Penned Inn: November 2004

On more than one occasion I have written myself into a corner. However, I am now walled in, floor to ceiling books and papers wherever I turn. Instead of enemies, my footstool is stacked with friends: books waiting to be finished, started, written about, passed on. No room for feet, except carefully balanced atop a teetering stack. If one falls, it takes root, like a runner from a strawberry plant, and grows into a whole new pile.

Since this footstool is at home, it probably won't help to offer you a free used book from The Word Shop. I'll end up bringing home more interesting looking books to 'look at' before someone else takes them. But we want to give you a Christmas present, and books are what we have. Come in anytime before Christmas and take your pick of any used book. A gift from the Lord, through us, to you.

"Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them." -Samuel Butler, writer (1835-1902)

I'd love to offer you out-of-towners a chance to free the captives, too. But I can't figure out how. Fortunately, opportunities abound wherever you turn. I went to the library to get THE GREAT FIRE, which Patrick recommended. A huge line of people waited to be checked out on this particular Saturday afternoon, but nobody was using the self-checkout machine: Pass card over glass. "Beep." Pass book over glass. "Beep." Machine spits out paper with due date. "Put slip in book." I walked out past the line, feeling like I owned the whole library. Why own a bookstore when you have a whole library?

Good Question. Possibly the answer would come clear if I went and looked at their "religious" section.

THE GREAT FIRE is an interesting novel by Shirley Hazzard that takes place primarily in Japan right after W.W.II. British protagonists who are caught in the grips of the occupation attempt to navigate themselves into a postwar future. There is love, shattered lives, and finally a celebration of goodness as the compelling story inches forward through prose streaked with wondrous phrases. Although published in 2003, its muted optimism feels similar to other postwar English novels, like Goudge and Godden. A book worth waiting for, THE GREAT FIRE is Shirley Hazzard's first novel in twenty years. $14 new Pb. (or free at your local library).

FALLEN INTO THE PIT is another postwar British book, written by Ellis Peters of Brother Cadfael fame. Superb writing, really a great novel squeezed into the mystery genre. Pat brought it in. She brings us three to six mysteries a week loading up our $1 mystery shelf. Phil got it first and passed it to me with accolades. I passed it, with equally great praise, to Michael. He says it's too wordy. What does he know? The line forms to the left.

Debra of the POMEGRANATE book of poetry I wrote about last month, suggests the biography of Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt, WILL IN THE WORLD. She says, "He writes in such detail about everyday life during Shakespeare's time, that to open the book is to smell the smells and hear the sounds in the streets of London; it's just stunning. He talks about how during Elizabeth's reign, if you had in your possession a rosary, a crucifix, a saint's medal (or anything with a saint on it), you could be arrested for treason. He spends a lot of time with religion, the conflicts going on; theorizing that Shakespeare's family was Roman. It's fascinating. And it made me appreciate that now, in the US at least, even if discussions get extremely heated, chances are remote that anyone will be arrested for treason for possessing a rosary. I thought it was a great book." $26.99 Hb. I've ordered one, will order another for you, or you can have first dibbs after me.

I started reading the Pope's new book last night, RISE, LET US BE ON OUR WAY. It is essentially an autobiography beginning with his ordination as Bishop. Although not an astonishing book, there is some blessing in it. I am particularly enjoying his thoughts on servant/leadership...possibly because I'm leading a workshop for Toastmaster Officers next weekend: "LEADERSHIP; The Low Road to Speaking Heights."

Another Phil dropped off a copy of PRISM, a magazine by Evangelicals for Social Action. After squinting through the article about Christians getting tortured in China, I discovered a story about a Jesuit working in Juvenile Hall, doing pretty much the same thing we're doing in the MAKING A MARK class. This revived an old idea of teaching writing in the jails. If you've ever been in a writing class of mine and are interested in being part of a jail team, let me know.

What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer is as inexorable as one's self! -Nathaniel Hawthorne, novelist and short-story writer (1804-1864)

I've got some new picture books, devotionals, and other gift books on display, along with stealth books that are good gifts for nonChristian friends. Come in and buy something. While it would be overly optimistic to expect to end the year in the black...'twould be nice not to end up black and blue.

Alliee +