Friday, 31 March 2006

A Dirty Job by: Chrstopher Moore

A Dirty Job
Christopher Moore
Harper Collins - Browse Inside
March 2006
ISBN: 0060590270


How often do you think about death, or even more so about your soul? Well what if soul’s were passed from one person to another like hand-me-down jeans? Where would that leave us the teaming masses of earth? Well Christopher Moore tries to tackle the big questions in his latest book A Dirty Job.

Our not so gifted hero is Charlie Asher, who is a normal guy, or we should say a normal Beta Male. He has a very active imagination but has lived by flight rather then the fight instinct. He has a pretty good life, a loving sister, and adoring wife and a little baby on the way; then his world comes crashing down around him. First his wife dies, and a mysterious man who only Charlie saw was in her hospital room when she died. He doesn’t appear on the security tapes, and no one recalls seeing him. Then things really start getting weird.

Charlie has become a ‘Death Merchant’ sort of an assistant to Death, or the equivalent of the Salivation Army’s Santa’s to Santa. He is a little death, and as such his job is to collect soul objects and pass them on to people without souls. Which as an owner of a second hand store he is in a good position to do. However he does not get receive ‘The Great Big Book of Death’ one of his employee’s borrows it for her own amusement. So Charlie does not know what to do, or how to do it but weird things keep happening to him. He keeps showing up when people are dying and there are items that are glowing a bright red. These were the soul vessels.

But all is not well in the great city of San Francisco, darkness it trying to rise for the cosmic battle will soon take place between the powers of darkness and the little deaths, before the rising of the Great Death once again.

We have a cast of Characters that would put a Shakespeare comedy to proud our Falstaff is the Emperor of San Francisco, a man of the street who knows and care for his city deeply, Charlie’s Daughter who is protected by two hellhounds – 400lb dog that eat toasters and small engines named Mohamed & Alvin these two also love eating soap and shampoo, Minty Fresh a used music dealer who is over 6 foot tall and always dressed in green. And many many more.

If you have read any of Moore before this one will be even more funny. You go on a walkabout both above and below the city of San Francisco.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-05-18 in the column Live it/Hate It Book Reviews)

Other Moore Books I have Reviewed:
Bloodsucking Fiends
A Dirty Job
You Suck: A Love Story


Thursday, 30 March 2006

The Forge by: Josemaria Escriva

The Forge
Josemaria Escriva

This is one of three great little books by Josemaria Escriva’s The Way, Furrow and The Forge. Each of these three volumes are collections of thoughts, pense’s musings and meditations. They can be read from beginning to end or randomly opened and read just as you find them. Some of the reflections will require more thought and work then others. Some examples that particularly grabbed my attention are:

“Each day be conscious of your duty to e a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.”
#60

“Make an effort to respond at each moment to what God is asking of you: have the will to love him with deeds. They may be little deeds, but do not leave any out.”
#82

“To die is a good thing. How can anyone with faith be, at the same time, afraid to die? But as long as the Lord wants to keep you here on earth, it would be cowardice for you to want to die. You must live, live and suffer and work for Love: that is your task.”
#1037

Each of these three little books will help you grow deeper in the Christian life. They will challenge you every time you pick them up and read. I have gotten to the point that I always carry one of them with me, and while waiting for a ride, or before class, or in any spare moment open it and read, and through that reading I pray. Through that prayer I hope to become a better Christian and a better person.

Saturday, 25 March 2006

A Day With A Perfect Stranger by: David Gregory

A Day With A Perfect Stranger
David Gregory
WaterBrook Press
July 2006
109 pages

This follow-up to the immensely popular Dinner with a Perfect Stranger continues shortly after the first book. In ‘Dinner’, Nick, a workaholic husband, receives an invitation to dinner with Jesus. At first he believes it is a prank from his co-workers, yet decides to see what their plan is. He goes for the dinner, and actually meets Jesus, or J-man. He learns that Jesus hates religion and loves relationship. So Nick has started reading his bible and going to bible study.

Yet all these changes in Nick are not well received. His wife Mattie did not want to be married to a religious nut; she could handle his not being around if he was at work, but now he is over the top. She is even thinking of divorce. She has to travel with work and is looking forward to a few days away from Nick and his bible.

While on the plane, she meets two men, one who bible thumps her and another one, Jay, who is in business with his father and is a counselor. She and Jay end up talking most of the fight. Then they have coffee in the airport during a layover. They then end up on a second flight together.

Through her conversations with Jay she begins to question her perceptions of reality, god, religion and life in general.

The book aims to show you what a day with Jesus would be like if he were to appear and spend time with you one-on-one. Gregory challenges us to view faith not as religion, but as a relationship with a person. It is a great little book either for yourself, or as a gift for others.


Saturday, 18 March 2006

Irma Zaleski


Irma Zaleski is one of those hidden treasures in literature you only find by chance or luck. A number of years ago I ran across one of her books by chance, I only picked it up because Michael W. Higgins had been quoted on the cover promoting the book. Since then I have fallen in love with her writing style and her works. I have tried to track down all of her writings that I could find. Each one is a gem that will enrich your life.
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Zaleski, who was born in Poland in 1931, she escaped to England after the second world war, and came to Canada in 1952, she has led a vivid and diverse life. She has been a professor at the University of Toronto, a translator and a writer. In 1986 she moved to Combermere, Ontario. In her youth she practiced Buddhism and has studied Christian traditions from both the east and the west. As such she brings a breadth and depth to her writings that only comes with such diverse experience.

Mother Macrina
By: Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2895070423

This is the first of Zaleski’s book that I found. It is a collection of pensees thoughts and meditations from a woman who will remind you of the desert mothers of old.


God Is Not Reasonable: and other tales of Mother Macrina
By: Irma Zaleski
New Seeds
ISBN: 1590303032
March 2006

This is an updated and expanded edition of the great book Mother Macrina that was published by Novalis press in 2000. This Version has nearly twice as many stories and bits of wisdom to pass on the the earnest reader.

Door to Eternity
Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2895071063

This volume looks at the certainty of death, and a life after death, yet it does so with a view of hope and faith. This book is almost a summary of Zaleski’s thought.

Living the Jesus Prayer
Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2890887928

‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me a sinner’ is a very old prayer. It has been used in both the east and the west as a way to practice unceasing prayer. Zaleski helps up to approach this in a realistic and hopeful way. There is not the expectation that tomorrow you will be able to pray continuously without fail, but this book will help us to grow in the desire to pray and practice this form of worship.

The Way of Repentance
Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2890889807

Drawing on the eastern traditions this book draws up to seek a deeper understanding of what it means to be embraced by God. This book looks at many aspects of forgiveness, asking it from God, forgiving others, learning to forgive ourselves. It looks at different modes of repentance and is a great tool to teach us how to work out our salvation.

Conversion of the Heart
Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2895074240

This book if a substantial rewriting and revision of The Way of Repentance written 4 years after the original it Zaleski states in the introduction to this new edition “I was glad to have this opportunity to make some revisions to my original text. The trouble with reflections is that they can never end. We can never stop reflecting, especially about things that matter to us most and yet always remain a mystery to our rational, ‘thinking’ minds. We can never say, ‘Now I can stop thinking about it. Now I have solved the mystery. Now I understand it all!’” p7. This updated version is so different it is really a new book on the same topic.

Who Am I?
Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2895075689

Drawing deeply from personal experience, antidote and story we are drawn into a deeper understanding of ourselves, by Zaleski showing us who we are in God, and who we were meant to be. She examines many aspects of personality, our motives, egotism, self-awareness, and the question of which self. From there she moves on to God with us, Christ in us, finding our true heart and how to grow in the I-God relationship so that the self, becomes a self for God.

Who Is God?
Irma Zaleski
Novalis Press
ISBN: 2895073732

This book is divided into three equal sections:
Part I: The Mystery of God
Part II: The Vision of Faith
Part III: Conversion of the Heart
This volume pared with Who am I? forms a diptych, like a painting in two parts these two parts so support each other that they almost have to be read as a pair. In learning to know who God is we can understand our relationship with him and through that to help us understand ourselves.

This is a summary of the corpus of work by Irma Zaleski, I guarantee that if you try one you will be hooked and track down the others. These are books that sit on my shelf of all time favorite’s. They sit on my bedside table and are read again and again. These are books that will inspire you and all who you lend them to.

P.S.

The Covers beside the descriptions are for those editions, there are also editions of some available from the UK, and new editions coming out from publishers other than Novalis. As well there are also now a number of the books available in French.

(First Published in Across the Creek
the St. Jerome's Students Union newspaper column 'Book Look' April 2006)

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Devotional and Bible Reading

This year I have been working through two different devotional readings; In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez and Everyday for Everyman by Stephen Arterburn.

In Conversation With God
By: Francis Fernandez
7 Volume Set
Scepter Press
ISBN: 0906138191

This is an amazing Catholic meditation and daily reflection series. The seven volumes have daily readings for each day of the church year as well as volume 6 & 7 being special Feast Days. The readings draw heavily upon the writings of Josemaria Escriva the founder of Opus Dei, Pope John Paul II, and the daily readings from the common liturgy for that day. The Sundays have three sets of readings depending on if we are in year A, B, or C in the church readings. These devotions are all about 6 pages long and divided into 3 sections. They can be read all as a lump or part in the morning, midday and evening. I find that with every day there is so much meat in these devotions that I am already planning on reading them again next year.

"We have a duty to rest. Resting in order to serve God and other people better.
We should learn to rest. If we can avoid becoming totally exhausted we should not fail to do so. God wants us to look after our health, and to know how to recover our strength. It is part of the fifth commandment. We need to rest in order to be fit, to restore lost energy, and so that our work may be all the more effective. Above all, we need it so as to serve God and other people better."
Francis Fernandez
In Conversation With God Volume #3 p.217

"For this reason asking advice about reading is an important part of the virtue of prudence, very especially if it is a question of theological or philosophical books, which can radically affect our formation and even our faith itself. How important it is to be right about books! It is still more important to consult our spiritual director about books specifically destined to aid the formation of our soul."
Francis Fernandez
In Conversation With God - Volume #3 p.117

Are but two samplings of what I have already copied out into my journal this year. There is a complete subject, and biblical reference index in volume 7, unfortunately the earlier volumes indexes only go as far as that volume #. The indexes are subject, and reference quoted by church Fathers, Popes and Saints. These books will draw anyone deeper into a faith and a life of action based upon that faith.

The 7 Volume's are:
Volume #1 Advent and Christmastide
Volume #2 Lent and Eastertide
Volume #3 Ordinary Time Weeks 1-12
Volume #4 Ordinary Time Weeks 13-23
Volume #5 Ordinary Time Weeks 24-34
Volume #6 Special Feasts January-June
Volume #7 Special Feats July -December

Complete Set 7 Volumes



Everyday for Everyman:
365 Readings for Those Engaged in the Battle

By: Arterburn, Stoeker, Luck and Yorkey
WaterBrook Press
ISBN: 1400071690

This book is very different from the series above. There is a page or less per day. Every page is an excerpt from one of the many books in the ‘Everyman’s’ series. The list of books drawn from is:

Every Man’s Battle
Every Heart Restored
Every Man’s Challenge
Every Man, God’s Man
Every Man’s Marriage
Every Young Man’s Battle

Each of these readings is specifically geared towards a man who is desiring to be growing and becoming the man God has called him to be, in area’s of love and service to his wife and children, work, self control … These readings though small will provoke thought and challenge one to step up and make changes in their lives for the better.

Strive: TNIV Bible for Men
Harper Collins / Zondervan
ISBN: 0310921015

This is the bible I am currently reading the most. It was a gift last year for my birthday. The TNIV - Today’s New International Version It has some great study notes and like the Everyman’s devotional it is focused on men and what men need. The historical notes, and ‘myths’ features focus on area’s like: Fulfillment, Sex, Work, Marriage, Pride, Pornography, Anger, Faith, Money, Family and Church. There are also ‘downshifts’ little asides that ask probing questions based on the passages read. There are also biography’s of key biblical man throughout the book. The single column layout makes it a nice easy to read bible.

Metal Bible: Identified
New Living Translation
Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 0842342591

This is the other bible I am currently reading, this is the one I carry in my backpack. It has a very study metal shell, thus it’s name, it has a magnetic clasp to keep it closed. I pretty much killed a bible about every year to year and a half by carrying it around in my backpack every day. This bible solves that problem. It is small, compact, and very durable. The metal Bible comes in a variety of colors and designs I have this green one with the dog tags and my wife had my initials engraved in the dog tag before giving it to me as a gift a few summers ago. There are currently, 2 Silver designs, black, orange, red and hot pink. The NLT – New Living Translation is also a great reading edition, both this and the TNIV are newer translations based on modern scholarship and are very accessible to today’s readers.


Friday, 10 March 2006

The Tent by: Margaret Atwood

The Tent
Margaret Atwood
January 2006
McClelland & Stewart
156 pages

Incredible! This fascinating collection of stories, poems, and shorts is as intriguing as the many different voices Atwood uses to portray the pieces. The Works in this collection span many years of writing and many of the pieces have previously been published elsewhere in such works as: The Walrus, Harper’s Magazine, New Beginnings, and a few small independent printings of smaller collections.

What draws the reader in, in this compilation, is that every tale is a story about a life, or lives. They are told in first, second or third person accounts, and some are stories of a person telling their own story to save it from the ravages of the press, or from being lost in time.

There is a powerful collection of pieces on orphans that highlights the collection. Atwood uses wit, witticism, irony and dark humour to open our eyes to the lives of others.

A reader will be drawn in by the power of lives, some calm and serine, and some outrageous, and others downright wicked and evil. But all will grab your attention. Read with great attention and take time after each story to reflect upon the message of that piece before moving on. The temptation will be to race through the book, and if you do so, you will be drawn back to reread it more slowly and savor the offerings.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-03-09 as ‘Atwood puts the pieces together in a compilation of her latest work.’)