Thursday, April 26, 2018

“The Book of Mirrors” by E.O. Chirovici

A literary agent receives a partial manuscript, a memoir of a period at Princeton University from 20 years before. The manuscript, by a man named Richard Flynn, concerns a professor, Joseph Weider, who was murdered at the time. The case was never solved. Weider was rumored to be involved in a secret government project involving memory and was preparing a manuscript of his studies for publication. The manuscript disappeared and was never found.

The literary agent, Peter Katz, is intrigued enough to hire a freelance journalist, John Keller, who begins to track down the principal players in the Weider story. The author of the partial memoir, a student at the time who was working on fiction and was helping Weider catalog his library, has died of lung cancer since sending his manuscript to the agent. Weider’s student assistant, Laura Baines, is a housemate of Flynn who introduces him to Weider. Then there is the handyman, someone who suffered a memory blackout after killing his wife and spent time in a psychiatric hospital under Weider’s supervision.

Keller takes his reporting investigation as far as it can go. But he inspires the original but now retired investigating police detective, Roy Freeman, to pick up the case. Freeman has recently learned he’s in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Book of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici was something of a literary sensation when it was first published in Britain. The author is a native Romanian who had published 10 detective novels in his native language. He now lives in Britain, and The Book of Mirrors is his first novel in English. It’s almost amazing to read a novel written by a Romanian living in Britain that’s set in Princeton, New Jersey, and New York City – and gets the feel of America and American academia so well.

E.O. Chirovici
The story is a mystery, but it is also about memory. How do we remember things? What do we remember? How do our memories change over time? How do two people involved in the same situation remember the same events so differently? And why might they want to remember the same events differently?

Reading The Book of Mirrors is like walking through a mirrored fun house at an old amusement park. The reflections continue to change and continue to surprise. Little seems to be as it first looks. When you think you understand what you see in the reflection, you step to the next mirror, and it all changes once again.

Top photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

“Absolute Surrender” by Andrew Murray

It is sometimes startling to read a book about the Christian faith aimed at a general audience that is free of late twentieth and early twenty-first century angst or psychological dilemmas or a popular theology book that doesn’t veer into the Christian self-help genre. What did Christians read, or used to read, when they were seeking to understand difficult Scripture passages, learn about Christian living, or answer basic questions about their faith.

One author they read was Andrew Murray (1828-1917).

Murray, the son of a Dutch Reformed minister and missionary, was born in South Africa, educated in Scotland, became a missionary and pastor himself in South Africa, and authored more than 240 books on faith, theology, and Christian living. He lived during the century of Darwin, Marx, and Freud, the triumvirate of thinkers who many believe permanently closed the book on the Christian faith. And yet he remained steadfast in his belief and wrote book after book to encourage others in the faith.

Absolute Surrender: The Blessing of Forsaking All and Following Christ is one of those more than 240 books. It is aimed at Christians who are seeking to deepen their faith and are asking the question, what does it mean to forsake all, or what he calls “absolute surrender.”

What he describes is a process. He starts by explaining what it means to be filled with Holy Spirit and how it changes the believer. He describes the roles of conviction and confession. He discusses the example of Peter in the New Testament. He explains the blessings which result from absolute surrender, and how it is to be lived out. He shows the results of surrender. He notes that Christians can continue in the process only through the active involvement of God. And he asks the question, what does it mean to be a branch to the vine?
Andrew Murray

The account is simple. It’s straightforward. It’s free of a lot of the stuff we add to Christian faith today. It is written from a perspective of assurance – doubt and questions are normal and it is through both that one’s faith deepens – in the context of reliance on God to provide the answers.

To read a work like this, written in the 19th century, is something of a relief. Some very fundamental things have not changed, as much as we like to believe we’re smarter, wiser, and more intelligent than people used to be. Look at our technology! And we have the internet!

The basic questions remain the same. The human heart remains the same. And the God we worship remains the same.


Top photograph by Daniel Burka via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I Know My Platform Holds at Least 2 or 3 People

The year 2013 was not the easiest for me or my family. 

My mother had to be moved from her home of 58 years to a retirement home, which meant the “breaking up” of her house and the breaking up of where her three sons had spent most of their formative years. 

Work, normally a state a barely controlled chaos, dropped the “barely controlled” and went through severe regime change and was rather suddenly “under new management.” Work demands on my time escalated, and sharply.

I was trying to get a book manuscript completed (what was eventually published as Poetry at Work) and I know I was driving the editor frantic (on a good day) and off the cliff (on a bad day) as we struggled, or I struggled, to get it done. I was also trying to promote my second novel, A Light Shining, published right at the end of 2012. That was three books published in two years. 

I wasn’t thinking a lot about marketing and promotion.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Christian Poets & Writers. 

“The Old Curiosity Shop:” Charles Dickens and a Road Trip!

Perhaps the first thing you notice when you read The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens is how little of it has to do with an old curiosity shop. The opening scenes are set in the shop, a place full of old antiques, curiosities, and junk, or “junque.” References will appear later in the sprawling tale, but they are fleeting.

Slowly you begin to understand that what Dickens wrote here was a road trip.

The Old Curiosity Shop was Dickens’ fourth work of fiction. He began to be known with his stories published in newspapers and periodicals, later collected as Sketches by Boz. Almost all of his fictional works were first serialized before being published as books. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, or simply, The Pickwick Papers, were published over 18 months from 1836 to 1837, and the work catapulted the author to national fame.

That was followed by Oliver Twist (1837 to 1839) and Nicholas Nickleby (1838 to 1839). Dickens’ fame was growing in Britain and the United States. The overlap in his published serials demonstrates the demand for his work – people were reading Oliver Twist as Nicholas Nickleby began to be published. He was riding the rising tide of literacy in both Britain and the U.S. His characters captured recognizable types, and he was equally at home with humor, tragedy, violence, and even farce.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Top photograph: Little Nell and her grandfather begin their journey in The Old Curiosity Shop.