Brandywine Books
Thursday, September 30, 2004

Boys Are Full of Poison

I have three young, sweet girls who enjoy fairy god-mothers, Swan Lake, princesses, and other little girl fantasies. Well, my one-year-old may be ambivalent, but the older ones love to pretend within these themes. It used to be David the shepherd looking for lost sheep; now it's Sleeping Beauty wearing a gorgeous dress and soaking in the admiration. My three-year-old didn't want a walking stick on our hike last weekend. She wanted a sword with which to slay dragons, specifically the dragon standing between Prince Philip and the sleeping Aurora.

Their interest has inspired me to look up traditional renditions of some of these old stories. Of course, they change with repetition, but many details carry through each time. I learned Snow White was seven years old when her beauty challenged that of her evil step-mother. Maybe that's why she looks so young in the Disney version. She acted like a young woman, but she looked like a child. And I guess the need for the step-mother to appear evil outweighed the consistency of appearing beautiful. She's supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, but she's wearing a full body suit under her cape and crown. The only exposed skin is her face. Surely the fairest one of all would have gorgeous hair too.

Anyway, my princesses-in-training have listened to a brief version of Disney's Snow White on tape dozens of times. Near the end, the witch tempts the little heroine by saying the men folk love apple pies and she can tell Snow White is in love with someone, so make a wish before tasting an apple. This led to the following conversation, reported to me by my precious wife:

"Do you like boys? Do you like boys?"

"Yes, I like boys."

"Let's eat a poisoned apple."

There you go. Who says life doesn't imitate art? I need to get those apples out of the house.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Marilynne Robinson Interviewed on Writing, Abolition, and Calvin

[by way of Books & Culture] Earlier this month, The New Yorker interviewed Marilynne Robinson, whose first novel, Housekeeping, was nominated for the Pulitzer in 1981 and remains respected by those who make it their business to respect select books. Her second novel, Gilead, will be released in November. The New Yorker asked why it's taken her so long to write another book. "There are readers who consider me to be an essayist who has made one unaccountable venture into fiction," she replied. "I consider myself to be primarily a novelist, and am relieved to have a little better claim to that title."
A thing I have always loved about writing, or even simply intending to write, is that it makes attentiveness a habit of mind. I do ponder things over long stretches of time, not having any specific intention beyond the hope of having some grasp of them.

NY: A character of yours remarks, "Writing has always felt to me like praying." Is this your experience?

When I am at work on something, I work on it as continuously as time and circumstance allow. There are long intervals when I simply read and make no attempt to write. I feel that they restore me, in very necessary ways. I do feel that writing is like praying. I think that in both, if they are to be authentic, grace and truth must discipline thought.
Robinson discussed her research into slavery, abolition, and the Civil War. Gilead deals with these issues. She credited the abolitionists with the wisdom to resist a slave-based economy and with integrating their schools and churches as early as the 1830s. She also summerized some thoughts on John Calvin.

"John Calvin (Jean Calvin) is one of those surprisingly numerous figures whose importance for weal or woe is always conceded, and whose writing no one seems to read," she said. "Profound innovations such as universal education, of girls as well as boys, and belief in the sanctity and freedom of the individual conscience were strongly based in Calvin's thought and practice. So was the belief, sometimes called 'secularism,' that the sacred has no boundaries." I haven't read or understood enough of Calvin's full teaching to approve or reject this, but I do know that her last statement, that the sacred has no bounds, is dead on. God is indeed the Lord of heaven and earth. Nothing escapes him, and though we in our sin pervert some deeds into reprehensible, life-hating acts, no part of life is purely, essentially, godless. In the beginning, you may remember, God created heaven, earth, and all that was in them, and then He pronounced them very good. Therefore, your reading, your gardening, your driving, everything you do can be done to the glory of God.

Amanda Eyre Ward Has chosen Her Adventure has a new section called Writers Under the Influence. They asked several writers, "people we considered bold new voices on the literary scene," to write an essay on the book which most influenced them as a writer. Amanda Eyre Ward, author of two novels and one of the New York Post's Writers to Watch, gave herself up to the Choose Your Own Adventure series. She writes:

You can remember the many hours you spent paging through Choose Your Own Adventures. They made sense to you: you could pick a path without fear, knowing that if your journey ended abruptly, you could always begin again. The pages of your Choose Your Own Adventures were worn and wrinkled, but your attention did not wane until you had explored every avenue. Now that you think about it, Choose Your Own Adventures made you into the sort of person who could spend hours daydreaming about fictional worlds. The sort of person who could write hundreds of pages and then throw them away. The sort of person who writes novels.

You put your head in your hands. Oh dear, your hair is greasy. You have another hour, maybe two, until your baby wakes up. You are surrounded by your favorite books, and it is time to make a decision.

If you choose to write about storytelling, click here.

If you try to write about what The Sheltering Sky did to your heart, click here.

If you choose to write about Choose Your Own Adventure books, click here.

I have no idea if Amanda E. Ward's critically acclaimed novels are actually worth your reading, which in thinking that depresses me. I don't trust book awards fully or even editor's picks, because I can't tell whether the winning selection is worthwhile or politically fortunate. Regardless, Ward's essay is fun, so here it is--highlighted on Brandywine Books. I hope to read many of the other "Writers Under the Influence" essays. I'm sure there are some good lines among them.

Book Streaks Which Captivated Us

Shrode has a fun entry on book series over on Thinklings. He asks, "When you were a kid, what book series did you devour? Here’s what I mean: When you were a young reader, was there a certain series or a certain author that you just couldn’t get enough of? So you kept going back to the school library until you had read every book in the series, or every book by that author." He lists several, including Hardy Boys, The Great Brain books, Xanth, and Choose Your Own Adventure.
Encyclopedia Brown- Each book was a compilation of short mysteries. At the end of each, the reader was asked to solve it himself/herself, before the ending was revealed. Usually, you could solve the mystery by catching the suspect in a “mistake”. It would go something like this: Bugs Meany said, “I didn’t steal the trophy because I was at home watching Venus through my telescope. And Encylcopedia Brown would say, “You couldn’t have been, because Venus wasn’t out tonight.” And Bugs was caught red-handed. The skills I learned from Encyclopedia Brown have served me well in predicting the endings of made for TV movies. I think those writers read the same books.
I agree. I loved Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure. Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? was the best CYOA of the ones I read, though not as good as Infocom's interactive fiction game, "Deadline."

To answer the question, I don't think I read series when I was a kid. I remember enjoying Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and its sequel, but I didn't finish The Lord of the Rings until sometime later ... hmm, I don't remember when I first completed Tolkien's wonderful epic. But for a book lover, I answer to Shrode's question is unremarkable.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004

On This Day for C.S. Lewis in 1931

[by way of Lilac Rose] On this date in 1931, C.S. Lewis--author, scholar, and professor--realized his salvation by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It demonstrates the heart of his assertion that we should read old books as well as new one in order to gain a larger perspective than perhaps our current environment allows. The following is from a paper on Lewis' theology, which is unfortunately Arminian.
On October 12, 1916, Lewis penned his position in a letter to Arthur Greeves: "I think that I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, i.e. all mythologies . . . are merely man's own invention-Christ as much as Loki. In every age the educated and thinking [people] have stood outside [religion]."

Slowly Lewis's view shifted. On June 3, 1918, he again wrote Greeves: "I believe in no God, least of all in one that would punish me for the 'lusts of the flesh'; but I do believe that I have in me a spirit, a chip, shall we say, of universal spirit."

In addition to his reading of George MacDonald, Lewis seemed to be surrounded with Christian influence at Oxford. Owen Barfield, a lawyer, would later become an anthroposophist. Nevill Coghill ("clearly the most intelligent and best-informed man in that class . . . a Christian") was later to become Merton Professor of English at Oxford. Hugo Dyson was an Anglican. J. R. R. Tolkien, a Roman Catholic, taught Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.

On December 21, 1929, Lewis-upon reading John Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners wrote: "I am still finding more and more the element of truth in the old beliefs [that] I feel I cannot dismiss. . . There must be something in it; only what?" In this pre-conversion period Lewis wrote: "I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt." As a result, in 1929 Lewis was converted to theism. He journaled of that experience: "I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps, that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England," but this conversion "was only to Theism. I knew nothing about the Incarnation."

That his views had not settled into concrete is apparent from his letter of January 9, 1930 to Arthur Greeves: "In spite of all my recent changes of view, I am . . . inclined to think that you can only get what you call 'Christ' out of the Gospels by . . . slurring over a great deal." In a letter of January 30, 1930 to Greeves, he "attribute[d] everything to the grace of God?" On March 21, 1930 Lewis wrote to A. K. Hamilton Jenkin that what he held "is not precisely Christianity, though it may turn out that way in the end." During this period Lewis was attending the morning university chapels. By January 10, 1931 his brother "was beginning to think the religious view of things was after all true."

The critical change came in September of 1931. The night of September 19, Lewis walked and talked (until around 4 a.m.) with J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson about myth and Christianity. Hugo Dyson's "main point was that Christianity works for the believer. The believer is put at peace and freed from his sins."

On September 28, 1931, at age thirty-two, Lewis was "riding to the Whipsnade zoo in the sidecar of Warren's motorcycle. "When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did." According to 1 John 5:1 and 5, all those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are "born of God." To Arthur Greeves on October 1, 1931, Lewis wrote: "I have just passed from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ-in Christianity."

Lewis' fame as a Christian did not emerge until his BBC radio broadcasts (which later developed into the book Mere Christianity) and his 1942 publication of Screwtape Letters. About the same time students founded the Oxford University Socratic Club for Christians, agnostics, and atheists to have discussions, and Lewis served as president of the club for twenty-two years.

Writing for Its Own Sake

Accomplished writer La Shawn Barber makes this comment in a post on blog envy:
I've read entries on new blogs (less that 6 month old, in my opinion) where the writer expressed frustration because of low readership. Are you kidding? As I've said on this blog many times, the primary reason you write must be your interest in or passion for writing. For me it is the very act of writing itself that compels me to post everyday.

It's wonderful having readers and commenters, but that is secondary, believe it or not. New bloggers must be patient and willing to create a niche for themselves. There is plenty of room for all of us, but Insta-Status, most will never reach.
I can't disagree with this, though I wonder how readership influences writing. We don't write in a vacuum. If no one reads our material, won't we be inclined to revise it or drop it? If many read and remark on it, won't we continue to write for their approval or consider their comments when drafting something new? I know one of the reasons I strive for brevity is concern for readers. Of course, it's harder to draft something long and thoughtful; but more than that, I want readers who are scanning for interesting news, thoughts, and commentary to find concise writing here in blog posts which won't waste their time.

So, thank you for reading, and remember, reading is a part of your real life.

"While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God"

Yesterday, I cast my lot with the League of Reformed Bloggers. You'll see a new, growing list of site on the right below my regular links, or if you're facing the back of your monitor, it will be on your left. I included a link to the league requirements at the top, if you want to understand what it takes to join and why this, being a literary blog, can join a theological blogroll.

Through this new contact list, I found Challies' review of Michael Horton's book, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace.
Perhaps my greatest praise is that this book challenges so many assumptions and so many of the words and phrases Christians use all the time. Horton traces the evolution of many of these phrases and shows how they are unbiblical at best, and heretical at worst. Some examples of this are ?let go and let God? and ?the Spirit?s leading.? Common phrases, but ones we use without really examining their underlying theological implications.
He says the book could be life-changing for some. I'm confident he's right. Understanding the grace of the Lord is truly amazing, breath-taking, and wonderful.
Monday, September 27, 2004

Exceptional Tips on How to Write a Novel

I saw this long list of writing tips on the blog Beautiful Stuff. Here are a few good tips for you and the writer reading over your shoulder.
1. Readability Doesn't Matter! Don't get hung up on learning how to use the English language correctorately. If you spend any time studying grammar then your artistic spirit will be crushed

2. Always tear down "the fourth wall," that separation between reader and writer. For example, in chapter one Janey gets shot. "No," screams Janey. "I can't die! I'm the main character and we're only five pages in!" This kind of self-referencing trick is clever, original and very post-modern. The critics will be quite impressed.

5. The parts of a book that readers enjoy the most are the parts that are completely irrelevant to the plot. This is a fundamental concept of story writing.

10. Metaphors are like cocktails: they're better when they're mixed.

16. Publishing houses are fond of pumping out 'manuscript submission guidelines'. But I think you'll find that they don't mind if a really great piece of literature breaks those guidelines once in a while.

22. Always start writing the book before you have determined the plot. A plot will come to you when it's good and ready. It's smarter to work one in later than to waste time on one right at the start.

23. Your book is precious. People who offer criticism are fools who've never written a thing themselves.
I'd like to add: Don't bother copy-editing. That's why we have spell-check.

Literary Journals Give Struggling Writers a Place to Struggle.

[by way of ArtsJournal] Pittsburgh has a handful of lit. journals vying for readership. Normally, such publications never gain a steady cash flow and dissolve after a few years. According to this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The journals that survive do so because the people behind them are not in it for the money: 'It's a labor of love,' said Rob Casper of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. 'I'm very proud of the members we have, who have chosen to devote their lives to something that is not valued monetarily in our culture but has been instrumental in our culture's development.'"

The National Endowment for the Arts provides most of the funds available to these publications. "Casper said, 'This is a fruitful time in American letters because there have been more varied ways to get your work out there in the world.'"
Nurturing a literary journal is "a thankless task" but one with potential for great influence, said Cliff Becker, literature director for the NEA, noting that Charles Frazier had published only one piece, in the tiny Kansas Quarterly, before publication of his best-selling Cold Mountain. [which was rejected several times before seeing the light - ed.]

Pittsburgh's Lee Gutkind, editor of ten-year-old "Creative Nonfiction" journal, said literary editors are compelled to start journals by what is lacking in our culture: "The world of publishing is becoming so competitively commercial that there's no room for the serious writer. And the reason journals and small literary presses are beginning to survive is that there are more and more writers."

Is This a Feel-Good Book?

Kevin Holtsberry on Five Minutes with the President
The good people at Harper Collins saw fit to send me a copy of a book that left me wondering why it was even published. If You Had Five Minutes with the President is a project put together by the Creative Coalition "the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan social and political advocacy organization of the entertainment industry." As the title indicates, the group asked its members what they would say if they had five minutes with the President. Not surprisingly, the result is, with a few exceptions, a collection of left wing rants and diatribes either against the current president or a plea for the standard bleeding heart liberal agenda (tax the rich, give to the poor, make love not war, build schools not bombs, therapy not incarceration, etc.), The tone is angry, condescending, often insulting, and on occasion even vulgar (again with a few exceptions).
I think if I had five minutes with the President of the United States, whomever he is, I'd have to remind him that the Father of heaven and earth gave him his authority for the purposes of defending justice and seeking mercy in all things. Then I'd offer to get him some coffee.
Sunday, September 26, 2004

A New Zealand Narnia to be on Screen Xmas 2005

This weekend, some insiders spoke on the latest film adaptation of C.S. Lewis'? wonderful book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. New Zealand?'s Weta Workshop has the responsibility for the animation and design of film, and they just completed the model for the lion, Aslan, and filmed his sequence on the Stone Table. Most of Aslan?'s depiction will be computer generated, and apparently Weta is considering recording an actual lion?'s movements into their animation program; but that may not work.

Read more on the filming here. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will be released during the Christmas season next year. Disney, the film?'s distributor, has hired a screenwriter for the second Narnia film, Prince Caspian. They will wait until the first film?s reception before approving production on the second.
Thursday, September 23, 2004

More on Christian Fiction Pioneer Frank Peretti

When I referred to a fellow blogger's, Jared's, link to a Peretti interview in Credenda/Agenda, he and I took the interview seriously. Someone suggested it could be satire, but none of us knew that is was. I want to give Peretti the benefit of my increasing doubt and say that Credenda was probably joking with him in order to jab at Xian fiction in general. I don't know, of course, but I'm leaning on that explanation.

Tonight, I found more interviews with the author of This Present Darkness and several other works of adult and juvenile fiction. His book, "Hangman's Curse," was adapted for the screen in 2003 and released to video this year. In this interview with CBN, he says he believes the film industry misunderstands some of their market.
The whole essence of storytelling is to be able to grab the heart of your listener or viewer. Is it something they can relate to? ... Does it say something to them that they can carry away? In a sense, I think that the viewing and reading public out there are getting a little hungry for something that really gives them something that they can take home. Some of the major (movie) studios are kind of losing business because their films aren't doing so well. And these are supposed to be family films. I think the reason is they are all basically vacuous. There is no message there. There is no ultimate reality upon which a family or viewer can build his life. I think Moms and Dads are looking for something more solid to give their kids. Something that comes from somewhere above themselves.
The inspiration for this book came from his life, but the impetus for writing it now came from the Columbine High School tragedy.
Because I saw the bullying, harassment and abuse that was at the core. Not just the Columbine thing but several of the school shootings. So, I delivered a talk called "The Wounded Spirit." ... In that milieu, I was writing the first of the Veritas books. It was there that I wanted to address the bullying issue. So, that is how the story arose.
In this interview with, Peretti admits that writing is hard work, but he persists.
Crosswalk: Is [writing] challenging for you, or does it flow pretty easily?

Peretti: No, it's awful. It's just awful.

Crosswalk: That comforts me!

Peretti: I'm working on a new novel now, Evolution. It's just tough--a lot of research and it's supposed to be a kind of comedy, which I've never done before. I've always been one to shy away from the pack. I don't want to do what everybody else is doing. Everybody's doing thrillers. I've done thrillers. I want to do a comedy this time. And I'm not going to do an end-times book, man!
No end-times book? That's a blessing.

Supply and Demand

From an October 25, 1997, World Magazine interview with Frank Peretti:
"Christian fiction still has a lot of growing up to do," Mr. Peretti told WORLD. "I feel the challenge in this direction and I'm praying I can keep growing myself." He hopes Christian readers will likewise grow in their tastes.

Some publishing insiders see this happening. Henry Carrigan in Publisher's Weekly sees an improvement in Christian fiction and a demand for higher quality writing: "This new emphasis on good writing for sophisticated and discriminating readers should result in books that offer well-written stories with believable characters, strong plots and an effective message, novels in which the quality of the writing is not sacrificed for the sake of delivering a well-intended sermon." As evangelicals read more and more fiction, they may well increase their understanding and discernment.

In the meantime, Mr. Peretti is remarkably humble about the Christian fiction market that he created, lived through, and now hopes to transcend. "I don't know if I'll ever become that great of a writer that I could actually write what could be called 'literature,'" he told WORLD. "But I'd like to see how close I could get."

I'm Sure Bush Does Already

[by way of ArtsJournal] USA Today reports: "Bookspan, the parent company of The Book-of-the-Month Club, asked members of eight of its direct-mail book clubs what President Bush and Democrat John Kerry should be reading." Over 2,700 members chose from a list of 17 books selected by Bookspan editors. "The readers' top recommendation for both candidates: the Bible." Read on.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Doth Thou Vex the Vampiress?

[by way of ArtsJournal] I thought writers were supposed to have thick skins. They submit a honest work for editing and critic by a publisher, and when published, they expose themselves to readers who can run the gamut on literary understanding and tact. That takes guts. Surely, they must steel themselves against ugly reviews, honest disappointments, and flat stupidity.

Maybe they do. Maybe they don't. W.B.Yeats writes:
You say, as I have often given tongue
In praise of what another?s said or sung,
?Twere politic to do the like by these;
But have you known a dog to praise his fleas?
Maybe Yeats took more than he could stand that week.

Similarly, Anne Rice took more than she could stand from reviewers of her last book Blood Canticle. This Toronto Star article gives a summary and some perspective.
"The whole book was one long cringe from beginning to confused end," wrote a reader calling herself Taryn from Auckland, N.Z.

Another Amazon customer who identified himself as Justin Raventhorn wrote, "Rice stopped writing in her glory after Tale Of The Body Thief" and that Mona Mayfair, Lestat's new love interest (a crossover from another Rice series), is "annoying, irritating and idiotic."

Deborah Waddell of Fort Myers, Fla. missed Rice's vivid descriptions and characterizations: "I do not think this book was even written by Anne Rice."

In all, the book has received 232 customer reviews on since publication late last year. Not all of them are negative but, evidently stung, Rice writes to the negative reviewers: "Your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies."
She also offer her mailing address for disappointed readers who want their money back. You may be able to find Rice's reaction, written September 6, via this link to her personal page on

Addressing the suggestion that the book was not written by her, she says, "If and when I can't write a book on my own, you'll know about it. And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art." She goes on to praise selections of the book, even saying one part is perfectly worded.

"Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work," she writes. "In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon's willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you've said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul."
Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Don't Bother Reading Them; Just Fake It

Christopher Kelly of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram offers a list of this fall's top ten books and lines to use at cocktail parties if you hope to alienate would-be friends and possibly impress strangers. It may be helpful, if you think you'll be forced to converse with people who believe time-well-spent means reading Paris Hilton's "confession" or Kitty Kelley's fantasy gossip. Besides those recommendations, Kelly suggests Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which appears to have sticking power ( has a few pages available), and this winner: The Double, by Jose Saramago.

"He's Portuguese. He's an ex-Communist. He's got a Nobel Prize. Yes, we're talking about Jose Saramago, who writes dense, difficult, depressing novels that we can never quite finish. His latest is about a history professor who discovers he has a double.

Why it's on our list: Because every reading list needs at least one book by an acclaimed writer that you buy and then feel guilty about for never reading.

Pretentious cocktail party chatter: 'I found the English translation of Saramago's 'Blindness' a little turgid - but I don't speak Portuguese, so maybe he's just a turgid writer. Or maybe Portuguese is a turgid language. Have you ever been to Portugal?' (When dealing with abstruse Portuguese writers, it's best to change the topic quickly.)"

But Kelly's isn't a real list of recommendations. It's a fun list for use at parties when you've got nothing better to say, and they haven't begun playing Drop the Needle.
Monday, September 20, 2004

Secular Evangelism of the Press and Academy

Marvin Olasky has written an interesting piece on Christian Smith's The Secular Revolution, in which Smith argues that key people over the past century have marginalized religious thinking and secularized higher education and professional journalism.

Olasky writes: "The Secular Revolution includes a fascinating case study of the destruction of moral reform politics in Boston through ridicule and sarcasm. A chapter on a once-influential magazine, The Christian Century, shows how fashionable psychological theories undercut faith that objective truth exists. A chapter on those who sold the concept that law is socially constructed (rather than natural) provides good background for understanding how the Supreme Court came to assert its supremacy over clear constitutional intent."

He says it's difficult to read but worthwhile for the stories and historical sweep. So if you catch yourself asking or hearing someone ask, "How did the press or university professors get so anti-Christian," the answer is here: they were converted by the steady evangelism of secularists.
Saturday, September 18, 2004

From Gioia's "Words"

The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.


Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.


To name is to know and remember.


Peretti: "We have the attention span of a hummingbird."

Jared spotlights an interview with Christian Fiction Pioneer Frank Peretti in Credenda/Agenda. He says Christians are "drunk and dulled and abused by the culture that we're in. We have the attention span of a hummingbird." He also fails to mention his literary influences and claims to dislike poetry. If you like Peretti and want to be depressed by an interview which seems to characterize the thing it criticizes, read on. "Well. [Poetry is] not important to me at all. Hardly. Except in terms of . . . well, sometimes poetry's kind of good. I'll read poetry to just get my own imagination flowing. . . ."

Reagan's triumph over Communism on film

On October 1, a film based on Peter Schweizer's well-received book, Reagan's War, will appear in Texas theatres. In the Face of Evil intends to depict the ending of the Cold War under Reagan's capable hands. The message: "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid." Bloggers at The Heritage Foundation enjoyed a preview screening. They write that the director "has dug up some amazing original footage of Reagan that spans some forty years. Additionally, clips of a 1964 Johnson for President ad and an exchange in which President Ford denies that Russia dominates Eastern Europe to an incredulous Max Frankel are worth the price of admission on their own."

In reviewing the book, Jim Jeffries writes, "History authoritatively shows that . . . President Ronald Reagan almost single-handedly masterminded the fall of the Soviet Union. Peter Schweizer, with unprecedented access to Soviet records and other sources, conclusively and forcefully hits this point home in his book, Reagan's War.

Many in the media and academia would have us believe that, because the Soviet Union was already crumbling, Reagan was simply an 'amiable dunce,' an 'unlettered' clown that happened to carry out his 'no-hands' presidency at the end of a Soviet demise which was already under way. Schweizer convincingly demonstrates that Reagan was not simply the straw that broke the camel's back, but was in fact the man who heaped the pile of straws on in the first place."

The film's publicist is quoted here saying, "People are excited about the fact that there is a possible conservative version of Fahrenheit 9/11." He hopes his film's influence will rival that of Moore's. I probably should keep my mouth closed since I know little about publicity, but I think deliberatly framing this film as a "conservative version" of Moore's awful work sounds like simple one-up-manship. The Thin Red Line was the answer to Saving Private Ryan. The Thirteenth Floor was the one-up of The Matrix. The hit movie comes and someone says, "We can do the same thing with the same impact." I look forward to In the Face of Evil being far better than Fahrenheit as the form is to the shadow.

Covering Books with Fake Leather

I asked Judy of Grand Rapids about a craft she does, and after a pleasant email exchange, I sat on the topic until today. I couldn't keep in my head to post for whatever neurological reason; but no more. Here is it for your enjoyment. She writes:
Off the top of my head, I take a paper bag - the lunch bag type - and crinkle it up as tight as I can. Then open it up and flatten it, and varnish it. When it dries, I put it between two heavy books to flatten it out a bit more.

I've used it for several different things. My favorite use is in covering old damaged hardcover books. It really doesn't have a 'crafty' look, more 'arty'. If you have ever noticed 'altered books' they use this quite frequently.

I'm not big into scrapbooking, but it does work well for a vintage look on a page, or, for texture in a collage. I'm about to cover a small hardcover book this way, and add old Scrabble letters as a 'title'.

I'm also going to try covering an old hardcover book with tiny ripped pieces of masking tape. Different colors of shoe polish stain it, and also gives a sort of vintage leather look.
Well, there's your leatherizing tip for the day.
Friday, September 17, 2004

Defining a Christian Worldview

World's blog has generated another worldview discussion on two separate threads. A professional editor in a Christian publishing house says, "A Christian worldview, in my view, can only be one that has an articulated Gospel content. 'Gospel' doesn't mean 'moral value' or 'nice sentiment' or even a touching tale of love and choices made, but it is the precise proclamation of the suffering and crucified Christ for the sins of the world."

Many readers disagree. Jane D. comments, "To me, a Christian worldview means a way of looking at life in which the gospel is possible. This is distinct from the gospel itself. For example, if there's no such thing as right and wrong, or if the universe were really the interacting of the opposite poles of Yin and Yang, the gospel wouldn't really be possible. Similarly, if everything that happened were the result of random, blind chance, the gospel would not be possible.

Christian worldview writing, then, is writing that contains the underlying assumptions that make the gospel a possibility, such as the existence of truth, the reality of cause and effect, and so forth. Writing that comes out of a nihilistic or purely existential perspective would be in contrast to this."

We've talked about this before on this blog, and I agree with the later. After all, a worldview is a way with which to view the world. It isn't the core of your philosophy summarized, nor is it an explanation of your central beliefs. It is a framework through which you view everything.

In a wonderful essay collection called, The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing, Editor Leland Ryken quotes from Jacques Maritain:
By the words "Christian Art" I do not mean Church art ... I mean Christian art in the sense of art which bears within it the character of Christianity ... [It] is defined by the one in whom it exists and by the spirit from which it issues. ... It is the art of redeemed humanity. It is planted in the Christian soul, by the side of the running waters, under the sky of the theological virtues, amidst the breezes of the seven gifts of the Spirit. It is natural that is should bear Christian fruit.

Everything belongs to it, the sacred as well as the profane. It is at home wherever the ingenuity and the joy of man extend. Symphony or ballet, film or novel, landscape or still-life, puppet-show libretto or opera, it can just as well appear in any of these as in the stained glass windows and statues of churches. ... If you want to make a Christian work, then be Christian, and simply try to make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass; do not try to "make Christian." ... Art will be Christian, and will reveal in its beauty the interior reflection of the radiance of grace, only if it overflows from a heart suffused by grace.
Christian art is an honest work from a Christian artist, not the communication of select ideas; but art does communicate ideas, and Christian art should praise that which Christ praises and deplore that which He deplores. We could argue over the purity of a particular work's worldview, because the author may hold conflicting ideas. A heart only partially "suffused by grace" may create impure art. Can an impure story retain its worldview label? I think so.

The editor quoted in the beginning is concerned with what makes a story distinctively Christian. I don't think all Christian artwork is distinctively Christian, meaning it could not be viewed as applicable to or explainable by another worldview. In fact, I don't think Christianity has a patent on the truth, because other belief structures do hold true ideas. I don't suggest that Christian beliefs are just as true as conflicting beliefs, but that Christianity is not solely true and all other faiths completely false. Truths overlap beliefs.

C.S. Lewis describes this in The Abolition of Man when he demonstrates essential truths which many faiths and civilizations recognize and cannot be proven by higher authorities. God the Father was before everything, and He created the universe after His own principles. So a story describing those principles has Christian elements in it, and the story written by an author who sees by the light of Scripture is one written with a Christian worldview, regardless its specific theme.

Doing Our Own Thing

Here's an interesting book I just discovered. John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute has written Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care. Mr. McWhorter will be interviewed in the next Mars Hill Audio Journal. From this review at "In the 1960's, McWhorter argues, the Americans who scorned the American Establishment as oppressive and constricting also began to view the highly stylized English of earlier generations as old-fashioned and morally suspect - hence the linguistic shift from the formal to the informal. Americans of an earlier time went out of their way to write and speak good English, and the gap between written and spoken English was wide. McWhorter says all this changed around 1965. Now, we just talk - and we write how we talk."

The book claims to address: "1. Why public speech is no longer considered something worthy of careful, loving attention; 2. How widespread literacy has actually helped lower, not raise, the level of American public discourse; 3. Why television cannot be held solely at fault for the decline of American speech; 4. Why the English-Only movement is not addressing the problem of English's large-scale decline;" and many more points, including music's influence.

It looks interesting. I understand from the Amazon reviews that McWhorter is not merely wishing English was the way it used to be. He writes in modern terms with a modern notion of grammar, by which I mean he doesn't conform to all the rules. McWhorter was a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation last year soon after the book debuted.

New Graham Greene Editions for October 2, Green's Birthday

[from USA Today]
Penguin Books celebrates the centennial of Greene's birth on Oct. 2 by releasing deluxe editions of his greatest works with introductions by literary luminaries such as Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee; Gloria Emerson, former New York Times correspondent and author of Loving Graham Greene; and Michael Gorra, Smith College professor of English and book critic.

"He's terribly important," Gorra says. "He was one of the first British writers to deal with the relationship between 'first world' and Third World countries (and) issues about the responsibility (of) rich countries to poor countries."
Thursday, September 16, 2004

Disjointed Reading and Interpretation of Scripture

Jared has a post on NT Wright's thoughts on mainstream Bible-reading. He suggests many Christians read the Bible in a way that's disconnected from their worldview. That is, instead of asking what the Bible intends, they ask what personal meaning they can draw from it. Perhaps that's loose application before solid interpretation. In the same vein, I think the habit of reading a few verses for a mystic blessing or spiritual buzz does not assist building a good theology. It may be better to read several pages at one sitting or one book a few times depending on our reading speed.

An Unknown Writer Cannot Be Published

This is from Mental Floss' "Hooked on Books" daily calendar. Don't construe this as an endorsement of this calendar for 2005, if they make one. It isn't good enough; but some of it's entries are interesting. This one: "In 1975, Chuck Ross, a young freelance writer from LA, decided to prove his theory that an unknown writer had no chance to be published. He typed the first 20 pages of Steps, Jerzy Kosinski's 1969 National Book Award-winning novel, and submitted it as a sample chapter to four publishers under a pseudonym. All four publishers rejected it. He later repeated the experiment, this time typing the entire novel and sending it both to publishers and literary agents. All rejected it including the publisher of Kosinski's original." According to another version of this story, the publishers and agents did not recognize Ross' manuscript as the 1969 NBA winner. That may prove Ross' point; but maybe it proves that even award-winners go unread. Steps doesn't look like something I'd want to read.

Can you cut to the chase in a suicide story?

I read somewhere, maybe in Story Magazine, that some issues could not be handled well in a short story. They were too deep and complex to be realistically communicated in 10,000 words or less, far too deep for the 1500 words of a short short. I have brought it up a couple times in comments on the short short stories being posted on World’s Fiction Contest blog. Can you build sympathy for a suicidal character in a few paragraphs? I don't think so, but maybe I haven't read enough.
Monday, September 13, 2004

Is That Real Englishness There? Jolly Good!

Kate Fox claims there weren't any books on modern English living, books that describe how and why they think and act as they do, before her recent one, entitled, Watching the English. She says the English are ill at ease with others and by nature cannot interact freely. They have a "social dis-ease."
Nowhere are the rules of Englishness more evident than in queuing. The English line up for everything, from buses to Princess Diana's funeral (queuing as an expression of "an unprecedented public outpouring of grief"), and even here there are unwritten rules.

If someone jumps queue, proper English procedure is not to risk causing a scene by confronting the offender, but to launch into a sort of pantomime -- raising one's eyebrows, or tut-tutting, or muttering something like "Typical!"

The queue-jumper, picking up on the negative vibes, apologises [British spelling] and withdraws -- whereupon the grumbler goes all modest and says sorry in turn for a situation that he or she didn't provoke in the first place.

"We make life difficult for ourselves, don't we?" Fox said. "We do everything in a kind of sideways, roundabout, oblique, convoluted manner that makes life awkward sometimes."

Dan Brown's Bestseller Sparks Tourism, Headaches

The Milan guide interviewed in this Reuters article is tired of tourists interested only in the specious Da Vinci Code clues to be found in Leonardo's "The Last Supper."

"They torture me," she said of the curious visitors. "I wasn't surprised about the Americans. But it really did shock me that Italians, with their strong Catholic traditions, would also ask these questions."
Sanvito [the guide] reminds visitors that Leonardo painted onto a dry wall, meaning Brown was wrong to describe the work as a fresco, which are done on wet plaster and tend to age better.

Just 25 people at a time are allowed to visit the work, whose once vibrant colors took Leonardo four years to complete and started deteriorating 20 years later, triggering a long series of attempts to preserve and restore it.

The painting has endured indignities ranging from a widening of the door in the wall it occupies -- eliminating Christ's feet -- to a 1943 bombing raid which felled one of the walls of the refectory but miraculously spared Leonardo's work.

"The museum has seen renewed interest from people curious about seeing the masterwork for themselves since the book became an international hit," said Giuseppe Napoleone, the state-appointed director of the exhibit.

New York Times Publishes Plenty in Error

I probably should remain respectfully silent on an issue like this, because my copy-editing or proofreading skills are merely average. Still, it's interesting to read Sidney Goldberg's complaint about the New York Times' copy editors, all 150 of them. He says they are illiterate or asleep.
Shortly before Hillary Clinton was to visit Boston for the Democratic National Convention, but before it was decided whether she would speak there or not, the New York Times ran on page 1 of its Metro Section the following headline: "Senator Clinton Will Be in Boston, But Not at the Lecturn." On the "jump" page it picked up the story with the headline: "Senator Clinton Will Travel to Boston, But Not to Lecturn."

Apparently neither the headline writer nor the copy editor knows the common spelling of "lectern."

On September 1, in an article on a ban on caviar exports from Caspian Sea countries, the Times wrote, "It took affect this year..." Anyone who still doesn't know the difference between 'effect' and 'affect' shouldn't be working at the Times.
I'm embarrassed to think that I might let "lecturn" go by uncorrected, but I'm also embarrassed that they didn't notice "affect." Goldberg writes:
These are not in the category of everyday typos, inevitable in every newspaper. No, these are errors that display an ignorance of orthography and grammar. One of the more annoying illiteracies of the Times is its inability to spell the past tense of "to lead." ... (The past tense of "to lead," of course, is "led.") I don't think a day passes without the Times getting it wrong. For instance, on July 24, the paper published the following: "On Friday, the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who lead an uprising..."

Remember, the New York Times is regarded by many as the best newspaper in the world, both in substance and style, staffed by many reporters and editors who hold graduate degrees in journalism. ... And the Times too often displays a tin ear for language. How else to explain this from the July 10 editorial, "The Senate Report": "By late 2002, you'd have had to have been vacationing on Mars not to know..." To let this monstrous construction get by in its lead editorial, supposedly a repository of good writing, means that one of their trusty copy editors had had to have been dozing.
Saturday, September 11, 2004

9/11: Life

I made a posie, while the day ran by:
Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
               My life within this band.
But time did becken to the flowers, and they
By noon most cunningly did steal away,
               And wither'd in my hand.

My hand was next to them, and then my heart:
I took, without more thinking, in good part
               Times gentle admonition:
Who did so sweetly deaths sad taste convey,
Making my minde to smell my fatall day;
               Yet sugring the suspicion.

Farewell deare flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
Fit, while ye liv'd, for smell or ornament,
               And after death for cures.
I follow straight without complaints or grief,
Since if my sent be good, I care not, if
               It be as short as yours.

[by George Herbert (1593–1633) taken from]

9/11: Is Anything New?

"What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
'See, this is new'?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come . . ." [Ecclesiastes 1:3-11, 11:9-12:1a English Standard Version]
Friday, September 10, 2004

To Go Where No Sane Man Has Gone Before

Les Roberts writes in The Plain Dealer:
If there were as many serial killers in real life as there have been novels about serial killers, America would be a ghost town. There is a ghastly sameness about many of those novels, few of which have ever captured the mastery and magic of "The Silence of the Lambs." The detectives invariably try to get inside the perpetrator's head to figure out his or her next move, and the only real motive for a serial killer is insanity. The more successful books are those that present a new, fresh and hitherto unexplored insanity to the readers.
I like the approach of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown better. He can spot evil quickly by knowing truth, goodness, and human nature so well.

More on Stacy Sullivan's Education

The interesting article to which I referred in the post below is about Stacy Sullivan, who reported for Newsweek from Kosovo a few years ago, and her experience as a first-time non-fiction author, or to use OGIC's term, an "unprofessional" non-fiction author. "Nurturing" her book, as she believes she learned from the cold publishing world, is a nightmare which she's still dreaming.

Sullivan was familiar with magazine writing and expected frequent contact with an editor; but she had to write her book alone, and that may have set her up for trouble.
Sullivan signed her book deal in mid-2001, and her first deadline was September 15 of that year. She realized, a month before the date, that she would have only half ready. Then came September 11. It had taken her time to focus and settle into the writing, but after spending a few weeks transfixed, like most New Yorkers, in front of the television, she began to feel completely incapacitated by the shift in the world’s attention. The book just diadem’t feel relevant anymore. When her idea was sold, the war in Kosovo had seemed to be a key for understanding future U foreign policy. Her book was to be a ground-level account of this new era of humanitarian intervention. In a matter of minutes, this strolling had been eclipsed by terrorism and holy war, and all her journalist friends were rushing off to Afghanistan. Adding to Sullivan’s woes, she had also grown disillusioned with her book’s heroes. Once the NATO bombing ended and the Serbian paramilitary was forced to leave Kosovo, the Kosovo Albanians quickly began harassing the small Serbian population. From once being the victims, they had become the perpetrators of the violence. “I felt sort of betrayed and distraught and I started hating all my characters and I just had a hard time writing it,” Sullivan says.

She sent the first half, waited for feedback, and says all she got back was a note saying, “Excellent work. When can you be finished?” Discouraged by the lack of substantive response, she nevertheless kept working.

Her new deadline was July 2003. After two more years of work, she managed to turn in a sprawling 600-page draft that she hoped her editor would then slice in half. It was all the material she had amassed, including a long digression in the form of a travelogue of her time on the road with the war photographer Ron Aviv. In short, nothing that was ready for publication.
Am I to understand that she hoped her editor, whom she hadn't seen in months, was going to dedicate herself to rewriting her 600 pages? What was her deadline for? As OGIC describes it: "Late delivery is both the most common and most forgivable of contractual breaches in the book publishing business. Delivery of a satisfactory manuscript can be another story." Sullivan should probably be thankful she didn't hear any muttered curses or moans after she delivered "her 600-page ramble" as a final draft. But in the end, she published the book she wanted and got a review in the Washington Post by one of her favorite writers. Sounds like a happy ending to me. What? She wants lots of readers too? What's her book about again?
Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Teachout's Unsolicited Literary Advice

Terry Teachout has a great post on an interesting article in the latest Columbia Journal Review. I'll have to get into that article and Our Girl in Chicago's rejoinder, but tonight, here is some unsolicited advice:
Anyone who writes a serious book with the expectation of making a lot of money and/or becoming famous is a fool. If you can?t afford to write a book in your spare time for its own sake, you?re in the wrong business.
If that's a little hard to swallow, you may want a large glass of water. Or Kahlua. Whichever. Here's a little more from one of our favorite critics:
The effects of book reviews on sales are unknown. They don?t hurt (assuming the reviews are good), but there are lots of other ways to sell a book. If you?re reading these words, for instance, you already know that the blogosphere has started to become a significant factor in the marketing of midlist books. Take advantage of it. Well before the publication date, register, get a blog up and running, and use it to publicize your book.


In my experience, Maxwell Perkins-style editing is a thing of the past. That's fine with me. If you aren?t capable of writing a book that's publishable in the version you submit to the publisher, you?re not a professional. I?m not talking about copyediting, the painstaking clean-up job in which a line editor makes sure your whiches and thats are all in the right places. That kind of editing is very much alive and well. All my books have been copyedited scrupulously, and they?re the better for it. But don?t assume that some magic-fingered editor is going to make your book a bestseller by rewriting it. Clean up your own mess. If you don?t trust yourself, ask a trusted colleague for advice. Then do your own editing, based on that advice. Write the book you want to see in print.

Book Reviews

I love reviews like this one by the indispensable Deb English:
Every winter when I was in college, majoring in English and minoring in History, I spent vast amounts of time reading books. A typical week would be 3-4 novels with a couple hundred pages of history besides. There was one notable semester that I rashly took Chaucer, Milton and Shakespeare all at the same time plus an intensive course in Roman history and I emerged from that period of time barely able to speak modern English. What I did to regain my sanity over the summer was to read Harlequin romances.

For those of you who have never read a Harlequin, don't despair. There is only one plot. Single young woman meets glorious, available youngish man. Read on
This is hilarious. One day, I'm going to write something like this.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Reeves' Unsolicited Political Advice

Richard Reeves says: "Here is some unsolicited advice for voters: Forget about this presidential election for the next four weeks." I agree. Check back in September 30 for the first televised presidential debate. You need a vacation from the constant news flow and talking heads. Kick back with end-of-the-season bar-b-que, homemade ice cream, and the books you've been wanting to read all summer.

Where My Books Go

A poem by William Butler Yeats for today's readers in the stormy Southern states.

ALL the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken'd or starry bright.

A Season of Grace by Bette Nordberg

I think it's fair to say that A Season of Grace is an issue book. Much like made-for-TV movies which centers around a disease or family dispute and doesn?t diverge from that central path substantially in any direction, this story is--well, to quote the back cover??about choices that tear us apart and bring us together.?

Colleen Payton is a mother in her forties with a twin brother, Stephen, whom she hasn?t seen in years until he appears, unannounced, on her doorstep a day before their mother's birthday party. The party doesn't go well, because their mother is a grumbler and the children have yet to desensitize themselves. But after that bit of ugliness, Colleen worries about her brother and their alienation. She calls him, but cannot reach him; so she decides to drive a few hours to find him. When she does, he?s in a downspin within a long battle with AIDS.

The story is credible overall, and I wish I could give you the theme's nutshell, which is a beautifully phrased truth, but that may be revealing a bit too much. It is an interesting story, and the author has a good-sized audience from what I gather in reader reviews and an earlier blog reference. My primary complaint is that the emotions are shown, but not deeply cultivated enough.

World Magazine's Fiction Contest Open for Review

World has published several entries in their Worldview Fiction Contest on a sub-blog for readers to enjoy and comment. I doubt we'll see much strong criticism will spring up, but one commenter on this story has broken the silence with some thoughtful words.
Monday, September 06, 2004

Germany's 400 Year Old Anna Amalia Library Burns

WEIMAR, Germany (AP), September 3, 2004 - Thousands of irreplaceable books are feared lost or damaged in a fire at one of Germany’s most precious libraries, though some 6,000 historical works - including a 1534 Martin Luther Bible - were saved by a chain of people who spirited them away from the flames, officials said today.

Officials were surveying the damage caused by the night fire last night in Weimar’s Duchess Anna Amalia Library, housed in a 16th-century rococo-style palace. The fire broke out in a top floor and raged for two hours before firefighters put it out.

The cause is under investigation.

During the fire, workers managed to pass 6,000 books, including the Luther Bible and travel papers by naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, hand-to-hand to safety before having to abandon their rescue attempts when the ceiling threatened to collapse, said Hellmut Seeman, president of the Weimar Classics Foundation.

The library holds about 1 million volumes at several places in Weimar, though the palace is the main location. Its collection centers on German literature from 1750 to 1850. During that time, Germany’s most revered writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, lived in Weimar.

Anna Amalia and her son, Duke Carl August, put Weimar on Europe’s cultural map in the late 18th century. Seeking a tutor for her son, she hired Christoph Martin Wieland, a poet and translator of Shakespeare’s works. She also created the library that bears her name.
Friday, September 03, 2004

Excerpt from James M. Barrie's Peter Pan

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her
children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother
after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put
things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper
places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If
you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your
own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to
watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see
her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of
your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing
up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to
her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly
stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the
naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have
been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and
on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier
thoughts, ready for you to put on.

I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's
mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and
your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them
trying to draw a map of a child's mind, which is not only
confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag
lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are
probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or
less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and
there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing,
and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors,
and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder
brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old
lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were
all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers,
the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take
the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say
ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and
so on, and either these are part of the island or they are
another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing,
especially as nothing will stand still. [from Project Gutenberg]
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Neverland Lives Forever, Right?

Have you heard what modern authors are doing with Peter Pan lately? No? Well, hold on to your seat.

Crime Novelist Ridley Pearson was reading J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan at bedtime to his daughter, Paige, when she asked how Peter met Captain Hook in the beginning. Pearson, of course, didn't know but said he would write a book about it. Barrie has written a prequel of sorts already, though it doesn't answer that question. The story, from the Miami Herald, continues:
Pearson was due in Miami to play with the Rockbottom Remainders, the band of writers that includes Stephen King, Amy Tan and other names from the bestseller list.

Normally, a detour to a Remainders gig would not help a writer get going on a new, ambitious project like writing a prequel to a children's classic, but sitting at the breakfast table with fellow guitarist Dave Barry, the conversation turned to current projects. Pearson told Barry about Paige's question and they started riffing. How can Peter Pan fly? Why doesn't he get old? What is the story with his missing shadow?

Barry remembers saying, "That is a really cool idea," and being stunned when Ridley asked, "You want to write it with me?"
Now, Pearson and Barry have released Peter and the Starcatchers through Disney Editions. It's children's book, should clarification be needed, but it has some adult-targeted humor, should clarification, um, you get it. I hope the mermaids are described tastefully.

The Herald reports that Pearson and Barry passed chapters to each other for reworking while composing the book. "'It was like Ping-Pong,' Barry said. 'One of us would write a chapter and send it to the other, and he'd rework it -- and we were not shy about reworking the other guy's stuff -- and send it back.' Even readers familiar with each writer's style may have trouble divining who wrote what. Barry says the wind-blown brassiere [a description of the pirate's sails] was Pearson's idea. Pearson says he wrote all the pirate scenes, but the dialogue -- 'KEELHAUL THE SCUPPERS!' and 'CAST OFF THE AFT BINNACLE!' -- sounds positively Barryesque."

Also in Peter Pan news, this year is Peter and Wendy's centennial anniversary. Peter Pan began as a character in a 1904 play. London's Great Ormond Street Hospital owns the rights to J.M. Barrie's original books and is hoping to find a suitable author willing to write a classic sequel. The fact that Philip Pullman has declined already is probably a blessing to the world. Some readers think J.K. Rowling should take up the challenge, as if she sits on her hands between Harry Potter debuts. The deadline for submitting a sample and synopsis is January 31.

The Daily Telegraph notes, "This is not the first time a literary classic has been given a sequel decades after the death of its author. In 1991, novelist Alexandra Ripley was commissioned to write a sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. The result, Scarlett, was panned by critics but sold eight million copies."
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