Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Well, I finally finished Nabokov's short stories. I was appalled to log on after a whole month and see that that book had been on my nightstand for so long, but as always, I got distracted. It took a little while to get into Nabokov, anyway. Several of the stories were delightful and entrancing, while far too many others were just Russian. Actually, they were all extremely Russian, but some had other things going for them. I particularly liked the story "A Bad Day", about a boy from the country who goes to a birthday party at his cousin's house. He doesn't want to go, because he knows it will be awkward and unpleasant for him, but of course the grown-ups expect him to want to go. It's an interesting vignette of a child's life--perhaps more depressing than I like to think, but fairly accurate--and the ending was shockingly heartwrenching and unexpected (if you're somewhat oblivious, like me). I also enjoyed the story about the man whose doppelganger makes his life difficult and harried--this one has a good ending too. The best thing was that I got inspired to write some short stories, and in fact started one at work last night. It's based on an odd dream I had, and will perhaps appear in Kate-hill sometime soon.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I believe it was Sarah Ban Breathnach who suggested always having three books on one's nightstand--one simply fun and light; one slightly more challenging that requires some attention; and one to study and learn from. This way you'll always have something that suits your present mood, without flitting, as I often do, from book to book and gathering great stacks next to the bed. Anyway, I've been trying to do this, and ended up setting aside a specific time each day to read something edifying. Since I need something to read while I eat breakfast, this seemed the perfect time for working through more serious books a chapter at a time, and I'm finding it an excellent practice. Besides giving me something to think about throughout the day, it also starts me off feeling productive!

Since starting this pleasant little habit earlier in the summer, I've read three terrific books and am just starting a fourth. The first book was recommended by my dear Meg--The Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. Though a little too casual and chatty for my taste, the subject was thoughtprovoking and interesting, as the authors described a lifestyle that draws one closer to God. We don't usually think of a relationship with God as being romantic and passionate, but it must be in order to take part in all that He wants to give us.

My second book was Franky Schaeffer's A Time for Anger, which I found amazingly stirring and apropos despite its 1980's publication date. Many of the social problems and moral issues that still concern us today were fully blossoming at that time, and he addresses them with righteous anger and a call to action. He questions the apathy that modern Christians have fallen into--the mood of "tolerance" that seems to keep us from protesting the horrors and travesties that surround us. In particular he discusses the abortion holocaust that slips by general attention because even the staunchest pro-life advocates have been jaded into thinking of precious babies as mere fetuses and lumps of tissue. It's a book that will be on my mind for a good long time, and has already stirred me into speaking my mind more bluntly than usual.

A friend had sent us a copy of Hidden Art, by Franky Schaeffer's mother Edith (also the wife of the philosopher Francis Schaeffer and co-founder of L'Abri), and for some reason I couldn't get into it until I made it my morning read. Then I could hardly bear to read only a chapter at a time! With the premise that God is an artist, and the best way to worship him is to share in his creation by being artistic ourselves, she goes through all aspects of life with suggestions on how to become more creative and artistic. She doesn't necessarily advocate becoming a great artist, writer, or musician, but rather using those natural talents to enhance life and glorify God. A grocery list can be a creative outlet as well as a pleasant sight when it's decorated with a flowering vine or little cartoons of the needed items; evenings become pleasant and productive with an impromptu concert or singing circle; a house is more comfortable and welcoming when arranged with personal style and special finds; friends are always thrilled to receive long newsy letters filled with description, dialogue, and philosophical musings. Each chapter provides new ideas and fresh ways to brighten one's life and grow closer to God--I found it interesting, inspiring, and thoroughly enjoyable.