Like Children — TANYA CLIFF

we play like children on a landscape of letters grains of sand we form into forts the waves crash over and scatter our word creations we build again remembering the moat, this time we dig it deep around the palace plot then add tall-tale spires and carve out balconies and archways to give it character […]

via Like Children — TANYA CLIFF

David Bruce: Authors Anecdotes


In 2008, author Barbara Kingsolver’s younger daughter, Lily, was 11 years old. According to Ms. Kingsolver, “The wisdom of each generation is necessarily new. This tends to dawn on us in revelatory moments, brought to us by our children.” As an example, she brings up her daughter, whom she walks to the school bus stop and talks to until the bus arrives. This is a good time, but a few weeks previously, Lily looked her over and then told her, “Mom, just so you know, the only reason I’m letting you wear that outfit is because of your age.” When the bus arrived, Ms. Kingsolver hid behind a building. That is an example of new knowledge. In Ms. Kingsolver’s words, “It’s okay […] to deck out and turn up as the village idiot” when you are old enough. What about the old knowledge? Ms. Kingsolver says, “Honestly, it is harrowing for me to try to teach 20-year-old students, who earnestly want to improve their writing. The best I can think to tell them is: Quit smoking, and observe posted speed limits. This will improve your odds of getting old enough to be wise.” According to Ms. Kingsolver, the books that are good are the books that are wise.

Frederick Forsyth has written many novels, including The Day of the Jackal. How does he write? The same way he has written for 50 years, he says: “With a typewriter.” One of those typewriters—a portable with a steel case—has seen a lot of action, and it demonstrated a great superiority over computers: “It had a crease across the lid which was done by a bullet in Biafra. [Mr. Forsyth was a foreign correspondent in the 1960s.] It just kept tapping away. It didn’t need power, it didn’t need batteries, it didn’t need recharging. One ribbon went back and forward and back until it was a rag, almost, and out came the dispatches.” Of course, typewriters have other advantages over computers, Mr. Forsyth points out: “I have never had an accident where I have pressed a button and accidentally sent seven chapters into cyberspace, never to be seen again. And have you ever tried to hack into my typewriter? It is very secure.” And, of course, typewriters have yet another advantage over computers: tangible words. Mr. Forsyth says, “I like to see black words on white paper rolling up in front of my gaze.”

Anna Sam worked for eight years as a check-out girl in a supermarket in France, then wrote the book Les tribulations d’une caissière (The Trials and Tribulations of a Check-Out Girl) about her experiences there. For example, occasionally a French mother would point to Ms. Sam and tell her child, “You see, darling, if you don’t work hard at school, you’ll become a caissière [check-out girl] like the lady.” Whenever that happened, Ms. Sam informed the mother that she had had five years of education at a university. Unable to find a good job after graduation, she had taken the job at the supermarket. She says, “There are a lot of students with literary, sociology or artistic degrees in supermarkets in France. Not many of them really want to become check-out workers.” Of course, France being France, even supermarkets are erotic locales. Ms. Sam says, “You would be surprised at the number of kisses in the aisles … at hands on bottoms in front of the frozen goods, at breasts caressed in the woman’s lingerie [section].”

Novelist Leif Enger got the writing bug from Lin, his brother, a writer of short stories whose first solo-written novel is Undiscovered Country, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but set in Minnesota. Their father read Lin’s novel, then watched Mel Gibson’s movie version of Hamlet. The father, who may be a tad biased, says, “I think Lin’s a little better than Shakespeare.” Leif has written a Western titled So Brave, Young, and Handsome, for which he did research on the Hundred and One ranch. Among other things, the managers brought in Geronimo, who was then old, and had him shoot a buffalo. Leif says, “They billed it as ‘Geronimo’s Last Buffalo.’ Nobody knew it was really his first buffalo because the Apache didn’t hunt buffalo.”

In 1934, people speculated that the great Jewish Ukrainian poet Chaim Bialik might win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Unfortunately, he failed to win. Fortunately, he was philosophical about the loss, saying, “I’m very glad that I didn’t win the prize. Now everybody’s my friend and feels sorry for me.” He went on to speculate about what would have happened if he had won the Noble Prize: “Then I’m sure some of the very same people who are now so indignant on my account would have said, ‘What’s so wonderful about getting the Nobel Prize? Why, even that poet Bialik got one!”

Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women, which was published by Roberts Brothers, a firm that made an offer to buy the copyright to the book but also recommended that she keep the copyright because the book was likely to be popular and she could make more money if she owned the copyright. Ms. Alcott did keep the copyright, and the book made her lots and lots of money. She later wrote in her journal: “An honest publisher and a lucky author.”

Marion Zimmer Bradley, along with such people as Ann Bannon and Patricia Highsmith, got her start as an author by writing lesbian pulp fiction. As you may expect, times were sometimes rough as these people sought to establish careers as writers. Ms. Bannon remembers that one of Ms. Bradley’s meals consisted of crackers, heated-up ketchup, and salt and pepper.

John Steinbeck once lost an important manuscript: that of the stories that made up his book The Red Pony. No problem. He sat down and rewrote the book. When he later discovered the original manuscript, he compared it with his rewrite and discovered that except for seven words, the manuscripts were exactly the same.

Edward Gorey’s books, of course, are filled with the grotesque and the macabre. Author Alexander Theroux once interviewed him and asked him why his work focused on “stark violence and horror and terror.” Mr. Gorey replied, “I write about everyday life.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


NOTES on St. Paul (circa 5 BCE-circa 67 CE): The Resurrection of the Body

Saint Paul

Bertrand Russell and other philosophers, including Corliss Lamont, mounted a formidable attack against immortality by using what we can call the Argument from Dependency. Basically, Russell argued that our personality (including habits and memories) is so dependent upon our brain that when our brain (and body) dies, our personality must also die.

St. Paul has a response to Russell. According to St. Paul, Russell is in part right — we do need to have a body in order to have a personality. However, St. Paul believes that we will have a body in the afterlife — the power of God will resurrect our body and we will live again.

The evidence for this is very Christian — St. Paul cites the resurrection of Jesus Christ as evidence that death will be conquered and we will live again. In I Corinthians15, St. Paul mentions the numerous eyewitnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus. There were over 500 eyewitnesses — most of whom St. Paul says were still alive as he was writing. One of these eyewitnesses was St. Paul himself:

I passed on to you […] that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died. Then he appeared to James, and afterward to all the apostles.

Last of all he appeared also to me.

(1 Corinthians 15: 1-8; Good News Translation)

Please note that St. Paul does not use philosophical arguments to prove that we are immortal — his evidence is empirical: eyewitnesses. Another thing to note is that many people distrust eyewitnesses; most of us have read detective novels in which an eyewitness made a mistaken identification. Still, there were a vast number of eyewitnesses in this case, including St. Paul himself.

Also note that the resurrection is central to Christianity: The resurrection of Jesus is the most important thing in Christianity, and Easter is — or should be — more important than Christmas. According to St. Paul, “[…] if Christ has not been raised from death, then we have nothing to preach and you have nothing to believe” (1 Corinthians 15: 14; Good News Translation).

Yet another point to make is that the resurrected body will be different from our Earthly body. Here on Earth, we have a physical body; in the afterlife, we will have a spiritual body. According to St. Paul,

[…] When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body. […]

(1 Corinthians 15: 42-43; Good News Translation)

“What I mean, friends, is that what is made of flesh and blood cannot share in God’s kingdom, and what is mortal cannot possess immortality.”

(1 Corinthians 15: 50; Good News Translation)

Immortality has been controversial in the history of Humankind. Even in the early books of the Bible, immortality is not something assumed. In Jobthis question is asked:

If a man dies, shall he live again?

(Job14:14; English Standard Version)

However, in Daniel (a late book in the Old Testament), we read:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

(Daniel 12:2; English Standard Version)

Even in the New Testament, immortality is regarded as controversial. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, but the Sadducees did not.

It’s interesting to note that in some early religions even when there was a belief in a life after death, this life after death was not regarded as desirable. The Homeric hero Achilles said in The Odysseythat it is better to be the living slave of a poor farmer than it is to be a dead king in the Underworld .

Fortunately, Christian immortality is regarded as being much better than this.

One other believer in immortality must be mentioned, if only as a contrast to St. Paul. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that each human being is an immortal soul trapped in a mortal body. To Plato, death represented the release of our immortal soul. When Plato’s teacher, Socrates, died, he told his friend Crito, “Crito, we ought to offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it, and don’t forget.” Asclepius was the god of healing, and a cock was offered to him when someone was healed of a disease. In other words, Socrates was now healed of life, and so he offered a cock to Asclepius. This is reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s epitaph: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I am free at last.” However, as a Christian, Dr. King believed in Paradise.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Edgar Lee Masters: Benjamin Fraser (Spoon River Anthology)

THEIR spirits beat upon mine
Like the wings of a thousand butterflies.
I closed my eyes and felt their spirits vibrating.
I closed my eyes, yet I knew when their lashes
Fringed their cheeks from downcast eyes,
And when they turned their heads;
And when their garments clung to them,
Or fell from them, in exquisite draperies.
Their spirits watched my ecstasy
With wide looks of starry unconcern.
Their spirits looked upon my torture;
They drank it as it were the water of life;
With reddened cheeks, brightened eyes,
The rising flame of my soul made their spirits gilt,
Like the wings of a butterfly drifting suddenly into sunlight.
And they cried to me for life, life, life.
But in taking life for myself,
In seizing and crushing their souls,
As a child crushes grapes and drinks
From its palms the purple juice,
I came to this wingless void,
Where neither red, nor gold, nor wine,
Nor the rhythm of life are known.


Lao-Tzu #32: Naming often makes things impersonal, so we should know when naming should end.



The Tao is nameless and unchanging.

Although it appears insignificant,

nothing in the world can contain it.


If a ruler abides by its principles,

then her people will willingly follow.

Heaven would then reign on earth,

like sweet rain falling on paradise.

People would have no need for laws,

because the law would be written on their hearts.


Naming is a necessity for order,

but naming can not order all things.

Naming often makes things impersonal,

so we should know when naming should end.

Knowing when to stop naming,

you can avoid the pitfall it brings.


All things end in the Tao

just as the small streams and the largest rivers

flow through valleys to the sea.


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