Tuesday, August 22, 2017

“Housman Country: Into the Heart of England”

In 1896, A.E. Housman (1859-1936) published a poetry collection that might have seemed an unlikely candidate for one of the most popular books of poetry of all time. And yet it was, and is. Pocket editions of A Shropshire Lad were carried into the trenches by British soldiers in World War I. Countless editions were printed from 1896 to well after Housman’s death, and the book is still published today. It was widely read not only in England but also Canada, Australia, the United States, and many other countries.

It is not about war, and yet to speaks to the experience of war. It is not about the Industrial Revolution, and yet it looks backward to a time and a place idealized because of what the Industrial Revolution wrought. Critics generally didn’t like it (and haven’t liked it since), but the reading public loved it.

Author Peter Parker explains why, in the recently published Housman Country: Into the Heart of England. More than another other book of poetry, more than any other novel, A Shropshire Lad is about England, what it meant, what’s been lost, and what’s endured. It is nostalgic, but it is nostalgia with a bite, what Parker calls “true nostalgia,” the past you can recognize but never regain.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Painting: From the Severn Bridge at Bridgenorth by Henry Parker (1858-1930).

Monday, August 21, 2017

“Oceans Apart” by Karen Kinsgbury

Christian writer Karen Kingsbury is a brand. Well, actually, she’s more than a brand; she’s a veritable writing industry. She’s written more than 100 Christian-themed novels, children’s books, and non-fiction works. She’s been a #1 author on The New York Times bestsellers list numerous times. Her books typically become bestsellers before they’re published.

I had previously read only two of her novels, Every Now and Then and Unlocked. I don’t usually read “branded” novelists, but I did enjoy both of these books. I hadn’t read one of Kingsbury’s books in more than five years, until I saw one, Oceans Apart, advertised at a discounted price, checked the summary on Amazon, and decided to give it a go. I knew it would likely be high in sentimentally, somewhat following a familiar formula, and generally have a happy ending.

I bought it and started the first chapter to see if I would like it. I kept reading. I skipped my nap, and my wife will tell you how significant that is. I finished the book three hours later. You could say I inhaled it.

Kiahna Seifert is a flight attendant based in Hawaii. She’s doing the work flight attendants do when they getting passengers ready for a flight from Honolulu to Tokyo, a trip she’s made dozens of times. But she’s distracted, feeling an odd disquiet she can’t explain. The plane takes off, and shortly later begins a spiraling descent into the ocean. Her last thoughts are of her 8-year-old son Max. The plane crashes into the ocean, and there are no survivors.

Half a planet away, Florida-based pilot Connor Evans is getting ready for his own flight. Connor is happily married to Michelle, and deeply loves her and their two pre-teen daughters. He does have family problems; he hasn’t spoken to his father in more than a decade, with plenty of anger from both men.

Connor hears about the plane crash near Hawaii, and he checks the list of passengers and crews. He sees Kiahna’s name, and while he’s saddened, he’s also relieved. Only once was he ever unfaithful to Michelle, during a period when he was struggling with the aftermath of the break with his father, his career was on the line with an FAA investigation, and Michelle had been dealing with depression and wanted nothing to do with him or their little girl and new baby. Connor had had a one-night stand with a flight attendant in Honolulu, both dealing with a storm-closed airport and no place to stay. And now the one person who knew about the brief affair was dead.

Karen Kingsbury
Except Connor is going to find out about the son he never knew about, and Michelle will learn that had husband had been unfaithful.

It’s a fast-paced story, easy to read (and easy to inhale). And you keep reading to find out what’s going to happen, and what’s going to happen next. And you know that Connor is going to be forced to make a choice he doesn’t want to make.

Oceans Apart should come with a warning label: “Danger! This book is addictive. Read only when you know you have the time to read it straight through.”


Top photograph by Anna Popovic via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A bucket

After Isaiah 40:15-17

I picked up the bucket
and shook it, and all
that fell out was a drop,
a speck of dust
a speck of fine dust
too small to see and
even less to matter but
known as nations
and kings, a single
drop in the bucket

a drop in the bucket
a tiny mite of dust
   on the scales
the nations weight nothing
   not a thing
   not a thing

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.