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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3 Excerpts

I'm a reader. You may have already reached that conclusion. I'm always reading something.  When I go out of town I pack books.  I read books, newspapers, magazines and the sides of cereal boxes.  I don't like having to drive long distances because I can't read and hold the steering wheel (not safely, anyway). 

And usually I'm reading more than one book at a time.  Currently I am in the middle of three very different books, two fiction and one non-fiction.  Here is a brief excerpt from each:

Moby Dick or The White Whale by Herman Melville

"Haul in the chains! Let the carcase go astern!"  The vast tackles have now done their duty.  The peeled white body of the beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulchre; though changed in hue, it has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk.  It is still colossal.  Slowly it floats more and more away, the water round it torn and splashed by the insatiable sharks, and the air above vexed with rapacious flights of screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so many insulting poniards in the whale.  The vast white headless phantom floats further and further from the ship, and every rod that it so floats, what seem square roods of sharks and cubic roods of fowls, augment the murderous din.  For hours and hours from the almost stationary ship that hideous sight is seen.  Beneath the unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face of the pleasant sea, wafted by the joyous breezes, the great mass of death floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives.
Did you realize that Melville's great American novel is actually based on two "ripped from the headline" events? Melville used the the sinking of the Nantucket ship Essex, in 1820 after it was rammed by a large sperm whale 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America, and the alleged killing in the late 1830s of the albino sperm whale Mocha Dick, in the waters off the coast of Chile. Mocha Dick had been impaled by dozens of harpoons from attacks by other whalers, and appeared to attack ships with a premeditated ferocity.  

This is a wonderful book.

A Royal "Waste" of Time: the Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World by Marva J. Dawn

Please do not think ... that I am advocating a wooden traditionalism.  Jaroslav Pelikan's distinction is forever apt that traditionalism is the dead faith of the living, whereas tradition is the living faith of the dead.  In the worship controversies between the "traditionalists" and the "contemporaryists," I am opposed to both polarities.  I want the best from both sides, since the Church's treasure house is filled with both new and old.  Since our congregations are linked to all God's people throughout space and time, we need continuity with our heritage and constant reformation using faithful new forms and words and musical styles.
Marva Dawn is one of my favorite authors.  I mentioned her and this book in a post a couple of days ago.  Her book Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down (to which Waste of Time is a sequel) was the first of her books that I read. It was one of the text books for a class.  Several of my friends who were also in that class and read the book complained about it. It was too "heady" too "intellectual".  Dawn wants the Church to think carefully about its worship of God and for the Church to avoid a sloppy, sentimental, feel good kind of worship - which isn't worship - or not worship of God, but of ourselves.  So she encourages the use of critical thinking applied to worship.  And I completely agree.  Let's have no more trivial worship.

Diary by Chuch Palahniuk

Misty says, "Mother Wilmot, we need to talk"
And Grace turns back a couple of pages and says, "Oh dear.  My mistake.  You won't have that terrible headache until the day after tomorrow."
And Misty leans into her face and says, "How dare you set my child up to have her heart broken?"
Grace looks up from her book, her face loose and hanging with surprise.  Her chin is tucked down so hard her neck is squashed into folds from ear to ear.  Her superficial musculaponeruatic system.  Her submental fat.  The wrinkled platysmal bands around her neck.
Misty says, "Where do you get off telling Tabbi that I'm going to be a famous artist?"  She looks around, and they're still alone, and Misty says, "I'm a waitress, and I'm keeping a roof over our heads, and that's good enough.  I don't want you filling my kid with expectations that I can't fulfill."  The last of her breath tight in her chest, Misty says, "Do you see how this will make me look?"
And a smooth, wide smile flows across Grace's mouth, and she says, "But Misty, the truth is you will be famous."
Grace's smile, it's a curtain parting.  An opening night.  It's Grace unveiling herself.
And Misty says, "I won't."  She says, "I can't"  She's just a regular person who's going to live and die ignored, obscure. Ordinary.  That's not such a tragedy.
Written as a "coma diary" - a record of the events endured by Misty during the time her husband, Peter, slept in a coma after a failed suicide attempt - the diary describes the life of Misty who was once a promising young artist but is now middle aged single parent trapped on the once-quaint-now-overrun-with-tourists Waytansea Island, working as a hotel maid.  But this is a horror story and there's something darker going on that Misty can't see.  She's being prepared for something she may not want.

Palahniuk isn't a writer for everyone.  His subject matter is always at the edge of taboo (oftentimes, over the edge).  He writes from the dark borderlands of human experience, but even there in those desperate and lonely and dangerous places there is a longing for something transcendent, something real, something capital T True. 

Like his novels, Fight Club and Choke, Diary  has been developed as a screenplay and, at some point, may become a movie.

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