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review 2017-10-07 18:29
Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories, by Herman Melville
Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories (Penguin Classics Edition) - Peter M. Coviello,Herman Melville

Well that took me long enough! I've been desperate to read some horror, but these Melville stories have been hit and miss, his prose sometimes impenetrable. This is my second encounter with Melville (I read Moby Dick some years ago), and it's been a while. I was prompted to pick up this collection of his shorter works by recent references to both "Bartleby" and Billy Budd.

 

I began with "Bartleby, the Scrivener," which turned out to be my favorite. Melville is an excellent comic writer, and this portrait of a law office made me laugh out loud. Yet it's also incredibly poignant. The narrator is a lawyer who hires Bartleby as a scrivener (a copier); Bartleby joins three other employees, hilariously nicknamed Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut. Bartleby goes about his copying, but when the lawyer asks him to read aloud his copy to proofread, he simply says he "prefers not to." From this point he "prefers" not to do all sorts of things, including leave when his boss attempts to fire him. The lawyer is non-confrontational and fancies himself a good man to the point where he actually changes the location of his office to avoid dealing with Bartleby (who is also found to be living there) further. Yet the problem of Bartleby persists.

 

Why does Bartleby "prefer not" to comply with requests made of him? Melville does not offer a black-and-white answer. The introduction likens Bartleby to a Wall Street occupier, someone who occupies spaces of capitalism without using them for that end, but the quote I found most insightful describes Bartleby as a man of preferences rather than assumptions. How much does our daily behavior and actions depend upon assumptions? As with other Melville works, a queer reading of the text is also possible: the relationship between the lawyer and Bartleby involves exchanges and behavior not dissimilar to those made in romantic partnerships.

 

The stories I liked next best were "The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles" and "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids." The former is a series of sketches by a sailor who has been to the Galapagos Islands; some sketches are more engaging than others. The language in the first few is lovely as Melville describes the hostile, lonely island landscape. The latter is a pair of tales told by the same American narrator, first in London then New England--a lawyer's club and paper mill, respectively. These are apparently based on Melville's own travels. I preferred the second piece, which I read as feminist and potentially Marxist. There's some fantastic prose detailing the paper machine, the women, and their work. 

 

There are five other stories, but the last I'll mention is the novella, Billy Budd, which Melville was working on at the time of his death. It's become key evidence for those who feel Melville may have been bisexual or simply held progressive views on gender and sexuality. Billy Budd is a "Handsome Sailor" who is conscripted to serve on a British naval ship. Everyone likes him, as he's pretty and good-natured. But one (also good looking) sailor envies his beauty and goodness, and it leads to tragedy. The most interesting thing about this tale for me was the fact that this is a story often told about women, to illustrate their vanity, jealousies, and pettiness or cattiness. In this context, in a time after two serious mutinies and during hostilities between Britain and France, such personal jealousy results in catastrophe.

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review 2017-09-03 18:32
The Discreet Hero, Mario Vargas Llosa, trans. Edith Grossman
The Discreet Hero: A Novel - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman

This book put me in a bind: while I found the story and characters engaging, fun, even, there are aspects that offended me. As I read, I would wonder: "Is this attitude or behavior endorsed by the author, or just described by him in depicting this place and these personalities?" By the end, I decided that there are definite ideologies at work here, including the beliefs that when it comes to family, blood is all; that the younger generation is responsible for squandering the hard work of their parents'; and the conservative viewpoint that if one only works hard enough, one can be successful. Other troubling attitudes that are questioned by characters but nevertheless feel condoned by the narrative: blaming victims of rape or sexual coercion; treating women as objects; racism; masculine pride as more important than the lives of loved ones.

 

After I finished the book, I read several reviews as I tried to work out my opinion of it. These mention that Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature but that this may not be his best work; that he used to be a social progressive but became a conservative who ran for president of Peru; that some characters appear in other books of his; that some elements are based on real events and his own life.

 

The book is divided between two alternating and converging narratives with separate protagonists, both fitting the "discreet hero" label of the title. The stories take place in two different areas of Peru, one Lima, one provincial, and their plots appear to have no connection. When they link up, it's very satisfying, even though the connection is quite minor. Each plot has elements of a mystery-thriller that propel the story; I found it hard to put down. The characters are often charming and easy to root for (until they're not). In story one, a man who worked his way up from nothing and owns a transport company is anonymously threatened unless he pays for protection; he refuses. In story two, a man on the verge of retirement and a long-awaited trip with his wife and son finds his life upheaved when his wealthy boss decides to marry his servant to punish his errant sons; at the same time, the protagonist's teenaged son is being approached by a mysterious stranger who may or may not be real, the devil, an angel, or just the kid fucking with his parents (this last mystery is left ambiguous).

 

Other elements I enjoyed included the relationship between the second protagonist and his wife, his feelings about art's role in life, the police sergeant from the first story, and learning about Peruvian life across two settings.

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review 2017-08-22 04:58
Hearts of Purpose: Real Life Stories from Ordinary Women
Hearts of Purpose: Real life stories from ordinary women doing extraordinary things for the glory of God. (The Call) - Gail G Nordskog

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Title: Hearts of Purpose: Real Life Stories from Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things for the Glory of God.
Author: Gail G. Nordskog
Publisher: Nordskog Publishing
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Hearts of Purpose: Real Life Stories from Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things for the Glory of God" by Gail G. Nordskog

My Thoughts......from this wonderful read...where each author brings their story alive.

These were beautifully written stories about ten women on their remarkable journeys that made a 'great impression' on Gail Grace Nordfskog as well as to its readers.

I will introduce each other and offer up a discussion question. Now, you will have to pick up this good read to see for yourself and be able to answer the questions that are offered up at the end of each ones section of their story.

First we have Chapter one with Mary Ann Ambroselli whose main focus was on 'Counseling on Keeping PreBorn Babies Alive.
Discussion Question: This one caught my eye...Mary Ann suffered many losses in her family. Have you ever wondered where God is when tragedy strikes?

Second Chapter we visit with Cindy Reynolds whose main forcus was 'Ministry to Orphans in Linjiang.
Discussion Question:What does this mean "If you depend upon Jesus, your enemy will become your Friend? I found this quite interesting!

Chapter Three...Audrey Forster whose focus was 'Worldwide Adoptions and Aid to Orphans.
Discussion Question: When you reflect on your talents and gifts, what do they include?

Chapter Four: Patricia Blanco Steele focus on: Transforming the Lives of Abused Women and Children
Discussion Question: In reading Trisha's thoughts on "Love," which items impact you the most?

Chapter Five: Julie Dawson Focus: To Bring Healing to the Nations through the Multiplication of Medical Ships and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To Disciple Nations through Evangelism and the Multiplication of Leadership Schools for the South Pacific ad Asia
Discussion Question: Do you believe that "all things work together for good: Romans 8:28

Chapter Six: Lisa Shidler focus: Helping and Training Special Needs Orphans
Discussion Question: In reading about special needs children, what stands out in your mind about them?

Chapter Seven: Marilyn Pulis Minister, Ordained by the Assemblies of God Pulis Ministries
Focus on: Spreading the Gospel
Discussion Question: When was the first time you felt the presence of the Lord?

Chapter Eight: Lili Vaehr: CFO, MovieGuide & Good News Communications Inc.
Focus on: Biblical Guide to Movies and Entertainment
Discussion Question: Instead of a question here I would like to just add Lil's Five Don'ts to Help You Succeed in Parenting, Marriage and Life..

Don't Create Your Walls
Don't Wait
Don't Compartmentalize
Don't Be Afraid
Don't Quit

Chapter Nine: Nita Hanson Director, God's Hidden Treasures
Focus on: Bringing Hope to the Forgotten
Discussion Question: Have you ever felt that you are a "mistake?"

Chapter Ten: Sharon Daly President, The Mossy Foot Project, Ethiopia
Focus on: Providing Mossy Foot Patients with Support through Education, Prevention, Medical Treatment, Vocational Training and a Message of Hope
Discussion Question: I loved this one coming from the read....

"I have been in every moment of your past,
My hand formed you
I am with your now.
I will be with you in the future.
All tomorrows are in My hands.
Trust Me daily.
Trust Me moment by moment.
I am your life and your portion.
Trust me for everything.
I will never leave you or let you down?"

All that is left to say after reading and absorbing it all from these wonderful well written stories is to thank this author for presenting such a good reads to the readers. I didn't know when I picked this read that I was about to receive so much from each one of the stories that will truly stay with me forever. I even tried to pick a favorite one but couldn't because each one of the reads touched me in different ways.

I loved the 'Two Pertinent Devotions in Closing from New Every Morning from the author of this book: Gail Grace Nordskog.... A Daily Devotional Glorify the Lord....Oh, magnify the Lord, with me, and let us exalt His name together. [Psalms 34:3] and If God Be For Us...When then shall we say to these things? If god is for us, who can be against us? [Romans 8:31]

Thank you to the author and WNL for sending me your novel for me to give my honest opinion of its read. These were truly "Real-life stories about ten ordinary women doing extraordinary things for the Glory of God."

 

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review 2017-07-26 18:01
The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects - Barbara G. Walker

A wonderful work on the study of symbols and sacred objects as they relate to the female. It's an excellent companion to the marvelous "The Book Of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images" offering insight on the feminine roots of many of our symbols.

 

Just as an example, one such symbol is the fish, widely accepted to be the symbol of Christianity, but which is actually FAR older. Ichthys was the offspring of the ancient Sea goddess Atargatis, and was known in various mythic systems as Tirgata, Aphrodite, Pelagia, or Delphine. The word also meant "womb" and "dolphin" in some tongues, and representations of this appeared in the depiction of mermaids. The fish is also a central element in other stories, including the Goddess of Ephesus, as well as the tale of the fish of the Nile that swallowed part of Osiris' body (the penis), and was also considered a symbol of the sexuality of Isis for she had sexual intercourse with Osiris after his death which resulted in the conception and birth of his posthumous son, Harpocrates, Horus-the-child. So, in pagan beliefs, the fish is a symbol of birth and fertility.

 

Before Christianity adopted the fish symbol, it was known by pagans as "the Great Mother", and "womb". Its link to fertility, birth, and the natural force of women was acknowledged also by the Celts, as well as pagan cultures throughout northern Europe.

The Romans called the goddess of sexual fertility by the name of Venus. And thus it is from the name of the goddess Venus that our modern words "venereal" and "venereal disease" have come. Friday was regarded as her sacred day, because it was believed that the planet Venus ruled the first hour of Friday and thus it was called dies Veneris. And to make the significance complete, the fish was also regarded as being sacred to her. The similarities between the two, would indicate that Venus and Freya were originally one and the same goddess and that original being the mother-goddess of Babylon.

 

The same association of the mother goddess with the fish-fertility symbol is evidenced among the symbols of the goddess in other forms also. The fish was regarded as sacred to Ashtoreth, the name under which the Israelites worshiped the pagan goddess. And in ancient Egypt, Isis is represented with a fish on her head.

Great stuff. Wonderful for those of us who do dream work, and who look for the deep plumb line of the Sacred that runs through all time, all people, and all place. More evidence the world is full of wonder, magic, and miracle.

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review 2017-07-17 18:35
Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie
Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie

This is my first Alexie and not my last. I'm struggling with what to say about it and how because somehow this not-huge novel feels like it's packed in everything about Indian (as they refer to themselves) culture with its focus on a particular reservation and a rock band's steep rise and fall. It does so with deadpan humor and a mix of the fantastic and real that calls to mind magical realism but is distinctive. It's necessarily sad yet not depressing--there's the humor, and there's wonder and hope. There's not an insignificant or uncharismatic character in the book. I feel like I've taken a long, strange trip with them and wish them well.

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