Reviews

From the Cradle…Girl Power

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Under the “you have got to see this” heading, on a day (20 Jan. 2017) for odd happenings, I discovered Disney Hyperion Books’ news of an early trainer on Feminism by Buzzfeeed senior writer and artist Loryn Brantz. No Joke! The book actually released on April 4. Nonetheless, since the upcoming political climate threatens to reset the national dialogue on gender equality, the selection might be worth a look.

Feminist Baby likes pink and blue.
Sometimes she’ll throw up on you!

Feminist Baby chooses what to wear
and if you don’t like it she doesn’t care!

That is from the text.

The push for gender equality, as the philosophies that under-gird the movement, have rapidly evolved throughout the past four decades.I am not certain whether the work can be classed as Third Wave of a fourth wave of Feminist thought. Recent political and social efforts to mainstream transgender issues have endowed discussions from the Betty Friedan/Gloria Steinem era with new questions. That said, the push for equal access and opportunities between men and women persists.

The cardboard pages and text in large type manuscript  is listed for “ages 0 to 2.” The story is described as a tale about “a girl who’s not afraid to do her own thing, and wants to make as much noise as possible along the way!” begs to be explored.

I have not read the whole book,  yet the backgrounder and excerpts peaked my interest. The work is clearly not just for babies. At the same time a read-aloud with the hashtag FeministBaby is bound to take many readers and their bundles of joy in intellectual paths where they might not have gone before. Or, it might keep a few Americans on the road toward a more enlightened future.

Our Postpartum Nightmares

It is not often that a celebrated literary work can be paired with the title of one of the nation’s most controversial race films and end up a cinematic critical success. That is what viewer’s will find in actor/writer/director Nate Parker’s film, The Birth of a Nation. The film, styroninspired by William Styron’s 1966 Pulitzer Prize winner, The Confessions of Nat Turner, earned  a rare standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. Critics have praised the work as bold. The film might come off lighter at the box office, yet in the film industry there are whispers about an Oscar. All that, despite the fact that the movie title hails word for word from the 1915 U.S. classic silent film drama by the late director D.W. Griffith, considered to be lethal racist propaganda.

Seymour Stern’s D. W. Griffith’s 100th Anniversary The Birth of a Nation, edited by Ira Gallen  offers insight into the director and the title of the early Twentieth Century movie. However readers not afraid to look squarely into the nation’s historic racial literary heritage might want to check out novel that inspired Griffith, Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan.

The story of Nat Turner’s ill-fated slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, originally came to most American’s attention through Styron’s work, yet there is a narrative attributed to Nat Turner. It is said that  The Confessions of Nat Turner The Leader of the Late Insurrections in Southampton, Va. As Fully and Voluntarily Made to Thomas R. Gray… is a confession from a prison cell before the slave preacher turned radical abolitionist was hanged in August 1831.

As the true story goes, Turner and as many as 57 compatriots roamed the back roads Virginia plantations on the night of Aug. 21, 1831 and slaughtered whole families of slaveholders in a bid for their freedom. They are said to have killed as many as 65 whites. The rebels were captured and killed by white militiamen who killed as many as 200 non-rebel blacks in retaliation. Also, at that time Virginia and the other colonies tightened the grip on slaves and free blacks with laws that forbid or restricted the rights to education, assembly, bear arms and vote.  

This story and others are part of the birth and emergence of American society that haunts and depresses many citizens. Most people do not like to talk or think about slavery. Even more know so little about the past that an exploration of the above mentioned books is worthwhile. Indication’s are, those who check out Nate Parker’s film will leave shocked and inspired. Perhaps the exposure to this important tale through the literature behind it, will lessen the blow.

An Edge of the Seat Treat

Halversham

***** [great]

By RS Anthony
Amazon
ASIN: B01GYU9KWS

Malaysian author RS Anthony breaks a lot of rules. First, most experts will say that authors Halvershamshould write what they know.  Halversham, her second novel, will make a reader awe at her grasp of the sights, sounds, scenes and population of the British countryside. A brief bio says the writer travels quite a bit, yet  readers will wonder how she can so graphically sketch the environs of the habitat and not live there. Second, writers say, “never tease the reader.” Anthony drops revelatory crumbs of mysteries in this story as tantalizing as the muffins of the main character’s aunt to draw readers into a series of secrets the boy can’t wait to solve.

Andrew J. Monaghan, an American, 16-year-old with daddy issues, is an unlikely hero. He is a typical teen with the requisite outrage and anger only someone raised in privilege can afford. The comparatively slow, two-year decline toward death of his mother Patricia shoves the bright kid into an emotional black hole, and he figures that a bid to recapture the warm feelings and memories in a place where he and she spent their happiest days is his only means of escape. His dad Paul, a driven, desperate tycoon trapped in his own struggle with loss, realizes that the boy might be best off with a month in the family’s erstwhile country home in a village called Halversham.

As readers quickly discover, the name of the place is prettier and more polished than its residents’ deeds. Anthony’s tightly written prose and descriptions make readers feel as if they are walking the streets and sampling the cuisine. The baked goods and meals are so vivid at times, I felt I could taste them. Worse, I was peeved by the realization that I could not. Similar feelings of contradiction arose toward the key characters.

I wanted to know many people in the story – Andy’s Aunt Magda, his cousin Corinne, the reviled and reclusive Mr. Milton, and the Doynes. Anthony’s skills at characterization are so sharp that I felt an acquaintance with most of them through the protagonist’s eyes and thoughts. That said, the more I was exposed to those people, the more emotion they drew from me. I was certain that if the encounters were real, the pleasure will not be mine.

I won’t give too many specifics about the plot to encourage YA readers to sample Halversham’s 163 pages. Readers will be pulled to the edge of their seats as they watch how far Andy will go to find out the answers to the questions he discovers. At the same time, they will be tempted to wonder whether or how they might do the same. They will savor this taste of small town mystery like a slip of 90-percent-pure dark chocolate. The story is filled with disappearances and killings of people and animals, mysterious happenings that drag the main character and readers through a dark, dark place to a new light.

The tightly woven narrative shows that Anthony’s mastery of the ability to build suspense through the manipulation of readers’ perspectives. At every turn, none  of the key characters is as they first appear. Likewise, readers discover through Andy Monaghan’s unfailing efforts to answer the questions that contradict his idyllic memories of Halversham, they are in a place he never really knew.

In the end, readers will find satisfaction with what Anthony offers, yet hunger for more. I know that sounds cliche, but it it clear even the author plans that to be the case. That is likely why Anthony places an invite for readers to sample her 2006 novel, Pork, on the final ten pages of the 173-page ebook.

 

Simple as a science

Rocket Science Made Easy

***** [GREAT]

By Rodney A. Blaukat
Drop Cap Publishing
ISBN: 978-0615841342

The unlisted subtitle on the cover of this 130-page nonfiction work is “a fun book about….Little things that make a big RocketSciencedifference.” Readers who approach the book with a hunger for “fun” or to learn the importance of the “little things” in mind, rather than rockets or science in any form, will not be disappointed. Blaukat whose day job is in consulting delivers everything promised. Rocket Science Made Easy is a series of brief essays or stories that poke readers in the conscience to make them consider why they needlessly strive to make life complicated.

As the writer explains it, most of us make life far more complex than is needed. Story by story, written in the breezy style and length of a blog entry. Rodney’s Hot Dog Stand, the author’s online journal is a great source for more reflections and insight. However, more than the blog, Rocket Science, is filled with tales that  stir  “an ‘ah-hah’ moment” readers can make use of in everyday life. The stories also contain insights that will repair behaviors in businesses, churches and organizations.

The books tone is not preachy. That is a plus in a work that offers advice. Blaukat, a professional trainer, speaker and salesman, yet the author also avoids making readers feel they are in the midst of a sales pitch or workshop.

The well-paced prose and diction is an almost flawless as a tool for motivation because those who love a good, quick read will be easily pulled into his stories. For example, in a chapter cleverly titled, “Tripping Over Mouse Turds” he writes about a “how a small  problem at work had turned into a big deal.”

He explains:

He looked at me and said, “Yeah, they are tripping over mouse turds.” My initial response was one that you might expect when I said, “Excuse me?” He repeated the phrase again. And then I thought about it some more and came to the conclusion he had hit the nail on the head.

How many times have you been in meetings and the conversation turns into a topic that somehow becomes the crisis of the century? We spend hours trying to figure out what picture to hang in the lobby while the receptionist doesn’t have a computer. We spend hours trying to figure out what color the baseball uniform should be while the team is still picking flowers in the outfield. Tripping over mouse turds has become a full time job for some people.

I’ve come to find over the years not everyone particularly likes that phrase. But “tripping over tiny pellets that come from the back end of a small rodent” doesn’t seem to have the same effect. But the end result (no pun intended) is still the same.

 The best thing about Rocket Science Made Easy is that it powers beyond the average self-help book into entertainment. If a readers do not crave the author’s advice, they will find amusement in its 54 first-person narratives. Much like someone you meet at a party, the author slowly reveals himself through the text. The more he shares, the closer the reader will feel until the writer as main character and his advice are trusted.

Give this book to any person who is very busy. Give it to someone who wants to run a more effective business or organization, even a club. A high school or college student might not let you see them read it. After all, they tend to know what life is all about, yet if one of them were to get past the first chapter, they too will be hooked. This is a book for anyone who has the patience to spend time with a story. They will come away better for the encounter.

 

 

 

Idioms ain’t really idiotic

Out of the Blue: A Book of Color Idioms and Silly Pictures

**** [GOOD]

By Vanita Oelshlager (text) and Robin Hegan (illustrations)
VanitaBooks
ISBN:9780983290421

At times I read books for fun. Other times, I read texts that pile up on my to-be-read shelf to acquire Out of the Blueor deepen my knowledge on a subject. I read Out of the Blue for both. The work gave me a quick refresher on the notion and variety of idioms in the language. Also, the author and illustrator demonstrate a clever way to promote a greater grasp of American English.

Vanita Oelschlager , who bills herself as wife, parent, grandma and ex-teacher, easily demonstrates in the work that she never sheds the mantle of any of those roles. Her text is well structured, organized and clear, written with the kind of passionate tone to educate witnessed in the best exchanges between a loving adult and child. There is also a cleverness in the way that she pumps information into the process of play. Each page is a demonstration of the idea of idiom in a drawing by Robin Hegan that is geared to grab a child’s attention, if not evoke outright laughter. Also, if the adult who shares the book needs a prompt, the entries each have a two-sentence script upside down in the bottom right hand of the page.

The publisher summed it:

Out of the Blue shows children the magic of idioms – words that separately have one meaning, but together take on something entirely different. Children are curious about words, especially phrases that make them laugh (“Tickled Pink”), sound silly (“Shrinking Violet”) or trigger images that tickle a child’s sense of the absurd (“A Red Letter Day”). Out of the Blue uses outlandish illustrations of what the words describe literally.

The reader will not be fooled, the book is page after colorful page of largely American idioms. Except for the final pages, the text is but a series of phrases and blithely concealed prompts. And yes, the pictures are often silly, yet irresistible, because they are so cute. I found myself flipping back and forth in the 66-page manuscript to see various images again and again.

I wrote that the book says the images are silly. I found them whimsical, lightly fanciful in the most amazing ways. The artist tends to use solid colors, no shades or tones, which makes the drawings gain a certain vibrancy. For example, the expression “white elephant” is portrayed in one of the stark brilliance – a slight boy in a navy blue t-shirt and pants with a brown cape and black mask stands faced with an elephant under a white sheet carrying an pumpkin-striped, jack-o-lantern, Halloween container.

If that effort to describe what happens left you blank. Check out the artist’s description of how the artwork is done. Yet some matters remain a mystery.

I believe the prompt states, “Something unusual or even special, but useless to you is a white elephant.” I say that because the e-book pages make it hard to be sure. I do not understand why the author chose that touch. The tiny upside-down sentences work better in a printed copy, but in a fixed medium such as a digital book, they are a loss. The other thing I wanted to see was a brief description of how the phrases were derived. The author did that with “green with envy” at the end of the manuscript, but I wanted something similar for each phrase. Those are the only down-sides (no pun intended) to this book.

I recommend Out of the Blue to any parent, grandparent, teacher, preacher, or avid reader, who wants to entertain a child while doing an exploration of the complicated nature of American English. The publisher offers some thoughts on how to use the book on the VanitaBooks. Even more, we need texts like this to develop reading and language skills which studies show continue to lag in this country. Every kid needs to know that idioms ain’t idiotic.

Mom-lovers Unite!

 

Tips onReads to Feed Mom'sBook Hunger

Mom. Love her or not, most people have one. Call her mother, mum, ma’dear, nana, or by her first name, she is someone you have to speak with, and someone who is bound to talk with you. That is why so many folks with moms find themselves on the lookout for ways to keep up the flow with her in conversations. If your mother reads, wants to read, threatens to read, or is a full-blown bibliovore, here are five current and upcoming titles to check out. I plucked these works by indie authors from the Veereads to-be-reviewed pile as worthy for offerings to the book-hungry mom.

Addicted to Love by Kathleen Murray

is a powerful thriller about a young woman’s growth in a dysfunctional family during the turbulent Seventies. The main character, Sally Smithfield, lives in Northfield, a suburban neighborhood on the posh North Shore of Chicago. The streets that surround her are pretty safe, but the threat to the quality of her life comes from the secrets she holds and her many losses. Murray takes the reader from Northfield to St. Louis to Scottsdale, Arizona in Sally’s journey through the devastating residual after-effects of childhood abuse in a suspenseful showcase of a struggle to find self. Addicted to Love, is sure to delight mom’s who enjoy tales about a quest for redemption.

The History Major by Michael Philip Cash

is a book I am very anxious to read, because I love horror and science fiction. Also, Cash is one of the best writers in those genres. Readers will figure out for themselves as they see what happens to protagonist Amanda Greene, a college freshman who has a “through the looking glass” ride into terror. After a bad fight with her boyfriend, and a night of heavy partying, her eyes open to find she has a roommate she does not recognize, classes she never choose to take, and she is being chased by a shadowy figure. This is just the book for a mom who loves stories where fantasy and reality collide.

Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz by Sylvia Patience

offers mom the rest of the story about a literary and film classic. If mom has not read the original book by  L. Frank Baum, she has likely thrilled to the 1939 movie, about an orphan from Kansas raised on a farm by her aunt who discovers that happiness is home, and home is where you find those who love you. Patience tells the story from the viewpoint of a character that used to be “carry on,” Dorothy’s little dog Toto. Readers will follow Toto as he sets out on his own and meets Dorothy when she arrives in Kansas on an orphan train. The story unfolds amid the sights, sounds and sensibilities of the original tale, except this time readers find out about the dog’s frustration at being the only one who can’t talk, and that like Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow, Toto wants something from the all-powerful wizard. If mom is really into grandchildren, this is a great story for her to share. If she is a fan of Oz, or loves dogs, this book will entertain her.

Meantime Girl by Sindhu S.

is love story. That statement barely captures the essence of the feminist fable with deep psychological undertones. If mom loves strong women characters in a “coming of age” drama, this book will hit the spot. Meantime Girl  journalist Anjali’s effort to define her sexuality  beyond the expectations  or pressures of her family, friends and society. More than the usual “married man/victim”  narrative, Sindu S.’s protagonist is a New Age woman who clings to sexual freedom and rejects any ties to the man she loves out of fear they might lead to his control. She gets into a relationship with a married friend, Siddharth or Sid, with a clear conscience and assurance that he won’t marry her. Mom should expect  wit and humor with an undercurrent of pathos from what appears to be a love story for our times.

This blog usually only mentions books in reviews, but this is a special occasion. Moms who love books, and the people who love moms are always in need of new information. I hope the Mother’s Day is wonderful experience. I wish all moms to feel special and valued, especially the book-lovers. I hope these few tips add to the health of the day. Buy them, or use them as a spark during talks with Mom.

 

 

A Word You’ve Heard

I Saw An Invisible Lion TodayThat title caught my attention first. Then a read of the Millbrook Press description of the 36-page book for ages 7 to 11, and I knew that it must be mentioned during National Poetry Month. As you can see from the image, the text rates high on cute. At the same time, the content is clear, entertaining and informative as it lays out the poetic form quatrains to kids.

A poet I know always says, “Never stop askin’ for poems,” and this work is ideal to Coverspark an interest in wordplay in even the youngest. Aside from the multicultural and lighthearted drawings the cadence of each tale and playful topics seem so simple and open, a child might believe that he or she can do quatrains. In fact, despite the avowed audience, the ease with which author Brian P. Cleary approaches the poetical technique might enchant anyone (even a grownup) who listens.

The Ohio-born humorist and poet is no novice. As I learned, Cleary is author of a broad range of works on language,  math, food, phonics and poetry for the young. I did not know the name when I picked the title, but the thrill of the book’s explorations with wordplay made me a fan. Most readers will want to see more, too. Especially if they check out his website.

I Saw An Invisible Lion is reader friendly, as befits a text for the very young. Many parents will find themselves reading the book several times, yet I can see how a children might soon pick it up themselves. The author starts with explanation – “quatrains are four-line verses that usually rhyme.” Just that simple, and that is what I liked. Then he adds the notion of rhyme schemes or end rhyme patterns – “the most common types: AAAA, AABB, ABCB, and and ABAB.” That is about all that is needed to make a move on quatrains. The rest of the work is examples.

Now most poets and readers well-learned in the intricacies of form poetry are probably saying, “Oh, give me a break,” right now. However, the key to a true appreciation of the work is to look at it from the perspective of an average reader. Clue: most people in the U.S. neither read nor understand poetry. If a person is not certain about the form, they will be when finished.

I read I Saw An Invisible Lion Today from the viewpoint of a parent, grandparent, or any older person who wants to teach an elementary age child that words can be more than just a hard labor. More than that, I read the work again from the approach of of  average reader who knows little more about poetry than the kind they prefer. I came away a great fan of Cleary, because the book teaches and makes you laugh. Anyone who can read this book and come away with nary a giggle or snicker, either does not understand English, or is dead. Academics aside the sounds of the lines alone sometimes draw smiles.

The organization of the book seems pretty obvious. Cleary places the rhyme scheme for the mostly four-line examples at the start of each tale to make sure. As I wrote, the bulk of the book is the quatrain patterns in  poetic quips of various lengths. The topics are silly in unusually clever ways. The tales he spins can help children to see reality as it might be, and poetry as a way to escape what is. For example, the title poem:

I saw an invisible lion today
and fourteen invisible leopards.
And thirty invisible sheep being led
by thirty invisible shepherds.

I saw an invisible baby giraffe
who ate from invisible trees.
I watched as he shook an invisible nest
filled with invisible bees.

I saw an invisible penguin who skated
upon an invisible rink
along with a group of invisible skunks
who made an invisible stink.

British illustrator Richard Watson adds to the sense of mirth in the work. Most of the art matches to the sometimes extraordinary scenes the poet described (invisible skunks). I cannot critique the illustrations, only say that they made me look intently to see how his vision complemented the writer. Most times they were as tight and serendipitous as a good jazz riff. Watson showed his greatest skill with the drawings for “At the Muzzaloo Store.”

At the Muzzaloo Store there are crates of persnoobles
fresh-baked flobitzen and tazbees with jubles.
They’re stocking the shelves with the best alaprises,
ungden and traffadoo (three different sizes!)

Watson’s store scene delivers just enough ick! factor to make an average 7-year-old squeal with delight. The syncopation of off-beat words and art, made me wonder what he might have done with Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” The critters in the crates and elsewhere look bizarre, but not a nightmarish sight.

Parents will love to show kids pages like that. Their children will have fun trying to spot the “tazbees” and “alprises.” In the end, children and adults will learn enough about the form that they will be inspired to make up poems. I Saw An Invisible Lion Today, is a great way to get readers of all ages to “never stop asking for poems.”

 

 

The Music of Lives

Mingus_Lullaby“I play or write me the way I feel through jazz, or whatever,” the late bassist and pianist Charles Mingus wrote in a 1955 open letter to trumpeter Miles Davis. “Music is, or was, a language of the emotions. If someone has been escaping reality, I don’t expect him to dig my music, and I would begin to worry about my writing if such a person began to really like it. My music is alive and it’s about the living and the dead, about good and evil. It’s angry yet it’s real because it knows it’s angry.”

My thoughts continually went to that passage as I read, A Mingus Lullaby, Toronto poet  Dane Swan‘s latest collection. The perceptive works are vibrant with anger, good and evil, and the cadences of progressive jazz. They are not what an average reader might expect of “poetry.” That is why those who love poetry, people, passion, personalities, and protest will find the March 1 release from Guernica Editions to be a treat worthy of the $20 price.

As the Mingus quote states, Swan gives reader a collection crammed with raw emotional power. It is as if the poems get nose to nose with readers and scream “Look!”  The poet wants readers to see the greatness that the last jazz icon and civil rights leader harbored.

Admittedly, that kind of forced dialogue can intimidate those who look for poems to “escape reality.” Swan channels the spirit of the jazz legend who died in 1979 at age 56, as a means to reveal himself. The best part is the author, like Mingus, does not shrink from truth.

The experience begins in “Epitaph 10,” where the writer wrestles identity:

 My man Charles, your autobiography jumps from first person to third.

 Got me wondering who I am.

Is this Dane or Mingus?
Is this Dane as Dane, playing Mingus?
Or is this Dane, as Dane in the role of Dane inspired by Mingus?

The writer riffs Mingus’ insistence that he was possessed by a three-part identity:

One man stands forever in the middle, unconcerned, unmoved, watching, waiting to be allowed to express what he sees to the other two.
The second man is like a frightened animal that attacks for fear of being attacked.
Then there’s an over-loving gentle person who lets people into the uttermost sacred temple of his being and he’ll take insults and be trusting and sign contracts without reading them and get talked down to working cheap or for nothing, and when he realizes what’s been done to him he feels like killing and destroying everything around him including himself for being so stupid. But he can’t – he goes back inside himself.

Mingus claimed to be a conflicted and tortured spirit whose capped emotions built and built, and jazz allowed the release. In A Mingus Lullaby Swan’s wordplay allows him to speak to readers as he slides through different voices, which the poet describes in “Epitaph 6” – emotionless observer, passionate lover, manic loose cannon. At the same time, readers will find the author is not shy when the personalities mix. For example, in  “Objectors,” readers hear hints of the emotionless observer and passionate lover:

They look like adolescent weaklings.
So fragile, you imagine
the bullied bullied them;
their strength – immeasurable.

Could confuse them for children.
More man than us,
have been couriers of imperialism, death,
decided to defend life.

One admits
he ended numerous existences.
Innocent civilians
haunt dreams.

They look like children
but are men
trying to skip double-dutch
with children.

The same comes through in a veiled commentary on the riots at Toronto’s G20 Summit, which the poem, “26.06.2010,” sums as “A protest of 30,000 destroyed by 200 with violent intent.” The poem observes:

Violence isn’t anarchy;
it’s organized failure.
None of this will lead to change.

The manic loose cannon is evident in a number of the poems. In “Resuscitation,” the pathos takes readers into the soul of a Black Canada (oddly resonant with the United States) and wields cultural self-analysis like a bat:

I balance my heart on the edge of razor blades
trying not to pierce my aorta.

(my heart bleeds)

I’m a black nigga, immigrant nigga, legal problems nigga. I’m everything I fight; fucking stereotype. Looking for a hot-forty-year-old, president of a publishing company. Whisk me to your manor with Raptors TV; shelves stacked: Greek philosophy, Tales of Anansi, old soul records, my favorite spoken word CD by Garmamie.

(my heart bleeds)

Sick of niggas using the word nigga lightly. Of niggas who think stupidity is pretty. Got C’s in school. Other kids hid comic books between text books, I hid my copy of “The Egyptian Book of the Dead.” Failed math studying architecture – towers from before ancient times in the Horn of Africa. Got an A minus in music ’cause that teacher didn’t like me.

(my heart bleeds)

My anger management coach, slowly, surely convinces me.
Couldn’t do what I do. Suggests a minor augmentation towards
conformity – we are in a white society. I agree. No more Afro.

(my heart bleeds)

At the end, in “Epitaph 14,” Swan’s Lullaby bids Mingus a subtle “sleep well”:

Dizzy called you a great administrator.
I never knew a secretary could look so ugly,
or sound so sweet in quadraphonic sound.

 

The Long Line In White

Pope Francis! 

The name echoes in the news. He rode in Fiat 500s during his visit to New York to Philadelphia. He met with actress Eva Longoria, is said to have a lot in common with singer John Legend,  has his own pop album, Wake Up! and has been dubbed the Tech world’s  secret weapon. So much energy and reverence is attached to those two words. Wyatt North Publishing’s three-volume series A History of the Popes helped me understand why.

Most people throughout the world hold the figure of every leader of the Roman Catholic Church in great esteem. This is done so much so, at times, the people forget that a man exists beneath the white cassock and zuchetto that symbolize the office. The Wyatt North history places the man who sits on the throne of Peter today in broad context. The easily readable text is worthy of exploration because those who indulge its depths will learn a lot about the real nature of the popes who have filled the long white line.

“The history of the men who have held this position is fraught with villainous and heroic actions,” the Introduction to the series asserts. Translation – the stories are told in a direct, yet concise manner. The authors did not waste time with sentimental or maudlin details, which is one of the books’ strengths. As the Introduction also promises, the works allow the reader to become acutely aware of how the papacy has “left a profound impact on the development of civilization as we know it, both in the East and the West.”

The book’s treatment of the condemnation of the scholar Origen Adamantius of Alexandria, Egypt, shows that trend in stark detail. The writer, who died in 245 AD is highlighted in story of Pope St. Anastatius I, who reigned from November 399 until he died in 401. The text says Origen “was one of the greatest theologians in the third century,” despite his theories about salvation were once labeled as “unCatholic.” The pope said he taught that “God would save all angels and men.” Modern scholars say that the writer only posed the idea as a speculation.

Even so, the Wyatt North text’s narrative is not as directly dreary as in Brenda Ralph Lewis’ A Dark History: The Popes: Vice, Murder, and Corruption in the Vatican (2011). That said, the pace of the text is less breezy a read than Jesuit Father John W. O’Malley’s A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present (2011).

A History of the Popes offers stories to attract readers who seek a broad range of interests – action, adventure, piety, bravery, sacrifice, political intrigue, and spirituality. It also provides details that might fascinate readers who never paid much attention to the office. For example, I did not realize that most early popes were declared saints upon their deaths. That made Pope Francis’ 2014 decision to canonize of the late popes John Paul II  and John XXIII seem less extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

An Irish Treat For All The Ages

Since early morn – and I mean before dawn – “Happy St. Patty’s Day ” greetings have come at me from nearly everyone. OK. I surrender to the mood. I can no longer resist, so I dug into the top of the pile of books to be discussed on veeareads and found this audio gem, Children’s Stories by Oscar Wilde, Volume 2. The work is narrated by actor Stephen Fry.

Now critics are going to jump on this entry and say, “With all of the great writers cropping up today, why are you hyping the works of someone who died in November 1900?” True. There is a great deal to be said about contemporary writers, and I will. Continue to follow this site. At the same time, audiobooks are in an explosion, and when a really clever collection by Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie, born to William Wilde and WHO on Oct. 16, 1854, is extant, there is no harm. These two volumes of children’s stories, of which only one is represented here, are a need to know. Veereads keeps you in the know.

WildeOscar Wilde published “The Happy Prince and Other Tales” (1888), and “The House of Pomegranates” (1892), collections of children’s stories, around the same period as his classic,  The Picture of Dorian Gray (Click the link to download a free copy ), his one and only novel. In the 125 years since, the tale  has been adapted to print, stage and film. Despite its frequent appearances, the work remains lightening rod for outrage and criticism. When first published in 1890 in an American magazine, the horror story’s hints of homo-eroticsm outraged Victorians. Wilde’s alleged sexual orientation has continued to remain a subject of debates. At the same time, his creations are hailed as examples of brilliance. Wilde’s plays “A Woman of No Importance” (1893), “An Ideal Husband” (1895), and “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1895), are often required reads in this country. Fact is, as listeners to this 20-minute, audio excerpt will discover,  Wilde’s short stories are a delight for all ages.

Fry is a British actor, writer, director, and voice-over artist who many Americans have appreciated on the U.S. television series like “Bones,” and director Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes film, “Game of Shadows,” and several of the Harry Potter series video games. He is the smiling fellow in the image above. In the United Kingdom, the prolific actor and writer is most widely remembered for his title roles in He the Black-Adder II (1986) and Jeeves and Wooster (1990) television series.