One of the Best

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


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.

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.



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.


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: , , ,

Great Expectations . . . Or Not

Passing thoughts about books and authors:wise_owl_on_books

In keeping with my idea of reading a “bucket-book” list, I recently started Dickens’ “Great Expectations.” I remembered having read it back in high school days and being absorbed in its world. Figuring this would be an easy one to check off the list, I began. Oooops! Something has changed in the forty-some-odd years since I last read it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Pip or Miss Havisham. Or Mr. Dickens.

Has anybody out there ever come back to a book you thought you knew and enjoyed and found it somehow . . . lacking? I sure did with this book. The 16 chapters I managed to get through before I finally put it aside required an effort of sheer will. I struggled with the language, the pace, the characters and the plot. And this is considered to be his last great novel. What am I going to do when I come to, say, Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey? Or even Dante’s Divine Comedy?

I left my bookmark where I stopped, at the start of chapter 17. When I come back to it, I’ll pick up there. Maybe a cup of PG Tips would help?


A few weeks back I re-read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Written in 1883, it presents challenges to the modern reader similar to the ones I faced with “Great Expectations.” Issues of style and language were again prominent. Yet I managed to finish it and even enjoy it. Long John Silver is a character for the ages.

And I’m beginning to realize that Stevenson was a writer for the ages as well. He also wrote “Kidnapped” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, ” along with a variety of short fiction and even poetry (the delightful “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”) In poor health most of his life, he died at a young 44 years old, while working on a novel, “Weir of Hermiston.” An amazingly talented writer gone too soon.

In spite of the iron composure of his features, his eye was wild, scared, and uncertain; and when he dwelt, in private admonitions, on the future of the impenitent, it seemed as if his eye pierced through the storms of time to the terrors of eternity.

                    – from the short story “Thrawn Janet” (Thrawn; a Scottish expression meaning lacking in pleasing or attractive qualities)


One of the area’s thrift stores had a half price sale yesterday, so of course my wife and I were there. I needn’t tell you where I spent my time looking. But while exploring the religion section, I came across two novels that looked interesting: “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard, and “The Resurrectionist” by Jack O’Connell. I purchased them both.

What I want to know is why these novels were in the religion book section. Sure, the titles would suggest a connection, but a cursory look at either book would have informed the stocking person that these belonged in the fiction area. But then again, I often wonder why Joel Osteen’s books are in the religion section too.

Some things are just a mystery.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lord and the Vampire Queen

Anne Rice has certainly got range. Long before vampires became angst-ridden teen icons, Ms Rice gave us vampires that were complex, powerful and truly frightening. The vampire Lestat is a character for the ages and “Interview With the Vampire” will be around long after the “Twilight” series has faded from memory. Then she gave us a family of witches from New Orleans and an entity that gave new meaning to the term “willies.” But wait, there’s more! She also has done grand scale historical novels as well as adult erotica based on fairy tales.

Sounds like Anne is the perfect choice to write a modern, fictionalized version of the life of Christ the Lord, right? Well, yes, of course she is. And she has. Twice. “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” and “Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.” I read the first one several years ago and enjoyed it immensely. I’ve finally come across the second one and I must say I’m impressed with this as well. But why would the modern queen of the vampires write a life of Christ? It’s a fascinating story actually. Briefly, she left the Roman Catholic Church and then returned. As a result she started writing “Christian” stories, including a very short-lived series about a guardian angel. But another time for that.

My concern here is with “Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.” As the title implies, the novel takes place just before Yeshua (Jesus) is baptized by his cousin John and performs the initial sign of his ministry. The first half of the book explores his life in Nazareth with his extended family and friends. Rice continues to let Yeshua speak for himself in a first person narrative as she did in “Out of Egypt.” This is a bold approach by a confident, gifted writer and she succeeds wonderfully. Although it may seem presumptuous, who hasn’t wondered what Yeshua’s thoughts were as he approached his “introduction” to the world? Was he aware of who he was? What did he think of his family? Did he have friends?

Ms. Rice gives us a kind, soft-spoken Yeshua. A Yeshua who slips away to a private spot  to pray and meditate. A Yeshua who loves his family but is perfectly willing to disagree with and stand up to any of them should he feel it necessary. Yes, he loves a young girl, Avigail, and though he loves her he realizes he can never marry her. He (and his extended family) knows the stories told of him by his mother and step father, about the angelic visitations, his birth and the attending signs. Some of his friends and family even call him “Sinless One.” This is a very human, self-aware Yeshua, who just before his ministry begins and the world is sent reeling, thinks to himself:

And will I look back on these days, these long exhausting days, will I look back on them ever from someplace else, very far away from here, and think, Ah, these were blessed days? Will they be so tenderly remembered?

The event that prompts this poignant thought is the coming out of the wilderness of John bar Zechariah, Yeshua’s cousin, also known to us as John the Baptist. John begins baptizing at the Jordan and people flock to him, including Yeshua and his family. It takes a while to get to this point (chapter 18) but once reached the story takes off, mainly because from here we know what is coming. And it comes rapidly in Rice’s deft handling. In the last 115 pages of the novel we see the baptism of Yeshua, the temptation in the wilderness, the calling of the first disciples, including Matthew, the wedding at Cana (they were his friends) and the turning of water into wine.

The centerpiece of this final whirlwind, indeed of the whole book, is chapter 22, Yeshua’s confrontation in the desert with Satan. It is classic Anne Rice, a meeting of Good and evil as only she can render it. Appearing as a richly-dressed duplicate of Yeshua himself, Satan uses his celestial lore to try to lure the Savior of the world into his service. The dialog is crisp and quick, like this exchange:

“You know nothing of me. You have no idea! I was the firstborn of the Lord you claim as your father, you miserable beggar.”

“Careful,” I said. “If you become too angry you may dissolve in a puff of smoke.”

“This is no jest, you fledgling prophet,” he said. “I don’t come and go at whim.”

“Go at a whim,” I said. “That will be sufficient.”

The wedding at Cana is also a treat, with Rice showing us how Mary actually convinced Yeshua to turn the water into wine. (It was worthy of Jewish and Roman Catholic mothers around the world.)

The book ends with an unexpected but well deserved healing, and the promising final line: “And we started for the road.” Unfortunately, that promise will likely never be realized because Ms. Rice has again left the Church, and it’s doubtful her series “Christ, the Lord” will ever be finished. I hope I’m wrong, because this book was a wonderfully realized and well researched imagining of the Lord’s ministry at its beginning. It would be sad for it to end here.

As they say, “mysterious ways” and all that. We can pray.


Posted by on June 9, 2015 in Book Review


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s a Bucket List Anyone Can Afford

Image Courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours' Flickr Stream

Image Courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours’ Flickr Stream

Is there anybody alive who hasn’t heard of Bucket Lists, as in the bucket that shall be kicked by every one of us? I thought not. Between out-of-the-way places to visit or rare experiences to arrange, it can be very expensive to get out of this world. You may have no money left for that genuine Viking funeral you wanted. Pity.

Have no fear. Here’s a list anyone can afford, and you needn’t wait until you’re middle-aged to start. I call it the Bucket Book List. All you need is a library, a library card and a list of classic books you wish to read before meeting your Maker. Heck, they don’t even really need to be classics. Just books you’ve always wanted to read. They can be fiction or non-fiction or poetry. Read a cookbook if you’d like. And if you MUST, you can buy them if you wish.

Actually, I prefer buying. Books make wonderful companions and look marvelous in bookcases or just stacked up on a desk or the floor. And they’re a whole lot less expensive than airfare to Borneo. Or Chicago for that matter. But it’s more than the money. It’s like time-travel. Exploring the greatest stories and ideas from human history. Ideas and stories that get deep inside your mind and into your very soul. Ideas that shaped civilizations. Stories that escorted you into dreams. And still can.

I’m working on my Bucket Book list now. I am 60 after all. The Bible says I have about ten more years to go. I’m hoping for more. Whatever the actual number is, it’s past time to get going. There’s so much to read. I like both fiction and non-fiction so I’ll need two lists to start. Well, three actually. I like so-called “children’s” books. So I’ll need adult fiction, children’s fiction and non-fiction. Should I sub-divide things any further? I probably will.

For now, in fiction, I’m looking at the Divine Comedy by Dante, Paradise Lost by John  Milton, The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, of course. Oh, and don’t forget Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In non-fiction I’ve got Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization (not all 10 volumes, though), Churchill’s The History of the English Speaking Peoples and Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg. I will also be putting together a list of American classics as well as children’s classics. I’ve got some work ahead of me.

So what do you think out there? Does this sound like a good idea? Let me know what you think. Tell me what books you’d put on your list. Or give me a few additions for my own. I’ll keep you posted as I develop this further.





Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Uncategorized, What I'm Reading


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,