- Evelyn Waugh, speaking of stories written by Flannery O'Connor
. . . For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;Happy Halloween.
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing . . .
One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s early stories is called “The Hollow of the Three Hills,” in which a woman seeks counsel from a witch and receives nothing but bad news. That appears to be the witch’s point, to break the woman’s heart, and that is the reason I believe her revelations to be complete lies. The story doesn’t say the witch is lying, but I see no reason to believe she isn’t. After all, she is in the service of the father of lies.
Deception is my primary filter for viewing occultic things. On the one hand, trusting the stupid words of a horoscope is a great way to hamstring your life. On the other hand, hoping for special advice from a medium or psychic is like trusting your money to Bernie Madoff. Even if what you hear rings true to you, it’s very likely to be a lie.
So it troubled me hear a caller to a radio program about Halloween say that she understood there were witches in her area placing curses on Halloween costumes and she and her church were praying against them this weekend. I suppose prayer against the enemy for any reason is a good thing, but I don’t remember anything in the Bible and I can’t find anything online from trustworthy sources to support the idea that these curses mean anything.Read the rest of this entry . . .
I know what you're wondering. You're wondering, “Lars, what's the appropriate way for a Christian to celebrate Halloween?”
I am happy to provide the authoritative answer to that question. You should become a Lutheran.
See, wasn't that easy?
October 31 is Reformation Day, the anniversary of the date in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church (this was not an act of vandalism, by the way. The church door in those days was the regular place to post public notices, like your Facebook Wall).
Below is a short clip from the 1953 movie, Martin Luther. It depicts a dramatic moment in Luther's story, when he stood before the Diet of Worms (“Diet” means “Council” and Worms is a city. Stifle that giggle) in 1521, and refused to recant his writings. The “Here I stand, I can do no other” line is now thought by scholars to be an addition made by a later writer with a gift for rhetoric, but the dramatic tension is accurate enough. Although he'd been given a safe conduct to the Diet, Luther was well aware of the fate of the proto-Reformer John Hus. Hus had attended the Council of Constance in 1415 under a similar promise of safety. Once he'd been condemned as a heretic, he was arrested and executed anyway, on the grounds that promises to heretics didn't count. Luther was putting his head in the lion's mouth, and he knew it.
There is no truth to the rumor that he wore a Batman mask and yelled, “Trick or Treat!”
Today is the last day of the Virtual Book Tour. The first blog listed is Ellis (though they don't seem to have posted it yet) and the other is The Plot (again).
And that's that.
Ivebeenreadinglately has a curious post on Nate Hawthorne (his friends call him Nate) and a ghost he may or may not have seen in a library. I say may not have seen to mean that I wouldn't be surprised to learn the great American author made it up. The great librarian Dave Lull manifests in the comments a link to Britannica list of haunted libraries throughout the country. I note that there are no such libraries in Georgia. I also note my disbelief of any of it. (via Books, Inq.)
- Do ever look at your gorgeous face in the mirror and ask yourself why you stay indoors writing?
- So when you were writing this, did you think about that A.S. Byatt story from a few years ago that's almost exactly like yours?
- In what font is your new book set?
- So I heard your editor at Harper Collins is a real beast. Any truth to that?
- Did you complete your creative writing course before finishing this novel?
- Do you think you're all that original?
- So, do you type?
- If you were to write a basic boy-meets-girl story only three boys meet the girl and she has a lot of cute friends and at one point thinks she may lose all of the boys to her friends but when a fourth guy comes in the first guy gets jealous, what would you call it?
Andrew Peterson has an author interview with the people for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature. He talks about not having an agenda as an author and allowing the story to build naturally.
Today on the Virtual Book tour there are three stops (at least in theory). I’m interviewed at Broowaha (though they jumped the gun, date-wise). There’s a nice interview at As the Pages Turn, and a very short item at The Plot, where I’m scheduled to show up in more substantial form tomorrow.
Occasionally I blog about music here, on the strength of no expertise whatever. Although I was in a musical group for several years in my tragically well-spent youth, and am reputed to have a pretty nice voice, I never comprehended music theory, and have a lousy ear and very little sense of rhythm.
Nevertheless, sometimes a song hits me, mutates into an earworm, and won’t leave me alone until I blog about it. And so I’m going to meditate on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I’ve poked around YouTube looking for a cover I really liked, and frankly none I’ve heard has entirely satisfied me. All in all, I’m least disappointed in Rufus Wainright’s version:
Read the rest of this entry . . .
Bertie Wooster loves his Aunt Dahlia, even though she has an ugly habit of leveraging him into some kind of theft. It would be for a good cause, of course, but if you've ever read Wooster's adventures in the world outside his London flat, you'll know it won't go well. In this book, however, he is spared such pressure from his beloved Aunt--who employs the best French chef in a hundred miles (no small benefit). Instead, she wants him to knock on doors for one of his old university friends who is running for the House of Commons. That doesn't prevent him from being accused of being a theft by the Lord of Sidcup, that Baron of Black Shorts, Roderick Spode.
I have been reading the stories of Wooster and Jeeves in relatively the order of their writing, but this is the first one which referred to events I didn't remember, despite the familiar characters. And the familiar story too. This one didn't surprise me a few times, and while it was wonderfully fun, it didn't have a few zany scenes like others I've read.
One thing I love is Wodehouse's style of having a character comment on something that isn't described in the text. For instance, Jeeves was telling Bertie how something surprising unfolded, then in the same paragraph without pausing for description, he says, "I wouldn't jerk the wheel so sharply, sir. It could alarm the other drivers."
Perhaps, you'd have to be there to get the feel of it.
Much Obliged, Jeeves is not a good place to start reading Wodehouse's terrific stories about Wooster and Jeeves, but it is a recommended part of the series. I enjoyed it.
Sampsonia Way has a great interview with the new editor of The Paris Review, Lorin Stein. They talk about the many submissions The Paris Review people read and a little about the author interviews the journal is famous for. They actually had an author reject an interview request recently--someone you may have had on the radio.
No Virtual Book Tour stop today. That's OK. I need a rest from this whirlwind virtual activity.
As many of you are aware (some of you, I'm sure, painfully), last night was a dark and stormy one. If I took any damage here at Blithering Heights, other than the state representative candidate's campaign sign on my lawn that kept getting flattened, I'm not aware of it.
When I got to work, everything seemed fine there, too, although I soon noticed it was a little chilly. I thought nothing of that, though. The heating in our building is notoriously fickle, different sectors blowing too hot or too cold, for no apparent reason, on random days.
Later, at a staff meeting, I learned that one of the three power sectors on our campus had gone black, and the library was cold because our heat was in that sector. I was surprised at this, as it's usually the sector that powers our library lights and computers that goes down. But this was remedied later in the afternoon, when we lost power too, for a while.
Phooey. I've got no kick coming. People are still waiting for their houses to get the juice back. Some people's houses are gone.
I failed to mention (because I hadn't put it together yet), when I did my review of the Masterpiece Theater/Mystery production of Sherlock, that the actor I praised in the role of Watson, Martin Freeman, has been cast as Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming The Hobbit movie.
Seems to me a great pick. He's a veteran of the great, original British The Office series, so he can do comedy, and Sherlock demonstrates he can do the action stuff. And he certainly fits the established physical pattern of Peter Jackson hobbits.
Have you ever noticed what's wrong with that pattern, in terms of the original material, by the way? Read the rest of this entry . . .
I fell down in my obligation to link to yesterday’s stop on the Virtual Book Tour. But dry your tears—it’s right here, at Review From Here. (Can't seem to find a permalink; if you're reading this after time has passed, you may have to scroll down or search.)
Today’s stop is at The Story Behind the Book.
Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost links to a story, and posts a couple video clips, concerning the first American attempt to produce a Shakespeare play in the original accents of Shakespeare’s time. The point of the exercise seems to be, mainly, to demonstrate how much better the poetry rhymed back when it was written. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Although we naturally (and quite rightly) think of Sherlock Holmes as a character comfortably ensconced in Victorian London, with its hansom cabs rattling down cobblestone streets, yellow fog, and helmeted bobbies, the idea of updating the character isn't actually a new one. The early Holmes films were always set in the year of their production, just as we today think nothing of seeing James Bond (whose stories were written in the 1950s and '60s) using a laptop computer or carrying a cell phone. The first Holmes film actually set in period was The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring Basil Rathbone, released by Twentieth Century Fox in 1939. Then, after one more Victorian film for Fox (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), the series moved to Universal and back to the cheaper approach of updating.
I was prepared to dislike the new BBC series Sherlock, broadcast on PBS, but to my surprise I quite liked it. The new Holmes operates as a police consultant in contemporary London. The police are suspicious of him (one accuses him of being a “psychopath,” to which he replies that he's a high-functioning sociopath). He doesn't wear a deerstalker or Inverness cape, but those costume elements have tended to be overused (and inappropriately used) in films and TV shows anyway. The modern world doesn't allow him to smoke, so he relies on multiple nicotine patches when he needs to think out a problem. He does take drugs. The actor who plays him (one who rejoices in the name Benedict Cumberbatch) looks too young for the part, but has the attitude exactly right. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Today's Virtual Book Tour stop consists of a review of West Oversea at RBC Library. They don't like it very much.
Just to update you on my fascinating adventures stumping around with a cane, I went back to the same store today, and the bored-looking young man who checked out my stuff made no offer to bag it for me. So the courtesy I was extended last time appears to have been a function of the niceness of that particular checkout lady.
Tapping my way across the parking lot, it occurred to me that I may qualify for a handicapped parking permit someday. And I thought, what will retailers do when all of us Baby Boomers start falling apart at once? Will they convert half their parking lots to handicapped spots, and if that happens, what will be the use of them?
And how long will the younger generations put up with us? We are a nuisance, after all, and one with an annoying sense of entitlement. Back when I was a teenager, there were paranoid fantasies about wild, sociopathic youth taking over the world and putting all the oldsters in concentration camps. Wouldn't it be ironic (is ironic the right word? I've never entirely mastered its proper use, I'm ashamed to say) if we turned out to be the generation that got sent to a gulag?
Frankly, it would serve us right in a lot of ways.
Publisher Michael Hyatt talks about book trailers from Thomas Nelson and embeds a few examples.
Let me briefly give you the plot. Chauntecleer, the rooster, is lord over a patch of farmland, field, and forest. He is king and cleric to the animals who live there, crowing canonical blessings throughout the day to give their lives order and spiritual purpose. Far away, another farm and another rooster have slacked off holding the order of the day, giving a profound and powerful evil an opportunity to fight for its freedom. The animals are called Wyrm's Keepers, though I doubt they would recognize the label. By keeping their proper order, they unknowingly keep the evil Wyrm imprisoned, so when one farm has grown tired of the cares of the world, Wyrm exploits his opportunity. Gradually, you might say, all of something breaks loose.
I love most in this story the animals leaning on their daily order, their time-honored tradition. It gave their dirt-scratching, grub-hunting, cleaning, and sleeping greater meaning and consequently greater peace. From Lauds to Compline, Chauntecleer crows through the day, usually because that's how its done, but when their world become overcast with troubling clouds, he crows to bless those creatures he cares for. In a somewhat comical way, it's glorious.
And there's a good bit of comedy throughout the book too. John Wesley Weasel and Mundo Cani Dog are hilarious in their own way as is the rooster's obnoxious pride.
I have to wonder how much of this fantasy is reality. How much or what kind of grace does the Lord give us through liturgy and the mental transformation he calls us to by meditating on his precepts throughout the day? What is robbed from us when we think of our lives and world in secular terms, when we see the planet instead of creation, when we look into space instead of the heavens? Would we keep the evil imprisoned a little more if we gave ourselves and our families lauds and vespers?
Today's stop on the Virtual Book Tour is this interview at Fodder For Fiction. I think it's a good one; maybe I bared my soul a little too much.
Sorry to go back to Viking news, but it's all I've got today, and this is big stuff in my strange little world. This news item was recently published by the website forskning.no (“forskning” means research). The article is in Norwegian, but my translation follows:
During the summer of 2006 post holes from the Viking Age were found at Avaldsnes, near Karmsund.
In November of that year discoveries indicated that what had been found was the royal farm of King Harald Finehair.
But it took several years before the all clear for excavation came on Thursday, says Haugesunds Avis.
“The answer was the one we'd been hoping for. As I understand the response of the national antiquities authority, there will now be excavations, beginning next May. There are a number of conditions the antiquities authorities indicate, but I believe we can say that we have the go-ahead for excavations,” says project chief Dagfinn Skree, a professor at the University of Oslo.
National antiquarian Jørn Holme is also enthusiastic about the project getting under way.
“This is one of the most important projects we have in this country. At the same time I believe and hope that it will be an important event for the people of Karmøy and Haugesund,” says Holme.
The first thing that occurs to me on reading the above is that bureaucracies are the same everywhere. It would appear (unless my translation is way off) that the archaeologists got a reply from the government that seems to say they can go ahead, but they're not entirely sure.
For those of you who missed your Norwegian history classes, King Harald Finehair (or Fairhair, depending on the translator) is the monarch traditionally credited with beginning the consolidation of Norway as a unified kingdom. Like all Viking kings, he lived a roving life, moving from one royal farm to another, at locations scattered strategically around the country. But his chief residence was Avaldsnes on Karmøy, near present-day Haugesund. This interests me particularly because my great-grandfather was baptized in Avaldsnes church, and several of my ancestors are buried there.
In related news, during the International Vinland Seminar in Chicago I met a gentleman from Stavanger who recently got funding to begin a general survey of Hafrsfjord (a body of water you will know about if you've read my Erling books. If you haven't, do it now. I'll wait). Hafrsfjord is the only Viking Age sea battle we can actually locate geographically with any precision, but nobody has ever looked for artifacts on the fjord bottom. Once they find something (assuming they do), they'll have to evaluate whether to bring it up, or to leave it undisturbed in situ. It all depends on the condition of what they may find, and how much money they have to spend.
"My Fox News Sunday colleague Juan Williams has been fired by NPR for telling an inconvenient truth," writes Bill Kristol on The Weekly Standard's blog this morning. Apparently, NPR's high and mighty can't allow their people to express certain emotions or honest fears. Perhaps certain entire topics cannot be touched on.
Here, Mr. Williams describes what he thought and how he was fired for it over the phone.
Update: For a liberal take on this story, see Gawker. Max Read writes: "'I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot,' he told O'Reilly, and you knew it was going to be good, because who says that unless they are about to say something racist." Help us.
Although the list at the link for the Virtual Book Tour doesn't say so, my interview with the (I'm not responsible for the name) Hot Author Report was posted yesterday.
Today, I got my first old geezer's perk, as a result of using my cane. I stopped for a couple things at my local bag-it-yourself grocery store. Without asking (I certainly wouldn't have asked) the checkout lady bagged my few items for me. I can only assume it was a gesture of courtesy for the infirm.
I learned about cane technique last night, when I talked to my brother Moloch on the phone. He used to be a nurse once upon a time, and he told me there's a right way to do this thing. I, needless to say, was doing it wrong.
Most people, he said, naturally assume you hold the cane in the hand on the same side as the leg you're favoring. Bad left leg--use left hand. This is what I was doing. This is wrong.
Instead, you use the opposite hand. This technique has two benefits. One, it provides a broader base of support for your body weight, making a fall less likely. Two, it allows you to swing your arms in the natural fashion.
I tried it. He's right.
I hate it when that happens.
One of my very favorite authors, Stephen Hunter, wrote this fascinating and (it seems to me) extremely insightful article on the movie-generated myth of Bonnie and Clyde in an article for Commentary back in 2009. Why The Culture Alliance linked to it today I have no idea, but it's worth reading.
But taken together they make a point. That point is that the legendary Penn movie that invented the New Bonnie and Clyde was such a ideological crock that it deserves placement in that list of other leftist crocks mistaken by gullible critics and film lovers as somehow great: Beatty’s own Reds, the appalling JFK, and the toxic oeuvre of Michael Moore and his tribe of screwball clones in the documentary field, as well as the recent spate of angry, misguided Iraq war films.
My latest stop on the Virtual Book Tour is this interview at The Writer's Life. Another interview less truncated than some I've done. I appreciate it.
Readers are catching on with book lovers. One woman says her iPod with a Kindle app is "so much easier to carry than a regular book." She's reading much more than she used to because it's so much easier get the books. USA Today cites Forrester to say 4 million of us have e-book readers already, and 29 million will likely have them in 5 years. (via Literary Saloon)
Charles Spurgeon writes about Psalm 8.
The solid fabric of the universe leans upon his eternal arm. Universally is he present, and everywhere is his name excellent. God worketh ever and everywhere. There is no place where God is not. The miracles of his power await us on all sides. Traverse the silent valleys where the rocks enclose you on either side, rising like the battlements of heaven till you can see but a strip of the blue sky far overhead; you may be the only traveler who has passed through that glen; the bird may start up affrighted, and the moss may tremble beneath the first tread of human foot; but God is there in a thousand wonders, upholding yon rocky barriers, filling the flowercups with their perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with the breath of his mouth. Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean. where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea. Borrow the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, but God is there. Mount to the highest heaven, or dive into the deepest hell, and God is in both hymned in everlasting song, or justified in terrible vengeance. Everywhere, and in every place, God dwells and is manifestly at work. Nor on earth alone is Jehovah extolled, for his brightness shines forth in the firmament above the earth. His glory exceeds the glory of the starry heavens; above the region of the stars he hath set fast his everlasting throne, and there he dwells in light ineffable. Let us adore him "who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; who maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south." (Job 9:8, 9.)
Back to work, back to the regular schedule today. This is good. I'll go no more a-roving so late into the night, at least for a while.
I'm learning the uses of a cane. It's a bloody nuisance, for the most part. It would be handy to have one of those with a hooked handle that I could hang over my arm when I need both hands, but this one (like most contemporary models) has a mostly horizontal one. Makes a better grip that way, I guess, but tucking your cane under your arm isn't nearly as neat a move in real life as in the movies. The thing has a way of poking things, and people.
I've got a link for yesterday's stop on the Virtual Book Tour here (It's the Virginia Beach Examiner. I get a little more print there than in the minimal treatment most of my interviews have been cut down to so far.) Today is a guest post at a blog called Authors and Appetizers. I'm kind of proud of this one, because I hadn't the faintest idea what I'd write when the publicist pointed me there and told me to say something about food. I think what I finally produced isn't half bad.
Here's a scene I expect is going to be played out soon (if it hasn't been already) in the offices of the leadership of a major political party.
Chairperson: “So we're all agreed, we're going to put all our influence behind the Goodness Act.”
Junior Senator: “What's the Goodness Act?”
Vice Chairperson: “That's the law that outlaws all evil, and requires everybody to be good.”
Junior Senator: “Is that constitutional?”
Vice Chairperson: “Are you saying you're in favor of evil?”
Junior Senator: “No, no. I'm sure it must be constitutional. You're right. Forget I said anything.”
Congressman From Eastern State: “Wait a minute. I'm a Satanist. We believe in evil. Our only law is do as thou wilt. Are you trying to infringe my right to construct my own personal code of morality?”
Chairperson: “No, no. We'll carve out a religious exception.”
Congressman From Eastern State: “Well, I'm still a little offended. Better fund that new highway for my state while you're at it, and I'll feel better.”
Vice Chairperson: “No problem.”
Congressman From Western State: “Hey, what about me? I've got a large sociopathic constituency in my district. What am I gonna tell them?”
Chairperson: “Don't worry about it. By the time this bill is done, nobody'll have a clue what's in it. It'll tie up the courts for years.”
Congressman From Western State: “Great! The sociopaths and the lawyers will both love it!”
Vice Chairperson: “You're repeating yourself. I like that.”
On Sunday morning we didn't have to meet until 10:30, which was a gift more precious than gold to my battered body. It was also Sunday morning that I stopped at Walgreens and, bowing at last to the inevitable, purchased a cane. I've been having trouble with my left knee for about a week (I saw my doctor today, and she says it's arthritis, possibly treatable with anti-inflammatories). The morning's rest helped the leg, and also, incidentally, with another problem I had, that of of lack of sleep.
We met at the Norwegian Memorial Church in Chicago (Minnekirken). It was a gorgeous fall morning, and I wish I'd thought to take a picture of the building. The service consisted of a Norwegian liturgy and hymns, with the sermon in English. You know how I feel about mainline Lutheranism, but I found nothing whatever in the service to offend even my hypersensitivity. It was delightful to go through the readings and responses in Norwegian, and to sing the Norwegian hymns (most of which were unfamiliar). All in all, it was the most fun I've had in church in years. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Here's a bit of creative writing fun we can have for the last half of October, the approach to Halloween. Look at this photo from Carlos Miguez Macho of someone walking in the street. (I don't believe I would be permitted to display the image here.) Then write a few sentences, a momentary scene based on the photo.
I suppose I should start, but look at the photo before reading the submissions. Read the rest of this entry . . .
I don't generally do long posts while out of town, especially on weekends. But I think the best way to deliver my report on the International Vinland Seminar today is to write up a summary while my memory's fresh.
We met at North Park University in Chicago, a school with Swedish roots that I wasn't familiar with. It reminds me a little of my alma mater, Augsburg College in Minneapolis, in that it's set (I suspect the admissions brochures say "nestled") in an urban neighborhood. Nice place, though.
We met in a lecture hall called Hamming Hall, and I got permission to set up my book table. I was in the back of the room, but it gave me a good view, so I just stayed there through the entire event, selling my books during breaks. Read the rest of this entry . . .
That's me. The drive to Chicago wasn't actually that bad. Nice country, beautiful weather, and the 65 mph speed limit brings out the best in Mrs. Hermanson, miles-per-gallon-wise. But when I got to Chicago, my exit off Highway 90 was closed, and that was a harbinger of things to come. I couldn't find my motel on the basis of my Yahoo map. I even invested in two cell phone calls to the manager before finally finding the place, about three hours after I should have. My searcing got me lost at one point, and I ended up in Skokie before I figured out I needed to turn around.
Also I accidentally drove past one of the toll stations (something that didn't use to be possible, before electronic passes). But I saw a sign at a later station with a web site where you can go and do penance. So I think I won't be getting one of those fine letters based on camera surveillance.
Managed to find the location for tonight's opening reception. Finally met Prof. Torgrim Titlestad, and sat at his table. We chatted for a while. He's excited that they're about to start archaeological surveys for the site of the Battle of Hafrsfjord. That was a sea battle, but I guess they think they've found the location. If correct, that will be very exciting.
Also saw (but did not meet) Prof. Birgitta Wallace, former chief archaeologist at L'Anse Aux Meadows. I need to see if I can get her photo for my Vinland PowerPoint lecture. All told, I met three internet friends I'd never actually encountered in the flesh before.
I am bloody, but unbowed. What I am most is tired.
Lars' next tour stop will be on The Hot Author Report today. Stop laughing. That's not what they meant.
And on Monday, he's has an interview on Examiner: Virginia Beach. Here's another post from that blog on what not to ask an author at a book signing. I think there could be more to it than this. I mean if someone asked me where I got my ideas, I'd say the morgue. I steal them from dead people. Now, that was a painless answer, wasn't it?
"An artist’s task is to see through the eye into the eternal, into the invisible." - M. Fujimura
The wonderful artist Makoto Fujimura has written a letter to the North American Church, rebuking it for shunning artists and calling artists back to what he calls their first love.
There will be more “Ground Zeros” created by destructive minds, twisting creative impulses into diabolical powers. Undo what they have done. Stand upon those ashes all around us, and open your hearts: look up, to Create in Love.He says the church has chosen reason or the rational as ground on which to build and rejected the sensual or non-rational, even though both are part of the created world and both can glorify the Lord. (via Jeffrey Overstreet)