Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In Psearch of Psyche: Man the Vegetable


Psyche in search of you.

Quick Recap

This series began with a brief reflection on a comment made by Thomas Disch shortly before his tragic suicide. Disch had said that to "deepen his fiction into art," he would have to return to Catholicism, which he was unwilling to do. Wondering what Disch might have meant by this, and rereading (for the first time since college) Robert Brennan's text Thomstic Psychology, TOF speculated that he might have meant a "thicker," more insightful depiction of characters, for the modern view of human nature is astonishingly thin. You have no will, no mind, not even a self.

Jody Bottum, to whom the remark was made, informed TOF that the remark was more broadly meant:

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Circle of Life

SAMBBITU and her Nana
A few days back TOF was recruited into a rescue expedition. The TOFish granddaughter formerly known as the SAMBBITU* had obtained discount tickets to Great Adventures park and was taking her boyfriend and her two young brothers to the park. Alas, she had gotten only a few miles into the wilds of New Jersey -- just past Exit 6 on I-78 -- when her car stopped running. This is always a bad sign, and worse when you are already driving it. She was able to pull over to the shoulder and coast to a stop. She sent up the bat-signal, and The Incomparable Marge immediately did her Thing -- i.e., helping people. She hopped into the TOFmobile, with TOF in the right hand seat, and headed for the scene. TOF was along because someone might need to stay with the car and wait for the tow while she drove everyone else to the theme park.
(*) SAMBBITU: Smartest and Most Beautiful Baby in the Universe.

But when the grisly scene was approached, the flatbed tow truck was already mise-en-scène and ready to haul car. TOF at this point proved superfluous and was seconded to ride back with the truck on detached duty. To get home from the auto repair shop, he would have to call Pere for a pick up.

TOF climbed into the cab -- Those steps are steep! -- and the driver, disinclined to go to the next exit when he was just past this one, pulled the truck up and over the curbs and down onto the exit ramp.

As we entered the curve, the circle of life -- the part they don't show you on The Lion King -- played itself out before us.

Raptor en rapport
© Will J. Sooter Sharpeyesonline, CA, January 2009
The streetlamps along the interstate are the goose-neck sort that arch out over the road. They provide a superb view of the terrain below and have become a favored stalking site for the local red-tail hawks. As we drove down the ramp, an aforesaid red-tail hawk swooped down across the ramp and into the grass on the left side of the road. It paused a moment, then with a beat of its mighty wings it soared once more into the air with something in its claws. Raptors-1, Vermin-0.

The ones TOF sees are always atop the
lamp itself, looking forward to a meal.
TOF has often seen these sentinels of pest control, perching statuesquely atop the ends of the lamp arms, but this is the first time he has seen one on the job, as it were.

The driver was a fan of the hawk, despite Disney-conditioning to root for the vermin. TOF suggested that he was much like the hawk, swooping in to pluck cars from the roadside. Except that the mice seldom called upon the hawks to come and get 'em.

The driver then ruminated on time travel (sic!) and opined that he would like to go back to a time when life was simpler and more hassle-free. The late 1970s or early 1980s! He settled on the Reagan years.

TOF, having spent time there himself, was grieved to inform him that the 70s and the 80s were not so simple and hassle-free. For one thing, there was disco. The driver accepted this philosophically, and allowed as there was no golden age. TOF thought silently that neither was there time travel. So among the many things that life does, it does not circle.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Woe for Nineveh

David Warren poses a thought-experiment:

The area and population of the territory the “Caliphate” now controls in Syria and Iraq being currently roughly equal to that controlled by the government of Israel, let us imagine what the “coverage” would be, had the Israelis told all Muslims to run for their lives; had they announced that everything Muslims owned now belonged to the Israeli government; and that any Muslim still found within Israel’s de facto borders after twenty-four hours would be put to the sword. Questions:
  • Do you think this story might make the front page?
  • Do you think the media would seek more information?
  • Do you think the matter might remain news for more than one day?

Now, what sort of coverage did the story actually get when it was muslims acting so to the Christians in Nineheh? "It would seem that for the first time in more than eighteen centuries, there are no Christians in Mosul..."  The Assyrian Church is being harried out of its homeland by the Arab invaders.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Surprise Visit

The Lehigh Valley Express-Times runs one of those "On This Day in History" things, including 100, 50, and 25 years ago today in the Express and/or the Globe-Times, its ancestral papers.

In today's paper was this:
50 years ago today
1964: Just in from Virginia City: "Dennis Flynn, 15, a patient in Easton Hospital since June 30, is a staunch follower of television's 'Bonanza.' This morning he got a close look at one of the stalwarts of the Ponderosa. Little Joe Cartwright (Michael Landon), youngest of the Ponderosa brothers, strode into the hospital room, sank to one knee beside the bed and told Dennis about big Hoss Cartwright. 'You know how much he weighs?' he said wonderingly. 'Three hundred pounds. And he's six feet four, any way you want to measure him.' There was more talk of the Ponderosa. Then a big brown hand grasped a small white hand. 'Take care of yourself, Dennis,' said Little Joe. The tall tanned visitor then walked to the elevator. Dennis is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Flynn, 518 Folk St. Little Joe was brought to Easton by Ann Brewster, of Hess's department store."
Landon had been making an appearance at Hess' Dept. Store in Allentown, which was in those days the "Macy's" of the Lehigh Valley. The woman who had arranged it knew my mother and mentioned that Dennis was in the hospital with terminal cancer. Landon immediately set out to pay the visit. His picture was taken by the newspaper at Dennis' bedside, but he never so far as I know exploited the visit for publicity. (The article as above and a picture of him kneeling at the bedside ran in a small-town paper that evening. We have a copy of the picture, autographed for Dennis.) Dennis was surprised and delighted by the visit. "Thanks a lot," he said. It was an unaffectedly kind act on Landon's part, and one for which I always afterward had a good opinion of him. He didn't have to do it, and no one would have known if he hadn't.

Bro K obtained a scanned image of the page:

That was fifty years ago today. Dennis would be 64 later this year, but he never reached 16.  He had four more days to live.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just in Case You Thought It Was Something New

    War always brings with it an increased price of necessary living
commodities. The War of 1812 was no exception to this inflexible consequence.
Sugar reached thirty-five cents a pound, coffee was forty cents, and all classes
of cotton and woolen goods commanded prices as high in proportion. ...
  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Life and Times of the Venus Fly-Trap

Co-editors of The Crusader(1964-65)
For this week's literary gem over on the Story Preview page, TOF reaches deep into the receding past and finds clutched in his hot little hands his very first published story: "The Life and Times of the Venus Fly-Trap," which appeared in The Crusader No.1, Fall 1964. That's right, it was TOF's high school literary magazine, in the issue of which he placed not one, but two stories! The fix was in, for he was especially close to one of the two co-editors.  (See right. Note that HS students in those days knew how to dress themselves. We carried brief cases, not back packs. In short, we were going to our "jobs" not to "play.")
"Editors" is too fine a point. The problem was actually to gin up enough material to fill 29 digest-sized pages. It was less a matter of winnowing submissions than it was begging for them. Hence, the two stories in one edition -- just to fill the page count.


The fly-trap story is reproduced in its original splendor. Only an illo has been added to spruce it up.

(The second story in that issue had the unassuming title "Sam" and concerned an individual reincarnated in age after age. Maybe TOF will do that one later.)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First Way, Some Background

Sr. M. Amelia, IHM
explicator of logical thought,
or else.
Sr. Amelia: And so, class, as we see from Postulate 9 and Axioms 6 and 2, supplements of the same angle are equal. Yes, Billy?
Billy: But, Sister, I don't see how this proves that a point equidistant from the endpoints of a line segment lies on the perpendicular bisector of the line segment!
Sr. Amelia: It doesn't, Billy. That comes later. Now class, let us proceed to showing that the vertical angles of two intersecting lines are equal.
Billy: But, Sister! How will that show that a point equidistant from the endpoints of a line segment lies on the perpendicular bisector of the line segment!
Sr. Amelia: You must have patience, Billy. You can't prove everything all at once, so you must prove something first.
Over on Briggs' place a discussion of the so-called Argument from Motion is being served up piecemeal, literally a paragraph at a time. Thus, by the time the esteemed Statistician to the Stars completes his Herculean labors, the final proof will be obvious, inasmuch as the Second Coming (and/or Heat Death of the Universe) will have taken place and all will see clearly and not as through a glass, darkly.