Category Archives: Authors

British Racism and Stupidity

Ugly news out of Britain today. Author Kiran Desai, winner of the Man Booker Prize winner for The Inheritance of Loss, says she has been insulted for being Indian by Britons.

“I certainly have been walking the streets of London and elsewhere in England and people have said, ‘Go back to where you come from’ or, you know, ,You damned Paki,'” she said recently.

This comes to light because actress Shilpa Shetty was in a reality show where she took some harsh words from other participants.

I suppose some news commentators/reporters will be asking whether all Britons are bigots, but that’s a bit ridiculous. Do they ask whether everyone is a murderer after a rash a homicide reports?

From our stupid news desk comes a report on comedic duo Baigent and Leigh who have returned to court to appeal the ruling against last year’s plagiarism suit. They are the authors of that wonderful fantasy, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and wanted to sue Dan Brown for stealing their imaginative ideas. The suit was thrown out, hence the appeal.

“A Random House spokesman said: ‘We regret … that more time and money is being spent trying to establish a case that was so comprehensively defeated in the High Court,'” according to Reuters.

What Hath Joanne Rowling Wrought?

Middlebury College students are playing quidditch with a few adaptations for non-magical folk.

Harry Potter fan fiction, La Septima M or The Seventh M, has been published by young author Francisca Solar of Chili. She says, “All the things I know about literature, about writing, I learned in the fan fiction world. I owe it everything.”

The Christopher Little Literary Agency, who represents J.K. Rowling, has announced a £1,500 prize and possible representation “to students on the creative writing course at City University in London. The agency said it wanted originality, talent and ‘not a Harry Potter clone,'” reports BBC News.

T.S. Eliot’s Passions

I heartily agree with the ideas in this post on T.S. Eliot, creativity, and art. The Lord God is the author and sustainer of life. When he created all things, declaring them good, he made them such that they work best by directly or indirectly honoring him. If the animists could truly listen to the spirits of everything around them, they would hear a profound chorus singing glory to God in the highest and calling for redemption from the curse mankind inflicted on them.

I suggest the reason certain philosophies glory in ugly art, destructive behavior, and personal freedom from the normal consequences of our actions is those philosophies are anti-life by virtue of being anti-God.

Hans Christian Andersen: Unsuitable for children?

I was chatting with a friend online last night, and the subject of favorite fairy tales came up. For some reason I forgot to mention “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen. Somebody (I forget who) wrote a book a long time ago, saying that our favorite fairy tales reveal a lot about our basic desires and strategies for life. Girls who like “Little Red Riding Hood,” for instance, seem to always own a red coat, and have a tendency to get into relationships with big bad wolves.

“The Ugly Duckling” is actually a pretty uncharacteristic story for Andersen. It has a happy ending, and he didn’t write those often. Sorry to drop a spoiler on you here, but if you only know “The Little Mermaid” from the Disney movie, the original version doesn’t end the same way at all. Not at all

An excerpt (not the conclusion of the story):

The little mermaid could not help thinking of her first rising out of the sea… and she joined in the dance, poised herself in the air as a swallow when he pursues his prey, and all present cheered her with wonder. She had never danced so elegantly before. Her tender feet felt as if cut with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang had pierced through her heart. She knew this was the last evening she should ever see the prince, for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home; she had given up her beautiful voice, and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him, while he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry sky and the deep sea; an eternal night, without a thought or dream, awaited her; she had no soul and now she could never win one….

Andersen was a writer of tragedy. He wrote tragedies for children, which seems perverse to us. But Andersen was a lonely, shy man who had little experience of happy endings. He’d grown up in poverty and been rejected by every woman he ever fell in love with (he was not, despite what the activists will try to tell you, a homosexual). He was only comfortable with children; remained a child himself in many ways. But the message he had for children was not the one we like to give them—“Hold on, keep hopeful, and everything will turn out all right.” His message, forged out of his own experience in a world where lots and lots of children never grew up, was, “You may fail. You may die. But death doesn’t have to be the end, and the way you die can make your life beautiful.”

I wrote about something like this the other day, in regard to the story about the widow in the smoky house. Our ancestors lived in a harder world than ours, and they had wisdom we can’t begin to comprehend, wisdom that allowed them to endure suffering we can’t imagine and retain their sanity. Afraid to look closely at such holy things, we, the descendents, malign them and label them “morbid.”

Interview with Andrée Seu

In case you didn’t see the comment left on an earlier thread, Mindy Withrow has posted an interview with essayist Andrée Seu.

Have you always wanted to write, or was it an unexpected development in your life?

It was never my goal to be a writer. My debut in the writing world was a providential fluke (to coin a phrase God may only be half pleased with): One day I wrote a little essay for my own amusement and sent it to my brother. He sent it to WORLD and the Lord had mercy on this soon-to-be widow and gave me favor in the eyes of the editor. Easiest job I ever got.

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Vince Guaraldi

“In 1963, Lee Mendelson was a young San Francisco filmmaker working on a documentary about Schulz, whose “Peanuts” cartoon strip was fast becoming a national craze. He needed music for a two-minute animated segment of his film. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, he heard a catchy jazz tune on the radio called ‘Cast Your Fate to the Wind,’ which was written and performed by Guaraldi, who also lived in the Bay Area.”

This Washington Post feature on a great jazz pianist and composer notes that “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” was “one of the last instrumental jazz tunes to be a crossover hit — and earned Guaraldi a Grammy Award in 1963 for best original jazz composition.” This piece lead to Guaraldi composing the music to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” among other classics.

(via Cranach)

By the way, how many things on God’s green earth are better than good piano jazz? Probably just a dozen or so, wouldn’t you think?

N.T. Wright Profiled in Atlanta

Michelle of Life Under the Sun points out a feature article on theologian N.T. Wright in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here’s a bit from the article:

While Christian conservatives in the United States are often defined by two issues —- abortion and homosexuality —- Wright demonstrates that they can broaden their agenda to include social justice issues.

His theology is difficult to define at first glance.

He’s argued forcefully for the role of women as leaders in the church but believes homosexuality is a sin.

He believes in the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus but not the infallibility of the Bible.

He describes the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States as “unmitigated evil” but opposes the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Wright says his beliefs may seem odd and contradictory in the United States but not his country. He says plenty of conservative Christians in his homeland, for example, are as passionate about relieving Third World debt as they are about defending traditional Christian doctrine.

P.D. James’ Opening Sentences

Speaking of P.D. James, I love some of her opening sentences.



The Children of Men
: “Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty five years, two months and twelve days.”

Death In Holy Orders: “It was Father Martin’s idea that I should write an account of how I found the body.”

A Certain Justice: “Murderers do not usually give their victims notice. This is one death which, however terrible that last second of appalled realization, comes mercifully unburdened with anticipatory terror.”

Original Sin: “For a temporary shorthand typist to be present at the discovery of a corpse on the first day of a new assignment, if not unique, is sufficently rare to prevent its being regarded as an occupational hazard.”

Relgious People Out Give Secular Folks

Today, I heard an interview with professor Arthur Brooks, who wrote Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. He makes remarkable claims which contrast the books by atheists which we’ve discussed briefly in earlier posts. The book cover summarizes one of Brooks’ points: “Strong families, church attendance, earned income (as opposed to state-subsidized income), and the belief that individuals, not government, offer the best solution to social ills-all of these factors determine how likely one is to give.” That points a political spin on it, but in the interview today, Brooks said religious people in general are more charitable than irreligious people–er, I mean, secular people. He didn’t distinguish between religions, at least in the interview, so I understand him to say that faithful commitment to broadly religious ideas indicate a charitable spirit. Brooks went so far as to say that if you take out local religious people, the local PTA will fall.

Author on Author Commentary

BitterSweetLife is asking for quotes from authors about other authors. He leads in this quote from Flannery O’Connor:

This book of C.S. Lewis on prayer is a good one but I don’t like to pray any better for reading it. I also just read one of his called Miracles, which is very fine. Deceptively simple. You really need to read every sentence twice. Go among the biblical scholars, says he, as a sheep among wolves. – “Habit of Being”

The only one I can contribute is one I added to the quotes at the top of BwB this weekend. P.G. Wodehouse in the later part of his life said, “I don’t want to be like Bernard Shaw. He turned out some awfully bad stuff in his nineties. He said he knew the stuff was bad but he couldn’t stop writing.”

Sherry has several quotes though.

The feast of St. Jack

I’m not glad President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Far from it. But I am glad that, if he had to be assassinated, Providence scheduled the event for November 22, 1963, because that’s the day C. S. Lewis died. (Aldous Huxley too, but who cares about him?) I hadn’t read Lewis yet at the time (I was thirteen years old), but it comforts me somewhat to know I mourned deeply that day.

I remember it well. I was in an art class in school when the radio broadcast came over the intercom system with the news from Dallas. It was my brother Baal’s birthday, which was rather tough for him. Moloch and I gave him a great gift—a plastic car designed to fly to pieces spectacularly when you crashed it into a wall. But the news dampened even his eight-year-old spirits.

I credit Lewis with being God’s instrument to preserve my faith through all the challenges it met in college and since. He was the first writer to tell me that faith involved reason as well as feeling. It seemed too good to be true at first. I thought surely I’d learn somewhere that this was heresy. But it wasn’t. So I planted my banner on the orthodox side of the battle-lines for life.

Here’s a quote from Lewis’ letter to his friend Owen Barfield, April 4, 1949:

Talking of beasts and birds, have you ever noticed this contrast: that when you read a scientific account of any animal’s life you get an impression of laborious, incessant, almost rational economic activity (as if all animals were Germans) but when you study any animal you know – what at once strikes you is their cheerful fatuity, the pointlessness of nearly all they do. Say what you like, Barfield, the world is sillier and better fun than they make out.

Have a great Thanksgiving, friends.

Author Asks for Stories about Vonnegut

Author Charles J. Shields, whose book on Harper Lee was well-received last summer, wants to hear from you on your experiences with Kurt Vonnegut. “Now I’m beginning work on the first authorized biography–the first biography at all, actually–of Kurt Vonnegut. I’d like to hear from any of your readers about their experiences with Vonnegut, either personally or with his novels.”

Vonnegut is the author of A Man without a Country, Timequake, Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and a few other books.

I asked Mr. Shields how he gained the opportunity to write Kurt Vonnegut’s first authorized biography. He replied:

Many years ago when I was a little boy wearing thick glasses, baggy pants, and Hush Puppy shoes, I realized I wasn’t the brightest star in the heavens, but I could compensate for that by being persistent. That’s really the story behind MOCKINGBIRD, which Harper Lee didn’t want me to write and tried to dissuade her friends from helping me with. But four years of research and hundreds of interviews produced a portrait of her. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s done in watercolors, not oils, but it will be valuable to biographers of hers who will come later.

Mr. Vonnegut turned me down at first, but when I pointed out the number of ways our lives connect—-we’re both Midwesterners; both humanists; he’s a veteran, so was my father; both men worked in public relations for large corporations—-I convinced him that I’m the guy for the job. He still remained skeptical for awhile, I think, but I kept up a regular stream of chat via phone and mail and I seem to have won him to my side. He’s a generous man, anyway. This biography will be the obverse of the one about Lee, in a sense. Vonnegut is an extrovert with many friends and a large body of work. His papers going back to the 1950s are on file at Indiana University. I was Philip Marlowe on the case of “Harper Lee, Recluse.” This time I get to be Boswell!

Secularists Broad-brush Faith Again (It’s That Thing They Do)

In today’s NY Times, author Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason; Letter to a Christian Nation):

By shying away from questioning people’s deeply felt beliefs, even the skeptics, Mr. Harris said, are providing safe harbor for ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous. “I don’t know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair,” he said.

Dr. Steven Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

True, it is “not merely a matter of lack of education,” though I wonder about the secularists so uneducated on faith matters. Why are these anti-religion activists content to broad-brush the world’s religions? Do they believe all atheists and secularists act the same, all in a clear-headed, beneficent manner? Have we forgotten the motives of the murderous leaders from the twentieth century? [via Books, Inq.]