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Showing posts from 2012

Grace and Purification in Flannery O'Connor's “Revelation”

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A recent comment on an old post about Flannery O'Connor raises some questions that I thought I would respond to in a separate post, rather than depositing them in the obscurity of the comm box. Janet Baker left a long comment (you can read it in its entirety there), which says in part:
I'm currently working on the short story Revelation, looking at the text for what it says about Flannery's Catholicism, rather than listening to her pronouncements in non-fiction, like her letters. If you read the story, you will note that it is Mrs. Turpin's virtues that must be burned away before she enters heaven, and that people enter heaven in groups, racial and social. Perhaps you don't read either St. Thomas Aquinas, or Teilhard de Chardin, nor have I extensively, but if you begin to read about it, you'll see that St. Thomas promotes the virtues of which Mrs. Turpin is guilty--generous almsgiving, supporting the Church, helping others regardless of their worthines [sic]…

Christmas Kindle Freebie, from me to you

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As my Christmas present to all Kindle owners, especially those who just got a new Kindle for Christmas, I'm running a freebie promotion on my little book on all the helpful uses of diatomaceous earth around the home . From Wednesday, 26 December, through Friday, 28 December, you can download the book for free!

Those who don't have a Kindle can purchase the paperback version, which is currently eligible for Amazon's 4 for 3 promotion (buy four books and get the lowest priced one free).

Anyone interested in having a "greener" home, using healthier products to get rid of bugs such as fleas, ants, even bedbugs, or just "getting back to nature" will enjoy this book. Think of it as my little gift to you. If you like your gift, please post an Amazon review saying what you like.

Merry Christmas! Happy reading!

Fellowship of the Book: T. M. Doran's Toward the Gleam (Review)

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Christmas is upon us, and Peter Jackson's new Hobbit movie has recently premiered, which reminds me of a great book I've been meaning to recommend. Anyone looking for a Christmas gift for fans of Tolkien's tales of Middle Earth should take a look at T. M. Doran's novel, Toward the Gleam (from Ignatius Press, available in hardback, ereader, and audio editions; get the Kindle version from Amazon .) It is both an homage to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and a gripping tale in its own right.

The makers of the book's trailer definitely wanted to draw attention to the connection between Doran's novel and Tolkien's.


The cover art design for the book should also remind readers of LOTR. Toward the Gleam's cover was designed by John Herreid and executed by a wonderful Catholic artist, Daniel Mitsui. You can see that it incorporates some of the design elements from the well-known covers of the 1986 Houghton Mifflin edition (below), such as the runic message arou…

Dear Self-Published Novelists: Please tell the whole story

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Barbara Nicolosi, founder of Act One, a Christian screenwriting school, often complains that her students just don't seem to understand what makes a story. My adventures in reading self-published novels on Kindle has shown me that even writers of novels seem to have trouble grasping this concept. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many self-published novelists seem to think they can get by without editors, who would be able to point out when a story is not really a story. I used to laugh at the fact that Aristotle, supposedly so wise, said something as obvious as “Every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” Now I see that this is apparently not obvious to everyone.
The Perils of Plotting Last week I had one of those head colds that knock me out for about three days. My oxygen-starved brain was having trouble just trying to remain conscious, so writing anything was definitely out. So I turned to a freebie Kindle book I had downloaded recently, for something f…

Win a Kindle Fire!

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I just entered a raffle to win a Kindle Fire, and so can you! Just head over to the blog of writer Diane Capri and enter like I did. You can also take part in the Holiday Blog Hop to the blogs of some 60 different writers and get a chance to win lots of other goodies, including Amazon gift cards. What are you waiting for? Get hopping!

New Literary Journal: The Lost Country

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This week, phone and internet outages combined with a raging head-cold  to keep me from getting much writing done (although I've got plenty of things on the hob!). Let me suggest, then, that you take a look at the online edition of a new literary journal, The Lost Country, produced by some young scholar/writers of my acquaintance, who call themselves The Exiles. You can read it online or download a PDF, but if you like what you see, you should really consider subscribing to the print edition, which is very handsomely produced. You can also learn more about The Exiles, who describe themselves as "a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University." If you'd like to encourage them in their work, they accept donations!
a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugi…

UPDATED My new e-booklet -- please read! Free booklet for the asking!

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I'm a reader and a writer. When I write, I try to write things I'd like to read. I'm a bit of a DIY nut, especially when it comes to my health, and one of the things I'm really interested in is finding ways to use more natural products around the house, to avoid toxic chemicals and to save some money by avoiding brand name products (there are a number of large manufacturers that I am always happy not to buy from). I do a lot of informal research on the internet regarding more natural ways to stay healthy, clean my home, etc., but I find that sometimes some really wild claims are made about things like raw honey, boric acid, etc. I find it rather irritating that reasonable claims about the valuable properties of such things are often all mixed up with really wild claims (cures cancer! pulls viruses out of the air!), so I decided to do a little more research and then write a little book about healthy, natural products for the home, with reasonable explanations of why an…

Epic poetry and the moral imagination

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This fall I’ve been teaching a course on Medieval Epic Poetry, a continuation of the Ancient Epic course I taught last spring, in which we read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Vergil’s Aeneid, poems that are all deeply grounded in a pagan worldview but which nonetheless examine human nature, and particularly human excellence, in such an authentic way that they continue to speak profoundly to readers in our own day. Still, the pagan world that produced those works valued things that sometimes run counter to Christian values, so their heroes may seem strange and not entirely admirable to a modern Christian. Nonetheless, all the poems we read in the Medieval Epic course are written by Christian poets who have, to one extent or another, appropriated the epic tradition and made it their own. What does it mean to be a hero? This shows, on the one hand, the powerful appeal of the epic form and, on the other hand, the way Christians have always been able to “baptize” the best of pagan culture.…

Catholic Science Fiction -- is this the moment?

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I wonder if the new initiative to "re-evangelize the culture" will result in a spate of Catholic science fiction novels? And what will those be like? Over on my scifi blog, Sancta Futura, I just posted some background on the story I'm working on -- take a look!

Just about the same time I wrote that post, I noticed that one of my Facebook friends had "liked" a FB page for a Catholic science fiction novel that will be published in a few months. It's called Father and Captain, written by Patrick Baum. Here's the blurb on the FB page:
The last Catholic seminarian in the US, forced into exile by the Bureau of Virtue Engineering, must choose between God and family, a life on earth or a life in interstellar space. I suspect, as we all get more and more discouraged by the direction modern society is headed, we'll see more such things. My own story is set in the distant future, partly because I don't want it simply to be a thinly veiled commentary on …

Taking the Faith to the Stars -- and Beyond!

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If you read this blog regularly, you know that I've recently decided to take up the challenge to write "speculative fiction" from a Catholic point of view. I'll talk about the writing side of things over on the Sancta Futura blog, but here I'd like to talk about reading science fiction, and why it's not a total waste of time, as many people seem to believe.

I've been reading things that fall under the general rubric of "speculative fiction" (the term I prefer to "science fiction") since I was a little kid reading things like Sprockets: A Little Robot by Alexander Key (better known for Escape from Witch Mountain) and The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree by Louis Slobodkin. Later, in high school, I was hooked on the early novels of Robert Heinlein, and all sorts of post-apocalyptic novels such as Alas, Babylon and On the Beach, as well as the much more optimistic I lost interest is science fiction (strictly speaking) about the same time …

More ways to read on your Kindle

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I've mentioned before that this blog (and, by the way, now also the Catholic Reading Project blog) can be delivered automatically to your Kindle, if you subscribe through Amazon. If you've gotten as used to Kindle reading as I have, you may find that reading from your Kindle is more comfortable than reading from a computer screen.

Well, here's another way you can read this blog (or anything else you find on the internet) from your Kindle -- just get the Send to Kindle browser plug-in (I just got the one for Firefox; you can also get it for Chrome, and a Safari version is coming "soon"). The add-on is super-easy to use: just click the little button that sits up in your browser bar (see photo) and it will allow to preview what will be sent or just send it directly. What the program does is analyze what is the main article on the page and send just that; this is similar to using "article mode" if you are reading a story in the built-in web browser found in…

Flannery O'Connor and Charles Williams: Coming to the Big (and Small) Screen

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I just ran across the Facebook page for a television and film production company called Good Country Pictures. This small company is dedicated to bringing the works of Flannery O'Connor and Charles Williams to the screen, and currently is working on producing a TV series based on O'Connor's short stories, and making a film of Williams's novel, All Hallows Eve. Here's how they describe their mission:
Good Country Pictures is dedicated to producing TV and film projects that help their audience rediscover 'mystery and manners.' GCP presently owns the TV and film option rights to most of the works of Flannery O'Connor and Charles Williams. Already underway is a feature film of O'Connor's 'The Violent Bear It Away' and a TV series of her short stories. A film treatment of Charles Williams' 'All Hallows' Eve' (1941) is also in progress. I've recently written a bit about Flannery O'Connor (there's lots more I…

The Greatest Book Ever Written!

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I am very big on the importance of reading things in their proper context, as you can see in my Four-Step Reading Method for reading with understanding. Earlier today, I was reading this article by Thomas P. Harmon on Catholic World Report, a review of John Bergsma’s Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History . I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like a good one, chiefly because it presents the Bible the way it has traditionally been read – i.e., the entire Bible is about Christ. This is the way the first Christians understood Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament) and it is obviously true of the New Testament.
Much of the exuberance of the early Christians stemmed from the extraordinary realization that the Scriptures had been fulfilled within their lifetimes and in their sight (one is tempted to say, right under their noses). Their exuberance is present in Peter’s speech to the crowds on Pentecost, when he points out Christ’s fulfillment of the promises given…

Read any work with greater understanding

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I thought I would offer here the following method of analyzing any serious work, which can be used by intelligent readers with no particular expertise in the subject matter of the work being read (I've also published this over on my Catholic Social Teaching blog). This is a method I developed for my Humanities students at the University of Southern Indiana, who were usually not accustomed to dealing with primary works and needed some guidance in developing good reading skills. This method is intended to be used for "non-fiction" works of all sorts, although it can (and has) been adapted for reading literary (poetic, fictional, or dramatic) works.
I will confess that this method (which the students found very helpful, not only in my class, but in upper level classes in their majors) is one I boiled down from Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book (which I've referred to several times before). One way in which I’ve improved on Adler’s method (if I may say so) is to put “ev…

Another new blog -- Sci Fi!

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At the top of this page, underneath the title banner you'll find a new tab called "My new sci-fi blog, Sancta Futura." Click it and you will be whisked to the new blog, which will chronicle my venture into the world of writing science fiction (from a Christian point of view) during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

They say if you want to build readership these days, you have find a marketing niche and, believe me, there is no smaller niche than Christian science fiction. I think the time has come! What do you think?

Flannery O'Connor and the Overwhelming Power of Grace

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I had a friend who used to say, "Sometimes God gives you a sign, sometimes BILLBOARDS!" Flannery O'Connor is famous for saying that her characters were so colorful (critics like to call them "grotesque") because you have to draw large pictures for the blind and shout at the deaf: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." I'll admit that, fascinated as I was with her work when I first began to read it, I was often puzzled as to what was going on. I remember waking up in the dark hours of the night, years after first reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find," with a sudden understanding of what the Misfit meant when he said, "She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

For anyone similarly puzzled, my advice is to read "Revelation," which probably makes clearer than any of her other stories just what Flannery is up to. (See my analysis of the climactic scene here.) If…

Sunday Snippets: Flannery O'Connor and Catholic Social Teaching.

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Wow, Sunday again already? I've been busy this week getting my new blog, the Catholic Reading Project, up and running. (Well, that and trying to find an assisted living place for my father.) So my contributions to this blog have been rather meager: a post on a reading method that will help you make sense of all different kinds of written works, and one on some books by and about Flannery O'Connor that I recommend. I've got plenty of posts in the development stage, though, and will publish them as soon as I get time. Meanwhile, if you are at all interested in Catholic Social Teaching (and, by golly, you should be!), take a look at the new blog and consider joining us!

And, oh yeah, by request, I've added a little more info to my online profile, in case you're interested. If you'd like to know what some other Catholic bloggers have been doing this week, don't forget to take a look at Sunday Snippets -- A Catholic Carnival.

My Friend, Mary Flannery

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IS IT WEIRD to be friends with someone who died years before you ever heard of them? Not if you believe in the Communion of the Saints, I guess. At any rate, since I first read any of her work, way back in my college days, I've thought of Flannery O'Connor as a friend I never got a chance to meet. There are some parallels in our lives (for instance, we both grew up in the South and attended the University of Iowa as graduate students -- where we even worshiped in the same parish, Saint Mary's.) Since then, I've come to know her better and I'm just sure that in Heaven we will be best buddies. I can imagine us laughing at each other's jokes (dry wit, our specialty) and completing each others' sentences -- you know, when we aren't discussing theology or doing imitations of our country cousins.

I don't suppose it really is too weird to look forward to great conversations after death, especially with those we never got a chance to meet in this life. Our …

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