Literature as a defensive fortification

It’s late summer, but the song lyrics still work: living is supposed to be easy. So I’m looking for some light reading. No politics, no massive histories or biographies, no novels with tangled plots and emotions, no suspense stories where the protagonist leaves behind a trail of dead bodies thicker than Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs. 

Good folks and a wicked man

Years ago, a friend and I were watching some news show like 60 Minutes about juvenile murderers. The point of the report was that these young criminals showed little or no remorse for their shootings and stabbings, and in fact seemed to lack any sort of moral compass that most of us take as a given. When I wondered aloud about a solution, what might be done to change these stonehearted murderers, my friend looked at me and said, “Some people just need killing.”

A quiet place: the book nook

Readers generally look for a special place to sink into their books, to escape the noise and hubbub of the household, to find that sanctuary where they can give themselves over to the reverie and escapism of stories.

A light in our darkness: Michael O’Brien’s The Lighthouse

So it’s a late Thursday afternoon, and I’m sitting on the front porch finishing up a novel when my eyes prickled, and then blurred, and the old saltwater ran down my age-raddled cheeks. 

Doubling up: a review of Basil’s War and Bourdain’s World Travel

I’ve long been a fan of Stephen Hunter’s novels, particularly his series about Bob Lee Swagger. Swagger is a sniper, reflecting Hunter’s interest in firearms, and I’ve reviewed several Swagger novels for The Smoky Mountain News. I’ve also recommended the movie “Shooter,” a fine film where Mark Wahlberg plays the part of Swagger. 

Worlds apart: a look at two very different books

The last four months of 1862 brought blood and slaughter to the armies of the South and the North. Earlier that year, a series of battles led to the September battle of Sharpsburg, also known as Antietam, in Maryland, where in the bloodiest single day of fighting during the war George McClellan’s Union forces turned back Lee’s attempted invasion of that state.

Ken Follett’s tribute to Notre Dame

On April 15, 2019, Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the world’s most beloved architectural landmarks, caught fire. The blaze started in the roof, incinerating the enormous ancient wooden beams located there and causing the collapse of the central spire, which “leaned sideways, snapped like a matchstick, and crashed through the flaming roof of the nave.”

Perhaps we all need to laugh a little more

Recently I realized I needed to laugh more often. 

I do laugh when I’m on the phone with one of my children or a friend, and occasionally if I watch some YouTube video.

Surprised by Stewart’s ‘Very Good Things’

Most of us like comeback stories.

Reflections on spirituality, creativity and art

Sometimes a book can overwhelm us with its energy and its wisdom.

Like most readers, I love when a writer, especially one completely unknown to me, reaches out from the pages, grabs me by the shoulders, and says, “Listen to me!”

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