Friday, March 30, 2012

52 in 52 Week 13: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Cover image for The PearlI had tea with my friend, Sharon, a couple of weeks ago, and her son, home on break from Annapolis Naval Academy, sat down with us to discuss classical novels. He had said he didn't like Pride and Prejudice a few years earlier, but he finally sat down and loved it. I like that he tried again when he was a few years older.


He also said, "I had to read The Pearl in high school, and that story is just stupid."  I told him I had it on hold at the digital library. It made me wonder if he would like this one too if he gave it a try at an older age.


I did not think it was stupid. Yes, it is another depressing, American novel of the 20th century, but it is profound. I love Steinbeck's writing. He is a wonderful craftsman of a story.  This is a simple, symbolic short novel set in the early 1940's. It tells of what happens to a poor family that finds a great pearl. The main themes are anti-materialism, knowing one's place in society, greed, illusion versus reality, and the wisdom that comes out of difficulty. 


The major question is: "Can money buy you peace, love, and harmony in life?"  It is interesting to look at this question in light of the lottery being 500 million today. There is a hot discussion on my girlfriend's Facebook page about what people would do with the money. Yesterday, I watched the new commentators banter about it. I didn't know that one of the mega winners was kidnapped and murdered by his sister-in-law. WOW!

The timing of this novel is perfect for this discussion!



Hector Elizondo's narration is perfect.  It is a 2-3 hour listening feast. 

Sickness in the Morning

I'll just write straight for 15 minutes without taking my fingers off the keys. 

I haven't done this for a while because we were on vacation. The zoo was fabulous. The day was sunny (but not warm), and the animals were out, and it is nice to have kids that are still interested in animals. We ate good Portland pizza and donuts (I could only stomach one, but the kids had many more), great hearty hotel breakfast, Indian food. We feasted on Powell's Books and walk a crazy amount. We even hiked Multnomah Fall which was much harder than I thought. Everyone told me it was easy, but I think those are people who only went to the bridge and not up the 11 switchbacks that led to the platform overlooking the top. I felt like I talked them all into something they didn't enjoy, but they all said they enjoyed it afterward just as Paul even said he enjoyed working out at Timberhill and missed that. That was a good conversation too.  Things we don't look forward too but do once we have done it. I have gotten through that barrier in my physical exercise. I don't even flinch now about going to work out or even run because I know that I always feel better afterwards. They usually have to remind themselves of that. All part of growing.

It was a growing time for our family. I shed a few tears to get to deeper issues, and we realized how much we all mean to each other. That was so sweet. I love these three so much. It was a sweet family trip, but it made its adjustments as we realize that they will be leaving the nest soon, and our family vacations may not look the same. The kids were totally open to having a weekly coffee date one-on-one with me. I realize that I need that since they are going to LB. I see them going in and out, but I so miss being on the couch reading books and doing homeschool TOGETHER. I want to know them as adults now. I have keenly sensed the loss that I feel since the homeschool chapter has closed. I loved those years. I will NEVER regret homeschooling. 

We also got the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Paul really realizes how much his introversion has hindered him. He can't initiate with people very easily. He wants to grow in that area. We are going to try to read it together. Michael is growing and has become more outgoing as Conrad disciples him. I am not sure if he will read it, but it will be good for Paul and I to read it. People do not believe that I am an introvert, but I definitely have been trained to be more extraverted, and I can seem that way to the outside world. At best I am an "ambivert" (Cain's word, but I usually use "midtravert" in my talks on personality type). I can function well in both the inside and outside world, but I have to tell myself to function in the outside world, but I never have to tell myself to have some alone time. That should tell you something right there!

Well, the kids are stirring, and I hope to have some breakfast with them. My cold feels better this morning than it did when I first got up. You know I am sick when I sleep almost nine hours when I usually only need six. :)

I have 1:36 left on my timer, and I have not lifted my fingers from the keyboard, and I am not going to proofread this thing. 

Heather, I know that I need to respond to your fasting question. I thought I already did. It may be hidden inside the email I sent about other things, and it may not be very long. Fasting: it is good. It helps you focus on the LORD rather than food. It makes going and praying easier if you don't have to pack along food. Every time your stomach hungers, you can channel it into hungering for the LORD.

Bell ringing!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

52 in 52 Week 13: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Click image to view full coverI still love this series. The second book was just as good as the first. I had to finish it by reading it on the road to our vacation spot because my son had finished the first one and was ready to read this one.  Now, my youngest is on the first, my oldest is on the second, and I am on the third.  My husband is reading Moby-Dick, but I think he is definitely interested too!! This series is definitely "catching fire" in my household. This is the first time this has ever happened with pleasure reading books. I am hoping I can talk them into going to the movie at the end of the week. :)


It delights me to see it passing up the more "pop" books that we have seen over the last few years. I only read one of those "pop" books for a book club review a few years back, and I thought it was very poorly written (I hear that they get better as they go on, but I didn't like the message either).  The Hunger Games books are well-written and have a great message. There are no witches, warlocks, or vampires in sight, and I like that very much!


I have always loved first person narratives. I don't know why that is. Jane Eyre is one of my favorites, and that is in the first person too. I know that this is no Jane Eyre, but it is a great, contemporary, dystopian novel. I am not going to tell you who that "voice" is because if you haven't read the first book, I don't want to spoil its conclusion, but here is that voice:
"In that one slight motion, I see the end of hope, the beginning of the destruction of everything I hold dear in the world. I can't guess what form my punishment will take, how wide the net will be cast, but when it is finished, there will most likely be nothing left. So you would think that at this moment, I would be in utter despair. Here's what's strange. The main thing I feel is a sense of relief. That I can give up this game. That the question of whether I can succeed in this venture has been answered, even if that answer is a resounding no. That if desperate times call for desperate measures, then I am free to act as desperately as I wish."  (p. 75)
KICK IT! Love that paragraph. :) I'm rooting for you. Throw caution to the wind:


  "...there is suffering in the light; an excess burns.  
Flame is hostile to the wing.  
But to burn and yet to fly; 
this is the miracle of genius." 
 - Victor Hugo, Les Miserables  

I found this interesting bit on inspiration and origin for writing the trilogy on Wikipedia
Collins says that the inspiration to write The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two "began to blur in this very unsettling way" and the idea for the book was formed.[5] The Greek myth of Theseus served as basis for the story, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus, and that Roman gladiatorial games formed the framework. The sense of loss that Collins developed through her father's service in the Vietnam War also affected the story, whose heroine lost her father at age eleven, five years before the story begins.[6] Collins stated that the deaths of the young characters and other "dark passages" were the hardest parts of the book to write, but she had accepted she would be writing such scenes.[7] She considered the moments where Katniss reflects on happier moments in her past to be the more enjoyable passages to write.[7]

(By the way, I read this from a print book and did not listen to the audio book that is pictured)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

52 in 52 Week 13: The House Church Book by Wolfgang Simson


The House Church Book
I had read his Houses that Change the World in 2009, and I didn't care for it. Not because I didn't agree with much of what he had to say, but it was so negative toward the traditional church, and it fomented intense negativity toward it in our group. I didn't like that (and the leader of the discussion didn't help it either). So, I was happy to hear that others encouraged him to revise the book without all the negativity. The result: I loved it! 


I had also listened to eight lecture by him, and I had changed my mind about him too.


We read it with our Kingdom group, and it caused us to dream about what would be the components of a house church. The discussion was great and challenging. In the process, our pastor and elders said they would be open to this being an "arm" of our traditional church to give an alternative. So, it might happen.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

52 in 52 Week 13: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Cover image for The Mayor of CasterbridgeThis novel is subtitled, "A Story of a Man of Character." I wanted to read this after hearing a lecture about "Scene and Summary" by Timothy Spurgin in The Teaching Company's Art of Reading course.  He explains that summary is used to activate our senses, and Hardy is a master at doing that.


First off, I became a Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) fan when I read The Return of the Native. My book club, overall, disliked it which really surprised me.  He writes beautifully, but his stories aren't always all pretty and tied up in a bow of a happy ending.  His genre is naturalism. It is also a "bildungsroman" novel meaning it charts the protagonist's moral and psychological development. In this case the protagonist is Michael Henchard. The opening summary and scene had me hooked from page one. 








The novel was written from 1885-1186 and published in serial form in both England and America. 
Hardy was also a poet, and you see it come out in his prose.  The Book of Great Books says:
Rich, dense, formal prose describes characters and settings (both natural and social) in detail; gives a sense of nature's majesty and power: "The sun had recently set, and the west heaven was hung with rosy cloud, which seemed permanent, yet slowly changed." 
I distinctly remember feeling this way when I read The Return of the Native. His description of the heath made me feel like I was right there. I felt like I was in Casterbridge also.


I found the protagonist extremely sympathetic and found myself rooting for him, despite his imperfections!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spilled Milk Stepping Stone

Well-Watered Soul


Your presence astounds me this early morning. I got up sensing that I would not have a Theophostic appointment this morning, and there was an email sent at 11:24 pm last night asking for postponement due to sickness.  So, I can luxuriate with You and my family until my 2:30 appointment. At which time, I can luxuriate with someone that has been through Theophostic and already has a memory that they want to explore and is a Theophostic counselor herself. So, it should be a delight. :)

I am happy because this is our first day as a family free of the confines of college studies. Michael is reading The Hunger Games, Paul will probably be talking, talking, talking because he is excited to have school done with, and George just might need to stay home and work due to the snow!

Back to Your presence. I was a little down yesterday. It was triggered by Michael spilling my freshly made chai tea in an effort to move my tea cozy. It is so true that there is "no use crying over spilled milk," but it made me very sad. It wasn't the spilled milk but something I had been mulling over and struggling with.  The pieces had been falling together over the last five days as an old friend (who I haven't talked to for some time) called me about her gift of discernment. Another friend had told her to call me to ask questions about this gift. This old friend and I have SO MUCH in common. I think that people with that gift should get together because then we wouldn't think we were crazy! LOL!

All that to say is that she confirmed something from a discernment from years ago (and one of the real and deeper reasons why we had to make drastic changes six years ago), and she got me thinking about a more recent discernment. It confirmed that the "weight" that I had been experiencing and stuffing for five days was real.  While it came up with my phone conversation on Tuesday, I stuffed it  only to have it resurface with the spilled milk.

My first action was to pray through my "Morning Affirmations" Scripture. (And felt convicted that I needed to apologize to Michael for scolding him when it was an accident. I did that immediately. Such a forgiving guy with such a big heart.) Then, I decided to record it so that I could play the Scripture on my iPod anytime, anywhere. The "Protection in Spiritual Warfare" section is always so invaluable to me, and Carol C. and Patty have always exhorted me to "armor up" daily because of the nature of our work. I am lazy sometimes in this area, and I usually pay for it.

The "cloud" of discernment of evil still remained. SO, I texted Kim and Teala. They both called. Kim, is my discernment twin, and she confirmed for me many things about my experience recently. She also said, "If it is still bothering you five days later, Carol. It is probably pretty important." We prayed and I was able to check up on her spirit with Ted being gone and pray for her as well. Love my soul-mate!

Then, Teala called with much needed wisdom (I really think this may be a gift of hers) about acting on a nudge from the Lord and not delaying. She related an experience where she did not act upon a nudge to back away from a relationship (in love), and she paid for it by being attacked by that unhealthy person for no reason other than that person's own pain. (Thus explaining why she wanted to go out for tea. She didn't say why (because she is an introvert), and I didn't follow up on it. I knew something was wrong. Should have followed up more.)

So, I think I know what to do. I have become a target of another person's pain, and I think I need to just slowly back away (and it may be temporarily until that person heals more). I think that person's spiritual attackers know my number and are doing everything they can to discourage me, but I will pray from a distance and let the LORD strategize and fight for me.

The reservations about doing this because of the cost that it would cause me in other areas were quickly settled when I processed out loud with Teala too.

SO, I come this morning firm in my resolution of a course of action that will probably be more beneficial for all.

Thank You God for bringing back peace. No use crying over that spilled milk because it led me to profound peace this morning. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Snow Wednesday

It is snowing! I was all dressed and on my way out the door for Pilates, but I am a wimp when it come to driving in the snow. So, I'm staying home again.


Well-Watered Soul


Soaking in 2 Kings 10-11 and Matthew 2 (for Kingdom Community).


Well-Educated Mind


The Mayor of Casterbridge is so engaging. The narrator is brilliant. Really enjoying it after all the dystopian novels!

Speaking of dystopian novels, I am reading Catching Fire and enjoying that but am not seeing the need to rush through it because the movie will not come out for some time.


Well-Adjusted Heart

Great!


Well-Tuned Strength


I did "Praise Moves" warm up and mat work. The mat work was pretty hard. There is one move called "The Harp" that I am not absolutely sure I should have done. I am sore in the muscles of my upper back. We will see if that is a good thing for my back as the day moves one (maybe it is a good thing that I didn't go to Pilates).

I didn't do any cardio yesterday but that will be my break day since we will be exercising over the weekend, probably both days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Good Morning

Yesterday was a great day. I was a domestic diva. I made luscious, homemade lentil soup in the crock pot with freshly baked challah bread that came out just as Jennifer was leaving from our discipleship time. I was able to give her one of the loaves which was my hope but I wasn't sure the timing would be so very perfect.

I also sorted and started the wash; but of course, Michael took over when he got home from his final.

I also did all my back and shoulder exercises and some of the harder Shandra core ones (to see which individual exercise is the one giving me the back problem). After dinner, I took a long walk and talk with Georgie! :)


In addition, I made a library list of all the books (28) I have left from my "100 Great Books List," The library (as opposed to Library2Go) includes all forms of the book: digital audio and Kindle, CD, and print. That was a more efficient way to do it.  I have a game plan for every book. Many of them are on CD which I keep forgetting is an option!  I am having so much fun with this list. It is so much easier than slogging through many of the really HARD (but good) books on The Well-Educated Mind list! I might even complete it by the end of 2012 (Why am I so wanting completion on everything I start?). 

As I worked in the morning, I listened to The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. What a great story so far. I was intrigued and hooked by the first page (or first minutes of the audio book). He was originally a poet, and it comes through in his prose. As I recall, I also liked The Return of the Native that I read several years ago, but the Book Dames read it and didn't like it as a whole. That one didn't end happily. I hope this one does, but the journey is delightful, and while I don't know the destination, I like the book along the way. It even beat out the next in The Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire, for my affection! Not that Catching Fire is any less consuming, but I listened to The Mayor of Casterbridge first, and when it came down to being able to sit down and read a print book during my rest time, I wanted to continue to listen to it! It is 17 hours and on a limited time check out. Catching Fire is on loan from Shelley.  So, I have some lee-way. 

By the way, I wish I could remember where I heard an analysis of The Mayor of Casterbridge. I remember having a visual of it and thinking, "I must read that!"  I think I had gotten "The Art of Reading" from the library in a DVD, but I don't see it on the library website now. I am so confused. No matter.

It makes me want to form a group that wants to read artfully. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pleasure reading, but I realize I don't read for pleasure or escape. I think the only time I ever have was when I read the Jan Karon Mitford books in Malaysia. Reading about snowstorms in North Carolina was so comforting when I was sweating under my sheets in order to not be attacked by mosquitoes at the GTZ Guest House on the edge of the jungle!


About an artful reading group. I think back to asking Cully what he thought of The Brothers Karamazov, and he gave an answer that challenged my thinking. Made me realize that I hadn't thought as deeply about that book, and I wanted to!  Aaron's question at Christmas about what I thought of the metafiction in Don Quixote made me and Elizabeth laugh (because I didn't know what that word meant), but it also made me think!


Cully, Lee, Aaron, Matt (We love the same kinds of books. My ISFJ soul-mate.), and George would be so awesome to have in a book club. It could be me and all the guys. Elizabeth is gone. She would have done it. I wonder if there are any women out there who would also like to do that. LOL! There would be plenty of women who would feign artful reading if Cully and Lee were in the group! LOL!  They are the heart-throbs of the "Huck Finn" group. (Matt and George are obviously taken, and I don't know Aaron's status with the women.). All that said, I don't want to sound snooty about reading, but I just don't fit, especially in Book Babes. I like Book Dames - they are a very nice group of women.  I have not felt very good at Book Babes.  The people have ebbed and flowed there, and I have liked it at times, but this new mix is not good for me.  I was ready to quit after Henrietta Lax, and I even went to tell Michelle afterward, but we got to talking about other things, and I thought I would give it another try. That was several months ago, and I am still feeling that.  What to do!?

George said something at dinner last night that cracked me up, "When does the boring part of Moby-Dick start, Carol?"  I asked him what page he was on, and he said, "Two hundred."  LOL! If he is that far and not bored, he is a true fan of the book!  I do think if I were to read it again, I would probably not find it as boring because he made so many references to other authors and works that I had not read yet. (George just knows them because of his awesome high school and liberal arts education at Willamette.) Now, I would know who and what Melville is referring to. He was a self-educated man. I admire him so much. 

Speaking of being self-educated, I spied on the Oregon State University MA/MFA Literature degree. Then,  less than an hour later, Michele, who is in that program right now, wrote her sister, brother, Elizabeth, and me to ask about good American Literature books after the 1600's. When I referred her to my lists on this blog she cried, "You are probably the most well-read person I know! You should go to OSU. Then we could be classmates."  I laughed being that I had just looked into that possibility. I could do it for 37.50 per credit hour too (because George is on the faculty).  I love to read and learn for the pure joy of it though. I will ponder it. 

Well, this is too long. I have to get to work since I did very little writing yesterday.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Fast Freewrite

I'll make this quick. I have been on the library website making a list of all the books left on my 100 Great Books List. My awesome, best-library-in-the-country has them all in one form or another. So, I have the list printed out. 28 to go, and I am SO ENJOYING this journey. 


So far, I have learned so much through the selections. I haven't necessarily liked all of them (American naturalism/realism is so depressing!), but I have learned from all of them. In addition, they are SO MUCH EASIER than most of the books on The Well-Educated Mind list! I feel like I am breezing through them, but in many ways, I think I can breeze through them because I have that wonderful background from all those "hard books on that list" (as Lisa Cowden so wonderfully put it several years ago).


That is why it was funny for me to have people say that William Wilberforce: Hero for Humanity was hard to get through. It didn't seem hard to me when I compare it to others books I have been reading, but I had a feeling it would be for this group. I want books that may be hard and that call me to action. The goals are different for that group. It is more about reading for pleasure, which I think is a viable and wonderful goal, but is it my goal? Is it the best use of the precious hours of my day? Does it fit into my overall goals and ministry?


Which makes me wonder whether if I am done with the Book Babes. It has been a great season (January 2001 - to now), and I have read all but one of the 134 books (The Wake of the Wind is on my nightstand. It was one I could not get in the library when I was new to the group and didn't know anyone well enough to borrow it from them.). I haven't "liked" all of them, but I have given them all a try. But I have so many other books I like to read rather than the ones selected, and I am seeing that my tastes are so much different (although I really liked Unbroken). In my very positive life, this is somewhat negative right now. I will pray. 


I have all these young people like Cully, Matt, Micah, Elizabeth (if she were still here), Aaron,etc who I talk with about books all the time, and they love the hard, deep ones.  Their thinking blows me away, and I could learn from them. I am still pondering that. They would jump at the opportunity to discuss these books. 


I am such a woman of tradition, but it is OK after 11 1/2 years, isn't it? I took a break from Book Dames because I was teaching American Literature, and that was really healthy for me. Maybe I should just take a break. 


I will definitely pray.


In the meantime, I am at so much peace. I am around such awesome people of peace right now. SO many exciting things are happening in our life and ministry. The boys are doing well (Paul is still figuring out faith right now, but he is verbalizing it so well, and the discussions have been really GOOD). George and I are well (But we have always been well. I don't know why that is so, but I am grateful for it.).  The ministry is going so well. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the balance of writing, counseling, life coaching, discipling, training, co-laboring we are doing with these AWESOME 20-somethings. They are GEMS, GEMS, GEMS. And it is fun to see them get engaged (Two since November and One on the way!).  LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE our life.


I didn't go to Pilates because I needed to do some writing while the kids are in their finals. I will do some at home.


Next books:


Print: Catching Fire (It should be The Wake in the Wind, but I already started drinking the Kool-Aid)
Audio: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (I think this is a less depressing one, LOL)


God you are SOOO GOOD!  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

52 in 52 Week 12: Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire

I had not a clue what this was about. I just knew it was on my "100 Great Books" list, and it was relatively short. 


It was delightful. With the help of an excellent narrator, I laughed out loud several times. It is a fun and seemingly frivolous story with a deeper meaning that I chose to find out about after I finished just enjoying Candide's adventures (and mishaps) all over the world.


This is a very funny but critical satire written in 1758 about different philosophical systems of belief. Voltaire was a major philosopher of the 18th Century Age of Enlightenment (my 17 year old reminded me of Voltaire's background while I was listening to and laughing at this book - nice to know he is learning something in his college history class). His contemporaries were Mosntesquieu, Diderot, and Rousseau. 


You notice that the second title for this book is "optimism."  This title is ridiculing Leibnitzian optimism. Leibnitz (1646-1716) was a German philosopher who had several 18-century thinker popularizing his theories with the statement that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Voltaire rejects that the the best possible cause reflects God's will.  Candide's tutor, Dr. Pangloss, is representative of this philosophy.


The other extreme is represented by the character of Martin. He represents Manicheanism which was a system originated with Mani, a Persian prophet from 216-276, who believed that good and evil ruled the universe and were in constant conflict. Martin believes that God had abandoned the world to the forces of evil. 


Voltaire was a deist. Deist believe that God is like a "divine watchmaker" who made the world and then set it to run its course without interference in the affairs of everyday life. He believes that humans must cultivate their own garden, and you will see how Candide's philosophy evolves through his life.


It is a quick and entertaining read. 


This is the most important quote for me from the book:


A hundred times I wanted to kill myself, but always I loved life more. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our worst instincts; is anything more stupid than choosing to carry a burden that really one wants to cast on the ground? to hold existence in horror, and yet to cling to it? to fondle the serpent which devours us till it has eaten out our heart? —In the countries through which I have been forced to wander, in the taverns where I have had to work, I have seen a vast number of people who hated their existence; but I never saw more than a dozen who deliberately put an end to their own misery. 

The narrator for this audiobook was probably the best I have ever heard!

52 in 52 Week 12: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Wow! Double Wow! I have heard this novel referred to SO MANY times in my lifetime. I think the first time I ever heard it referred to was when my friend, Missy, said something was a "Lord of the Flies" scenario. I had no idea what she was talking about. (I had such a deprived literary upbringing, but I am making up for lost time.) 


This audio book was really special because it is a digital version of a 1977 recording made by the author. 


What would happen if a group of boys (listen to his introduction below to find out why the island did not include girls) were put on an island without the restraints of civilization? Golding believed that the nature of man was basically evil. He wanted to explore the "beast" in all of us. They weren't just "playing" being stranded on an island. They were living the reality of it. It is a fable about the human condition. Since Golding was both a naval officer in World War II AND taught in a boys' school, he had probably observed quite a bit about the human condition. It is a novel about the loss of innocence too. That is where it goes along so nicely with the book I read right after it: The Hunger Games!



This book is referred to as a symbolic novel, but it can also be considered a dystopian novel:  

This novel isn’t the 12th best on the list (it would be rated much higher in my opinion) but it’s at number twelve because of the on going argument whether this is truly a dystopian novel or not. The definition of dystopia isn’t necessarily clear, though the general definition is that it is a society in which misery and negative conditions prevail (or a seeming utopia gained at horrifying costs.) 
As far as a dysfunctional society, the island with its stranded little boys is it, and once the conch shell is no longer seen as authority, everything breaks apart. If anyone wants to argue that an anarchy could work, this book would be an immediate argument against it. This is an incredible psychological work, and I’d say their society is definitely dysfunctional enough to count as a dystopia. (Top 12 Dystopian Novels)

I think it is a book everyone should read.


He does an introduction in the audio book where he states the whole idea behind the book. This is so worth listening to if you aren't going to get the audio version of this book:










52 in 52 Week 12: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

OK, I have drunk the Kool-Aid, and I now join the ranks of people who are nuts about this book and will be running to the theatre to see it translated to the silver screen.  



Oh my goodness, it just fit in with the "dystopian novel" theme that I have been on since January reading Animal Farm, Brave New World, and Lord of the Flies. Those books are all classics, but I believe this one will be too. 


The author page says that she "continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age."  


This is meant for young adults, but it is for those older too. 


I first heard about this when having lunch with Laura about a year ago. I saw it in the library, but I had other more important books pressing (like finishing The Well-Educated Mind list), and I forgot about it. 


Earlier this month, we gathered to discuss Animal Farm at our classics book club, and she asked me if I ever read it being that it fell in line with the books I had been reading.  Others in the group overheard and encouraged me; one offering to bring me her copy. Now I was committed. I couldn't fall asleep right away on Friday. So I gave it a try. I was hooked on the first page. I forced myself to go to bed at 12:45 a.m. (and page 45) knowing what I was going to be doing on Saturday. :)


In an age when contemporary fiction is so poorly written, this was just a breath of fresh air! I was afraid it was going to be like Harry Potter or Twilight, and I was assured it was not the same. It isn't. It is far more superior.  


It is a book about what might happen in a futuristic, totalitarian world. I love that it is written in the first person voice of Katniss Everdeen. She is a heroine in every sense of the word. (I love it when women kick it in novels.)


Here is what the publisher writes about the book:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.
Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

When I entered it on my LibraryThing profile, I noticed it was an "Early Reviewer" book (meaning they give copies for LibraryThing members to read and write reviews), and I never would have looked at the cover and requested to read it. 
So, I am thankful for my persistent friends who wouldn't let me pass this by.


One of those friends just dropped off the rest of the trilogy as I was 18 pages away from finishing up Book 1. I have a feeling I know what I will be doing this Spring Break (if they survive until then). 

52 in 52 Week 12: The Collected Works of St. Patrick

by Saint Patrick (d. 461 or 493). Translated by Cecil Frances Alexander (1823–1895).


What can I say? It was the day before St. Patrick's Day, and I was sent a link for "Free Audio Book Friday" from www.learnoutloud.com. So, I partook and so glad I did!


I listened to the "Breastplate" Saint Patrick's Day morning for my devotional time and the rest through the day. 


I have read many beautifully illustrated children's stories about St. Patrick. (I went through all the major holidays with my kids and tied them into our history studies.) So, it was delightful to hear the source material for those children's book!





I finished up Confession today. I really liked his Confession even more than St. Augustine's! He was a great man. 


Part of the collected works:


St. Patrick’s Breastplate – This prayer is attributed to St. Patrick and his diciples. It is written with some celtic pagan elements, but is definitely a Christian prayer asking God for protection through daily life.



A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus – Patrick writes this letter to excommunicate the soldiers of Coroticus’ army who pillaged villages in Ireland and forced many Christian converts into slavery.

Confession – A short autobiography by St. Patrick who tells of being abducted into slavery and taken to Ireland, the growth of his faith, his ministry as a bishop in ordaining many priests and baptising thousands of people, and a trial where he had to defend himself against his accusers. (Summary by Sean McKinley from LibriVox.org)

Sunday Morning Rise Write

Well-Watered Soul


I am listening to The Confessions of St. Patrick right now. I love it. It is a lovely way to start the day as I get ready to do the Bible Book Club. I love how he quotes Scripture throughout his writings. 


I am in the kings of Israel and Judah right now. It has been good. I am happy to fill in the holes of the last time that I did this. God is changing me through this deep time in His word. I think about Beth saying, "You've got to log the time." I agree so wholeheartedly. It has to be devotional rather than academic logging though. And I can't think of approaching this any other way. 


I know I read a ton of books (or listen to them when I work, commute in the car, or exercise more than anything - rarely do I sit down and read a book), but my best hours of the day are spent at His feet, and if that means getting up really early to do so, I find such joy in it. George laughs when I say that I can't wait to get up the next morning. It is because I come to You, God, and Your Word, and it waters my soul more than anything. Gives me the strength to get through the day. Gives me a good attitude and discernment toward hurting people instead of taking their overly critical and negative presence personally (like I used to).  I know when others have not spent time with You. It is obvious. Living in a world devoid of you would make me overly critical too. Such pain I see in eyes. I pick it up and when I was insecure, I would think it was me that they were critical of. Now, I can separate it. It makes being in groups of people adrift so much easier. So many people adrift when YOU can be the anchor of their souls. Being a "sometimes believer" can't anchor them. 


But I digress. My heart hurts and is filled with compassion for something recently. 


Well-Educated Mind


I don't know why, but I loved Lord of the Flies. Well, "loved" is not the right word. Again, these fictional accounts of "what if" societies intrigue me. This book nails the depravity of man so beautifully, and how wonderful to have a 1977 recording of the author reading it and his commentary before and after. 


Candide is funny. I am thinking there is much social commentary in it. I need to understand that, but for now, I am just enjoying the adventure. I am almost done. Less than 1/2 hour.


The Hunger Games has totally surprised me! I really, really like it. It is totally fitting in with my "dystopian novel" theme of the last couple of months! LOL! I like this hero girl. So far, she hasn't disappointed me, but I still have 150 pages to go and part of the afternoon and all evening to finish it. :) I can be among the screaming teenyboppers clammering for the opening of the movie. I'm IN! (But I'll wait a week or two before I go. Not willing to wait in long lines or buy an advanced ticket for it). 


Well-Adjusted Heart


I almost think this section can become a mute point because my emotional well-being is to inextricable combined with how well-watered I am in my soul. I am believing the truth about what God is saying to me, and I don't do knee-jerk reactions as much. Partly because of the change of life. Partly because I have heard God's truth. I point back to my time with Carol last May or June. I should write down when that was. That was one of the most significant Theophostic times for me. I really saw You light cover the disapproving face of my mom, and the opinions of man (more importantly woman) don't affect me like they used to. Galatians 1:10 has been my prayer for years:



"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10, NASB95) 


I shared this verse with Rachel at our Romans Bible Study last Tuesday, and then she got an email devotional with this as the key verse the next day! Confirmation for her and for me (I felt strongly that I needed to share this with her). 


Well-Tuned Strength


I am pretty free of pain everywhere. I even shot baskets for 45 minutes on Friday and my shoulder was great! I need to do that more often. It is a great workout if I keep moving up and down the court, and I listen to my books while I do it. It beats the boring elliptical!


I have had to modify the strengthening program that Shandra gave me. I am going to Pilates more, and Jessica said, "Carol, you are probably a LOT stronger than I am because your body has longer levers than my short body." She always goes up and down on those push ups and towel/ball extensions and pull ins, but she is right. I have much more to pull in and push up! LOL!  With Jessica's routine and some of Shandra's exercises and Paula's weight work, I am doing better. I just need to listen to my body rather than do the exercises someone without my back issues gives me. The one who understands it the most is Jessica. She is constantly telling me to "be careful" when we do a move. She understands my back, and she is the person who really got me ready for surfing.


I'm strong, and I am doing much better with my eating. :)  It helps to not have any kind of medicine in me because I always have to eat when I take it, and this messes me all up. :) I haven't been taking them for a long time. 


Well, I didn't even put the timer on this time. So, I am pretty sure this freewrite is way longer than a 15 minute one. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Freewrite

The day is half over, but I thought I would sort through all my "threads" of life today.

I love Saturdays! They are usually so free now that we have made a commitment to truly make it a Sabbath unless there are unavoidable things. Last week, we couldn't avoid the Elders and wives retreat at the coast, and this week, George couldn't avoid the planning meeting for the global council.

I had book club this morning. It was fun to review the life of William Wilberforce as I prepared to lead. William Wilberforce was a hit, but I am sorry the book got such a low score so out of sync with the reviews on Amazon that gave it an equivalent 8.8/10. I think our group gave it an average a little above a 4. It certainly wasn't as bad as Christmas In Plains, was it?  Most of the books I have recommended have gotten much higher scores (most in the 8-10 range). I knew this group probably wouldn't like it though, and I hesitated for four years (I think I read it in 2008).  I should have just kept it to myself, but I didn't take it personally. I have grown in that way.

I am all over the map in my reading today! After prayer and a little in 2 Kings/2 Chronicles 21, I listened to writings on St. Patrick. So lovely! I am almost done with that little gem of an audiobook.

I also took a 5 K walk and laughed out loud as I listened to Candide. I have always wondered about this book. It is satire, and I can't wait to read more background after I am done to understand the hidden meaning behind all of it. (I am sure my book club wouldn't like that book either though.)

Now, I am going to do some Bible Book Club and try to finish both Candide and St. Patrick Confession. Then I am going to lose myself in The Hunger Games.  I really am all over the map. :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Already?

This will be quick. I haven't had a night in a long time where I didn't fall asleep immediately. I made chai twice yesterday. It wasn't too late in the morning for me, but I think the caffeine combo of the two probably was my limit for one day, no matter how early I drank it.


Prayer has been great lately. I have been trying to walk and pray that last few days, and it is so much easier for me to stay focused.


Well, I don't need to write much to warm up my fingers. I finished 1 Kings and started 2 Kings yesterday and am on 2 Chronicles 21 now. I had a break with the psalms yesterday, and I loved the break from battle. Old Testament study has been really good this year with the balance of the gospels for our kingdom community.

Speaking of our kingdom community. We had a discussion about what our church would look like if we were to have one. I got more confused than ever, and I wonder how that looks with what you would have overseas. I'm not a visionary though. I am more a plodder/disciplemaker/investing in people on the micro level rather than a macro thinker. So, Lord, bring someone like that here.



Off to 2 Kings. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

52 in 52 Week 11: Song of Years by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Song of Years by Bess Streeter Aldrich I have been reading this book since early December, and I am a VERY quick reader! I LOVED the last Bess Streeter Aldrich story that I read, Rim of the Prairie. That is a very tight story with a page turning plot. This was slow and needed editing! It wasn't that it was a bad story, it just stretched over ten years, and it felt like 1,000!



I don't want this to turn anyone off because most of her stories are very sweet and good. 


Here is what this one was about:


Song of Years (1939) The state of Iowa was still young and wild when Wayne Lockwood came to it from New England in 1851. He claimed a quarter-section about a hundred miles west of Dubuque and quickly came to appreciate his widely scattered neighbors, like Jeremiah Martin, whose seven daughters would have chased the gloom from any bachelor's heart. Sabina, Emily, Celia, Melinda, Phoebe Lou, Jeannie, and Suzanne are timeless in their appeal -- to spirited to be preoccupied with sermons, sickness, or sudden death. However, the feasts, weddings, and holiday celebrations in Song of Years are shadowed by all the rigors and perils of frontier living. This novel captures the period in Iowa's history of Indian scares and county-seat wars, as well as the political climate preceding the Civil War. Mrs. Aldrich based this novel largely on her grandfather's adventures in Iowa and the stories she heard as a child. 
What is sad is that this is a later book. It was almost like a step backward in her writing. It really was so incredibly painful to get through. 


The good news is that I am finally done. I only have one more book until I have read all the Book Babes books I missed over the 11 years. 


Monday, Monday

Well-Watered Soul

I am not really in the mood to freewrite because I want to get right to meditating in 2 Chronicles this morning after a weekend of meditating in other (good) things due to the Elders and Wives Retreat in Lincoln City.

What a lovely retreat with lovely people. I have great respect for each and every one of them. No lie. It was a pleasure to talk theme for the year: Follow Jesus . . . Step by Step (With the ellipsis because Steven likes them just as much as I like alliterations. Knowing I like them so much, he gave an adaptation for me: Faithfully Follow the Father's Feet).  So, we are still deciding on a theme verse. I think it was going to be 1 Peter 2:21:


George and I were also called upon (after Clint could read my body language) about possibly experimenting with an "arm" of our church being house churches so as to relieve further building, parking problems, etc. Growth with a symbiotic relationship between traditional church and house. It was super well-received, and we will just pray into that. Shocked at how well-received it really was.

My favorite part of the weekend was each couple BRIEFLY sharing and then praying over them. This was 2 1/2 hours of prayer saturation over each unit. LOVED THAT!  Vickie was so sweet to pray for my daily writing. Since so few of them know that I even do that for my "vocation," it was sweet that she remembered that from a group conversation at dinner on Friday night.

I am so glad to be a part of this wonderful group of saints!

Shift gears as George and I came home from the coast, cleaned our house, and hosted 19 people for Bob B. coming and sharing from his heart about people going to unreached places around the world. It was a very nice time, and I love that saint too. One thing that Bob said challenged me: that new laborers were spending 2 hours a day in prayer and that was one of the commitments. So, I am challenged to do the same. That is my application from the time, and it is perfect as the Gospel Harmony Book Club is finished (until I edit it next year) and I am only doing 8-13 posts each month for the Bible Book Club. I definitely "pray as I go" with that, but I mean laborer kind of prayer. That is what I want to do. Luke 10 prayer. Even though that didn't get picked for our church theme, I think it is going to be my theme for the year.


Well-Educated Mind

This blog already says what I just read. The 100 Great Books are so much easier and accessible than The Well-Educated Mind books. This list has so many books I have heard of and have always wanted to read. So, YAY! Lord of the Flies was playing on my iPod as I fixed tea this morning.

I am listening to The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer again, and it is interesting that he read the Complete Works of Shakespeare on his knees, asking God how to understand them. I so love that about him! I think that reading Shakespeare can be such a spiritual experience, and it is nice to know it is sanctioned by one of the great spiritual mentors of the 20th Century!

Lord Jim was really wonderful. I am still pondering its meaning. But there is a reason why Conrad is so lauded as an author.


Well-Adjusted Heart


I am doing so well. Peace with people is great. I am always amazed at how things have changed since leaving our old fellowship. Heart health is so important.


Well-Tuned Strength


I've decided to totally abandoned the strength routine that Shandra gave me. It really hurts my back, and I am not sure why she didn't just give me back-saving routines. It also hurts my knees, and I know how to accomplish so many of these strength moves without putting my back in a compromising position.

Eating was pretty rampant this weekend at the retreat. So, I am reigning myself in this week. It is time. I have been pretty liberal since my trip to Hawaii. The vacation is over and trying to get back to less in and more out!

I think I will walk to workout today if it is not raining.

Oh my, I have gone on for longer than my usual 15 minutes. Must check the weather radar and get to walking to class!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

52 in 52 Week 11: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad



Click image to view full coverI read Heart of Darkness several years ago and was blown away by the brutality and brilliance of it. Lord Jim had somewhat of the same effect. I think what most impresses me about Conrad is that English is not his native language!


I was at dinner with a friend that said she tried to read Lord Jim but was lost when it took him two pages to describe how the boat went through the water. I laughed because it is true, but what a beautiful description!


Conrad paints a picture and makes a point. I loved this book. I couldn't put it down when it rushed to its final conclusion. 

It also has a special place in my heart because the main character (and narrator) are around Malay people, and even the title is a translation of what the Malays called him, Tuan Jim which warms my heart since I was often called by my Malay friend Puan Carol (the feminine version of Tuan)



For those of you that read this and don't know, I live in Malaysia for two years and was able to learn the language and love the people! 


I think the fictional village of "Putusan" is actually in Indonesia. some think on the Island of Borneo, but from the description in the book, I am convinced it is Sumatra. I went there last summer and even drove through a Bugis Village (one of the people groups in the book) on Belitung Island, Sumatra!  So, it was fun to read of places and people that I know a bit about.


I don't want to ruin the plot because it really unfolds slowly.  I recommend it!


I listened for most of it but read the last 20% or so. I think Frederick Davidson narrates with great voices for the different characters, but the actual narrator voice often sounds so "haugty." It bothered me more for David Copperfield because he is so truly humble (Unlike Uriah Heep the Creep), but Marlowe strikes me as someone who probably has a haughty English gentleman's voice. So, it wasn't so bad this time around. 

52 in 52 Week 11: More Than Ordinary by Doug Sherman

More Than Ordinary: Enjoying Life with God
We had a little "book club" discussion at our Elders and Wives Retreat this weekend at the Oregon Coast. I am still here, and it was a fabulous discussion about being relationally connected with God. 


I really liked it, and it was part of a Bible Book Club post I wrote earlier in the week and thought I would just include it here. 


Heartily recommend this book. It is simple but so CORE to what it is all about!

LINK: 2 Chronicles 11


1 Kings 12:21-24 parallels 2 Chronicles 11:1-4


BACKGROUND 


Judah's King Rehoboam (933 - 916 B.C.)


The 1 Kings account of Rehoboam recounts the event, but the 2 Chronicles account centers around the divine purpose behind those events that we read in 2 Chronicles 10:15: "So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the LORD might establish His word . . ."  The question was would Rehoboam listen?


In this chapter, Rehoboam did. He heard and obeyed God's message through Shemaiah. As a result, God blessed him building projects (5-12), his people (13-17),  and his family (18-23).


The King of Israel, Jeroboam had put his own priests in place and led the ten northern tribes into worship of goat and calf idols; but for three years, King Rehoboam led the people of Judah into the worship ordained in the Law of Moses. This resulted in the migration of many priests and Levites in Israel to true worship in Judah. 


Even though Rehoboam was blessed with many children and acted wisely in the distribution of his sons through all the territories of Judah (11:23), he  did disobey God by taking eighteen wives and fifteen concubines (Deuteronomy 17:17). We know that was the downfall of his father Solomon!


REFLECTION


Rehoboam had three glorious years. Let's bask in that for a while because I hate to say it, it won't last!


So, what is going to keep us walking with God for the long haul? Do we want to finish well?  YES!!!!!!!


So, what why did Rehoboam succeed for that three years?


". . . they listened to the words of the LORD . . ." (11:4)


" . . . He acted wisely . . ." (11:23)


There is a simple pattern here: Listen and act upon what God tells you!


APPLICATION


This is the key to a day to day, 24/7/365 life of walking with the Lord: Listen and obey. I know it sounds simple, but that is it.


I am reading a sweet book with the elders and wives of our church called More Than Ordinary: Enjoying Life with God by Doug Sherman (turns out I know the man that discipled him and wrote the foreward to the book!). It is a very simple concept, but it is about walking with Him 24/7/365.  



The principles in this book are super simple. If every believer followed them, their lives would be transformed!  Sadly, we can sometimes be like Rehoboam.


So, if you are in it for the long-haul. Get this book! I love it, and maybe you will too!


Click HERE to read a sample of the first chapter. It will give you a little taste of it.


If you have a Kindle, it is only $3.79, and the first chapter can be sent wirelessly as a sample for free. Click HERE.  


PRAYER


Lord, empower us to listen and obey for the long haul! We want to live extraordinary lives for You. Amen.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

52 in 52 Week 10: Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick


Why Read Moby-Dick?I loved this book! I picked it up after reading a review by another member of 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. I listened to THIS NPR interview with Robert Siegel and decided to read the book!   

This book met my expectations and beyond. It was so fascinating to read after having read Moby Dick in September 2004 and feeling much like Linda Holmes in the "I Will If You Will Book Club" who wrote after reading Moby-Dick, 

"Book club vice-president Marc Hirsh and I finished the book in June of that year and declared it a great lesson in 'how to pursue a pointless battle to its bitter, violent, inevitable end.' By which we meant, in part, reading the book." 

My joke has always been that it was 100 pages of plot and 500 pages of whaling encylopedia!  Reading Philbrick's book helped me understand the method behind Melville's madness.

I especially liked reading about the relationship between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. There is personal correspondence between the two that helps you understand that Hawthorne was the one who inspired Melville to add a plot to what was more a whaling encyclopedia.  Even though I didn't appreciate the whaling encyclopedia part, Philbrick convinced me it had value. 

Here is a bit of the transcript for the interview with the author:

SIEGEL: And first, the answer to the question of your title. This book runs hundreds of pages; life is short. Why read 'Moby-Dick'?
PHILBRICK: Read "Moby-Dick" because I think it's as close to being our American Bible as we have. It's just full of great wisdom. But it also is just an amazing read. The level of the language is like none other. And it's a book I keep dipping into on a regular basis - almost on a daily basis.
SIEGEL: As you describe it, Herman Melville was already a successful writer when he wrote a novel about whaling - that would be more of an adventure story, I guess, than what it turned into - at a time when Americans actually associated adventure more with the Western frontier than with the seas. And he scrapped this book, and he added all of the incredibly rich undertones and overtones that make it "Moby-Dick." Why? What happened?
PHILBRICK: Well, he met Nathaniel Hawthorne and read some of his stories, and it was Hawthorne's power of blackness that forever changed Melville. Melville realized what he wanted to do with this novel was entirely different from his original aim. And he completely reinvented the book and invented Ahab, and made it the classic it is today.
SIEGEL: Hawthorne is central here, but you also write about Melville's midlife encounter with the plays of Shakespeare, and his ambition to outdo Shakespeare.
PHILBRICK: Yeah. Well, Melville came to Shakespeare quite late, which I think proves it's best to come to books like "Moby-Dick" and to Shakespeare after we've had some life experience. And reading Shakespeare just infused Melville's language, brought it to a level that is just unapproachable. And this combination of meeting Hawthorne, but having Shakespeare as a new launching pad, made for an incredible combination that made "Moby-Dick" possible.
SIEGEL: And you observe that it was characters like Iago in "Othello," complex characters that Melville really engaged with when he read Shakespeare.
PHILBRICK: Yeah, and they're all over "Moby-Dick." But what Melville did is, he applied it to his own experiences whaling and also with what was going on in America, with the Civil War approaching. And so it made this incredible stew of influences that made it a book that really will be relevant in all times.
Isn't that funny about Shakespeare, especially since I have just read through so many of the plays that He mentions in this book! 


I totally agree with the bolded part of Philbrick's interview about coming to these works later in life, after life experiences. Here is the quote from the book regarding that:

Melville's example demonstrates the wisdom of waiting to read the classics. Coming to a great book on your own after accumulated essential life experiences can make all the difference. For Melville, the timing could not have been better, and in the flyleaf of the last volume of his seven-volume set (large print because his eyes were going bad - Carol's addition) of Shakespeare's plays are notes written during the composition of Moby-Dick about Ahab, Pip, and other characters. (p.61)
Reading Moby-Dick, we are in the presence of a writer who spent several impressionable years on a whaleship, internalized everything he saw, and seven or so years later, after internalizing Shakespeare, Hawthorne, the Bible, and much more, found the voice and the method that enabled him to broadcast his youthful experiences into the future. And this, ultimately, is where the great, unmatched potency of Moby-Dick, the novel resides. It comes from an author who not only was there but possessed the capacious and impressionable soul required to appreciate the wonder of what he was seeing. (p. 70) 
I have heard so many people say of the classics, "Oh I read that in high school." (Followed by a look that says, "And I don't want to read it again.") I don't think many young people are ready to tackle classics without more life experiences and education that would help them grasp and understand.

Thanks to the post-Sputnik emphasis on math and science of the Southern California educational system in the 60's and 70's, I wasn't forced to read any classics others than The Great Gatsby and Siddhartha. And I think that was a good thing. I didn't start reading the classics until my late 30's when life experiences had allowed me to appreciate them. 

Still, I don't even think I was ready to read Moby-Dick at 45. I started reading through the Well-Educated Mind list in August of 2003 (see list of books HERE), and arrived at Moby-Dick in September 2004.  I don't think I had the educational background to really understand many of Melville's references. Now, that I have completed the list, I am sure I would understand more. 

I have such a new appreciation for Melville because of Philbrick!!!

Another quote about Melville's review of one of Hawthorne's story collections: 
At that time, Hawthorne enjoyed a reputation as a mild-mannered recluse penning well-crafted stories about New England's quaint colonial past. This, Melville insisted, was missing the point. Instead of a "harmless" stylist, Hawthorne was an unappreciated genius possessed by "this great power of blackness." Hidden beneath his stories' lapidarian surfaces were truth so profound and disturbing that they ranked with anything written in the English language.
Melville then turned his attention in the review to Shakespeare. "[I]t is those deep far-away things in him," Melville declared, "those occasional flashings-forth of the intuitive Truth, in him; those short, quick probings at the very axis of reality; -- these are the things that make Shakespeare, Shakespeare." Moreover, it was through his "dark characters," such as Hamlet, Lear, and Iago, that Shakespeare "craftily says, or sometimes insinuates the things, which we feel to be so terrifically true, that it were all but madness for any good man, in his own proper character, to utter, or even hint at them!" In writing about Hawthorne, Melville, via Shakespeare, was laying the groundwork for Ahab. (p. 44-45)
More on Hawthorne:
The other breakthrough associated with his invention of Ahab was something he clearly got from Hawthorne: a way to put artistic distance between himself and the very thing he most identified with, thus providing a way to write about the darkest and most frightening aspects of human experience. That was why he could write to Hawthorne, "I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb." (p.48) 
Love his chapter on "Poetry" in the Moby-Dick. It is better to listen to the author read this excerpt from the book, but here is what he says:
PHILBRICK: Yeah. This is a passage from Chapter 51. It's called "The Spirit Spout," and picks up with the Pequod just south of St. Helena. 
(Reading) While gliding through these latter waves in that one serene and moonlit night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver and by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude. On such a silent night, a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea. 
SIEGEL: Wow, when you read that, I can imagine Melville reading it aloud as he was writing it. It sounds very much like elaborate, spoken prose. 
PHILBRICK: It is. And you know, it's iambic pentameter at times. And the level of the writing is truly poetic, and yet he's telling this epic story. And so the combination is really, one that was built for the ages.
I could go on and on about this great little book about a BIG book. This author is excellent. I kept reading quotes from the book to my husband last night, and he started reading it!





Old Herbaceous

This was a sweet story about a gardener in England from the time he was a boy to an old man. It made me cry it was so short and sweet.  Here...