Archive for the ‘ Good Books ’ Category

Never Out Of Print…

I am sure long after I’m gone, no one will read or remember Redneck Latte Ravings.

But as a would be writer, just as all do, I’d hope that I had some influence for good that would last.

Not so of Oswald Chambers.

He was a Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher at the beginning of the 20th Century.  He was born on this day in 1874.

A devoutly religious man, he once said, “The dearest friend on earth is a mere shadow compared to Jesus Christ.”

Around the age of 21, he left for Dunoon College and was influenced by Richard Reader Harris, a lawyer and the founder of the Pentecostal League of Prayer.  Through Harris and other evangelists, Chambers became burdened for World Evangelism and sailed for Japan.  Back in the US by 1907, he spent some time in Cincinnati teaching at a Bible School.

After a short trip back to Japan and a return to the US via England, he met and married Gertrude Hobbs, their only child, Kathleen was born in 1913.

As Chambers preached, his wife, Gertrude, who could take shorthand at a speed of 250 words per minute, would translate his sermons and lessons to the written page.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Chambers accepted a post of the YMCA in Cairo, Egypt.  He ministered to the soldiers, his sermons were attended by hundreds of soldiers.  His approach was unusual, his manner of speaking enthralling, and his concern for the soldiers genuine.  When confronted by a soldier who said, “I can’t stand religious people,” Chambers replied, “Neither can I.”

In 1917, while in Cairo, Chambers had an attack of appendicitis on October 17, but refused to go to the hospital stating the soldiers from an upcoming battle would need the beds.  Twelve days later, an emergency appendectomy was performed.  Sadly, it was not soon enough, and he died on November 15, and was buried in Cairo with full military honors.

Gertrude transcribed his sermons, and most importantly his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest.

Published 18 years after his death, the daily devotional is a compilation of Christian preaching to students and soldiers.  First published in 1935, it has been printed, re-printed, updated, and re-circulated repeatedly over the years.

The title comes from one of his sermons.  He said, “Shut out every consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only – my utmost for His Highest. “  One of the most popular religious books ever written, it has inspired men and women worldwide.

Translated into 39 languages over time, My Utmost for His Highest has never been out of print.

I Shoulda Known…

…It was an Oprah Book Club pick; it was going to be depressing.

Somehow Gap Creek by Robert Morgan wound UP on my book wish list and low and behold, one of the kids sent it to me a Christmas or two ago.

I don’t remember wanting it, and I actually think I asked for Bill Cameron’s County Line, and somehow got it mixed UP with Gap Creek.

Either way, I got the book, laid it aside for a year or more, and recently picked it UP.

Don’t bother.

Possibly the most depressing piece of literature in the English Language, it is the story of a marriage.

That’s how it bills itself, Gap Creek, The Story of a Marraige.

The writer is very famous, generally on the best seller list, and did a wonderful job of writing the book in the first person mountain voice of Julie.

It really is good writing.

Julie “works like a man” and does more than any two people should have to do.

Her only brother is sickly, can’t work, and dies in her arms.

Then her father dies.

Hope springs eternal for the only time in the book when Julie meets Hank Richards, falls in love on the spot and marries him a short time later.

They leave Painter Mountain in North Carolina and go to Gap Creek, South Carolina, just over the line.

Morgan paints a picture of a hard scrabble life for this young bride and her immature groom.

He lands a job making brick for a cotton mill; they live with an old coot who has offered them free room as long as Julie takes care of the house.

I read on through the book knowing that something wonderful would happen only to find out that Hank’s judgmental mother comes to visit after apparently winning the “Mother in Law from Hell” award.  The book doesn’t say that, but I’m sure she did.

Julie and Mr. Pendergast, the home owner, kill a hog, and while rendering the fat on the stove, Julie bumps one of the cans, a fire starts, Ma throws water on the grease fire, Mr. Pendergast goes back in for his pension money, gets burned badly and dies the following night.

Meanwhile, Hank gets fired.

One tragedy after another comes upon this couple like the plagues of Egypt.

I wanted to throw it away, but yet, I persisted.

Yes I plogged on, hoping against hope that something good would happen.

Not yet, one swindler after another comes and bilks Julie of what little money they have.  A couple comes and claims to be the heirs of the property and allows Julie and Hank to stay but takes Papa’s silver as they leave.

Oh, and there’s a town drunk who comes and harasses them in the middle of the night about every other week or so.

Good times!

Reading ahead, knowing that hope would spring eternal for the young couple, imagine my dismay when Julie delivers the baby BY HERSELF ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR while dumbass Hank is off fetching his momma who is going to help with the baby.

Hank and Ma Richards arrive only to find Julie passed out on the kitchen floor after birthing Delia, cutting the cord with her teeth, and near death.

Oh and then, the baby dies.

After that, Ma heads back UP the mountain, Hank has a meltdown, there’s an ice storm, a flood, the drunk comes back, the cow drowns in the flood, a mink kills all the chickens…I think you get it.

But I, like a fool, was sure something good was going to happen.  Maybe they would find a pot of gold in the barn, or under Mr. Pendergast’s bed.

Or maybe some benevolent soul would give Hank a job.

Something, anything,

But noooooooooooooooooooooooo not only did nothing good come along, the attorney for the real heirs shows UP, demands back rent, takes their possessions as they have no money to pay, evicts them and they leave for Hank’s mother’s mountain cabin with only what they can carry.

Some critics compared it (because of the writing) to Charles Frasier’s Cold Mountain.

They should be shot.

WORST BOOK EVER!

Fiction.

  1. 80 years ago today, Gone With The Wind won the Pulitzer prize for fiction.

Fiction.

Ok, so it’s not exactly on point historically, I get that.

It’s still one of the best books ever written, and Scarlett O’Hara is one of the strongest female characters ever created.

It’s still a good read.

Written by Georgia’s own Margaret Mitchell, the book took the literary world by storm.  Mitchell, a Southerner who was schooled in Confederate lore by her tyrannical grandmother, was part of Atlanta’s old guard.

Her mother was a suffragist and many think Scarlett’s character was based on her.  We don’t know, but I think it was a compilation of Granny, Mom, and Margaret, and the hundreds of women Peggy Mitchell knew who had lived through the Civil War, the burning of Atlanta, and Reconstruction.

Mitchell fell in love early; her army lieutenant beau was killed in World War I while she was  at Smith College. During her stay at Smith, her mother died of the Spanish flu.  Both events repurposed and fictionalized, feature prominently in the book as Scarlett’s first husband is dies in the War, and her mother dies of Typhoid.

Mitchell returned to Atlanta, married the wrong guy, and divorced the abusive bootlegger – again look for him in the book.

Mitchell broke convention ala Scarlett, when she took a job writing for a newspaper, interviewed convicts, smoked cigarettes in public, and generally told the old peahens of Atlanta to stuff it!

She married John Marsh, who would be the love of her life, share her interests, and encourage her to publish her 1000 plus page work.

So glad she met that guy!

GWTW was published in June of 1936.

She had originally planned to call the book Tomorrow is Another Day – Scarlett’s last line in the tome.  There were some other ideas as well, but Mitchell chose the first line of the third stanza of a poem for the book.

Non Sum Qualls Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson contains

“I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind…”

Scarlett uses the line, gone with the wind, as she wonders if her plantation, Tara, is still there.  The line (and title), is a metaphor for the lost way of life after the South’s defeat.

In reality, the poem is an expression of regret by someone who has lost his feelings for an old passion, and Cynara comes from the Greek word for artichoke which represents a lost love.

Margaret Mitchell may have known that, but I doubt Scarlett would have.

Regardless of where and when, it’s a great book filled with fascinating characters and is one of the greatest stories of survival of all time.

The four hour film does not do the book justice.

If Scarlett were alive today, she’d be kicking butt and taking names.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll…

Today is World Parkinson’s Day.

Why today?

Well, it’s the birth date of Dr. James Parkinson, an English surgeon, apothecary, geologist, paleontologist, and political activist.

The guy just couldn’t make UP his mind!

He wrote An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817 and was the first to describe paralysis agitans.

The condition would be named Parkinson’s Disease by Jean-Martin Charcot.

Parkinson was born in London to an apothecary father who was also a surgeon.  He became a surgeon in 1784 and was approved by the City of London.

There were no medical boards back then; you just had to prove you could do the job!

His interest in politics led him to become an advocate for the under=privileged and an outspoken critic of the government of William Pitt.   He was known for his social and revolutionary causes and published over 20 political pamphlets in the period after the French Revolution.  He called for social reform and universal suffrage.  Both were political hot buttons at the time.

He moved back to medicine from the political world around 1799 and began publishing medical works including one on ruptured appendix.  He along with his son was the first to prove a ruptured appendix was a cause of death.

He was a proponent of improving the general health of the population and was a crusader for legal protection of the mentally ill.

The guy was way ahead of his time!

He died in 1824 after suffering a stroke.

His life and work are commemorated with a stone tablet at the church of St. Leonard’s where he was a member.

His gravesite is unknown.

His discovery and work on the disease that would eventually be named for him is celebrated today with a day of awareness.

Parkinson’s affects over 1,000,000 people in the US alone with more than 60,000 new cases diagnosed last year!

One of my favorite bloggers and writers, Vikki Claflin’s book Shake, Rattle, and Roll With It: Living and Laughing with Parkinson’s is her way of dealing with the disease.

It is a great read, and a great way to celebrate the day!

You can check it out here along with her blog… http://laugh-lines.net/

Happy Parkinson’s Day?