During a recent discussion in the AP Literature class I teach, I mentioned that the actor Alan Rickman had died the previous day. The young lady seated directly in front of me said, “You’re kidding.”
With the new year now upon us, it strikes me that “something old” and “something new” is appropriate for this column.
My name is Joe Ecclesia. On a recent December Saturday, when I interviewed Jeff Minick about his new novel, Dust On Their Wings, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the sixties. We sat creek-side behind the Panacea Coffeehouse in Waynesville’s Frog Level district.
In the spring of 2011, there appeared William Forschen’s One Second After, a novel set in Black Mountain, North Carolina, following an Electro-Magnetic Pulse attack on America. This sort of attack, which involves setting off nuclear devices in the atmosphere, kills the electronic systems in devices as varied as computers and cars.
Whatever our denominations or religious beliefs, many of us are familiar with the old adage of this season: “Peace on earth, good will toward men (with “men” meaning “all people).” Spoken by an angel to shepherds near Bethlehem, these sentiments sound comfy as a pair of slippers and a cup of hot chocolate. Very inclusive. Very P.C.
In the last month, my reading of books has outstripped my reviews. Consequently, stacks of books surround the desk at which I write — a huge, old-fashioned roll-top that long ago lost its roll-top and wears many scars and age spots, much like me.
Many readers — and I am one of them — are fascinated by books lists. There are scores of these lists, ranging from “The Greatest Novels of the Twentieth Century” to “The Ten Greatest Books for Children.” Part of the fun in reading these bills of fare comes from the questions they raise. Why, we may ask ourselves, does the list include James Joyce but not Evelyn Waugh? Why three novels by Faulkner but one by Hemingway? Why is Virginia Woolf featured but not Emily Bronte?
English writer Graham Greene used to divide his literary works into entertainments, which we might call thrillers, and novels, which he regarded as his more serious books.
In The Little Paris Bookshop (Crown Publishers, 2015, 400 pages), novelist Nina George, who lives in both Germany and France, has given readers a rare gem of a read.
In 1549, Jesuit priest Francis Xavier, two companions, and a Japanese translator entered Japan, seeking to bring the Gospel into those islands. Within 30 years, some 150,000 Japanese had become Catholics. The Church continued to grow until the early part of the seventeenth century, when Japanese Shoguns began a series of persecutions, torturing and executing many Christians, and forcing tens of thousands to apostatize.