at 12 years old and probably read it last a year or two ago.

Apparently David Foster Wallace and Jennifer Weiner also felt it was worth it.  They listed it in their top ten.  They might have read it 12 or more times too but maybe not.

I was ecstatic that at least one of King’s books made it in this book.  I personally think The Shining should have also been in here, but eh, I wasn’t asked for my top ten.

Today, I will be covering three areas.  My prior debate partners will be thrilled I’m sure at the three areas and my forecasting of them.  First, I will cover The Stand itself and a couple of brief notes on the mini series made from the book.  Secondly, I will cover why I personally feel this is some of the best apocalypse literature out there.  Finally, I will cover people’s misconceptions about Stephen King and people’s close minded views on him and his career.

First thing about The Stand.  It is long.  I don’t think it’s quite as long as Les Miserables, but it might be.  However, it is infinitely easier to read.  There are no sections on The Battle of Waterloo for the sole purpose of using the last two lines to introduce characters.  There are no sections on argot.  King isn’t interested in making long, involved meanderings from the narrative to make comments on poverty.

King covers a few different main characters from start to finish.  King describes the characters, not by description per se, but by narrative involving them.  For instance, Stu, one of the main characters is in a gas station in a small Texas town in the beginning.  King manages to give you more about his character by showing his reaction to a car plowing into a pump than by the description of him.  Larry, another main character, has a hit that climbs the charts (he’s a musician).  King shows his downward spiral as he throws the longest and hugest party in a long time.  King shows his character by describing his walk onto a beach with an acquaintance who wants to give him the hard truth, then his resulting actions, and his arrival back in New York City and his mother.  He describes Fran, by showing her reaction to a pregnancy and a confrontation with her mother.  He describes Harold, a neighbor of Fran’s by the clothes he wears, the language he uses, his actions of resourcefulness.  He describes Nick, a deaf-mute by the beating and resultant jailing and resultant friendship with the sheriff, more than by his descriptive words of him.  This is one of the things I love about King, he may use a lot of words, but in the end you feel you know the characters almost or better than you know yourself.    The story is about what happens when the government accidentally releases a “super-flu” with a 99% transmission rate and a 100% fatality rate.  The flu works by constantly shifting.  Like if you have the influenza virus, your body creates antibodies to fight it.  The super-flu works by constantly shifting antigens, basically the type of flu you have.  King describes the trail of the beginning of transmission, which I always have felt is neat.  He describes different people as they contract it and die from it.   The main characters (of which I only listed a few) all are immune, as you might have guessed.  At the beginning, before they too are infected, the government does try to find a vaccine (because apparently they weren’t smart enough to have developed it to keep themselves safe) by taking people from Stu’s town to isolate them, then figure out why Stu doesn’t have it.  Eventually, all of the people are dead except those that were immune.  King then takes a few pages to describe the people that die from a second wave of events, like a child falling in a well, a woman firing an old gun that backfires and kills her, a man jogging himself to death due to grief.  The next section of the book describes them making their way across the country (the survivors).  They have been having two dreams, one of an old black woman in Nebraska and one of the “dark man” or Randall Flagg.  The black woman represents security, goodness.  The dark man, terror.  They eventually find Abigail Freemantle, a prophet and seer, who says she has dreams to go to Boulder Colorado.  In the panicked days, a rumor had started that the flu was originating from a source in the city.  There was a mass exodus, leaving the city strangely empty.  They settle there, survivors keep trickling in.  They implement a government of sorts.  Then the battle of good versus evil (side of Abigail vs. the side of Flagg) begins.  This is where I will end, in order not to spoil the ending.

I believe this to be one of the great apocalypse stories for a couple of different reasons.  Unlike a nuclear apocalypse, King derived a way to keep the world intact, if empty of people.  King also describes in great detail the things that the survivors do, like canned food, siphoning gas, etc. etc.  I love how he describes both during and after.  I always think apocalypse stories leave too much out.  It’s probably why I like The Walking Dead so much too.  He does have characters die during the story, but it fits in perfectly into the story he weaves.  I can’t think of any other concrete reasons I can put down here.  I have read a lot of apocalypse stories and this one remains my favorite.

Finally, I get tired of people’s misconceptions and refusal of Stephen King.  There are those that refuse to read him since he got away from the bloody horror stuff.  I know, I know, there are probably straight genre readers of horror and King’s genre readers didn’t like where he has gone.  However, if they bothered to read, they would find many of his stories still carry a tone of horror, a tone of the supernatural.  Many people like this stopped reading way before Bag of Bones, one of King’s greatest horror stories in my opinion.  And they refuse to read it.

Then there are those that stopped reading after Gerald’s Game or some other book that they didn’t like.  Um, the man has written around 68 books as of 2013.  I’m sure that anyone that had written that many  (that wasn’t a franchise writer such as Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts who like to put the same character types in a different setting while trying to tell the same story) would have a dud or two.  I’m sure most of those that stopped reading have never written a thing on their own, so a judgment based on one book they didn’t like is asinine.  I personally disliked The Tommyknockers when I read it, and it was published in the mid 80s.  I still disliked it when I reread it in 2012.  However, there are many of those 68 books written since then that I have adored.  Bag of Bones and Duma Key to name just two.  So I urge those of you that gave up on King after one book you disliked to try again.  You might rediscover an author you previously loved.

I also want to address those “literary” types.  King has been criticized his entire career by critics, by other authors and by those readers that read a book because it makes them look intelligent.  Again, the man has written 68 original books (each story is different and unique, not formulaic at all), have any of those people done that?  I think a little bit of it is jealousy.  There seems to be a prejudice against an author that makes a ton of money and sells a lot of books.  Maybe they believe that only books that sell limited copies and make limited amounts are good, as your average reader doesn’t like great works of literary fiction.  King has won a medal for Distinguished Contribution to American letters.  Here is a list of the number of awards King has won since his career began.  It might be time for people to suck it up and read one of his books.

King tells a good story.  That is his main goal.  And that is what he achieves in most of those 68 books.  If you dislike horror, guts and gruesomeness, read his later works.  Some of them are almost not even close to horror.  If you like blood and guts, read the earlier books, then read the rest.

If you want to read what King himself thinks of “literary” types,  read the introduction of Full Dark, No Stars.  Which by the way has some very non horror fiction in it.

Thanks for listening to my rant 🙂  As you can tell, King ranks up there on favorite authors for me.  I grew up with him.  Well he was already an adult of course.  I read my first King novel, Firestarter at 10.  I’ve been reading him since.  I have re-read a lot of his books.  I read them so fast the first time that I want to find the things I missed.  And they are just as good as the first time.  Also, another note, King always, always makes sure his novels are unabridged when put on audio format.  He also reads Bag of Bones himself, which is amazing.  He finds the best audio book narrators.  If you don’t feel like reading one of his books, pick one up and listen.

Ok.  The end.

Les Miserables! Finally!

Ok, so I finally finished Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

I know some of you have probably been looking askance at my posts about the length and how long it has taken me to read it.  However, I have one thing to say that sums up how I feel about this book.

Wow.

While reading the book, you will have moments when you wonder what Hugo was really doing.  Was he telling a story?  Or explaining French history to us?  Was he detailing and painting characters with a fine nuance?  Or was he using fiction to deplore social conditions in France in the mid 1800s?

I think he was doing both.  I think Hugo had a lot to say and poured most of it into Les Miserables.  He had published prior books, but the length of time it took him to write this shows how much heart he put into it.  I can’t imagine having to write it all by hand!  Which he had to.

Chris Bohjalian was the author that picked Les Miserables as one of his top ten.  And thinking of the books I’ve read by him, he also uses fiction to make a social statement.  He’s a bit less obvious about it than Hugo, but almost two hundred years can make a big difference in narrative styles and techniques.

I cursed parts of this book to Dave over the last few weeks.  Sometimes, I felt a little cheated.  I’d be reading this great story and be really into what was happening.  Suddenly I’m in a forever long section about Waterloo and Napoleon.  Now, I do enjoy histories, however I don’t enjoy them when they’re slammed down in the middle of a book, with the sole purpose seeming to be the introduction of two characters who then really don’t become relevant for another 500 pages.

But, the thing that saved this book for me, and that makes me extremely happy that I’ve read it, is simply the story that Hugo tells.  How he builds his characters and how invested you get in them.

Hugo follows these characters for years.  Jean Valjean is a released prisoner, who simply can’t find anyone that will accept him.  A bishop (whom Hugo spent chapters describing him, for the sole purpose of his role for Jean Valjean) accepts him.  And through that Valjean finds religion, finds peace in Christ.  He goes on to change his identity and basically save a town from complete ruin, in the process becoming very rich even though he has the tendency to give away large amounts of money.

The book details the beginning and descent of Fantine, a young woman who gets pregnant with a rich nobleman’s child, a rich nobleman who thought it would be funny to take her out on an outing, then just walk away and have a waiter deliver a note awhile later with the essence of “Been fun, gotta run”.  She has the child, but can’t find work.  As she leaves to go to a town, she finds a woman outside an inn with two of her own children.  Fantine asks if they will watch her daughter, named Cosette, that she will send money for the upkeep.  The woman agrees.  And in comes the Thenardier family, Thenardier ending up being the reprehensible evil character.  The story then goes on to describe Fantine’s descent all the way into prostitution and Valjean’s saving her.  She makes him promise to get her daughter.

There is a detective in the story, Javert, who believes the mayor is Valjean (it is), which would make him a criminal of the worst sort.  Now, you think Javert is a bad guy.  However, he is just built in a very uncompromising manner.  In the end, this manner takes him to his demise.  Javert comes to arrest Valjean while he’s at the hospital with Fantine.  Valjean goes.  Fantine dies.

Time passes.  One day, into the Thenardier inn comes a shabby looking old guy.  Cosette has been mistreated by Mrs. Thenardier for years, and Mr. Thenardier has used the money he did receive before Fantine’s descent into poverty and death for his own purposes.  Cosette is a scared little girl.

Then lots of time passes.  Marius and his grandfather are introduced.  They become estranged, as Marius discovers his father was a Napoleon guy and becomes utterly devoted to his father, after his father dies.  His grandfather is a man who believes in the sanctity of royalty.  Marius goes off on his own.

He & Cosette fall in love.  They are parted.

A revolution, a street one, of 1831 occurs.  Marius’s friends lead a movement, where they block off a tavern and fight.  It all ends horribly wrong.

I don’t want to give the ending, as it will ruin the experience of reading it for yourself.

However, Jean Valjean is a pitiful hero.  And I don’t mean that in the usage of pathetic that many do.  I mean, you really have to pity the man.  He has so little happiness in his life, and everytime he does, it gets ripped away.  In the end, he only has the faith that the Bishop inspired and the love that Cosette showed him he had (oh yes, he rescues her from the Thenardiers).

The Thenardiers remain evil through and through, and the only surprise with Mr & Mrs is the depravity they have.  Their daughter Eponine though?  She surprises you.  She starts out as someone you think of as definitely a Thenardier to the core.  However, love changes her.  In the end she makes a huge sacrifice that she knows will come to the worst possible outcome.

Javert…well he is a man of unbending principles.  He has prided himself all his life on this, and has lived his life by these principles.  Hugo shows the effects that life events can sometimes have on people like this.

Cosette, she is flighty.  But her love for Valjean and for Marius is inspiring.

Marius, is noble in a way.  During the whole time he was estranged from his grandfather, he lived in poverty.  He very rarely borrowed money.  He is the one who almost comes out as the “hero” in this, as he is the opposite of Valjean.  For most of his life, he has good happen to him.  When bad does happen to him, and he is miserable, good suddenly occurs.  I like how he is almost opposite of Valjean, like almost mirror like.

These are the main characters.  However, Hugo has filled in chinks of the story with more minor characters that sneak into the chinks of the story and cement the whole.  The urchin, Gavroche, (who is the unloved son of the Thenardiers so he lives on the streets) is one.  Marius’s friends who stage the revolution in the inn are others.  He paints even the most minor characters in huge detail.  For instance, Cosette & Valjean’s serving woman, has very little said about her.  However, Hugo brings her to life.  She stutters.

I can definitely see how this would make a great show.  I have never seen the Broadway play…but want to.  I also really want to see the movie but made myself wait until after reading the book.  I think that is best in this instance.  Otherwise, you’d expect the book to move like the show or the movie, which considering it’s over 1500 pages, it simply cannot.

Please, don’t let the size of this daunt you.  It would be a great book to read a few pages of in a night.

However, just skim the pages about Argot.  It’s hideously boring and I think Dave agrees with me, if anything could have been cut from Les Miserables and not have it hurt the story line…it’s this section.

Please be sure to check out Sage Magazine, where I talk about Peony In Love by Lisa See.  It’s an amazing book, and I’d definitely put it up there in my favorites.  It’s also a much shorter book haha.

 

Les Miserables is Long Long Long. Today I will talk about Bones Buried in Dirt.

So.  Like Dave told you last week, I was working my way through Les Miserables.  He kindly went two weeks in a row so that I could finish.  And I’ve been trying.  Really.  And I might have been able to do it, but after 200-250 pages a day, you really can’t read more.  So.  I am getting close to the end and should be exploring it with you guys TOMORROW, February 8th, 2013.  So tune back in tomorrow for my talk about Les Miserables (where I will discuss its length but also discuss the beauty of it, trust me, it will be a scintillating discussion.).

Today, I decided to talk about something else.  While Dave has mentioned this on his own personal blog , he has yet to discuss it on here.  Dave had his first book published!  He’s been rocking short story publications for awhile now.  He had quite a few of those short stories that went together, all told by the same narrator.  Together they form a novel.   It’s titled Bones Buried in Dirt, and if you press that link it’ll take you to the amazon page for it.  It has a 5 star rating.

Dave gave me the opportunity of reading it directly prior to publication.  I loved it!  If you remember, in a prior entry about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dave talks about children narrators.  At some point in the course of our blog, one of us will be rereading To Kill a Mockingbird, probably one of the most famous examples of child narrators.  My point, before I digressed, is that Dave’s book has a child narrator.  His name is Peter and the stories that make up the book start around age 4 and follow him to age 12.  The time frame for the story is mid 80s to 90s (from what I can tell from Dave’s cultural references in it).  The setting is Omaha, NE.

The following is a list of why I think Dave’s book deserves accolades and its 5 star rating on Amazon:

1)  I sometimes forgot that the _author_ of the book was an adult, he wrote the child narration so well.  (And this is even with knowing the author!)

2)  Dave captured, through Peter, a lot of events that echoed in my own life, and probably in yours as well.   Dave covers the literalism of a preschooler, and the hurt that can sometimes happen due to that literalism.  He covers the time frame of sexual experimentation during elementary school years (and it’s not the fuzzy kiss the pillow stuff you normally read in literature about childhood).  He explores how it feels to lie to an authority and a friend after a betrayal.  First love.  Living with a parent with some obvious mental illness issues, who as an adult, you can see is trying his best, and to Peter is normal.  The burgeoning relationship with a father.

3)  He does all of this in an unflinching, raw, sometimes painful to look at way.   People glamorize and romanticize childhood way more than we should.  Childhood is painful.  It’s raw and it hurts.  A reviewer on Amazon said this about Bones Buried in Dirt “It rips away the fuzzy, pink insulation that is normally wrapped around memories
of childhood, leaving behind jagged edges that cut and wound” .  And his book does.  That’s what sets it apart from the other books out there.

4)  He details Peter’s growth as an individual from preschooler to preteen amazingly well.  We see Peter’s mindsets, thought processes and compassion levels change and develop throughout.

5)  He uses the locale of Peter’s neighborhood in such a way that it almost becomes another full character in the book.

 

There are a lot of other reasons, but those are my main ones.  I do definitely believe I will reread Dave’s book at some point, just because some of it was so raw that it was hard to process a first time.  Raw, emotionally, not writing wise.

Go the following places if you’re interested in knowing more:

Dave’s blog–where he talks about the publication and ongoing information on the book.

Amazon, where you can both purchase the book and read reviews on it.

Tattered Cover, an amazing independent bookstore in Denver Colorado.  If you are ever in the Denver area, run, run, drive like it’s the Indy 500 to Tattered Cover.  I only went there once, in the mid 90s and I still think of it in the way a dieter thinks of hot caramel sundaes or an ex smoker thinks of a cigarette.  You can either go physically to the store to buy a copy of Dave’s book, or you can order it online.  For those of you that would like to support an independent bookseller versus a giant like Amazon, this is the option for you.

Goodreads, where you can’t purchase it but can read the reviews on it to make your final purchasing decision, or if you have a Goodreads account, could add it to your to be read pile as a reminder to pick it up once you’re ready to purchase.  (By the way, Bones Buried in Dirt has a 4.92 rating on Goodreads as well).

And finally, Facebook, where you can like the page for Bones Buried in Dirt and maybe beg Dave to sign your copy somehow 😀

 

I urge all of you to read it.  It’s an amazing book, and phenomenally well done.

This was supposed to be Les Mis. Then it was supposed to be Charlotte’s Web. However, it is in fact The Lorax

Disclaimer:  I am currently attempting to watch the 2011 Jane Eyre since I’ve had the netflix dvd for 3 days now and would like to be able to get my next dvd, I will do my hardest to not confuse Jane Eyre with The Lorax.  If I suddenly wonder if the Once-ler is haunting Jane Eyre’s happiness, you will understand I am sure.

Now…the reason for my title.  Originally, I was attempting to read Les Miserables.  Then Saturday, Amelia woke with a cough.  No big deal.  Called the doctor’s office to be sure, but we all felt it was an upper resp infection.  4 hours later, my daughter is laying semi-conscious on the couch laboring to breath, panting in short breaths with a fever.  Another nurse call was made, this one telling me to get to the er after steaming Amelia in the bathroom first.  This was my first time in almost 5 years of needing to go to the ER for Amelia.  As you can imagine, this caused a great amount of fear and stress on Greg and I’s part.  We were sent home with an inhaler and super duty amoxicillin.   And we spent the next 3 days in a haze of medicine giving (ibuprofen alternated with tylenol for fever, amoxicillin twice a day, her inhaler every couple of hours and benadryl from time to time for relief of some of the symptoms) and random demands for a piece of toast.  Exhortations to eat, drink.  Getting her to rouse from the couch for a bath.  Basically my brain allowed me to the joy of watching tv as it was too tired to do anything else (I became oddly addicted to Gordon Ramsey’s Hotels from Hell and Hoarding during this time).  So, there went Les Mis finishing.  Then I decided, well I can do Charlotte’s Web, Amelia’s better enough for me to be able to read Charlotte’s Web.  I began it.  One chapter or two into it, Amelia in a burst of unforeseen energy ran it into her pit of do….um room and I have been unable to retrieve it.  There went Charlotte’s Web.  Luckily! I was able to track down her copy of The Lorax and read that for today.  Technically I have read it before, but not as a kid, only as a parent reading it to her child.  And I can assure you, there is an actual difference between reading a story to your child for their enjoyment and reading it to yourself for your own review.

The Lorax is a favorite of Lydia Millet.

I’ve heard that many state that Dr Seuss wrote The Lorax as an eco statement.  That might be the case.  The thing I love about Seuss is that he never talks down to kids.  I grew up reading ALL the time, and as such ran across more than one “morality” tale for kids.  The plot usually was “Little Jane is bad and doesn’t listen.  Little Jane gets sent to horrible orphan….oh wait sorry that’s Jane Eyre 😛 haha jk.  Honestly though, the plot usually was some kid be bops along and is generally a good kid.  But they don’t listen to the well meaning adults in their lives or the goody goody friends they have and DIRE CONSEQUENCES OCCUR.  But then some good grown up comes along and rescues them from themselves and they learn THE IMPORTANT LESSON OF LISTENING TO YOUR ELDERS.  Or some such crap.  Seuss never made me feel that way and still doesn’t as an adult.

The thing I look for in any story is _the story_.  I love any sort of narrative device, any sort of genre, IF THE STORY IS GOOD.  I don’t care about the fact that some author uses some fancy narrative trick, if there isn’t a good story behind that trick, the book is crap.  Seuss fulfills my good story love quite well.

The “nonsense” words he uses helps.  Thneeds are what the Truffula trees are used to make.  The Once-Ler comes and sees an idyllic place with beautiful Truffula trees and beautiful creatures cavorting around.  He manages to make a Thneed (the thing everyone needs!) from a Truffula tree and begins mass producing Thneeds, cutting down Truffula trees.  A little round mossy looking guy named the Lorax comes to warn him.  But the Once-Ler doesn’t listen.  Until the very last truffula tree falls.  Then the Lorax leaves a rock with the word Unless inscribed on it and disappears.  The way Seuss makes it a story that needs searched out by a young boy going to a house on the outskirts and paying with a variety of things including a nail, then the story itself with the nonsense words that end up being very lyrical when reading aloud.  When it comes off my tongue while reading to Amelia, it has a feel of a fairy  tale, not just a story book.  I loved having the experience of both reading this to a child for the first time and reading it individually as an adult.

I also am really happy that Dr Seuss ended up on these lists, even if it was just once with one book.  I think people forget about Dr. Seuss when listing favorite books.  I mean, they’re _kids’_ books right?  The literary devices and language that Seuss uses though, make him an author whose books shouldn’t be forgotten merely because one now can read War and Peace.

Happy New Year! And Lord of The Rings

For this week, I read Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I had dreaded attempting this one again, as I had already tried to read this several times and never made it past the first chapter.  It just seemed so…boring.  It actually made me a little sad, as I adore all three movies (though I’ve only seen them all like 3 times as watching them involves a major time commitment LOL).  This time though, since I was reading it to report back on it, I persevered.  And found past the first chapter, a treasure.

For all of you following along with what authors like what books when Dave and I write about them, Lord of the Rings was listed in the top ten for Chitra Divakaruni and Richard Powers.

As most people are familiar with the movies by now, I won’t go into too much plot recounting.

Basically, in The Hobbit (which I have yet to see the first one released in theaters), Bilbo Baggins lays hold of a ring.  He carries it back to the Shire, where all the Hobbits live (well most of them, LOTR goes into detail about where hobbits live, and let’s say that all the “normal” and “socially acceptable” ones live in the Shire).  Life is peaceful for oh, around 60 years or so.  Then it all begins to go dark.  Bilbo leaves the Shire and leaves the ring to his nephew Frodo.  And still things go on quietly for awhile longer.  Then all hell breaks loose.  It comes about that the ring is the one thing that can make Sauron victorious completely over the world again.  Frodo and others (The Fellowship) set off to attempt destruction of the ring.  Through it all, wars, battles, elves, Gollum, humans wanting the ring etc etc, Frodo carries on towards Mordor to destroy the ring.

The Lord of the Rings has so many things in it.  I think that explains it’s constant appeal throughout the decades.  There are heroes.  There are clear cut villains.  There are people who are neither good or bad.  There are people that are mostly good but do bad things and mostly bad but do good things.  It’s a tale not only about good triumphing evil, but about redemption.  There are battles, which Tolkien manages to suffuse with adrenaline, so that people don’t feel they are just reading a history account of some long ago battle.  There are elves, oh the elves, with their endless fascination not only for men in the series but for all of us that aren’t in the series.

I’m really not going into this very much, because Jackson’s movies have made the stories of LOTR so universal and so many others have commented countless times on the stories in the last decade that I don’t find much left to say.

HOWEVER!

I find it endlessly fascinating that the stories sprung out of Tolkien’s just wanting to make up a language, and writing stories about this world he just created.  It took him years and years to finish the book, and while people repeatedly attempted to find parallels between it and World War II which had just recently ended, Tolkien repeatedly denied that any one character represented any figure from the War (i.e. Saruman or Sauron representing Hitler).  Parts of it were written before the war, parts were written during the war.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Dave & I started this blog in May.  In May, we both each read one book, making 2.  In June, we both read 2 books each, so 4.  In July, Dave read 2 books and I read one, so 3.  In August, I read 3, and Dave 2, so 5.  In September, I read 1, Dave 3.  In October, I read 3 and Dave 1, so 4.  In November, Dave read 3 and I read Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, so um..we’ll say 3 🙂  In December, Dave read 2 and I finished Genesis and wrote about non book stuff, so 2.  We’ve read 27 books so far (which I might have gotten the math wrong so Dave can correct haha).  I remain very happy to have begun this project and can’t wait to see which books I discover that I really should have read before in my life in 2013.

Genesis–Part 3

So.  I finished Genesis.  There is a _lot_ to Genesis, which is why it took me 3 blogs to get it all the way done.  Imagine like 5 of your favorite novels condensed into a few paragraphs and mushed together and that’s what makes Genesis so hard.  There are all these different stories, but all of them go under the larger story arc.

In the final part of Genesis, Joseph is chronicled.  His father is that liar Jacob, he of the smooth skin and brother blessing stealing.  Jacob loves Joseph most of all and gives him a finely brocaded coat to prove it.  He then sends him out to check on his older brothers, whom Joseph has tormented with two dreams he had where it appeared they were bowing to him.  They see him and decide to throw him into an empty cistern.  The eldest, Reuben, in the hopes of saving him tells them to throw him in but to do nothing else.  (Reuben previously laid with his father’s concubine, costing him the elder’s rights of inheritance, so maybe he was hoping to get back into dad’s graces).  Reuben then leaves.  A traveling band of slavers passes by, and the 11 other brothers, led by Judah (who, oddly, contributes to the line of David, that contributes to the line that Jesus comes from, thereby disproving the whole “sins of the fathers” thing 😀 ), sell Joseph as a slave.  Joseph is taken to Egypt and finds favor in his master’s house.  But apparently Joseph is good looking, so the wife wants him.  Bad.  He tells her no, that it would be a sin against God to take her, as she is the one thing his master has not given him control or use of.  The wife attempts kissing him anyway.  He runs off, leaving his robe in her hand.  She then cries “Rape!”.  His master has him thrown in jail for no reason.  But he is kind enough to throw him into the prison that the high ranking prisoners are held in.   Joseph quickly gets in good with the jailer, always because of God’s favor.  He ends up interpreting two dreams, one for the Pharaoh’s cup bearer and one for the Pharaoh’s baker.  He asks the cup bearer to remember him and help him out of prison where he is unjustly held.   The cupbearer forgot him.  The baker might have remembered him, but as he lost his head about 24 hours later, it probably did Joseph no good.  Years pass, where Joseph still remains in prison.  Then the Pharaoh has two very strange dreams that he consults with a variety of supposed soothsayers, and dream interpreters, none of whom can interpret the dream.  The cup bearer FINALLY remembers Joseph and the Pharaoh calls him.  Asks him if he can interpret his dreams.  Joseph says he cannot, but that God can.  He then interprets the dreams as meaning 7 years of bounty were to be followed by 7 years of famine and that Pharaoh should start storing wheat etc against the eventual 7 years.  He listens and elevates Joseph up into the high position, the one in charge of doing all this.  Joseph does his job and does it well.  When the famine hits, Egypt is good, in fact Egypt is better, because Egypt is able to sell grain to other countries.  Suddenly, who at Joseph’s door should appear?  Why Reuben and 10 other brothers a-begging.   They don’t recognize Joseph.  He forces them into leaving one of the brothers behind and says to not return until they bring Jacob with them.  They end up coming back, Joseph reveals himself, after fighting with his anger for awhile and realizing that he needed to treat his family well.

I didn’t read the Count of Monte Cristo yet, Dave read it.  However, I did recently see the adaptation with Guy Pierce.  And all through reading this story in Genesis again, all I could think of was the Count of Monte Cristo.  Man gets framed and sold by brothers.  (Genesis).  Man gets framed and imprisoned by best friend he grew up with (Count).  Man spends years in servitude and jail (Genesis).  Man spends years in prison.  (Count).  Man becomes powerful and wealthy (Genesis).  Man finds treasure and becomes powerful and wealthy (Count).  Man is bitter and wants revenge against brothers (Genesis).  Man is bitter and wants revenge against friends and others who wrongly treated him.  (Count).  The movie ended differently than the book I think, so my comparison stops there.  However, as you can see, my original section holds true.  We keep hearing some of the same stories retold and retold in different ways.  How many stories depend on a woman wronged accusing a man of violating her?  (I know, I know, it adds to the whole “she asked for it” mindset, which is not my intention here as I think that’s disgusting.  But, it is a common literary device).

Genesis is definitely worth a read, as there were side stories in here included in the larger stories that I didn’t really go into.  Give it a read 🙂  It is worth it, whether you believe in God/Christ or are just interested in the literary side of things.  My one recommendation?  Read it in a study bible.  It gives all sorts of historical notes and cross references that, for me, enhance the story a TON.

Happy Reading!!

In two weeks, we shall discuss Luke.  Or possibly Matthew.  Whichever Gospel I decide I feel like talking about as we go into the Christmas holiday 🙂

Genesis–Part 2

I have divided Genesis into 3 parts.  Though not as long as some books, it does take awhile for me to read sections of the Bible.

I apologize for the lateness of this post.  I present the reasons of Thanksgiving and all night Black Friday shopping.

For a list of which authors listed the Bible as one of their top ten, and why it’s important in the realm of literature, see my original post.  In this blog post I’ll talk about the following:  the story of Abraham and Sarah,  the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the story of Lot and his family, Isaac and Rebecca, and Esau and Jacob.

Abraham was originally called Abram.  Sarah was originally Sarai.  Sarai was barren.  She made Abraham take her maidservant Hagar.    Sarai was very cruel to Hagar, so she ran away.   An angel of God came to Hagar and asked why she was running away, she replied that she was running from Sarai.  The angel told her to return to Sarai and serve her.  He promised her  “I will increase your descendants that they will become too numerous to count.  You are now with child and you will have a son.  You shall name him Ishmael.  for the Lord has heard of your miser.  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.  And so Islam was born.  Then God came to him “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God”.  Then the covenant of circumcision was born, as God required that as Abram’s end of the covenant.  He pronounced that Abram (99 years old) was to get circumcised, as well as all of the males of his household.  He said any male at eight days old was to be circumcised.  At this point, Ishmael was thirteen.  Arabs, those of Islam faith, consider themselves descendants of Ishmael, so circumcise when the boy is thirteen.  He promised Abram that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky.  At this, Abram wondered, as his wife, Sarai was quite old.  They were both nearing 100.  God promised him though, renaming Sarai, Sarah.  Time passed.  Sarah was still barren.  God told him he would have a son, and name him Isaac.  Sarah laughed upon hearing the repeat of God’s promise by God outside of their tent.  God replied “Why did Sarah laugh and say ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son”.  Then the angels and God were to go to Sodom, to destroy it, as it was completely infested with sin.  Abraham pleaded for Sodom asking if God was to find x amount (he started at fifty and worked down to ten, possibly in an attempt to save his nephew Lot and his household) would he save those people even as he destroyed Sodom.  God replied He would.  He and his angels came into Sodom and the men captured the angels and wanted to do very very bad things to them, the things that often happen in all male prisons nowadays.  Lot pleaded that the men of Sodom (as he had recognized the visitors as God’s angels) to take his (Lot’s) daughters instead, virgins, and that the men could do what they wanted with his daughters.  They then told Lot that they would treat him worse than the angels, as he was an outsider who had moved to Sodom.  The angels told Lot to take his family and flee.  He told his family, but his sons-in-laws (which confuses me and my self study Bible doesn’t explain, if Lot’s daughters were virgins, how did they have husbands?  My only thought can be that they were fiancees who were already called sons-in-laws, or else Lot’s daughters were very special virgins indeed), laughed at him.  The angels grabbed Lot’s hands, those of his wife, and those of his daughters and led them out of the city.  The city was then destroyed.  Lot’s wife, disobeying the angels of the Lord, looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  Apparently, the southern end of the  Dead Sea, even today, salt formations exist that are reminders of her fate.  Lot and his daughters end up hiding in a cave.  The daughers are scared that their line will die out, so get their father drunk and force him into sexual intercourse.  (Note; this is where the promised incest in the last entry is).  The older bore Moab, the younger Ben-Ammi.  The narrative then goes back to Abraham and Sarah, who are in a foreign land.  Now, Abraham liked to lie and say that his 90 year old attractive wife was his sister.  The ruler became upset with Abraham as Sarah was very desirable and men wanted her, but to lay with Sarah would have been a great offense, since she was Abraham’s wife and not his sister.  (Abraham would say this out of fear for his own life, that she would be desired and he would be killed in order for a man to have her).

Skipping ahead to Isaac and Rebekah.  Abraham on his deathbed, makes his servant promise to go back to his homeland to find Isaac a wife (the Lord had told him to not find one for Isaac in the land they currently lived).  The servant prayed that when he got to the town, the woman meant for Isaac would offer him and his camels water.  Rebekah did.  They went back to her home, and when her father heard, he willingly gave Rebekah.  She was Abraham’s great niece.  She wed Isaac in Sarah’s tent.  Abraham died and left everything to Isaac, but gave the sons of his wives after Sarah died, gifts.  Ishmael’s sons are also named, and the last part of that section says “And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers”.  Rebekah became pregnant with twins, who began fighting even in her womb “The babies jostled each other within her”.  She asks the Lord why is this happening?  This was the response; “Two nations are in your womb and two peoples from within you will be separated;  one people will be stronger than the other and the older will serve the younger”  (in direct contradiction of the rules of the time that said the eldest inherits and the younger serves the elder).  The boys come from the womb and Esau is hairy and redhaired from birth.  Jacob, smooth and not redhaired from birth.  When the boys grew, Esau became a skillful hunter, Jacob a quiet man, staying among the tents.  Esau was Isaac’s favorite, Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite.  When Isaac was on his deathbed, he told Esau to go hunt two animals down, fine specimens, and to bring them back for Isaac, and he would bestow his blessing on him.  Rebekah heard this, and conniving little liar that she was, called Jacob to her.  Isaac had gone blind.  She told Jacob to go find two young goats and to slaughter them.  He wondered how Jacob would mistake them as Esau was so hairy and he so smooth.  Rebekah attached goat hides to Jacob’s hands.  Isaac was suspicious when Jacob went to him, but bestowed the blessing anyway; “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.  May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness–an abundance of grain and new wine.  May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you.  Be lord over your brothers and may the soons of your mother bow down to you.  May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed”.  Jacob leaves.  Esau comes and Isaac is upset, saying that he already gave his blessing to Jacob.  Esau begs for a blessing, even one, from his father.  He gets “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.  You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.  But when you grow restless you will throw his yoke from off your neck”.  Jacob flees to Laban, out of fear of what Esau will do, having been warned by his mother.  Before he goes, Isaac Isaac tells him to not marry a Canaanite woman, but to return to where Rebekah lived, and to take a wife there from the daughers of Laban, Rebekah’s brother.

Jacob goes to Laban.  Laban has two daughters.  Jacob falls in love with Rachel, but she has an older sister, Leah.  After a month there, Laban asks Jacob what he would like his wages to be.  Jacob states that he would work for Laban for seven years, and then would like to marry Rebekah.  Laban tricks Jacob and gives him Leah instead.  The day after the wedding night, Jacob is understandably upset and goes to Laban “What is this you have done to me?  I served you for Rachel, didn’t I?  Why have you deceived me?”.  Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.  Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work”.  Jacob agrees, loving Rebekah like he does.  Laban gives him Rachel right away, after Leah’s wedding week is over.  Leah bears Jacob sons, including Levi, whom the future priests, or Levites descended from.  As well as Judah, who was the ancestor of David and ultimately of Jesus.  Rachel becomes jealous of Leah’s fertility, as she is barren at that point.  She tells Jacob “Give me children, or I’ll die!”  Jacob asks her “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”.  She then gives him Bilhah, her servant, so he can sleep with her to bear children that Rachel can claim.  Leah stops having children so has Jacob lie with Zilpah, her servant.  Leah keeps having children.  Then finally God remembers Rachel; He listens to her and opens her womb.  She names her son Joseph.  Jacob works a deal with Laban to build a herd by taking the spotted and marked goats from his flocks.  Laban, showing his brotherhood to Rebekah, takes all those animals out of his herd and spirits them away.  Jacob begins to have the herd drink from water with branches from poplar, almond and plane trees that he marked with stripes.  The flock that drank from these became spotted.  Jacob eventually flees from Laban, having had his wages changed ten times and having served Laban for twenty years.  Rachel steals Laban’s idols before leaving, showing that she hasn’t quite given up her pagan ways.  Laban chases down Jacob, demanding why he felt the need to steal from him.  Jacob is confused and tells Laban to search the tents, and if he finds the idols, Jacob will kill the person that has them.  Rachel, showing that family’s deceptive streak (Jacob does too), puts them under her saddle.  She tells her father she has her period so cannot climb down.  He believes her and idols are never found.  And this is where I leave you in the narrative.

Faith standpoint:  For me, all these stories are important.  Even before Jesus comes and saves us, all these people in Genesis were making big mistakes.  The Ten Commandments weren’t around yet, but they lied, mated with their daughters (though the daughters were more to blame than the father in this endeavour), they did not trust in God (Sarai and Hagar).  Oh!  Forgot the story of Abraham and Isaac.  God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham, though of course he didn’t want to murder his promised descendant for a sacrifice, obeys.  God intervenes at the last moment, telling Abraham that because of his faithfulness, He is sparing Isaac.  This isn’t something done wrong, but rather right, but since I forgot that story wanted to get it in there.  This sacrifice, this instant, predicts the future sacrifice of God’s own son, Jesus.  Also, back after Adam & Eve are cast from Eden, God makes it pretty clear that He intends for women to become of one flesh with their husbands, thereby dictating that a man should have only one wife.  Obviously, from above, you can see that they didn’t exactly listen to that.  They were fornicating everywhere.  Also, there is doubt of God’s promise, when Sarah laughs at God’s promise.  Anyway, it’s a hopeful thing to me, that all throughout the Bible, there are people messing up, and God still considering them as His.  There are times when it hits me, how much of a sinner I am.  I think this is important to understanding the grace of God and Jesus’s death.  It always bugs me when I go to a church where there is no confession of your sins (in Protestant churches, this takes place as a group confession, with the belief that you can go directly to God with your personal sins instead of the confessional).  I don’t like churches that only focus on grace, that make you believe and feel that you are perfect once you are “born again”, as the death of Christ only promises that you will continue to be forgiven, but that you still want to endeavour to lead a godly life.  I dislike churches that _only_ focus on God’s love.  I believe that one can’t truly appreciate the complete grace and understand it, without understanding the complete miserableness that sin makes us.  /end rant.  Also, for me, there is the beginnings of the promise of Christ that help me to understand the eventual events leading up to that sacrifice.

Literary standpoint:  The stories are fascinating to me.  I mean, you have conflict everywhere, you have people fighting, lying, fornicating.  It’s a very engaging read, even with the brevity of each story and the lack of detail as to how the sand got in their eyes and their hair, etc etc.  Also, I think it was Wally Lamb, in “This Much I know is True” (if I have misnamed the title, forgive me) who reference Jacob and Esau.  I find references all the time to the above stories in both classic and current literature.   With the amount I read, I see it all a lot.  I’m sure Dave can also attest to the recurrent themes that began from day 1.  There is a story coming up in the last part of Genesis that I can directly correlate to a classic novel, but I will leave you in suspense until next time to find that out.

Tune in next time to hear about sibling rivalry, selling your siblings into slavery, dream prophecies, and of course the famed multi colored coat.

One Hundred Years of Solitude-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

So, I’m pretty sure with this book, Dave and I have wrapped up Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s contributions to  The Top Ten.   And, I have to say that I am _extremely_ happy that I had the opportunity to read this book for our experiment/project.

The following authors listed this book in their top ten:

Lee K. Abbott, Russell Banks, Pearl Cleage, Edwidge Danticat (and I’ve never heard of them before but LOVE the name!), Chitra Divrakuni, Karen Joy Foyler, Michael Griffith, Alice Hoffman, Jim Harrison, John Irving, Wally Lamb, Ann Patchett, Francine Prose, Jim Shepard and Alexander McCall Smith.

I remember once, years ago, picking up One Hundred Years of Solitude and attempting to read it.  I made it maybe ten pages in and gave up.  I’m not sure why, though most likely I was in the midst of reading Dean Koontz novels or something and the writing style is definitely different from that.   So, when I picked it up again, I did so without fully knowing what to expect.  I had a little trepidation, one might say.  Halfway through the first chapter, my trepidation disappeared and the story consumed me.  The language is beautiful.  I liked this one better than Love in the Time of Cholera, this one had a bit more magic to it than Cholera did.

The story follows a family and intertwined with the family, a town, Macondo.  In fact, the state of the town usually reflects the state of the family and vice versa.  The founders of the family, Ursula and Jose Arcadio Buendia are the first characters we meet.  Marquez is genius at painting characters in a few strokes.  He then spends the rest of the story coloring them in, but even if he didn’t, you would feel that you knew the character completely from the beginning.  The following is one of the beginning things said about Ursula.  Her and Jose are arguing, he wants to explore and abandon the city that he founded.  She doesn’t want to leave.  He tells her that no one has died yet in the city, so you know it’s not a real city until someone does.

“Ursula replied with soft firmness ‘If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die'”.

The story follows the Buendia family from this time until a hundred years later.  Jose & Ursula’s two sons are Jose Arcadio and Aureliano.  Jose ends up having a child who is named Jose Arcadio, but called Arcadio, and then Jose runs off to not be seen for a few more years of narrative.  Aureliano stays and becomes a Colonel in a Liberal revolution.  Jose is…very well endowed.

“…the willful first-born who had always been too big for his age, had become a monumental adolescent.  One night, as Ursula went into the room where he was undressing to go to bed, she felt a mingled sense of shame and pity:  he was the first man she had seen naked after her husband and he was so well equipped for life that he seemed abnormal”.  Ursula speaks to a woman who knows how to read the future in cards and Ursula confides in her that she thinks it’s unnatural and the woman responds it doesn’t mean that at all, just that he’ll be very lucky.

Aureliano is a bit…psychic.  When he is born, he is born with his eyes wide open, and then examined everything with a “fearless curiousity”, then concentrated on the palm roof.

“Ursula did not remember the intensity of that look again until one day when little Aureliano, at the age of three, went into the kitchen at the moment she was taking a pot of boiling soup from the stove and putting it on the table.  The child, preplexed, said from the doorway, “It’s going to spill.”.  The pot was firmly placed in the center of the table, but just as soon as the child made his announcement, it began an unmistakable movement toward the edge, as if impelled by some innter dynamism and it fell and broke on the floor”.

I highlighted both sons’ traits here, because throughout the following generations, their names are used numerous times and a lot of their descendants carry either the huge genital size or the psychic intensity.

However, the trait that ties all of the generations together, is the solitude in which they live.  I’m not talking about the family as a unit living in reclusive solitude as a family.  I’m also not talking about someone who walls themselves in a room in solitude and never comes out (though some of the Buendias do just that either for parts of their lives or their whole lives).  I’m talking about each of them having distance from everyone else.  Marquez begins referencing it (that I noticed) in the second half of the book when he would talk about this descendant or that and would talk about them as solitary.  That they experienced this even in the midst of being solitary.  That they were able to not do this because of being in the midst of being solitary.

One Hundred Years of Solitude has a more fantastical feel to it than Love in The Time of Cholera.  Time doesn’t pass the same sometimes.  One of Jose Sr’s mentors, an old gypsy, dies and comes back.  Another character lives to be beyond 150 years old.  One character ascends to heaven just in the middle of a normal afternoon.  Things will happen that others say never existed.

There is so much more to this book than I have explained above, and it would take ten blog entries to go into detail into every nuance of Marquez’s story.

I loved it.  That sums up pretty much how I feel about this book.  When I started writing this blog entry, and was flipping through for the parts I quoted above, I had the temptation to begin reading it again.  Within 24 hours of finishing it.  I felt like I had gotten so sucked into it that I was missing major portions of the language and the descriptions etc.

I was really excited to see John Irving had picked it.  One of my favorite books of all time is Widow For One Year by him.  He had a new one come out this year, In One Person, that I finished reading the day before I picked up this book.  I thought it was beautiful, it sucked me in and when it spit me back out, it lingered for a couple of days, and still tugs at my conscience sometimes.

If you read no other book that I’ve talked about in here since May, read this one.  It’s a different pace than a lot of novels, but it’s a translation.  Find that pace, get into the book, and enjoy.

 

 

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

This week, I am writing about Grimms Fairy Tales.  Both Alice Hoffman and James Salter listed these in their top ten.  Apparently, based on my last 3 selections, I need to read more Alice Hoffman.  I have never heard of James Salter, so went to the all knowing Wikipedia.

I will admit that I have read this before, but I think the last time I read my compilation book of them, I was around 10.  I, have of course, in the last couple of years gotten to know the sanitized versions of the tales quite well (the fallout of having a four year old daughter).

I will also admit that I have not read through all of them at this time, so I will be doing another post in a couple of days once I finish all of them.  However, I have read through enough of them that I can give opinions and the true story on some of the ones that Disney has come through and “princessed” and sanitized.  I also can talk about the viewpoint on whether they truly are too bloody for children today.

Interesting note first, the Grimm brothers first published the book of tales, marketed towards children in the early 1800s but parents complained (apparently they did that even back then) that the tales were way too violent, so years later,  the brothers released an updated version with a few of the tales “cleaned” up.  So the stories we read today as the originals actually are probably already sanitized a bit.  This doesn’t mean that they are rated G by any means.

The charges of feminism that the fairy tales paint women in a negative light, making them appear dumb and in need of someone to rescue them, isn’t necessarily all that true.  Yes, in some tales, the girl is painted as a victim who is desirous of rescue, but in others, she is quite resourceful.  I am thinking here of “The Princess in Disguise”.  Her father, the King, promises her mother, the Queen, on her deathbed that he will marry no one unless she has golden hair like the Queen and is just as beautiful.  Of course, no one fulfills these requirements.  Until his daughter reaches of age.  So, he decides he will marry her.  Even way back when the story originated (who knows when as the Grimm brothers transcribed stories), this wasn’t acceptable.  So the girl runs away.  Hunters from another kingdom find her, and she hides her identity to keep herself safe…after she has shoved 3 gowns she forced her father into making in the hopes that he will be unable to marry her and a rough cloak of skins.  She then begins to work for the cook at this castle and contrives a way to show herself as  a princess to the King and to marry him.  And she succeeds.

Of course on the flip side, we have “Snow White”, who manages to smartly convince the huntsman to let her go. (the original version has the original proclamation from the mirror to come when she was 7, the story doesn’t signify when she runs away)  She then runs away and finds the 7 Dwarves (this is pretty similiar to the Disney version so far).  However, the wicked stepmother, upon hearing from her mirror about Snow White still being alive, disguises herself and goes as a peddler woman and sells her a poisoned hair comb.  Snow White puts the comb in her hair and falls down as dead.  When the dwarves return, they notice the comb and pull it out and warn her to be extra careful as the stepmother is after her and to not answer the door to anyone.  Well, the stepmother of course notices that she is not dead and redisguises herself and goes back, this time selling corsets.  Snow White puts up a little protest but then is so overcome with need for the corsets (of her own accord, not the stepmother’s) that she allows the woman to tie one on her, and the laces are pulled too tight and she collapses.  The dwarves save her again and re-warn her.  Then comes the apple, which the stepmother has spelled to be only poisonous on one side so she is able to take a bite out of it and convince Snow White (again) that it is ok.  She then falls down.  The dwarves can’t find anything so bury her in a glass coffin due to her great beauty.  A prince comes along and is so captivated by her that he requests to carry her body back to his castle.  As servants are carrying her, the piece of apple is dislodged from her throat and THAT is what causes her return.  Not a kiss.  They do kiss, and they do live happily ever after, but the jostling of being carried over paths is what saves her.  The stepmother goes to their wedding and they had ready red hot iron shoes, which they made her dance in until she fell down dead.

But men get the same treatment in the fairy tales.  “The Skilful Huntsman” has a young man in it who receives an air gun which will not fail to hit its target.  He then deceives three giants.  He sneaks away and the princess in the castle refuses to marry the man in the King’s Guard who says he killed the 3 giants so is exiled to sell pots (this seems to be a common punishment for princesses who refuse to do the King’s bidding in the tales I’ve read).  Other stories point at men who are smart outwitting dumb men.  In Clever Gretel, the man she is a cook/serving maid for is completely dumb.

Most of the tales in the half I have read so far have someone greedy getting punished in the end.

Recently (prior to picking Grimm’s fairy tales to read and partly causing me to pick the fairy tales for my next one) I was in the library and saw the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter.  I of course, had to get it.  It’s a good read for mothers or fathers of little girls and explores the whole new movement of princesses for little girls and where that might lead.  Peggy Orenstein is a humorous and easy to read author.   She talks about the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in regards to the original (or only slightly sanitized) tales, stating that Bettelheim says “…fairy tales and only fairy tales-as opposed to myths and legends–tap into children’s unconscious preoccupations with such knotty issues as sibling rivalry or the fear of omnivorous mother”.  Fairy tales show that those who stand fast are victorous.  Bettelheim goes so far as to say, according to Orenstein “without exposure to fairy tales a child will be emotionally stunted, unable to create a meaningful life”.  I did not read Bettelheim at all, beyond what is discussed in this book so can’t really go into depth of his viewpoints.  However, I don’t think he necessarily needs to go as far as saying any child without that exposure will be emotionally stunted.  I do know that as I read through these tales again, I remember how much I loved them as a child and why all the sanitized versions of Disney have always felt…lacking to me.  Unfortunately, Amelia (the four year old that has made me live in Disney princess land) has been a little ruined by those Disney versions and always looks a little confused when I read ones closer to the original.

Next time, I’ll go into the real stories behind some of the other sanitized versions.  Stay tuned for the parts that Disney didn’t want you to know!