Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why is the Zombie Apocalypse so Intriguing?

Views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the Writing Rogues as a whole.

Recently I watched an anime called High School of the Dead and just a few minutes ago I finished the manga.  Zombies attack a high school and the main characters fight their way out and shenanigans ensue.  It's a little heavy on gore and fan service, but, even so, I enjoyed it.  It made me wonder: why did I enjoy it?  Why do many people find the zombie apocalypse such an intriguing premise and environment?  I think there are several reasons.

First the inconvenient trappings of modern life everyone dislikes, such as taxes, paperwork and the larger status quo, have been wiped away.  There are no rules except those you make for yourself and those necessary for survival.  It's an opportunity to remake your life without the restrictions of a higher authority.  In the zombie apocalypse you have the opportunity to take initiative and change the status quo.  Many people feel like they do not have the same options for taking the initiative in our structured society.

I think the growth of government power in the West over the years is part of the reason apocalypse stories have grown in popularity.  A more powerful government can impose a more rigid structure and people then feel more restrained.  Whatever logical arguments may be made for this or that law, there are still those who feel themselves prisoners of circumstance and the structure of a society they were born into without much input about how it should work; I think this is true especially in the case of Millennials, many of whom have entered the workforce since the 2008 Recession.  You can see it in the success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Whatever you may think of their ideas, their success represents disillusionment with the status quo among significant segments of the population.  Socialist paradise is one means of destroying the status quo, Trump's brand of politics is another. The zombie apocalypse is yet another means we can fantasize about, even if logically we would never want it to happen.  If you do find yourself subject to a higher authority in the zombie apocalypse at least you'll probably have met them face to face.  It's not going to be some bureaucrat or politician in Washington or Santa Fe.

A second reason for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse and apocalypse in general is related to my first point, but not quite the same.  Life in the zombie apocalypse is simpler.  You don't need to worry about all the myriad little things anymore.  There's only one thing that matters and that's survival.  In the zombie apocalypse what's left of humanity is forced lower in the hierarchy of needs and many people can't help but be attracted by that simplicity on some level, even if they would never really want to experience it.

A third reason for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse is the opportunity it represents for a man to be manly.  What could give a man greater pride than smashing the heads of mindless monsters who wish to eat his woman?  There aren't any frontiers to explore, there's not much anarchy to battle, or even big wars to fight.  Certainly Iraq and Afghanistan were no laughing matter but in general the world is more peaceful today than it has been in past eras.  All of this means there aren't so many opportunities to do the manly task of defending the household and greater community.  Related to that is a largely subconscious resistance to today's brand of feminism.  Diminishing opportunities for displays of manliness are disappointing enough without adding in the emasculating influence of present-day feminism.  In the zombie apocalypse manly men are needed to take risks, kick ass, and defend the community, and opportunities for extravagant displays of manliness are common.  Many men like the idea of kicking ass and defending the community.  It appeals to our pride and it would be a source of self esteem and identity that many find appealing.

A fourth reason for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse is that we can think to ourselves, "What would I do?"  There are so many things to consider.  How do I get resources?  How do I kill or avoid the zombies?  How am I going to interact with other people or other groups of people?  All of these things are parts of the larger question: How do I survive?  It's a fun mental exercise that we hope to never use.

All of this is assuming you're not one of the people who becomes a zombie of course.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Just One Beggar: NaNoWriMo, Ready, Set, Write

Just One Beggar: NaNoWriMo, Ready, Set, Write: I love this time of year, the crisp morning air, the late garden pumpkins and green tomatoes, even the last roses with their perfectly...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Just One Beggar: National Day of Writing, Fantasy Fiction at Goddar...

Just One Beggar: National Day of Writing, Fantasy Fiction at Goddar...: National Day of Writing 10/20/16 Goddard High School, Roswell NM Fantasy Fiction Many consider George MacDonald’s , Phantastes writ...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just One Beggar: Book Review, Light in August

Just One Beggar: Book Review, Light in August: So a tiny brag, I usually stick to fun, light, genre fiction, the penny dreadful , but I try to read a bit of the hard stuff from time to ...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Just One Beggar: Book Review, The Abbey by James Martin, SJ

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Just One Beggar: Book Review, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Just One Beggar: Book Review, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine: The sequel to Ink and Bone titled, Paper and Fire, comes out this week, so I thought a review might be timely. Some have likened Ink a...

Saturday, July 2, 2016

An Essay on "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "My Last Duchess," and "To an Athlete Dying Young"

An Early Death
"Ode on a Grecian Urn," "My Last Duchess," and "To an Athlete Dying Young" explore concepts surrounding death, immortality, and life, beauty and truth.  In these poems the general attitude toward these subjects does not appear to change very much between the three eras in question.  Of the three poems the one which differs the most from the attitude and message of the others is "My Last Duchess," and that poem does not directly challenge the way of thinking in question it merely exposes it to scrutiny in a way that brings out its flaws. These three poems all illustrate and comment on the achievement of beauty or truth through death.  The moral implications of the views expressed in these poems are not fully explored by the poems themselves.  In particular "Ode on a Grecian Urn" does not even directly acknowledge that what it is dealing with actually is death, or at least a form of it.  Overall these three poems speak dismissively of life and life's potential valuing instead the images that imitate life or depict it.  In each case a single moment, emotion, accomplishment, or image is placed above the value of the life or truth itself as a whole.  These poems advocate, or at least observe, a sinister perspective, and none of them fully explore the consequences of adhering to such a mindset; as a result none of the poems move far beyond the perspective of the others regardless of the time in which they are written.
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" lauds immortal images of trees, instruments, and two lovers about to kiss.  In the images the perfect scene is captured in such a way that it can never be despoiled or fade out of existence because the urn itself will not age.  "Ode on a Grecian Urn" finds immortal beauty and truth in art, specifically the images on the urn.  In the first stanza of observing the urn the narrator imagines the action of the image he is viewing.  "What mad pursuit?  What struggle to escape?  What pipes and timbrels?  What wild ecstasy? (pg 453, lines 9-10).  The narrator is producing this description from his observation of the urn.  In contemplating a static image the narrator wonders after the story of the image and attempts to create one inside his mind to make sense of what he is seeing.  Hence, the narrator is asking many questions about the activity depicted on the urn taking it for granted that activity is somehow implied.  The narrator then creates the activity within his own imagination through his interpretation of what he sees on the urn.  In the second and third stanzas the narrator congratulates the actors of the scene depicted.  "Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss," (pg 453, lines 17-20).  The narrator recognizes the frustration that the actors must feel but encourages them that they will never be forced to leave the moment.  Again the narrator is attributing to the actors, as to the scene itself, desires and goals as if these things were implied.  Simultaneously, the narrator realizes that these things cannot ever be accomplished by the images to which he attributes them.  In the fourth stanza the narrator imagines where these actors could possibly have come from.  "What little town by river or sea shore, Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?" (pg 454, lines 35-37).  The narrator is asking about a fictional location perhaps implied by the images on the urn but in every way the product of his own imagination.  Finally the narrator concludes by summing up the message he has taken from the urn by making the ambiguous statement that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty..." (pg 454, line 49).
The narrator's assertion that the urn speaks "Beauty is truth, truth beauty..." (pg 454, line 49) defines the poem.  The speaker has spent the entire course of the poem wondering after and describing an ideal moment in life and time.  In this moment the narrator sees beauty and truth.  The narrator admires the urn because it can capture both beauty and truth for eternity preserving the moment against the ravages of time.  However, throughout the entire poem the narrator is the one who gives life and meaning to the image.  The narrator is the one who asks the questions about the action occurring in the image.  The narrator is the one who attributes love to the picture of the young man and woman.  The narrator is the one speculating on where their home city might be.  It is the narrator who speaks to the urn the truths that he perceives about it.  It is the narrator who tells the urn how beautiful it is and how lucky it is that its images will never fade.  In fact, the urn is dependent upon the narrator to observe it for all of its life, beauty, or truth.  Ironically, the narrator imagines the urn speaking to him "Beauty is truth, truth beauty..." (pg 454, line 49), but in actual fact the nature of the urn can only ever be and throughout the poem only ever is what the narrator attributes to the urn himself.  The narrator does not fully explore the implications of the static state of his subjects.  The images on the urn are no more capable of appreciating their own timelessness than he will be "When old age shall this generation waste," (pg 454, line 46).  In other words, according to the nature of the poem itself these images only possess meaning when they are viewed by living beings.  Their "wild ecstasy" is actually the product of the narrator's own mind, which is itself very much alive, attributed to the dead image which it is observing.  The beauty which the narrator envies so much is the immortality which he believes he sees, however it is only a mirage which he has painted for himself over a merely stagnant image.  Beauty by its definition demands observation in order to exist, therefore beauty cannot exist without time because it cannot be observed without time.  In other words, in order to be beautiful at all beauty requires that life also exist.  On the other hand, truth, if it is truth, must remain true regardless of whether it is being observed or not.  That is to say that, unless the images on the Grecian urn can live and breathe and still be timeless then they cannot represent truth and beauty but only perhaps point the way toward those elements.  If the narrator sees truth and beauty converge within a dead and stagnant image then it is only the truth and beauty imposed on it by the imagination of the observer himself.  The Grecian urn does not possess the essential element of life that only the observer can provide.
The first two lines of "My Last Duchess" are extremely significant "That's my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive..." (pg 735, lines 1-2).  Unlike "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "My Last Duchess" is honest about the fact that the object under observation is dead.  In a very real sense, the beauty and truth which inspired the image, the source material of the painting, has been corrupted as it has become dependent upon the perception of the viewer for imparted life because the Duchess herself is dead.  In "My Last Duchess" it is not so much that the narrator wanted to preserve the beauty of his last Duchess or to accurately depict the truth about her character as much as he wanted to control it and the way it was perceived.  The painting on the wall is not able to contradict his tale about how it was made, why, or the truth about the subject as she was in life.  In fact, the painting itself is tailored to pander to his own perceptions and the narrative which he has decided to construct around his Duchess now that she is dead.  "My Last Duchess" does not make definitive statements about the moral implications of what the narrator has done one way or the other, but considering the dark tone of the poem the message begins to materialize.  The narrator has not simply killed a woman into art he has killed both beauty and truth into art.  Who the woman was in life can no longer be directly experienced.  Her beauty and the truth about her character are now subject to the control of her widower husband, "...since none puts by, The curtain I have drawn for you, but I" (pg 716, lines 9-10).  Just as the Grecian Urn is dependent upon being observed the painting of the Duchess must be observed, and in both cases the observer brings to the image everything he imagines that he finds in the image.
Unless the reader is to take the words of each narrator completely at face value it must be assumed that the interpretation which the narrators create about the images really says more about what the observers want to believe than it does about the images themselves.  In the case of "Ode on a Grecian Urn" it's already been established that the narrator is obviously attributing to the images on the urn all of the meaning which he in turn draws from them.  In the case of "My Last Duchess" the fact that the narrator controls who looks at her and only allows the painting to be viewed while he is present proves that he is determined to give her an identity after her death by controlling the way her image is viewed and interpreted.  The nature of the control in "My Last Duchess" is slightly different from the control in "Ode on a Grecian Urn," because the Duchess was actually alive once.  In order to create his version of the truth about the Duchess the narrator must first kill her.  That is to say that, in order to see clearly the truth which he has decided is real the narrator must destroy the truth that really is real.  In manufacturing his artificial perception of beauty and truth the narrator must kill living beauty and truth first.  This is why the images on the Grecian Urn must be static and the Duchess must be dead.  After the death of beauty and truth those that killed them expound upon them as if the images they created to represent beauty and truth were real beauty and truth themselves.  In reality the images both on the Grecian Urn and of the Duchess are pale reflections of either beauty or truth.
"To an Athlete Dying Young" is also similar to "My Last Duchess" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn."  "To an Athlete Dying Young" encourages the athlete who passed so soon because he will not outlive his highest achievement, "Now you will not swell the rout, Of lads that wore their honours out," (pg 1135, lines 17-18).  "To an Athlete Dying Young" essentially condones the attitude of "My Last Duchess."  This is not changed because one death was planned and the other was accidental.  The reality of both situations is that the perception and memory, life and identity of both individuals, the athlete and the Duchess, are now subject to and defined by the perceptions and control of other people.  In "Ode on a Grecian Urn" this is only slightly less true as the image on the urn itself cannot be altered.  However, this distinction is not significant since the painting of the Duchess also cannot be altered and that doesn't change the reality of control and controlled perceptions over her image.  Nor do the glories won by the athlete protect him from what people might think or say about him now that he's no longer present to contradict those perceptions.  These manipulated perceptions can have negative effects whether the perceptions are positive or negative.  In the case of the athlete, or any gloried hero, people may attempt to use that name and legacy to their own ends by leveraging the accomplishments the hero had in life after their death.  In other words, the truth about that dead hero is no longer his to decide but will not be imposed upon him according to which truths those observing his legend wish to impose.  The athlete who "... won your town the race" (pg 1135, line 1) may have avoided outliving his greatest accomplishment, but the assumption that this was the pinnacle of what he could accomplish in life is condescending not to mention merely a perception which the narrator himself is now imposing upon a person who will never have the chance to contradict him.  More than that, it does the athlete no good whether his accomplishment is revered or not when he is dead.  The lines which state, "And silence sounds no worse than cheers, After earth has stopped the ears," (pg 1135, lines 15-16) are patently nonsense.  The narrator, not being dead himself, cannot have any idea about what the grave is like or whether the silence therein is "no worse than cheers."  The narrator is making an assumption about the athlete and what the athlete would have wanted based upon the narrator's own agenda.  Now that the athlete is dead he does not have the power to tell the narrator either that silence is worse than cheers or that the athlete would prefer cheers even if silence isn't worse.  The narrator is exploiting a young athlete's death to advance his own interpretation of life's realities by imposing the truth he has already decided to believe upon a subject who is no longer capable of contradicting him.  The beauty of the athlete's accomplishment is now valued above the truth about the athlete himself.  The truth about the athlete himself died with him and it has been replaced by the perceptions of those he left behind.

Each of these three poems, either in fact or in illustration, uses death as a means to bend both truth and beauty to other purposes.  In "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "To an Athlete Dying Young" it is a first person narrator who does the bending.  Each of them begins with an object which has no life of its own and each of them projects onto that image the picture which they themselves desire to see.  In "My Last Duchess" a third person narrator is observed going through the same process performed in the other two poems.  This process depends upon a subject which will not contradict the observer or his predetermined bias.  In effect, this process depends upon a subject which is dead.  The fact that "My Last Duchess" is written in third person gives the reader much needed perspective on the issue.  It is entirely possible, for this reason, that the author is not buying into the process which is utilized by the other two authors.  However, even in "My Last Duchess" the process of bending truth and beauty with death is not directly challenged but instead merely observed.  Therefore, because no direct challenge of the process exists and because the process plainly occurs both before and after "My Last Duchess" it can only be deduced that this methodology, or attitude or philosophy as the case may be, is not really altered from era to era although it may have been observed and noted in passing.  That is to say that, these poets as a group among the eras adhere to a process of killing reality into stagnant and manageable pieces whereby living truth can be reinterpreted by them into whatever they desire, or have already decided, to believe.  In summary, beauty is not truth and truth is not beauty.  In order for the truth to be true it must remain true whether it is observed and acknowledged or not, but in order for beauty to exist it necessitates observation.  Therefore, truth and beauty can only converge in a living being.  The truth, the beauty, and the truth that there is beauty all exist simultaneously in life itself.  Describing the nature of that convergence is beyond the capacity of this writer at this time.  However, this convergence must exist as a consequence of the necessity that death enter before the nature of truth and beauty may be pretended at by the poets and the pale reflections which they have created.  The poets of each era have grasped at truth and beauty by imparting life to images of their own creation and failed to either imagine or accept a circumstance where truth, beauty, and life coalesce.  In fact, each of the images which have been created have necessitated that death be introduced first so that there will be a need for the narrator to impart life and it is by this artificial necessity which the narrator manufactures that he gains control of truth and beauty and consequently kills truth and beauty along the way.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn"
by John Keats
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, 
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape 
       Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, 
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; 
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
         For ever piping songs for ever new; 
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, 
                For ever panting, and for ever young; 
All breathing human passion far above, 
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, 
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 

Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? 
What little town by river or sea shore, 
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
         When old age shall this generation waste, 
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

"My Last Duchess"
by Robert Browning
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, 
Looking as if she were alive. I call 
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands 
Worked busily a day, and there she stands. 
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said 
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read 
Strangers like you that pictured countenance, 
The depth and passion of its earnest glance, 
But to myself they turned (since none puts by 
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) 
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, 
How such a glance came there; so, not the first 
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not 
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot 
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps 
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps 
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint 
Must never hope to reproduce the faint 
Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff 
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough 
For calling up that spot of joy. She had 
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad, 
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er 
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. 
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, 
The dropping of the daylight in the West, 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule 
She rode with round the terrace—all and each 
Would draw from her alike the approving speech, 
Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked 
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked 
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name 
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame 
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill 
In speech—which I have not—to make your will 
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this 
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, 
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let 
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set 
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse— 
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose 
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, 
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without 
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; 
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands 
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet 
The company below, then. I repeat, 
The Count your master’s known munificence 
Is ample warrant that no just pretense 
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; 
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed 
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go 
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, 
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, 
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

"To an Athlete Dying Young"
by A.E. Housman
The time you won your town the race 
We chaired you through the market-place; 
Man and boy stood cheering by, 
And home we brought you shoulder-high. 

Today, the road all runners come, 
Shoulder-high we bring you home, 
And set you at your threshold down, 
Townsman of a stiller town. 

Smart lad, to slip betimes away 
From fields where glory does not stay, 
And early though the laurel grows 
It withers quicker than the rose. 

Eyes the shady night has shut 
Cannot see the record cut, 
And silence sounds no worse than cheers 
After earth has stopped the ears. 

Now you will not swell the rout 
Of lads that wore their honours out, 
Runners whom renown outran 
And the name died before the man. 

So set, before its echoes fade, 
The fleet foot on the sill of shade, 
And hold to the low lintel up 
The still-defended challenge-cup. 

And round that early-laurelled head 
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead, 
And find unwithered on its curls 

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Monday, May 30, 2016

When the Mockingbird Sings, by Billy Coffey, 2013 Thomas Nelson
I purchased this book from a list of you-may-also-likes in an online retail browser. I bought it because it was one of the few Christian fiction releases I could also find in an audio-book. This review is based on first listening to the book and then reviewing the hardcopy. It is the first book I have read by this author. Hints William Faulkner’s terse characterizations, tastes of Mark Twain’s dialects, and the distance of Flannery O’Connor couple in When the Mockingbird Sings to suggest a Southern literary narrative voice.
The tells of Leah who sees and speaks to the Rainbow-man. She first sees him on her ninth birthday when the whole town is invited to the Leah’s house scarcely months after their father had moved the family from Camden to a dilapidated old Victorian mansion in the rural south. Another nine-year-old befriends shy, stuttering Leah and though no one else can see the Rainbow-Man, this friend, Allie, struggles to believe in the vision and likens him to Jesus, going so far as to Baptize the un-washed Leah in in an inflatable pool in Leah’s backyard late one summer night. It was one of the most charming scenes of the book and caused me to appreciate this author’s boldness and wit in a new light.
The Rainbow-Man coaches Leah to paint beautiful renderings far beyond her talent that illustrate glory, and then, warn Mattingly of a terrible fate. One of the paintings magically bears the winning lottery numbers which ultimately disappear from the painting. A former town patron who is under extreme financial strain, plays the numbers and wins, but the money will not save is dying wife. The ruckus further divides the town.
I have a weakness for well-defined setting where a town or community takes on a character. In this novel, Coffey turns the rural community of Mattingly into a single body, a flawed congregation with strict attention to doctrinal recipes, lovable in a way that a stubborn warrior is lovable when he cannot win but clings intractably to a bit of high ground – the cow standing on the manure pile. Mattingly shines as an allegory for the church and I couldn’t help but love her as the main character of this book, human scared and undiscerning.
Coffey also draws vivid characters and does not force them into a personal agenda. The characters speak for themselves, each an ‘everyman’ with a recognizable traits and troubles. While the characters show their fears and weaknesses, the author’s hand is never so heavy as to mock his own creations.
I’ve rated this book three stars because it is good, but just shy of an absolute keeper, meaning I probably won’t re-read it. While the language is occasionally poetic, the narrative voice is too harsh and the poetry is insufficient for this reader to make me we want to return to it. Overall the individual characters are so removed that I had trouble establishing a bond with anyone in the book. Most strongly I felt little for Rainbow-Man whom I so wanted to walk with.
This brings me to my final point, that of the Rainbow-Man as Jesus. Rainbow-Man is so enigmatic and cryptic that I couldn’t relate. I never grasped the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in any character in the book and certainly never in the character of Mattingly the town. I understand the concept of prophetic vision and God’s sovereign use of the weakest among us in enacting His plans. The author seems to suggest that Leah is such a prophet, but I never quite reached the same conclusion. I would add that the cryptic portrayal of Rainbow-Man did cause me several hours of contemplation on how much we take for granted in our Sovereign, and how we often choose to dwell on His capacity as Comforter and Perfect Father rather than His almighty power.  
Pick up When the Mockingbird Sings for a refreshed take on corporate character in the town of Mattingly. Delve into it for an engaging story.

Thank you for reading, Bev. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Delicious video game music...enjoy!

Some fabulous music is available on video games these days...

After listening to the selection above, your team moves into the champion selection phase with this musical accompaniment:

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Buffalo Soldier, Chris Bohjalian
Image result for Buffalo Soldier bookChris Bohjalian’s, The Buffalo Soldier opens with the death of twin girls at the hands of a flooded Vermont river. The book also ends with a flood which provides a frame to the novel. The dramatic opening thankfully distances the reader by using an omniscient voice.
Two years after the flood the parents of the girls, Terry and Laura Sheldon, agree to foster parent  a young black boy. Terry and Laura’s neighbors, Emily and Paul Hebert, give the boy a book on Buffalo Soldiers that follows the life of Sergeant George Rowe and his native American wife, Veronica. Bohjalain briefly sketches the story of Sergeant Rowe as a Buffalo Soldier by using quotes from interviews, newspaper articles and other historical research, as a short preface to each chapter.

The story’s conflict centers around Laura’s and Terry’s different struggles with grief while also adjusting to having the wary youngster, Alfred, in the house who is subtly ostracized for his race in the small rural community.

The catalyst for character growth comes from the Heberts. In their seventies at the time of the novel, they decide to acquire a horse. Mesa, a docile Morgan mare, comes home with the Heberts and Alfred takes care of her likening himself to Sergeant Rowe.

Alfred speaks about need early in the book. “She was being needy again. Needy, he knew, was a hard place to be and he had always avoided it at all costs.” And though he clearly tries to avoid being needy, his needs for a home, family relationships, and a purpose shine through his words. The Heberts, Sheldons and Mesa fulfill those demands in stages throughout the novel and Alfred strives to be like his hero, George Rowe.

I enjoyed the depth provided, by the ancillary tale of Sergeant Rowe. I also enjoyed the heroic ending in a way that I enjoy many fantasy novels where a young man acts bravely to save lives.

At times slow, the book unfolds in six points of view claiming different chapters, each of the Sheldon’s, Pheobe's (the extra-marital love interest's), Alfred’s and the Herberts which are actually dips into Paul’s or Emily’s thoughts.
I mostly enjoyed the Heberts and Alfred, finding the Sheldon’s points of view slower and less compelling.

In his grief Terry cheats on his wife, and I found his justifications over-worked and inconsistent with the original character as if the plot were forced on the wrong man. This is a minor complaint.

Usually, I am not fond of stories where a main character is a preteen, the exception being fantasy fiction, but Bohjalian handles Alfred’s character well. I followed the youngster’s story without too much grumbling. I’m certain some will say he has no right to be in the head of an orphaned black boy, but I enjoyed the character and felt that the author met common ground for all humans.

I read another complaint based on the false tidiness of the ending. I didn’t read the book in the same way. Terry’s extra-marital affair is heart-breaking throughout, and couldn’t have a clean finish. Just because a character exits the stage doesn’t mean she exits our thoughts. In my mind, Bohjalian assures the reader of ensuing complications without continuing the story, relying, instead and the two floods to begin and end the book.

This is the first of Bohjalian’s books I’ve read and I would like to read another. It is a strong story that holds together. My complaints are small. I give this book three stars, because it was a good read, but not a book I will return to.