A Little John Keats

April is National Poetry Month, and I’m told today is No Housework Day. The day may be a Web Rumor from those crazy guys who writing everything on the Interweb. Regardless, this is poetry month, so here’s a bit of Keats.

“On leaving some Friends at an Early Hour”

Give me a golden pen, and let me lean

On heap’d up flowers, in regions clear, and far;

Bring me a tablet whiter than a star,

Or hand of hymning angel, when ’tis seen

The silver strings of heavenly harp atween:

And let there glide by many a pearly car,

Pink robes, and wavy hair, and diamond jar,

And half discovered wings, and glances keen.

The while let music wander round my ears,

And as it reaches each delicious ending,

Let me write down a line of glorious tone,

And full of many wonders of the spheres:

For what a height my spirit is contending!

’Tis not content so soon to be alone.

At First Sight, by Stephen J. Cannell

Author Stephen J. Cannell explains, in his Acknowledgments at the beginning of At First Sight, that he came up with the idea for the book while reading Andrew Klavan’s interesting and risk-taking novel, Man and Wife. He decided he needed to take some risks of his own in novel-writing, and so sat down to write a book different from his usual output. The result is nothing like Man and Wife, but it’s entertaining (and valuable, I think) in its own way.

The main character and primary narrator is Chick Best, a California dot com millionaire. He has a beautiful home, expensive cars, a beautiful wife and daughter. At first he seems a decent, amusing guy, too, with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

But gradually the picture darkens. His business is on the downslide, and he blames everyone but himself. He’s sick of his wife, and his daughter is a disaster waiting to happen (he never wonders why). He’s living far beyond his means, desperately trying to sustain the exterior trappings and the envy of others that, he imagines, are all that make life worthwhile.

While on a vacation in Hawaii, he and his wife meet Paige Ellis and her husband, and Chick is bowled over. Paige is naturally beautiful and sweet, in a way that his wife, for all her expensive physical training, can’t match. After they return to their separate homes, Chick can’t stop obsessing about Paige. Continue reading At First Sight, by Stephen J. Cannell

Tatjana Soli on Story Types

Tatjana Soli has her first novel in The Lotus Eaters. She writes about writing and her story on BookTrib:

What interested me about Vietnam was the impact that it had on lives — the lives of my characters, but also in a general way on the country as a whole. Life keeps on being lived — people fall in love — during and after war. It’s one of the ways we preserve our sanity as human beings during difficult times. A number of American soldiers stayed behind after their tour of duty was over. Many fell in love with Vietnamese women and had families. Many wanted to help a country that was being devastated by war. Is this a man’s or a woman’s story?

J. Mark Bertrand Interviewed by Octopus

J. Mark Bertrand has a two-part interview on writing and shifting genres on Boxing the Octopus, which looks like a blog I should follow. Here are a couple quotes:

I don’t believe in “writing what you know,” but I do think it’s sound advice to write what you’re good at. For me, that’s turned out to be crime. The art of storytelling doesn’t change from genre to genre, and I’m more interested in telling a good story than a good genre story, if you see what I mean. The conventions are there, and for the most part I respect them, but at the end of the day I’m making use of the genre to tell a certain kind of tale about the detective as existential seeker and skeptic.

From the second part, Kathryn Paterson notes, “I find your suggestion of writing a 50-paged treatment prior to drafting to be daunting, but fascinating.” Mark replies:

In the film industry, a treatment is a summary–more detailed than a quick synopsis, but not yet a fully realized, scene-by-scene script–that communicates the rough contours of the story. Some are more detailed than others, but since Dan was convinced the problem with most of us young novelists was that we didn’t know our stories well enough, he recommended writing a fairly detailed treatment before starting. For writers who don’t like to stick with an outline, this advice can be liberating. Writing the treatment helps you to discover the story.

Editors Talk Christian Fiction Trends

Publishers Weekly has a panel discussion of editors from Christian publishers, talking about trends in Christian fiction. Issue-driven books are waning a little. Romance within closed communities is big now. Speculative fiction is still being read.

Barbara Scott of Abingdon said, “Calling a novel ‘chick lit’ seems to be the kiss of death these days in publishing, but if an author is interested in writing about younger characters, it can be done by deepening the story. Pure fluff is out; authenticity is in.”

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson

If there was ever an author whose work I ought not to enjoy, it would be the late Stieg Larsson. A Swedish journalist whose field of concentration was right-wing and “hate” groups, he was (as far as I can determine from net research) a lifelong, devoted Communist.

And yet I loved his first mystery, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and I snapped up The Girl Who Played With Fire as soon as it came out in paperback, zipping through its 724 pages in a couple days.

I think it’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy.” Both I and the author view contemporary Sweden as an unsatisfactory country, but from opposite viewpoints.

The central character of this book, even more than of the first in the series, is Lisbeth Salander, a brilliantly realized character. Lisbeth is a tiny young woman, often mistaken for a teenager, multipally tattooed and pierced (though we’re told she’s removed one tattoo now, and stopped wearing most of her studs and rings). She’s an off-the-charts genius who works on Fermat’s Last Theorem in pencil, in a notebook, in her spare time. She’s also a world-class computer hacker, skilled in self-defense, socially inept, and slightly crazy, having been the victim of horrendous betrayal and abuse as a child—a history that forms an important element of the plot of this book. Continue reading The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson

Download L’Abri Fellowship Recordings

Now, we can download recorded messages from L’Abri Fellowship on their well-organized site. Hundreds of lectures are available with more being added.

And if you like the spoken word, look into the selection at Reformed Audio. Ryan Jankowski and Benjamin C. Richards appear to have good readings of weighty stuff by several dead white guys, so you know it’s got to be good. [Thanks to Mike Johnson for both links.]

What an odd story

As C.S. Lewis says somewhere, the first generation of Christians spread all over the Roman empire with one doctrine–that the Lord has risen.

Assume it’s all a lie. (A mistake seems to me out of the question, at least for the first believers. You don’t go to the stake or the lions because Cousin Gaius passed a rumor on to you.) So assume that it’s a lie–what an odd lie. It’s a crime without a motive. A suicide pact whose participants aren’t bitter and sick of the world, but full of joy and charity for others. A conspiracy with no plan for seizing power. A Ponzi scheme that promises poverty.

“Thou hast appointed repentance unto me”

O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers,

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed;

who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof;

who hast bound the sea by the word of thy commandment;

who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by thy terrible and glorious name; whom all men fear, and tremble before thy power;

for the majesty of thy glory cannot be borne,

and thine angry threatening toward sinners is importable:

but thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable;

for thou art the most high Lord,

of great compassion, longsuffering, very merciful,

and repentest of the evils of men.1

Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and

forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee:

and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners,

that they may be saved.

Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just,

hast not appointed repentance to the just,

as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,

which have not sinned against thee;

but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner:

for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea.

My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied:

my transgressions are multiplied,

and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven

for the multitude of mine iniquities.

I am bowed down with many iron bands,

that I cannot lift up mine head, neither have any release:

for I have provoked thy wrath, and done evil before thee:

I did not thy will, neither kept I thy commandments:

I have set up abominations, and have multiplied offences.

Now therefore I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace.

I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities:

wherefore, I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me,

and destroy me not with mine iniquities.

Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me;

neither condemn me to the lower parts of the earth.

For thou art the God, even the God of them that repent;

and in me thou wilt shew all thy goodness:

for thou wilt save me, that am unworthy, according to thy great mercy.

Therefore I will praise thee for ever all the days of my life:

for all the powers of the heavens do praise thee,

and thine is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

“The Prayer of Manasseh,” written 200-100 B.C., as translated in the old King James Bible

1 Or “relenting at human misfortunes”

See more notes and a different translation of this ancient poem.

Luther on Meditating on Christ’s Suffering

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

[Some] so sympathize with Christ as to weep and lament for him because he was so innocent, like the women who followed Christ from Jerusalem, whom he rebuked, in that they should better weep for themselves and for their children. Such are they who run far away in the midst of the Passion season, and are greatly benefitted by the departure of Christ from Bethany and by the pains and sorrows of the Virgin Mary, but they never get farther. Hence they postpone the Passion many hours, and God only knows whether it is devised more for sleeping than for watching. And among these fanatics are those who taught what great blessings come from the holy mass, and in their simple way they think it is enough if they attend mass. To this we are led through the sayings of certain teachers, that the mass opere operati, non opere operantis, is acceptable of itself, even without our merit and worthiness, just as if that were enough. Nevertheless the mass was not instituted for the sake of its own worthiness, but to prove us, especially for the purpose of meditating upon the sufferings of Christ. For where this is not done, we make a temporal, unfruitful work out of the mass, however good it may be in itself. For what help is it to you, that God is God, if he is not God to you? What benefit is it that eating and drinking are in themselves healthful and good, if they are not healthful for you, and there is fear that we never grow better by reason of our many masses, if we fail to seek the true fruit in them?

… St. Bernard was so terror-stricken by Christ’s sufferings that he said: I imagined I was secure and I knew nothing of the eternal judgment passed upon me in heaven, until I saw the eternal Son of God took mercy upon me, stepped forward and offered himself on my behalf in the same judgment.

“What a death were it then to see God die?”

Moon in overcast sky

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,

The intelligence that moves, devotion is,

And as the other Spheares, by being growne

Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,

And being by others hurried every day,

Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:

Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit

For their first mover, and are whirld by it.

Hence is’t, that I am carryed towards the West

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.

There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,

And by that setting endlesse day beget;

But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,

Sinne had eternally benighted all.

Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see

That spectacle of too much weight for mee.

Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;

What a death were it then to see God dye?

It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,

It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.

Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,

And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?

Could I behold that endlesse height which is

Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,

Humbled below us? or that blood which is

The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,

Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne

By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?

If on these things I durst not looke, durst I

Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,

Who was Gods partner here, and furnish’d thus

Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom’d us?

Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,

They’are present yet unto my memory,

For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards mee,

O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;

I turne my backe to thee, but to receive

Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.

O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,

Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,

Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,

That thou may’st know mee, and I’ll turne my face.

John Donne, “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward”

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