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Showing posts from 2013

Why Civil Society Needs Great Stories

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About a month ago, I presented an address to the local Saint Thomas More Society entitled "Literature and the Moral Imagination, or Why Civil Society Needs Great Stories." This blog was instrumental in getting me the invitation to speak to this group of Catholic lawyers, and the talk I gave drew together a number of things I've discussed here, so I thought I would give the text of the lecture a permanent home here. You can find it by clicking the "Literature and the Moral Imagination" tab at the top of this page. Or just click this link.

Let me know what you think!

Great Free Ebook on Prayer and Holiness

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I've been writing and revising my novel, which accounts for the long hiatus from this blog, but also reading things that I'll eventually want to discuss here. Meanwhile, here is a very nice freebie for you that is worth reading: Connie Rossini's Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life.

Many years ago, when I was first beginning to learn about prayer, I was drawn to contemplative spiritual writing: St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, The Cloud of Unknowing (as well as Brother Lawrence -- not sure if he counts as contemplative, but I suspect he does). Although it has been quite a few years since I have read much of any of these, I must have absorbed a lot, which became the cornerstone of my spiritual life. I say this because when I read this little booklet, which summarizes insights gleaned from the great contemplative spiritual writers of the Carmelite Order, I recognized each point as the key lessons I've been learning for more than thir…

Ruminating on The Father's Tale

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In Book Ten of his Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo refers to the memory as “the stomach of the mind” – an image that probably seems strange to many modern readers, but one that has been very useful to me. He wasn’t talking about the kind of stomach we humans have – which are a kind of way station for food on its way to the intestinal tract – but the kind of stomachs found in sheep (as well as cattle and goats, etc.), i.e., a ruminant stomach. The ruminant stomach stores food until it can later be brought back up and chewed over (ruminated).
I’ve always loved this idea of the memory as somewhere that we store our experiences until we have a chance to bring them back to mind and “chew them over” or ruminate upon them. Animals who literally ruminate (chew food that they have already swallowed) do so in order to get the nutrition out of what they have eaten, and to be able to digest it properly; in a similar way, as Augustine understood, our memory lets us bring back things we have…

Review: Ad Limina, by Cyril Jones-Kellett

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A few weeks ago, I promised a review of Cyril Jones-Kellett's Ad Limina: a novella of Catholics in space, and I've written and posted it over on my science fiction blog. What I’d like to mention here relates to the “Catholic” aspect of it, something I allude to briefly in the full review:
While the story is, on the face of it, a grand adventure, another way to read it is (and details in the story suggest that this is how the author hopes we will read it) as a spiritual trial, from which the soul in question emerges purified and hardened against the wiles of the Enemy. Bishop Mark Gastelum’s spiritual journey takes him into the wilderness where he is tempted in many ways; at the end, having endured these temptations without succumbing, he is spiritually mature and ready to take on greater challenges.
Modern novels don’t always have a “hero” – in fact, one of the hallmarks of the novel, the thing that distinguishes it from earlier narrative forms, such as the epic and the roma…

Novella longa, vita brevis or Why I Haven't Written on This Blog Lately

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I thought I would tell you all what I've been up to lately: I've been writing like mad the past few months, but not -- alas! -- on this blog. I've found that I've reached an age where I am willing to admit that multi-tasking is not what I do best. (This has probably always been true, but I'm finally ready to admit it.) So, since I've been trying to get my first novel ready for publication (not done yet, folks!), I've had little time for reading the kinds of things I like to discuss on this blog.

This is not to say that I haven't been reading at all -- indeed, I am now about 850 pages into Michael O'Brien's gigantic novel, The Father's Tale, and when I've read the remaining 300 pages or so, I will definitely want to tell you about it. O'Brien himself describes it as a retelling of two parables, the Prodigal Son and the Good Shepherd, and it is that, but it's also a romance in the technical (medieval) sense, a quest in which a man…

Review: Andrew Seddon's Saints Alive!

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I love the way the blogosphere can bring like-minded people together, especially when it means I get a wonderful new book to read. This happened recently when Andrew Seddon sent me a nice email after visiting my science fiction blog. When I learned he is a writer, too, I asked if he would like me to review one of his books, and he kindly sent me a copy of his Saints Alive! New Stories of Old Saints.

There are a number of things I like about this book, the first being that he chose to write about saints that most of us probably know very little about (many of whom you've probably never even heard of). The saints selected for this volume all lived in the first four or five centuries of the Christian era, before the Roman empire collapsed, and many of them died as martyrs to the faith. But they lived so long ago that many of them have fallen into obscurity.

For a writer, this presents a challenge, as Seddon admits in his introduction, because so much of the little we do know of thes…

Kindle freebie, Amazon reviews

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.Just a quick note today -- I'm running a freebie promotion on my little book on all the helpful uses of diatomaceous earth around the home . Saturday, 15 June through Sunday, 16 June, you can download the book for free!

Those who don't have a Kindle can purchase the paperback version, which is currently being offered at a 13% discount.

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.

If you'd like to know what I've been reading lately, you can take a look at my reviews on Amazon or on Goodreads. Among new works of fiction I've read lately, probably the most interesting book for readers of this blog is The Christus Experiment, by Rod Bennett, author of Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words.…

Poetic Truth, Part I: Giambattista Vico

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I may be the only person ever to have a traffic accident because of Giambattista Vico. Partly, this is because he has been dead since anno Domini 1744, and partly because not that many people (I guess) meditate on his theory of poetic language while navigating rush-hour freeway traffic. (Perhaps also because most people who do are smart enough to buy cars with anti-lock brakes, but that discussion will have to wait.)
Anyway, assuming that you, gentle reader, are not yet counted in the number of those privileged to have glimpsed the beauty of Vico’s theory of poetic language (which makes up one portion of his wonderful work, La Scienza Nuova or The New Science (by which is meant not “science” but “knowledge”), I will give you a very rough idea of what I’m talking about. It’s been many years since I first read Vico, and almost as many since that traffic accident, and it’s entirely possible that my apprehension and application of Vico’s ideas is, ahem, idiosyncratic and my current memo…

Study the Great Works of the Western Cultural Tradition in Kansas City, Missouri

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Some readers may know that over the last year or so I have been privileged to teach a couple of literature classes in the epic tradition for the Walsingham Society of Christian Culture and Western Civilization. The Walshingham Society is a relatively new organization in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, although it actually is carrying on the work of the (former) College of Saint Thomas More, which offered a curriculum in the great Christian liberal arts tradition for some thirty years or more. (It has recently undergone a sea change and been reborn as "Fisher-More College," offering a somewhat different, although thoroughly traditional and Catholic, curriculum.)

The erstwhile College of Saint Thomas More always had two overlapping circles of "clientele" -- traditional-aged college students looking for a more substantial and challenging education than most colleges and universities offer, and adults who wanted to steep themselves more thoroughly in the great Western, Ch…

The Hunger Games left me hungering for more ... but not the way you think

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It's been quite a while since I posted here, simply because I've been very busy working on my Catholic science fiction novel -- in fact, I've finished the first draft, so it was time well spent. Now, however, the draft is "resting" while I think about what I want to achieve in revision (a lot, as it happens), so I can turn my mind to other things for a while.

I have been doing some reading along the way -- a lot of it has been advice on how to write great fiction (which I won't bore you with), but some of it has been books that you might be interested in yourself. So here's a run-down of a few things I've read over the last couple of months, and what I thought of them. The first one was Suzanne Collins’s runaway bestseller Hunger Games trilogy.

Since I'm working on science fiction of a futuristic sort, I've been concentrating on speculative fiction of various sorts, to get a feel of what sort of thing is getting read these days. So I wa…

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame? I've been nominated for the Liebster Award

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Connie Rossini of Contemplative Homeschool blog has kindly given me the Liebster Award. It’s given to up-and-coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers.  You modern linguists will already know that "liebster" means "favorite" in German. So, in bestowing this award on me, Connie is proclaiming that my blog is one of her favorites (thank you, Connie!) and suggesting that it might become your favorite, too, if you'll just give it a try. So welcome to any new readers -- please poke around, you'll find a little bit of a lot of things, and quite a lot about the moral imagination, which seems to be one of my favorite subjects and, also, the subject that attracts the greatest number of readers.
Here are the “rules” for The Liebster Award: List 11 things about yourself. Answer the questions that the nominator has posed for you. Nominate 11 up-and-coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers. Create 11 questions to ask the nominees. Go to the page of ea…

Plato, Homer, and the Saints in Outer Space

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In The Republic, Plato acknowledges the power of the arts (chiefly music and literature) to shape impressionable young souls. Concerned parents today, worried about the music their children listen and the books they read (if they read at all), may appreciate why Plato has Socrates say, in his discussion of a theoretical "just city" (i.e., just society), that youngsters should not be exposed to dangerous ideas -- such as Homer's depiction of the gods as powerful, spoiled brats. In the modern era, Plato has often been accused of being against art, music, and poetry, but I've always thought this a gross distortion to what he is actually saying in The Republic. He acknowledges the immense power of the arts to form -- or deform -- the soul, and he suggests that those who are destined to be leaders should be taught to be wise. The reason he infamously forbids poets in the just city is that he wanted to present young souls with inspiring images, and he just didn't find…

Updated! Freebie Redux and a Preview

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I've been doing more writing than reading lately, but I wanted you all to know that my Kindle ebook on diatomaceous earth, "Mother Earth's Best Kept Secret," will be available as free download again for a couple of days, Saturday, 9 February, and Sunday, 10 February. There is also a paperback version available , but that'll cost you. (N. B.: Updated dates are correct!)

One book that I am reading -- one of the few that isn't about how to create a great plot or how to make your novel's characters jump off the page -- is Lorraine V. Murray's The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O'Connor's Spiritual Journey(Kindle version also available). I bought it a couple of years ago at the end of a months-long Flannery O'Connor pig-out, and never got it read. I hope to be giving you my take on Murray's book later this month.

Mystery, thrills and suspense from contemporary Catholic writers

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I was sorting through a bunch of goodies that I picked up last August at the combined Catholic Writers Guild/New Media/Marketing Network conference and thought I would pass them on to you, before I "file" them (you know what that means). Among other things, I nabbed a number of marketing cards for novels written by members of the Catholic Writers Guild, and I thought I would commend these books to your consideration (even though I have not read most of them). A few that don't get mentioned here will be noted over on my Catholic Science Fiction blog. Today, I thought I would focus on suspense and mystery titles. Here goes:

Unbridled Grace: A True Story about the Power of Choice, by Michael J. Norman. This one actually is not fiction, but fact. The author is a chiropractor from right here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, whose true story sounds like a best-selling thriller. Dr. Norman got dragged into a rats' nest of intrigue when he unknowingly got involved with a Russi…

An Odd and most-endearing protagonist

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I've been reading Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas stories lately, supernatural thrillers with an unusual twist. Generally speaking, I'm not interested in supernatural or paranormal stories, but I like Odd Thomas, the protagonist who sees dead people and bodachs (dark, wispy spirits who sniff out violent death before it occurs), and who can track soon-to-be mass murderers using something he calls psychic magnetism. What I like about Odd is the fact that he is, in many ways, quite an ordinary young fellow, but one with a great sense of responsibility for his fellow man. Although his strange "gift" is obviously a burden to him, he does not complain or whine about it (or about anything else), but regards it as a talent he has been given for the good of others.
Nonetheless, he does not use it to become a sort of paranormal hero, going around seeking out evil to foil it before it happens. He knows, instinctively, that he needs to balance his peculiar gift with a perfectly or…

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