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Monday Musings

I’ve been having pretty good luck with the book hunting lately, but I was exceptionally fortunate this past Saturday at my local library’s ongoing book sale. I found a beautiful copy, in excellent condition, of “Ivanhoe,” by  Sir Walter Scott. This hardbound edition put out by the The Heritage Club (The Heritage Press, 1950) includes the original slipcase and a copy of the Heritage Club newsletter, “Sandglass,” which goes over some of the more interesting historical notes about the novel.

“Ivanhoe” was published in 1819 and became Scott’s crowning success. I haven’t read it before, but according to the “Sandglass” insert, it’s a true swashbuckler and includes two of my all-time favorite characters: Locksley (AKA Robin Hood) and Friar Tuck. How they got in there I have no idea, but I’ll let you know when I find out. I don’t remember any Ivanhoe being in “The Adventures of Robin Hood!”

Also interesting is the fact that Scott raised some eyebrows by including Jews as prominent characters in his novel, which at that time was considered “startling, exotic.” The character of Rebecca was based on a real Jewish American Tory named Rebecca Franks who lived in Philadelphia during the Revolution. Being a Tory, after the rebels won America’s independence, Rebecca and her family were evacuated to England where she eventually met Scott. The rest, as they say.

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The Wall Street Journal had an excellent Books section this past weekend. I was particularly interested in two reviews.

First off, the Library of America has just published a two-volume set, “The Little House Books” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The set puts together all nine of the Little House books plus special supplemental texts for a total of 1,490 pages. The timing on this review was perfect, considering I had just done a brief spotlight post on Wilder’s “Writings to Young Women” about a week back. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a wonderful writer and a real American icon, who wrote these books for children so that they would understand “what it is that made America as they know it.”

Something that all too many people today seem to have forgotten.

The other review of interest was about Jonathan Sacks’ new book, “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning,” (Schocken, 370 pages, $28.95). Sacks, the chief rabbi of the Untied Kingdom, has a go at the currently flaring battle between science and religion. I find this topic fascinating, though I expect neither side will win a final victory. I know where I stand, and I’m sure that Richard Dawkins knows where he stands, but I don’t see either of us changing our minds any time soon. But it is fun to watch the volleys each side lofts at the other. Ah, the bombs bursting in air!

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Finally, I received the advance copy of “The Core of Johnny Appleseed” a few days back. This is the book I wrote the Foreword to. It’s beautiful, if I say so myself.

It’s scheduled to be released on November 1st. Here’s the link to the Amazon listing for those who are interested.

Thanks and have a great week all!

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Book Hunting, History, Old Books, Uncategorized

 

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Book Hunt Results and Some Thoughts

Book Hunt Results and Some Thoughts

Thank goodness for my local library. When the Old Book Junkie needs a fix, he knows where he can go. It paid off nicely this past Saturday.

I found something I’ve been looking for for quite a while; a volume of the collected stories of Edgar Allan Poe. “Edgar Allan Poe Stories: Twenty-seven Thrilling Tales by the Master of Suspense” (Platt & Munk, 1961) has what most Poe fans would expect like The Telltale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Murders in the Rue Morgue. But it also has a story called Metzengerstein, about the transmigration of souls (brownie points for those who know the difference between transmigration and reincarnation!) The volume ends with a nice selection of his poetry.

I also snagged a copy of “Tozer on the Holy Spirit” (Christian Publications, Inc., 2000). It’s “a 366-Day Devotional” which includes a daily scripture reading, extended passages from A.W. Tozer‘s best books as well as quotes from other authors. This will be a welcome addition to my mornings!

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One of my favorite Sunday activities is going over the book reviews in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. This weekend, however, reminded me of why I prefer older books.

Some of the books reviewed included books about small behaviors such as yawning and sneezing, books about natural versus technological navigation and books about the future of cities. Now I’m sure these are all fine books, but there wasn’t a big idea to be found anywhere. Our culture seems to become more self-absorbed with each passing year. We’re fascinated with our smallest of behaviors, with how we do this or do that, how we created our technological wonders, where we live and how we’ll live in that great promised-land called the “Future.”

It all seems a bit superficial to me somehow. Maybe it was just a slow publishing week.

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It wasn’t a totally negative WSJ Weekend, however. There was a great piece in the Off Duty section of the paper called “E-Books, A Breakup” by Joshua Fruhlinger. Well written and funny, Joshua cuts to the heart of the matter with one succinct sentence: “I realized then: E-readers are needy, but a paperback will always be there for you.”

Right on, Joshua!

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A while back I wrote about my experience writing the foreword to “The Core of Johnny Appleseed”. For those of you interested, here’s a link to the book as it appears in the Christian Bookstore. Go check it out!

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Authors, Book Hunting, E-Readers, Ideas, Old Books

 

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“Foreword!” He Wrote

Advance Sample Excerpt of “The Core of Johnny Appleseed” by Ray Silverman

No, I didn’t just misspell a political slogan.

The title of this post is a shameless ploy to get your attention so I can share a story with you. I hope this little tale will offer a bit of encouragement, especially to my fellow bloggers out there. If you’re not a blogger, well, you’ll see that blessings can drop into your lap when you least expect it.

Back in the middle of June I did a book review of “Better Known As Johnny Appleseed,” by Mabel Leigh Hunt. Two days after I posted it, I received a comment from a gentleman named Ray Silverman, who was working on a new book about Johnny Appleseed. He wrote that he enjoyed my writing and wanted to know if I would like to write the Foreword to his new book.

After I ran a virus scan and rebooted my computer to make sure this wasn’t some glitch, I emailed Professor Silverman and told him I’d love to do it. When he received the OK from his executive editor at Swedenborg Foundation Press, my work began. About 850 words and a couple of edits later, I was finished. The photo you see above is an “Advance Sample Excerpt” of the book used to promote it before publication. Amazingly, my Foreword is included in it.

So how did Professor Silverman find my review? It seems his editor was surfing information about Johnny Appleseed, came across my blog post and forwarded it to him. Which shows that you just never know who may be out there in internet-land reading your words, and you never know what the next comment will bring.

Keep writing. Keep posting.

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If you have any interest in American history or folklore, I highly recommend “The Core of Johnny Appleseed.” Ray Silverman examines in-depth a side of Johnny that most authors overlook: his faith.

While many people know that Johnny was Christian, they don’t know that he was a Swedenborgian, a member of the New Church. In fact, he was one of their greatest missionaries. Professor Silverman is also a Swedenborgian and a teacher of New Church theology. Because of this, he can shed a light into Johnny’s psychology that others simply overlook or willfully ignore.

More importantly to me, Dr. Silverman is combating something I call Speculative Revisionism, where an author or historian tries to change the meaning or context of history based on their own speculations. Guesses really. A lot of times this serves no further purpose than to help them sell books or appear on talk shows. A good example of this is another book about Johnny Appleseed recently published in which the author concluded that John Chapman was basically insane and compared him to a homeless person on the streets.

His book got great reviews.

Again, if you like American history or folklore and wish to read something insightful rather than speculative, I highly recommend you get a copy of “The Core of Johnny Appleseed” by Ray Silverman. It is scheduled to be published this November by Swedenborg Foundation Press in an affordable paperback edition. Dr. Silverman’s writing is clear and straightforward and you will gain insight not only into an American legend but also into a faith that many know nothing about.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Authors, Blogs, Book Review

 

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Opportunity Knocks and Other Things

appleseed

appleseed (Photo credit: mike r baker)

Hello, Folks! Sorry I’ve been remiss on posting the last few days, but something has come up. Something good.    Remember the book review I did on “Better Known as Johnny Appleseed?” Well, as a result of that review I’ve been recruited to do a bit of writing on another Johnny Appleseed book. It’s not a long piece, but I am under a deadline. So, for the next week postings will be sparse. I apologize, but this is a great opportunity and I want to do the best job I can. I’ll tell you all more when I can.

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In other news, I’m still turning pages on that novel “The Darwin Conspiracy.” I’m now on page 135 and I still am no closer to figuring out what the conspiracy is all about. Heck, I’m having trouble figuring out what this book is about.

There are three story-lines running along here. First, the adventure of Charles on the Beagle as he prepares to make history. Second, the investigation of Darwin’s family life by Hugh and Beth, researchers from our own time. Third, excerpts from a diary kept by one of Darwin’s daughters in the back of a financial ledger, which for some unknown reason no one has ever seen before. Yeah, right.

I don’t know what is worse, the dialog between Hugh and Beth, postmodern caricatures or the incessant whining of dear old Charles. Talk about your dysfunctional family head. The only interesting and intelligent voice in this book is Darwin’s daughter, Lizzie. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get as much time as the others.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep turning pages on this thing. If someone were to drop me a comment with the ending and spare me the labor of reading “The Darwin Conspiracy” to the conclusion, I would not be at all upset. So . . .

. . . please?

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Book Review, Notices, What I'm Reading

 

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‘will you have news right fresh from heaven?’

Johnny Appleseed, Harper’s New Monthly Magazin...

Johnny Appleseed, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1871 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So who said that? Pat Robertson? Max Lucado? Rick Warren?

BUZZ!

That quote comes from a Mr. John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. That also happens to be the name of the book I’ve been reading the last week or so. “Better Known As Johnny Appleseed,” by Mabel Leigh Hunt (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1950) is a charming little book that I picked up many years ago and am finally getting around to reading.

For as long as I can remember, American folklore has always captured my imagination. I couldn’t swear to it, but it may have been Walt Disney Studios’ marvelous animated features of these great tales that started my life-long interest in them.

These folk stories, or “tall tales” as they’re sometimes called, are more than fanciful yarns made up to kill time or establish bragging rights around a frontier campfire. They can tell us much about the spirit and character of our nation and its people when both were young. If you doubt that, consider what the television programs streaming into American living rooms each night can tell us about our current culture. A people’s stories are windows into their hearts.

The tales of Johnny Appleseed are among my very favorites. Perhaps this is because Johnny was a living, breathing human being who was born about the same time as our country and wandered unhindered through the land at a time when the national imagination was limitless. As Mabel Leigh Hunt beautifully states in the preface to her book:

The panorama of Johnny Appleseed’s life and legend is like a delicate old tapestry, its fabric worn with age and much handling, its fabulous leaves and flowers and fruits, its beasts and men ofttimes undiscernible, its fantastic story not quite clear. It is rich and humorous and lovely. It could never be anything but American.

Cleverly arranging historical sketches and a collection of tales, “Better Known As Johnny Appleseed” is divided into three sections: The Seeds, The Fruit and The Harvest. The first and third parts give us the facts of John Chapman’s life and bookend the tales by which we have come to know him.

He was born on September 26th, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts. His father, Nathanael, was a “Continentaler” and fought in the Revolutionary War. His mother, Elizabeth, died when he was but two. Closed to history but open to conjecture is the origin of Johnny’s love of apples and nature. He was also very religious, a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg. As did many in the young country, Johnny caught the “western fever” and in 1792, along with his half-brother Nathanael, he headed west.

Of course “west” back then didn’t mean Texas or Arizona:

The West was the Wyoming and Lebanon valleys and a web of streams that led to the great westward-flowing highway of the Ohio. . . The West was aching farewell and perilous adventure, hardship and hope and faith. It was a great dream. And the heart of it was a freedom such as men had never known before.

It was in the West that John Chapman became Appleseed John and ultimately Johnny Appleseed. The nine tales that make up “The Fruit” of the book are, as Mabel Leigh Hunt tells us, “based upon both truth and tradition.” They not only show us a young man becoming a legend, but a country becoming a nation.

There’s the story of Andrew McIlvain, 13 years old and carrying the United States mail between Franklinton and Chillicothe in Ohio. Johnny meets him on the lonely road and shares tales and news. Or Zack Miller, 18 years old and the youngest of four government scouts during the War of 1812. They run across Johnny in northern Ohio and he warns them not to hunt game because “the report of a gun will bring the Indians a-swarming out of their hidings.” They ignore him and barely escape the peril that comes.

What shines through in these stories isn’t the amazing feats that Johnny performed; he wasn’t Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill. What he was, however, was a true American character. He wandered alone through the American wilderness wearing old worn clothing or burlap bags, mismatched shoes, a cooking pot on his head (yes, really) and absolutely no gun. The pioneers and farmers who came to know him relied on him sometimes for news, sometimes for preaching and always for a sampling from his “bag of stories.” His kindness and generosity to people and animals alike were well-known on the frontier. As Hunt notes, “Johnny was legendary in the minds of men while he still moved among them.”

On March 18, 1845, in an old Indian hut near Fort Wayne, Indiana, John Chapman passed away. A few days later the Fort Wayne Sentinel ran a notice:

Dies . . . in this neighborhood, at an advanced age, Mr. John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed). The deceased was well-known throughout this region by his eccentricity, and (his) strange garb . . . He submitted to every privation with cheerfulness and content, believing that in so doing he was securing snug quarters hereafter . . .

Johnny Appleseed lived a life almost perfectly suited to a new country born for freedom. Reading the stories of his comings and goings, one gets a small sense of the overwhelming experience of freedom the people of this new nation must have had.

I pray that some tiny part of that experience still flows through the American bloodstream.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Book Review, Old Books, What I'm Reading

 

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