I can’t help but be filled with curiosity about how this day will go, having begun with making a pour-over coffee with no cup to catch the liquid dripping through.
How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars
What I liked: This is a book with many layers that plays with the theme of reality and fiction, heroes and anti-heroes, heroism and escapism…
Plot Summary: There is a remarkable inter-weaving of time period (WW2), character development, and subject matters (comic books, superheros, and magicians). Kavalier and Clay seek to transcend the sense of desperation and helplessness they experience, living through the Second World War by way of their creation of comics. They take the hero’s journey, they are both scarred by their pasts, but ultimately they must come to grips with their frustration at being subject to fate and forces beyond their control…
The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash, but everyone knew it was only an illusion. The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost that they might never have existed in the first place.
Slovak Zizek asks the simple theological question: “what dies on the cross?” It’s a question asked by many millions over the last two thousand years. The standard, traditional answer is to say that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins, so that sinners who stand in a precarious relationship to God — condemned and estranged — can be made clean and be “justified” hence restoring our relationship to God. But perhaps there’s a deeper sense here, deeper and wider, something that has been hidden in plain sight.
How I rate it: 5 of 5 stars
What I liked: This is a deeply intimate novel, and I’m hopeless and helplessly hooked. I’m a fan of historical fiction, but this, like all good historical fiction, transcends the era by its deep and honest engagement with the tensions of the characters inhabiting their time and place.
Plot Summary: Two exceptional and intelligent girls, Greco and Lila, form an unbreakable but complicated bond growing up in a poor, harsh, and at times violent neighborhood in Naples, Italy. The novel is set in the 1950s and is the first novel in the four-novel Neapolitan series that follows the two women through the course of their lives.
I began to weep with lonliness. What was I? Who was I?…What signs did I carry? What fate? I thought of the neighborhood, as of a whirlpool, from which any attempt of escape was an illusion.
O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart
~ W. H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening
A blog by an old seminary friend, Chris. We discuss colonialism……Me: As I’m familiar with it, the Colonialism debate isn’t about whether or not the colonial power subjugated the natives and exploited their resources but whether or not, on balance, the colonial powers left their subjects in better shape or not. So, in India one might debate whether, on balance, being Christianized and modernized was worth the genocides, cultural chaos, and loss of resources and raw materials. Obviously, one of the more fundamental questions is whether or not the colonial powers themselves have the right to even comment on the question. Who were the Brits, for example, to determine for the Indian peoples what is good for India? What gave the Dutch and English the right to determine what was best for South Africa?
This article by Dennis Prager, on Why the Left Hates Western Civilization (do please read it) reminds me of a conversation I once had an an evening soiree, where a professor of Literature and I discussed Robinson Crusoe. As an enthusiast of the Western Canon of Literature, I prize Crusoe as a brilliant spiritual biography as well as a killer adventure story filled with ingenuity, economic wisdom, planning, and heroism. I’ve taught some sublime tomes in addition to Crusoe to high school students, including Dante’s Inferno, and The Brothers Karamazov.
However, I was told that Crusoe is actually a propaganda piece lauding the white, Christian male of British imperialism and colonialism. This can be known due to Crusoe’s reference to the savage he rescues from cannibals—named Friday— as “My man.” The professor repeated this phrase over and over and she seemed rather angry. “My
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Bernie was on Saturday Night Live recently, and there’s a skit I love, featuring Larry David (of Seinfeld fame and Curb Your Enthusiasm). The scene is of a sinking ship. “Women and children first!” yells the captain. “Really?” Larry David says, incredulous. There’s a good bit of back-and-forth between Larry and the Captain, as women and children are loaded onto the life raft. Larry can’t seem to convince them to take him on the raft before the women and children, and he worries that he’ll not make it on the raft, so he finally plays his trump card: I’m really wealthy, he says. “I’m worth more than all the rest of you put together.” That’s when Bernie steps in, dressed as a commoner. Read more
One of my favorite discoveries of 2015 is The Elements of Eloquence, written by a chap named Mark Forsyth. Forsyth is a Brit, hence the reason that I’ve picked up the term “chap.” Don’t let the title of the work fool you, because The Elements of Eloquence is by no means a serious or pretentious work. While it’s true that you can’t appreciate it unless you are a writer or have an inner grammar geek, this is a book that’s a good bit of fun. It’s packed with pithy puns and offhand irreverence, it’s a book I’d imagine Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy) might write had he written a Hitchhiker’s Guide to Grammar or something along that line. I’ve had more laughs with The Elements of Eloquence than with any other book this year. Read more
I’m not typically the guy with the Facebook updates sharing what I ate for breakfast. I don’t mind seeing what you or others eat for breakfast, and I certainly don’t have anything against breakfast, per se. Breakfast is a wonderful time of the day, so rich with potential, our bodies are on the verge of great creativity and productivity, if only it were given the fuel necessary to energize it. For my part, I had a bagel with cream cheese. That was my breakfast. And I sprinkled some sugar on it and added cinnamon. That’s not my typical breakfast. Usually it’s just fruit. Fruit and perhaps a handful of almonds. Why is this my normal breakfast? Well, if I told you, then this would start to seem like a story. Read more
Soon I will be taking a shower again. On the downside, I can’t step into the bushes to piss anymore. Tradeoffs. I left McCarthy this morning to fly to San Jose for a few months. Entering urban life is a bit of a drag after nearly five months in the splendors of the wilderness, but I am very excited to see family. Some little rug rats are waiting for Uncle Jon. Hopefully Uncle Jon will navigate the cities, avoid getting smushed by traffic, and successfully merge again with civilization……I am looking forward to a few months of writing. I just finished up the first chapters of my book, an exploration of my spiritual journey. I shipped them off to some readers to get early feedback. The writing process has been fun and full of energy. I have much on my mind and heart, so thus far there has been no writer’s block. Not even close. Crossing my fingers and hoping for a productive few months of writing in the Bay. With any luck, I’ll be back up in Alaska early this year — maybe March.