Saturday, October 30, 2010

Giveaway Ends November 1st

If you haven't entered the giveaway, please do. They are all excellent books. All you have to do is comment on this post for one entry!

Reformation Day is tomorrow! I'm excited about our celebration. I hope you have a good day too. :-)

National Novel Writing Month is approaching. I've never attempted this before, but I have an idea that would be perfect. I'm still trying to decide because I have a non-fiction writing deadline before the end of December. I'm also not sure I want to take that long of a break in the novel writing right now. We'll see...
I'm signed up at the moment, so if your trying, find me and friend me. :-)

And as an added bit of brother turns 23 today! Happy Birthday! You are awesome. :-)

Thanks for reading!
Have a superb Reformation Day!
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, October 29, 2010

Survival in Auschwitz - Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
A Touchstone Book
Published by Simon & Schuster

Rating: 7
Readability: Painful.
Impact: We'll see.

Read it Again: I dunno.
Recommend It: Yes.

What to Expect

Primo Levi spent one year in the death camps of Auschwitz. He is an Jewish Italian who was capture after joining the Resistance in 1943.
This is his first book, a memoir of that year.

(As expected, this book does have some nasty bits, but over all is very tastefully written.)

My Squib

Although not as lyrical as Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi is a very gifted writer. His book is disturbing, hopeful, and heart breaking.
He gives more of a big picture than other accounts I have read. It was eye opening. You get a much better idea about life for everyone, the confusion of languages, the bartering, etc...

He uses a disturbing amount of colons and writes in present tense erratically. But neither bothered me too much since it did have to survive translation and the present tense was powerful even when mixed with past. It was a good tool for a memoir like this.

From the Book..and more obtrusive squibbing

One interesting thing was his talk about identity. I love it when I'm reading more then one book at the same time and things start to line up. I've been going through Leithart's book on 1 & 2 Kings and he happened to be talking about identity too.

Here's part of what Levi said...

"Imagine now a man who is depraved of everyone he loves, and at the same time his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs, forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself. He will be a man whose life or death can be lightly decided with no sense of human affinity, in the most fortunate of cases, on the basis of a pure judgement of utility. It is in this way that one can understand the double sense of the term 'extermination camp', and it is now clear what we seek to express with the phrase: 'to lie on the bottom.'"

Here's part of what Leithart said...

"Some goods, Augustine argues, are such that they can be possessed only when they are given away; they can be possessed rightly and truly only in dispossession, only in recognizing that the self must be centered in God. The self is among these goods. First Kings 11 suggests a similar anthropology: Solomon is himself not in himself but in relation to his Lord, Yahweh, and when he departs from Yahweh he becomes a different Solomon."

So, that doesn't really give all of what Leithart was saying...I didn't think you wanted me to post the whole chapter. ;-) But I'm hoping it gives the idea.

Obviously these are extremely different situations. Levi is talking about things I can not imagine. Leithart is talking about Solomon turning away. But it seems to me that they are both talking about the root of identity. The root of usness. It seems like "finding ourselves" is such a big deal, but we look in all the wrong places and put our assurance on all the wrong things. Don't know if I make sense, but it certainly made sense in my mind. ;-)

There so much puzzling about Jewish life. I think it's an interesting study. Levi is proud of being Jewish, but I can't remember a single mention of God or faith. Near the ending of the book he does mention Providence and luck numerous times and hoping from a miracle from the Bible. But no where does he mention faith or hope.
How could you go through what he went through and come out human without Christ?

Elie Wiesel's books talk about this more. He seems to understand Jesus is the answer to suffering. He is Hope. But Wiesel stays with Judaism. His books talk about his anger at God and later reconciliation, but Primo Levi does not mention anything in Survival of Auschwitz. It's almost more disturbing.

But I am rambling.

Here is another quote...

"We lay in a world of death and phantoms. The last trace of civilization had vanished around and inside of us. The work of the bestial degradation, began by the victorious Germans, had been carried to its conclusion by Germans in defeat."

Another sobering read, but I'm glad I read this book.

Thank you for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Forever and a Day - The Kruger Brothers

Recently my brother informed me that the Kruger Brother's have two new albums. I am so excited! The Suite is beautiful, but I have it memorized. It's time for more! Now I just need to figure out how to get my hands on them. ;-)

I was excited to actually find an official video on youtube too. This is the cover song to their newest album.

Miss Pickwickian

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Deep Comedy - Peter J. Leithart

Deep Comedy: Trinity, Tragedy, & Hope in Western Literature by Peter J. Leithart
Canon Press

This is another book I am totally unqualified to review. I'm going to try anyways because I want you to be inspired to read it. (If you haven't...I know I'm always shamefully behind.:-)
It's quite simply amazing.

We had a wonderful Sunday school class talking through David Bentley Hart's book on beauty. Deep Comedy was mentioned and I knew I wanted to read it. :-) I have an awesome mama and a brother who works at a book store, so it was diligently acquired. Thanks Mama! I know your going to like it as soon as you get done with Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl...already. ;-)

This book was both easier and harder than I anticipated.
Easier because Leithart is a gifted and hard working genius and can make the difficult clear and direct so people like me can understand.
Harder because I'm not very sharp and don't know very much about many of the people and stories he mentions.
Still, I could understand the concepts he was writing, even if I didn't always understand the people he was quoting or arguing against. I never felt completely lost, just vaguely stupid.

I loved the book. It wasn't a hard read. I read all but the last 10 pages in two sittings and I'll want to read it again.
It's direct and eye opening. It is laced with good humor (I literally LOLed in several parts). It is a book about story and about hope. By the end I was feeling disgustingly cheerful. :-) It was amazing.

Since I know I'll fail at trying to paraphrase I strongly suggest you pick the book up yourself. It's only 157 pages. Anyone can manage that.
Leithart crams a lot in. I really can't begin to summarize. He gave me a whole new dimension to understanding the way our faith in the Trinity shapes our world view. He gave me a clearer understanding of story and all that goes along with it. It was simply thrilling. :-)
I know I'm raving now, so I'm going to move on.

Here are two of my favorite quotes...

"If the Gospel is true, if new life was unleashed in the world on Easter morning, then we would expect there to be some signs that this is the case."

Unleashed. I love that. How often do we think of new life as unleashed?

"Satan digs a pit for the merry, but Satan falls into the very pit of merriment. And it tortures him forever."

And here was a quote that really got me thinking...

"Christian literature not only produces deep comedy but also, and for precisely that reason, deep tragedy. Christian tragedy can no longer mean what ancient tragedy meant. There are still sad stories, but Christians cannot believe the world is a sad story without abandoning their fundamental convictions about the triune God and the incarnation of the Son. So I should add to this book a companion book on deep tragedy."

I hope he does.

I particularly liked what he said about Christian tragedies. It seems like too much modern Christian thinking tries to ignore sad stories because it spooks them. We know that life isn't a tragedy but sometimes we can't understand why tragedies happen. We try to ignore them so we write fuzzy feel good fiction or try to shelter ourselves from reality.

He also mentions in passing that many "Christian" tragedy's are even sadder because there was an unrealized hope of redemption.

This helped me understand myself in relations to The Mayor of Casterbridge. I'm not sure where Thomas Hardy was when he wrote it. I know he was bi-polar when it came to his "faith" but I think the movie gives an interesting interpretation. It is so extremely sad because there was hope of redemption. He could have turned around.
Like Saul, which he resembles, Henchard is given a good life (numerous times) and good friends, but because of his sin and pride he will not repent and be reconciled. And it's absolutely, terribly heart rending!
The story is not meaningless. It is not a story meant to depress you. It shows the stupidness of sin. The depravity of man. But also the mercy of God. Henchard is blessed over and over again, he just never gets it.
And in the end the long-suffering daughter gets a good life with a righteous man (whatever is ultra-weird, irrational behavior towards woman comes in).

My conclusion seemed to be this-- Christian stories can be sad (even sadder then non-Christian) but they can not be ultimately depressing.
I know I'm not explaining this very well, but it helped things line up in my mind...

Okay, one last quote (sorry about the longness, but it's worth it).

"The conclusion of the matter is this: for the ancients, for the moderns, and for postmoderns, human existence is fundamentally tragic. The world is built for tragedy. As a matter of sheer observation, we all die, and this is one of the few things that can be guaranteed about life. Time marches toward death and in the end we all die. Change can perhaps be good, but change is ultimately decay, because in the end we all die. Desire is either fulfilled in the motionless statis that might as well be death, or is never fulfilled leaving us frustereated, and in the end we all die. Law gives a semblance of order to the process of decay and the forces of chaos, but law is uncertain, and in the end we all die.
With their tragic narratives of human history, Hesiod and Ovid give mythical expressions to the story of the world that ancient, modern, and postmodern all tell.
Apart from the Gospel, what other story is there?"

I consider this book invaluable to readers, writers, and Christians.

Now, if you haven't, go read it. :-)

Thanks for reading.
Miss Pickwickian

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Scribner Paperback Fiction
Published by Simon & Schuster

Rating: 5
Readability: 7
Impact: Hopefully I got something good out of his writing. We'll see...

Read It Again: I don't think so.
Recommend It: If you want an experience with Hemingway, maybe...

What to Expect

A highly acclaimed book by Hemingway with all the characteristics of such.

My Squib

I didn't know anything about this novel. I wanted to taste Hemingway and this book was the only used one on the shelf. I liked the title too. I love Ecclesiastes. I thought it was high time I knew what all this Hemingway stuff was about and the price was right, so I brought it home.

I later learned that The Sun Also Rises is one of his highest acclaimed novels next to For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. So I think I got a pretty good sample of Hemingway.

I did enjoy the style. I realize that Hemingway revolutionized a majority of English prose, and it's easy to see the influence.

His writing is certainly unique. You would learn in direct detail about things like the roads, the scenery, how many times someone went swimming on vacation, and the crowds that lined streets. But you were left confused and guessing to what anybody was thinking. It had the feeling of a journal. Like the writer assumes you already know what's going on, or he just doesn't know himself. Many sections were very similar to a travel log.
I thought it was very interesting. It didn't get the book less emotion, but more.

The way he strings sentences together kept me going.

He has a lot of dialogue and sometimes it's disorienting, but it helps things feel real. The characters spoke too much the same to keep strait and the tags were used so sparingly I was a little cunfuseld. Someone is always "feeling like hell" or "all right" and "nice" is so smeared across dialogue and narration that it would send Mr. Tilney to the hospital in a seizure.

So, on the whole, I did like his style.

As far as the story...It was so not my favorite.

Basically every man in the novel is in love with Lady Brett Ashley who is an unfeminine, unabashed hooker. She's already married as well as being engaged. Not sure how that works. By the end she runs off with a totally new guy who, at nineteen, is fifteen years her junior. Icky... She ends up leaving him because she doesn't want to ruin his career as a bullfighter. A little late and a little lame.

The main character (it is written in first person) is in love with Brett, but seems in other ways to be an upstanding dude. Unfortunately by the end he is helping her run off with the bullfighter and trying to get drunk. He is Brett's standby. She knows he will always help her into a jam or pull her out of one. He drives her home at the end and they lament how it would never work out for them to be together.

There's of course more to the story (mostly a great quantity of alcohol), but if your really all that interested, it's a cheap paperback.

I'm not sure what Hemingway meant with this novel.

He seems to have got the message of Ecclesiastes that life is a vapor, but not the purpose and hope of the book. The characters indulge in complete laziness, a lot of wine and self-pity, but no labor and true rejoicing...and absolutely no hope. I hope he wrote this book as an illustration of our stupidity away from Christ, not a representation of how he saw the world. That would be truly tragic.

From the Book

You gave up something and got something else. Or you worked for something. You paid some way for everything that was any good. I paid my way into enough things that I liked, so that I had a good time. Either you paid by learning about them, or by experience, or by taking chances, or by money. Enjoying living was learning to get you money's worth. The world was a good place to buy in. It seemed like a fine philosophy. In five years, I thought, it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I've had.
Perhaps that wasn't true, though. Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.

This book certainly gave me some food for thought. I'm glad I read it. I'm not going to read it again.
Thanks for reading. I hope the review (of sorts) made sense.
Miss Pickwickian

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Selection from Photo Shoot

Suzy took some awesome photos. Here is just a few she was obliging enough to send me. Thanks Suzy! (You can see more of her photography at her blog, Life's too Short Not to Wear Red Shoes.)
If you missed it (I know it was so terribly exciting) you can read about this particular Bible in My Week in Pennsylvania.

Here is the inscription at the front.

This is a cross that my Mama passed on to me that belonged to my Great Grandmother.

"Now faith is the substance of tings hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Suzy having fun. Where'd the Bible go? :-)
I picked this cross out in Mexico with Grandy less then two months before she graduated to Heaven. God was so gracious to let us have that time with her.


Bible, cross, and scarves.

1 Corinthians.

So, yes. I like my Bible. And Suzy is a good photographer in training, don't you think?

Thanks for looking,
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Week in Pennsylvania

I'm home again.

What a wonderful and amazing time in Pennsylvania! I was truly blessed to be able to take this trip.
Thank you Aisha for an amazing time and for being wonderful!

There was way too much awesomeness to summarize. I'm just going to make you hear about two pieces because they were beautiful and because they relate somewhat to my blog. ;-)

Of course the best thing of all was spending time with Aisha. :-)
Some of the amazing things we did included visiting a lot of churches, cemeteries, coffee shops, and book stores. All beautiful.
I really enjoyed visiting All Saints Presbyterian Church.
I loved staying up late our last night drinking a warming beverage, just doing nothing.
I loved getting high on cheesecake and then getting high on book sniffing at Borders. That was an amazing day.
I loved watching favorite movies together and reciting them word for word. I enjoyed watching new movies...even when Aisha was tired. ;-)
I loved listening to Les Mis well we drove through amazing fall Pennsylvania countryside.
I loved reciting the Jabberwock and hearing it too...even the hundredth or so time. ;-)
I loved having serious talks and crazy, wild rambles.
I loved walking all over Lancaster, wet or dry. What beautiful buildings! more than two things...but I just had to talk about it.

The two things I was going to mention were these-- my German/English Bible and St. James Episcopal Church.

Unfortunately, my sister wasn't there. She is the camera mastermind so we didn't get very many good pictures. The ones I attempted were pretty pathetic, but I knew when I got home she would exercise her genius and fix them for me.
She did. :-)
And then she used her sweet new Nikon and extra awesome picturesque spotting skills and did a photo shoot with my Bible. You'll be seeing some of those in the next post.

This is the beautiful cemetery behind St. James.

The other side of the cemetery and the back of the church.
It was a cool church, inside and out.
We went here three different days. The last day, before our trek to the airport, we came here and wrote. It was raining, but just before we left it changed to brilliantly sunny.

And my Bible.

On Monday we walked all over Lancaster again. One of our stops was an amazing bookstore, called Dog Star Books. The shop smelled incredible and they had some of the most wonderful old books. One was an early 18oos Luther Translation. It was beautiful. That was a bit out of my price range, but next to it was a 1849 German/English New Testament. That's what came home in my suitcase. It's magnificent. I am so happy.

Aisha got a huge unabridged copy of the Count of Monte Cristo with hundreds of pen and ink illustrations. It's really neat.

And we are only $20 poorer. It was crazy cool!
My sister got some outstanding pictures that I'll be posting soon. :-)

We stopped at another cemetery, a huge one, on the walk back home and I tried to take some pictures of my new purchase. No matter how many buttons I pushed I couldn't figure out where the macro setting was. Thankfully, Suzy cleaned this picture up.

We got to the airport in plenty of time, despite the fact that Aisha ran over a helpless robin. The craziest thing about Pennsylvania is that there is no Starbucks in the massive Philadelphia airport! There is nowhere to get any coffee unless you go through security. Finally, a guard told us that the Marriott Hotel next to the airport had coffee. A lifesaver. :-) We had a delicious and relaxing lunch, tea, and coffee.
It was a perfect ending, since the ending had to come.

My whole family was waiting for me at the airport. It was so sweet. And it was good to be home. Suzy and I stayed up until 2 eating Krispy Kreme donuts, chatting, and laughing.
Mostly laughing.

Trips are good. Home is good. Friends are good. Family is good.

God is so good.
So much better than I can imagine. So much wiser. He knows what I need when I need it. He knows our plans, and has already made better ones.
Praise God!

I am so thankful for this trip and opportunity.

Thanks for reading. Sorry it turned hideously long. ;-)
Miss Pickwickian

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Neither Comprehend nor Overcome It

Paul, however, means exactly what he says: the coming of Jesus, and particularly the resurrection of Jesus, means that death and sin are themselves doomed, and life is already on the march to conquer death. Darkness is being dispelled because Light has come and the darkness could neither comprehend nor overcome it.

~ From Deep Comedy by Peter Leithart

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saints and Soldiers (2005)

Saints and Soldiers
Written by Geoffry Panos and Matt Whitaker
Directed by Ryan Little

Rating: I love this movie, but I do recognize it isn't cheese free, so I'm not going to attempt to give it a number.
Watch-ability: I didn't get bored.
Impact: High...

Watch it Again: I have already watched it multiple times and as I own it. I don't this is the last.
Recommend it: Yes!

What to Expect

A World War II movie loosely based on a real event. The camera follows five men, all very different, on their mission to reach fellow Americans from behind enemy lines.

My Squib probably already know I have a weakness for movies during the World Wars. :-)

Saints and Soldiers is awesome for a variety of reasons.

Despite the fact that sometimes the lines fall into some pretty sticky cheese, the characters are genuine. I love them all. (Especially the German guy with the creepy blue eyes. LOL.) Deacon is the awesomeist.
If you've know the plot of this movie and know me, you know why we click. There are plenty of complicated issues and ultimate sacrifice.

This was a low budget movie, but don't take that to heart. These people really pulled it off. They won over 7 awards and totally deserved it.
Gould and Deacon really excel in their acting. The only one that bothered me (and this was only occasionally) is Gordan Gunderson played by Peter Holden.

The extras are also very interesting. They talk about their research and family from World War II. I really enjoyed it.

This film is rated PG 13 for violence. I would add disturbing images. The beginning is certainly disturbing. There is a lot of blood, but it's never gore for gore's sake. It's tasteful. There is some very mild language.

I totally recommend it. You'll have to tell me what you think.

From the Movie

There are some truly amazing quotes, but I can't remember any word for word and I can't find any on the web. You'll have to watch it yourself. ;-)

Cpl. Nathan (Deacon) Greer
acted by
Corban Allred
You can read an interesting interview with him here.

Medic Steven Gould
acted by
Alexander Polinsky

Gould and Pvt. "Shirl" Kendrick acted by Larry Bagby.

Gould, Kendrick, and Flt. Sgt. Oberon Winley acted by Kirby Heborne.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, October 15, 2010

Three Things

Three things:

First, read as much as humanly possible. Read everything—fiction, nonfiction, history, biography, poetry, science, everything possible. You can't read everything that's been written, but you can try.

Second, write as much as you possibly can. Write stories or poems. Keep a journal, keep a diary. Write notes to yourself, or whatever comes into your mind. It doesn't matter what it is. Don't even worry whether it's any good or not. If it's bad, throw it away. Nobody will ever know. It's a matter of practice, writing, the same way that a pianist practices the scales, or a ballet dancer who constantly exercises. Simply do it continually. It really does help. It's a matter of getting fluency, of not being scared of blank paper. It starts a good habit pattern. Writing every day, even if you have to throw out what you've written, is marvelous practice. It builds up the kind of discipline you need to keep on working no matter what else happens.

Third, be as alive as possible. By that I mean be open to all your experiences. Look at things carefully, listen to things, look at the world around you. And be sensitive and responsive to it.

Oh, and there's one more thing. Hardest of all. Be patient. If you're patient, you can finally do everything you want to do. This applies to everything. But that's hardest of all.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Anchor Books a division of Random House

Rating: 8+
Readability: I thought it was very captivating.
Impact: I'm hoping it will greatly improve my writing.

Read it Again: Yes!
Recommend It: See review....

What to Expect

Anne Lamott gives priceless advice on the craft and life of a writer in a funny, sometimes cynical, manner.

My Squib

I've heard a lot of people rave about this book. I bought it in August, but I've been saving it.
On Tuesday I packed it in my computer bag, checked in at the PDX airport, climbed into a monstrous paper-towel tube, became airborne, and read for 5 hours strait.

There were a million awesome things about this book. I loved her style, most of her cynical humor, her perspective on writing and life, and all the writer's wisdom she had to offer. I certainly think it is an amazing (almost a must read) book for aspiring writers. Even if your not a writer, you'll enjoy it.

However, some of her world view is plain messed up. The book is not completely clean so be warned. She comes across as a bitter (almost anti-authority) and angry, and she's quite proud of it. She certainly doesn't seem to be interested in maturity.

So, it's an amazing book. Many of the chapters could stand alone beautifully. But keep your eyes open to when her odd outlook sneaks in.

I loved most of it. I'll be reading it again at a slower pace in a year or so. :-)
It has a lot to learn from and is an excellent encouragement and motivator.

Plus, the format of this book and the texture of the cover are yummy.

Thank you to all those who kept recommending it to me!

From the Book

Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, if you sit and write about two people you know and are getting to know better day by day, something is bound to happen."

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there's no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.

"So why our writing matter again?" they ask.
Because of spirit, I say. Because of heart.
Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.
We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on the ship.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Monday, October 11, 2010

October Giveaway

This giveaway includes three books!

Whoever wins may pick the book of their choice to be mailed to their doorstep.

If I get over 150 entries, two people will get prizes.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Donald Miller

On Writing Well: A Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
William Zinsser

Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide Eyed Wonder at God's Spoken Word
N.D. Wilson

These are three of my favorite books I've read this year. (My fav, of course, being Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl). I found these amazing for understanding story, learning to write better, and living! I want you to discover them too!

Here's how to enter.

1. Comment
2. Follow my blog (new followers and wonderful old followers!)
3. Post about my giveaway on your blog (or facebook if you don't have a blog).
4. Put my giveaway button on your sidebar. (The first pic in this post)

Please comment and let me know how you entered. If you were kind enough to post on your blog or sidebar, please include a link. Thanks so much for spreading the word.

The winner(s) will be drawn on November 1st.

Thank you!
Miss Pickwickian

Saturday, October 9, 2010

On Writing Well - William Zinsser

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
30th Anniversary Edition
Harper Collins

A friend had been telling me about this book, but I was turned off by the "nonfiction" in the title.
I did some research. Zinsser's book has survived through 7 editions and over 30 years. With is active pursuit and passion for better prose in America, he has effected hundreds of writers. He stands by old styles as well as experiencing new ways of writing and teaching. I decided it was pretty dumb of me not to find out what he had to say. :-)

My friend graciously loaned it to me. Thanks Shay!

This book is excellent for both non-fiction and fiction writers. He's a little condescending to fiction at times. If you can forgive him, the things he has to say can greatly improve your fiction writing.
The first two sections of the book (Principles and Methods) were some of the most direct and obviously applicable writing guidelines I've heard.

I think all fiction writers should also know how to write clear non-fiction. Even if they didn't, this can help with any sort of writing.
(Obviously it hasn't helped much with my review...I feel like I'm blithering.)

The idea that probably effected me the most was what he said about writing simply. We should write simply (not stupidly, but directly) and to do so, we must know how to think simply. This was a big idea for me. Sometimes I like to just wonder about something. (Which is probably good about some things.) But we should learn how to think directly about complicated issues too.

This made me think of G.K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis. They tackle hard subjects and make them simple and direct. That's why they are so quotable.

I also thought of Elisabeth Elliot and some other contemporary authors.

They reach the audiences because of their simply, directness.

It gave me a lot to think about...hopefully, simply. ;-)

Here are a few quotes....

"Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in the moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard."

"Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is."

"You learn to write by writing. It's a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it's true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis."

I have a lot of non-fiction writing projects and this inspired me and directed me.

I highly, highly recommend it for any person wanting to write anything. :-)

I'll be hosting a giveaway soon that will include this book.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, October 8, 2010

Building Her House - Nancy Wilson

Building Her House: Commonsensical Wisdom for Christian Women by Nancy Wilson
Canon Press

I know I'm behind the times. This book came out in 2006 and I've been trying to read it for awhile. I grabbed it on the way out the door thinking I needed something short between A House for My Name and Deep Comedy. I finished it that morning. :-)

Building Her House is awesome.

Okay, now that we understand each other, I shall continue.

This book is a compiling of numerous Credenda Agenda articles. As such, they cover a lot of topics, are concise, and applicable.

Here's an excellent quote from the preface that helps you get an idea of the book.

"As we pray and labor for reformation in the church in America, we have to keep our eyes on the little things that are not as little as we think--things like feasting together around our tables, loving the little people in our families, and living sacrificially for one another. These seemingly 'insignificant' duties are far more potent than we realize, for God sancfifies them and uses them to bless us, transform our communities, and bring glory to His name. It is my prayer that God might use these little essays to encourage faithfulness and joyfulness in the women who read them."

The book covers all sorts of aspects of Christian womanhood. I learned from and enjoyed all of it, even though some if it is beyond my stage in life. I recommend it for women of all ages.

Earlier this year I was talking to a very wise woman about the problems young ladies face. She began talking about the idea of pursuing maturity. I was like..what? That is so cool! I'd never thought of it that way and it has certainly given me a different perspective.

Nancy Wilson had a chapter entitled "Pursuing Virtue" that helped me think more about this concept. It was completely amazing. Even if you aren't planning on reading the whole book, you should get it for this chapter.

Here is a quote from the conclusion...

"Living and walking worthy of Christ means dressing in modest, chaste clothing that is consistent with a life of virtue and godliness. This requires wisdom, and most young women don't want to exercise wisdom in this area. They care more about attracting attention from the young men than they care about pleasing God.
Walking worthy means our behavior is governed by a desire to glorify God and obey Him in all things. It means actively pursuing virtue, not coasting. If we want to be known in our community as virtuous women, we must embrace God's standard of holiness in every area of our lives and reject every worldly standard that conflicts with this.
Ruth was a relatively young woman when she was praised this way by Boaz. Young women need not think this is something for them to think about later. It is essential now."

What a difference we would see in Christian young ladies if we could just remember these words!

She kept reminding me that no matter what we are doing, we should be remembering that we are Christian women. We are God's people. Shape up and act like it.

As a writing obsessed person, I also enjoyed examining how she fit her ideas into short, article length chapters. They are both interesting, direct and concise.

So, yes, it's a worthy read. The chapters are short enough to do with your daily Bible study. Or you can read it in a single morning, like I did...maybe you don't have a hideously long drive to go visit your sister though. ;-)
It has food for thought that will last much longer then the time it takes to read.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

P.S. If nothing else, it's a good read because the cover is SO CUTE!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Lord's Prayer - Andrea Bocelli

Ignore the Christmas cover. :-)

Sigh. Beautiful.

I hope that refreshed you. It always has that effect on me.

Thanks for visiting,
Miss Pickwickian

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

O God of Earth and Altar - G. K. Chesterton

This is my favorite hymn. There are at least two different tunes for it and one is considerably better then the other. I couldn't find good videos of either. The words will have to speak for themselves...and they do that very well. :-)

    O God of Earth and Altar

    O God of earth and altar,

      Bow down and hear our cry,
    Our earthly rulers falter,
      Our people drift and die;
    The walls of gold entomb us,
      The swords of scorn divide,
    Take not thy thunder from us,
      But take away our pride.

    From all that terror teaches,

      From lies of tongue and pen,
    From all the easy speeches
      That comfort cruel men,
    From sale and profanation
      Of honour and the sword,
    From sleep and from damnation,
      Deliver us, good Lord.

    Tie in a living tether

      The prince and priest and thrall,
    Bind all our lives together,
      Smite us and save us all;
    In ire and exultation
      Aflame with faith, and free,
    Lift up a living nation,
      A single sword to thee.
            - G.K. Chesterton

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

At the End

"At the end of knowledge, wisdom begins, and at the end of wisdom, there is not grief...but hope."

Monday, October 4, 2010

A House for My Name - Peter Leithart

A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament by Peter J. Leithart
Canon Press

There is no way I can really review this book.
That it can encompass such a understandable and exciting survey of the Old Testament in itself is amazing. I love Leithart's direct and concise writing.

I believe our Sunday school curriculum is based of this book and I've also read it before, but I picked it up again a couple weeks ago. I'm in 1-2 Kings right now in my Ligonier course and the commentary book isn't my favorite. It seems very narrow and doesn't pull or connect to any other part of the Bible. I felt like I needed something supplementary, so I picked A House for My Name. I'm extremely glad I did. :-)

I feel like it's something I should read bi-annually, since I'm not smart enough to remember all its amazingness!

It's one of those books that really makes you want to become wiser while showing you how horribly insufficient your mind is. (At least that's the way it made me a good way, of course. Does any of that make sense?)

I'm going to have fond memories of reading it too. I took it outside on a couple of occasion and read while I was swinging (sorry if that sounds childish). I love September and September wind should not be wasted. And, I finished on a Sunday afternoon accompanied by blackberry wine. ;-)

If you haven't read it, here's just a couple quotes to prick your appetite...

"The Bible tells one story.

It is a long and complicated story about events that took place over several thousand years, but even so it is one story. Like most good stories, the most exciting and important parts come toward the end.
In this case, the most important part comes when Jesus is born, lives, dies on the cross, rises again, and ascends to heaven. But to know why Jesus comes and what He is doing when he dies and rises again, we need to know the story that goes before. A man kisses a sleeping woman in a wood and she awakes. That's a nice ending to a story, but if we don't know that the woman is Sleeping Beauty and the man is Prince Philip, then we don't know the story very well.

A beginning is nothing without an ending, but an ending without a beginning isn't worth much either. To tell the story of Jesus, we need to start with Genesis, the first book of the Bible, a book whose name means 'Beginnings'. "

"Destroy this temple, Jesus said, and in three days I will raise it up. Three days later, Jesus is raised. But the water flowing from His side shows that Israel will be raised with Him and built into the new temple of His body.
In Pilate's Praetorium, the Jews renounces Jesus, choosing death over life.
But the Israel of God is never dead for long.
Israel has died before--in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan, during the time of the judges, during the reign of Ahab, at the Babylonian exile. But when Old Israel dies, Yahweh, the Lord of life, brings a New Israel from the grave.

The death and resurrection of Jesus, who is the true Jacob and Israel, who is the temple flowing with living water, is the sign that a New Israel will be born. The Jews have rejected their king and destroyed their temple, but out of their dead bones the Spirit brings forth living stones for the holy house, an army that cannot be numbered.

But that is another story."

On a side note (being obsessed with "story" and writing as I am) I found this book very inspirational. To see and try and understand how the great Author creates the perfect story is awe inspiring.

Thanks for reading,

Miss Pickwickian

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wisdom - Me


There are spoken words
And ones written in my hand
The message seems so simple
Yet I can not understand

They're words we can say
And once they became a man
The power that’s beyond us
Yet I can not understand

They are words we’ve heard
And ones written across land
There words of love undying
Yet I can not understand

They seem clear, so plain
And in moments clear as sand
They’re far beyond my wisdom
Yet I can not understand

They have saved from death
And have inspired men to stand
They are deeper then knowledge
Yet I can not understand

© Miss Pickwickian

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, October 1, 2010

Getting Into Character - Brandilyn Collins

Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins

Rating: 8
7- It took me longer then most writing books simply because I needed to keep stopping and applying it.
Impact: I hope very high. Hopefully it will show in my writing!

Read it Again: Yes. It's an excellent reference book and I would probably benefit from going strait through a couple more times.
Recommend it:

What to Expect

Brandilyn Collins delves into different stages of bringing out character and understanding people.

She bases her seven points on the great Constantin Stanislavsky's books on acting.

My Squib

I really enjoyed this book, partly because it was just amazing for building characters and partly because it was explores human character and the way we think.

I especially appreciated what she taught about subtexting and inner rhythm. She uses examples from well known books to illustrate her points, which really helped me actually understand the concepts.

The only thing I didn't like was wordiness and sometimes she had some sort of unnecessary content.

I don't always agree with every little thing she said, but it always made me think. An extremely good book if you are interested in writing or just what goes on and the human head and how it translates into actions. I highly recommend it.

She has an amazing list of writing books in the back with short, explanatory squibs. More to add to my list of book wants. ;-)

From the Book

"The novelist's challenge of 'getting into character' is indeed never-ending.

Ultimate characterization is an art that requires our lifetime pursuit--a pursuit that rests upon fervent, continual studying and recording of the human condition. When we blend new observations with those techniques that we've borrowed from our acting cousins, we will continue to see fresh, vibrant life breathed into our characters.

Even more important, we'll learn about ourselves--
Which leads to greater understanding of character--
And the cycle goes on."

Let me know what you thought if you read it. Do you have any favorite character books?
Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian