Friday, December 28, 2012

Grace and purification in Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation"

UPDATE 2016: This has proven to be one of the most popular posts on the blog, which suggests that lots of people enjoy, but perhaps are puzzled by, Flannery O'Connor's short stories. I would be happy to explore more of her stories (I've got a couple of half-written posts that are hanging fire). If you have a particular O'Connor story that excites, interests, or puzzles you, leave a comment at the end of this post and let me know -- or you can email me, if you don't want to leave a public comment.

Original post:
 A recent comment on an old post about Flannery O'Connor raises some questions that I thought I would respond to in a separate post, rather than depositing them in the obscurity of the comm box. Janet Baker left a long comment (you can read it in its entirety there), which says in part:
I'm currently working on the short story Revelation, looking at the text for what it says about Flannery's Catholicism, rather than listening to her pronouncements in non-fiction, like her letters. If you read the story, you will note that it is Mrs. Turpin's virtues that must be burned away before she enters heaven, and that people enter heaven in groups, racial and social. Perhaps you don't read either St. Thomas Aquinas, or Teilhard de Chardin, nor have I extensively, but if you begin to read about it, you'll see that St. Thomas promotes the virtues of which Mrs. Turpin is guilty--generous almsgiving, supporting the Church, helping others regardless of their worthines [sic] of help. It was Teilhard, whom Flannery really loved and read even when it wasn't time for bed, as she did Thomas. Teilhard, on the other hand, supports the idea that we enter heaven in groups and all enter, all, after their individual identities had been burned away. That's why he was a heretic and rejected by the Church, along with all his bogus evolutionary crap, although he influenced the Church deeply, and perhaps mortally.
Janet, thanks for your comments. I’m glad you like the blog; stop by any time! As a longtime student and teacher of literature (the field in which I hold a doctorate, from a Catholic university), and as sincere Catholic well-educated in the Faith, I can tell you that I see no sign in “Revelation” that O’Connor was espousing the kind of universalism that you impute to Teilhard de Chardin, nor do I believe that the burning away of the “virtues” mentioned in the story (which are actually faults) should be equated with the obliteration of individual identity.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Kindle Freebie, from me to you

Kindle freebie Christmas present
As my Christmas present to all Kindle owners, especially those who just got a new Kindle for Christmas, I'm running a freebie promotion on my little book on all the helpful uses of diatomaceous earth around the home . From Wednesday, 26 December, through Friday, 28 December, you can download the book for free!

Those who don't have a Kindle can purchase the paperback version, which is currently eligible for Amazon's 4 for 3 promotion (buy four books and get the lowest priced one free).

Anyone interested in having a "greener" home, using healthier products to get rid of bugs such as fleas, ants, even bedbugs, or just "getting back to nature" will enjoy this book. Think of it as my little gift to you. If you like your gift, please post an Amazon review saying what you like.

Merry Christmas! Happy reading!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fellowship of the Book: T. M. Doran's Toward the Gleam (Review)

Toward the Gleam cover art, John Herried, Daniel Mitsui, T. M. DoranChristmas is upon us, and Peter Jackson's new Hobbit movie has recently premiered, which reminds me of a great book I've been meaning to recommend. Anyone looking for a Christmas gift for fans of Tolkien's tales of Middle Earth should take a look at T. M. Doran's novel, Toward the Gleam (from Ignatius Press, available in hardback, ereader, and audio editions; get the Kindle version from Amazon .) It is both an homage to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and a gripping tale in its own right. The makers of the book's trailer definitely wanted to draw attention to the connection between Doran's novel and Tolkien's.

The cover art design for the book should also remind readers of LOTR. Here's Toward the Gleam, cover designed by John Herreid and executed by a wonderful Catholic artist, Daniel Mitsui. You can see that it incorporates some of the design elements from the well-known covers of the 1986 Houghton Mifflin edition (below), such as the runic message around the edge, and iconic scenes from the story. Herreid's design actually incorporates lots of little visual clues to important elements of Doran's story, which takes place not in Middle Earth but in Britain and Europe during Tolkien's lifetime.

Without providing spoilers, I'll just say that Toward the Gleam is chockablock with thinly disguised fictional versions of real life figures from Tolkien's life and times, which readers will have fun recognizing. More importantly, however, is the way this real-world (but entirely fictional) tale parallels that of Tolkien's famous romance, Lord of the Rings. (To say more about that would spoil the fun.)  Additionally, imbedded in the plot is an exploration of the various modern philosophies that gave rise to the two great wars that plagued Europe in the first half of the twentieth century and which continue to cause grave problems in our own day. Besides all this, it is a suspenseful tale with a love story embedded in it. There's something for everyone!

Lord of the Rings covers, 1986 Houghton-Mifflin edition
For many years, I owned, read, and re-read this edition of Lord of the Rings.

No Tolkien or Inklings fan should fail to read this book. Even those who have not read Lord of the Rings or who know little about Tolkien can enjoy this novel, but I suspect they will be intrigued enough to want to read Tolkien after they have finished Toward the Gleam.

UPDATE 2015 I've re-read this book and am happy to say that it passes my "good book" test -- i.e., it is even more enjoyable upon rereading. The second time around, I was less preoccupied with recognizing the historical figures and philosophical arguments, and better able just to enjoy the story-telling. You certainly don't have to be a Tolkien fan to read this book -- but you will probably want to read (or re-read) Tolkien's Lord of the Rings after you finish Doran's Toward the Gleam. Full of good stuff, and still highly recommended!

©2012-15 Lisa A. Nicholas

Please leave your thoughts or comments below!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dear Self-Published Novelists: Please tell the whole story

Barbara Nicolosi, founder of Act One, a Christian screenwriting school, often complains that her students just don't seem to understand what makes a story. My adventures in reading self-published novels on Kindle has shown me that even writers of novels seem to have trouble grasping this concept. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many self-published novelists seem to think they can get by without editors, who would be able to point out when a story is not really a story. I used to laugh at the fact that Aristotle, supposedly so wise, said something as obvious as “Every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” Now I see that this is apparently not obvious to everyone.

The Perils of Plotting

Last week I had one of those head colds that knock me out for about three days. My oxygen-starved brain was having trouble just trying to remain conscious, so writing anything was definitely out. So I turned to a freebie Kindle book I had downloaded recently, for something fairly mindless to read in my few, brief moments of wakefulness. I was quite enjoying it -- interesting premise (some sort of alternate or prehistory history earth?), promising characters, a developing mystery, an ancient monotheistic religion about to make a comeback.

Snoopy typing Not the endBy the time I reached midway point of this book, my breathing was starting to improve and my minds was regaining acuity, so I began to notice that, with only a hundred pages or so until the end, there were at least four different character plot lines wandering off in different directions, like a braided cord unraveling. I also noticed that the young boy being trained to become a secret warrior-priest of the mysterious religion about to make a comeback was being taught plenty about being a warrior and nothing about being a priest (he wasn’t even being taught the religion). And then I got to the end of the book, which was – I’m not making this up! – literally a cliffhanger. The last scene has the young warrior-priest jumping off a high cliff to escape the man pursuing him (his mentor, who has become somehow also his would-be assassin). The End. Not.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Win a Kindle Fire!

Kindle Fire
I just entered a raffle to win a Kindle Fire, and so can you! Just head over to the blog of writer Diane Capri and enter like I did. You can also take part in the Holiday Blog Hop to the blogs of some 60 different writers and get a chance to win lots of other goodies, including Amazon gift cards. What are you waiting for? Get hopping!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Literary Journal: The Lost Country

The Lost Country, cover, volume 1 number 1
This week, phone and internet outages combined with a raging head-cold  to keep me from getting much writing done (although I've got plenty of things on the hob!). Let me suggest, then, that you take a look at the online edition of a new literary journal, The Lost Country, produced by some young scholar/writers of my acquaintance, who call themselves The Exiles. You can read it online or download a PDF, but if you like what you see, you should really consider subscribing to the print edition, which is very handsomely produced. You can also learn more about The Exiles, who describe themselves as "a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University." If you'd like to encourage them in their work, they accept donations!
a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University
a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University
a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University
a literary club in the venerable tradition of the Inklings of Oxford and the Fugitives of Vanderbilt University

In the debut edition of The Lost Country, you'll find an essay that I wrote called "Charity, the Key to Reading The Story of the Grail," which is excerpted and adapted from my doctoral dissertation. But just to set the record straight, my dissertation was about memory as the hermeneutic key to reading Chr├ętien de Troyes’s Perceval (a.k.a. The Story of the Grail), and it was Barbara Sargent-Baur of Princeton University who literally wrote the book on charity in The Story of the Grail. Memory and charity, of course, work hand in hand, but if you want to know how that works in Chr├ętien’s romance, you’ll have to buy a copy of my dissertation (just ask for no. 3317643) or wait until I publish it as a book. Or just keep reading this blog, because I’m bound to mention it one of these days. Not today, I’m afraid, because I’m still waiting for the pseudoephedrine to kick in so that I can breathe well enough to oxygenate my brain properly.

What are you doing still reading this? Go! Go check out The Lost Country.


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