RSS

One of the Best

I finished reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” a few days ago. Here’s my review:

Wow.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed Steinbeck’s writing, but it was mainly his shorter works, like “Cannery Row” and “Tortilla Flat. This was my first time reading one of his long novels. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Now I’m embarrassed at having waited so long to do it. From the first page, I knew I was in the hands of a master. And those 600 pages felt like 200.

I’m not going to bore you with a full review, seeing as how there are better, more informed ones out there already. The New York Times called “East of Eden”  “A fantasia and myth . . .a strange and original work of art.” Indeed, it is a work of philosophy, theology, and Biblical exegesis as well as a personal memoir and meditation on life and what it means to be human.

This novel is a marvel and a wonder, unlike anything I’ve ever read.

Read this book.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Of Pigs and Wings and Literary Things

This past weekend me and the wife took a drive to a small town here in central Arizona called Yarnell. Now Yarnell has become somewhat famous because of the horrible wildfire that decimated the town and took the lives of 19 brave men known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The recent film “Only the Brave” was based on this fire and its aftermath.

I’m happy to say the town is bouncing back bravely, and there are several interesting shops doing business there. While browsing through one that featured the work of several local artists and craftspeople, I noticed more than a few renderings of pigs with wings. Some of glazed ceramic in bright colors. Some in bronze. Some of red pottery clay. Even a cast iron wall hanger with a small flying pig.

And it made me think of John Steinbeck.

As I wrote earlier, I’m reading Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” and getting very close to finishing it. (Great gnashing of teeth can be heard if you listen carefully). Anyway, as I learned from the book’s introductory notes, Steinbeck had a personal logo that he used on nearly all of his personal correspondence; a small drawing of a pig with wings. True story. He described it as symbolizing himself as “a lumbering soul but trying to fly.”

His logo also had a Latin motto reading “Ad Astra Per Alia Porci.”  Which translated means, “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”

I love John Steinbeck.

And I REALLY want one of those flying pigs.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

About That

Regarding my previous post requesting info on Marilynne Robinson’s writings:

Never mind.

Meanwhile, in other news, today while roaming in a thrift store I found a nice paperback copy of “A Testament of Devotion” by Thomas R. Kelly, a well-known Quaker teacher and writer. Originally published in 1941, this 1996 reissue from Harper One has a nice introduction by Richard J. Foster, a modern advocate of Christian spiritual formation.

These types of books have been making their way to me lately. Hmmm. Maybe God’s trying to tell me something?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

I Hate When This Happens! (a little)

So I’m searching Amazon the other night for books by Stephen R. Lawhead, specifically his retelling of the Robin Hood legend, “Hood.” I found the books I was looking for, along with a bonus.

The bonus was a promo for a new book of essays by an author I’d never heard of before; Marilynne Robinson. Evidently she’s known for her Pulitzer Prize – winning novel “Gilead,” as well as several other critically acclaimed novels. Her book of essays, “The Givenness of Things,” is a cultural critique of our society and it’s declared materialism and obsession with technology. So she’s a deep thinker in areas that interest me.

What’s a poor book junkie to do!? I only have so much time! Gads!

Anyone out there have any experience with Ms Robinson’s writings? Is it worth burdening my list with yet more volumes? I need help here, folks.

I may have to become the book monk.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

What the . . . ?!

OK. Who changed the cockpit all around?! I’m gone for, what? Two, three years? And the controls are different. I wasn’t that good with the old controls. So, be patient with me while I get used to the new configurations here. And don’t expect anything fancy, alright? Heck, I wasn’t very fancy the first time around!

First off, thank you to my blogging friend, David, for welcoming me back. Wow! I just threw some words up to see if I could figure out things, and BAM! There he was. I appreciated that very much.

So, where have I been? Trust me, you don’t want to read a post THAT long. Let’s just say that life had a few curve balls up its sleeve that required my full attention. I’m hoping that things have settled enough to allow me to write on a semi-regular basis again. Time will tell.

Of course, I’ve been reading. Yeah. Big surprise. I recently finished Justin Cronin’s Passage trilogy; 3 very long books about a post-apocalyptic America, a mysterious girl named Amy, and virus-born “Dracs.” Some reviewers compared it to “The Road.” Stephen King loved it. Was it that good? I plowed through all 3 books at a good pace so, yeah, it was good. Cronin is an excellent writer, a bit reminiscent of Dean Koontz. And you know how I feel about Koontz.

Right now I’m reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden.” It’s amazing, providing solid evidence he was one of America’s finest writers. I’ll be writing more on this later. Or maybe sooner, hopefully.

That’s all for now. My fingers are cramping.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Testing, testing . . .

This is a test of the Old Book Junkie publishing network. If this works, there MAY be more to follow.

 

Again, this is just a test. Stand by.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

A Koontz Kwicky

dark rivers of the heartYeah, I know. Another long period with no writing. And I’m sorry. Again. But let’s move on, shall we?

I just finished another Dean Koontz book, “Dark Rivers of the Heart,” (1994, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.) True, not one of his newest (or, to be honest, one of his best), but with the amount of books Koontz has written sometimes you need to go back to his earlier works just because. In this case, his theme deals with what’s happening with this country’s government and how, as it gets bigger, its ethics and morals shrink. Still relevant today, no?

Of course, being Koontz, it’s also about the nature of evil. Sorry, no supernatural elements in this book, but he makes up for that by including not one but two serial killers. Combine that with political intrigue, an urgent search, a desperate flight from the authorities and a terrifying encounter with this nation’s property seizure laws and you’ve got vintage Koontz.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but a man walks into a bar and meets a cocktail waitress. Spencer and Valerie (not their real names) strike up a conversation, get along and he goes back in the next night to see her again. But she never shows up for her shift. Now he KNOWS this isn’t because of him, so he goes to her place to make sure she’s alright. Bad move. Someone else is looking for her as well, someone named Roy. Roy is a chief operative of a rogue government agency that pretty much does whatever it wants to whoever it wants. Like this waitress and this guy.

Well, Roy and his boys blow the living you-know-what out of her place with the guy barely escaping with his life. And the chase is on! And being Koontz, there’s plenty going on here. But the main thing in this book is the examination of different kinds of evil: ideological, institutional and stand alone evil.

Let’s start with Roy, the government operative we met above. He’s the first of the serial killers we meet. You see, Roy is a believer in Utopia and the perfectibility of the human race – by a select group of superior humans. He being one of them, of course. Those who can’t fit in to the perfect world need to be compassionately dealt with. With carefully placed bullets. Heck, sometimes people just having a bad day need compassion too. Or those with disabilities. The need is never-ending and Roy is a very compassionate person. And since there is no god but the State, he can make up the rules as he goes.

Not as dramatically horrifying as Roy, but more overwhelmingly oppressive, is the institutional evil of a too-powerful State. You see, Roy isn’t ALWAYS compassionate. Sometimes he’s a bit thin-skinned and gets pissy. Then, instead of showing compassion, he just makes life miserable for his target. Like the unfortunate LAPD captain, Harris Descoteaux. He made the mistake of saying that, “No one’s more dangerous than a man who’s convinced of his own moral superiority,” to Roy. Who, naturally, is convinced of his own moral superiority. Roy considers killing him, but then decides that “Greater punishments than death were within his power to bestow.” Like introducing Harris to our country’s asset-forfeiture laws. Current as of 1994, the laws and government powers Koontz illustrates are scary beyond belief. To think that our own country has this ability and actually uses it against its citizens is chilling.

Finally, we meet the second serial killer, Steven. Steven is the real deal, a serial killer refined and distilled to its essence. He tortures his victims horrendously before inflicting a slow death and then using their bodies for his “artwork.” He has contempt for Roy and mocks him mercilessly: ” . . . you should hear Roy rant on about compassion, about the poor quality of life that so many people live and shouldn’t have to, about reducing population by ninety percent to save the environment. He loves everybody. He understands their suffering. He weeps for them. And when he has a chance, he’ll blow them to kingdom come to make society a little nicer.” So what is Roy doing wrong? Why doesn’t Steven give him the approval and validation he craves? Simple: “Roy doesn’t understand that these things have to be done for fun. Only for fun. Otherwise, it’s insane, it really is, to do it for some noble purpose. . . . He’s the least prejudiced, most egalitarian, foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic who ever lived.” Like I said, stand alone evil. Pure, dark nihilism. And, of course, Steven is right. All Roy’s wonderful “motives” are personal rationalizations.

I won’t give away how all these strains of evil play out in this novel. There are plenty of twists and turns to enjoy, and Koontz’ characters are marvelous as usual. But spend some time meditating on the nature of evil as Koontz lays it out here, and you will realize that there are things afoot in our world and our country that we had better pay attention to.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 7, 2015 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , ,