The Taser's Edge


Tuesday Reading Roundup 10: Madeleine L’Engle Edition

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle–Already read it way back when.  Read it again, and it is fabulous.  Far better than Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass/His Dark Materials series.  I think I’m going to have some kids just so I can read it with/to them.  I have mixed feelings about the fact that it seems unfilmable (despite the existence of at least one cinematic attempt).  Disappointed, because more people would get to know L’Engle’s creation.  Kind of glad, though, because I can pretend it’s my little secret, despite the fact that it won the Newbery Medal, sold millions of copies, and is read in classrooms across America.  Also, check out this 3-d image of a 5-d tesseract (those of you in the know know):

2. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle–So I’m hooked and also already read this one, too.  Three cheers for kything and farondalae!  But I have to wonder at the lack of tesseraction.

3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle–Third in the series, it is in my sights this week.  For some reason, while the first two books are shelved in the children’s section at Durham Downtown Library, this one is in the Young Adult section.  I assume it must have frank, sexual discussion or a teenage angst-filled Charles Wallace.  (Holden Caulfield plus telepathy: a deadly cocktail.)  Maybe after I read all the Madeleine L’Engle that exists, I’ll return to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain as well.

4. Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–I think you’ve heard of it by now.  I couldn’t swear to having read a single page last week.

5. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank MillerIn my three years as a graduate student at Duke, I have only requested that Duke buy two books.  (You know Duke has some serious money, since this is an option, despite the fact that most books people want are at least available through Inter-Library Loan.)  And the two books are…<drum pum pum pum roll>…this one and Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, the two comics most responsible for the Heath Ledger version of the Joker in The Dark Knight.  At least I know that a collections librarian is one person on this earth who has no room to judge me for my nerdiness.  Then there’s the fact that I only thought about requesting that Duke buy it after my friend Dave successfully requested that Duke buy the second half of the third season of Entourage (which, I will admit, is a darn good show by that point in its run).

6. Helping People Forgive by David W. Augsburger–Haven’t started it yet, but the title sounds descriptive.  The readings for Acolatse’s Marriage and Family class are amazing this week.  Christian healing and forgiveness, non-violent communication of anger, getting the local church to start talking/dealing with sexual abuse.  Terrific articles.

7. Random stuff from Kant, specifically his discussion of virtue.

Truly I’m back from Spring Break.  And truly I am checked out even more than ever.  Addicted to graphic novels, children’s novels, and computer games from my childhood.  My friend Samara told me today that we have 5 weeks of classes left.  Let’s see, on my schedule that makes…15 days of classes left.  Not going to help me stay involved.  I just need to divert my energy toward constructivity around the house instead of toward my ancient English civilization (which is now building railroads in 400AD, while destroying the Aztec and American civilizations simultaneously).

And then there’s my Application for Holy Orders.  It’s less fun than it sounds.



Spring Break Report

I. Projects and Procrastination

I’m never all that good with breaks.  In terms I’ve used to voice the problem to many people many times, “Without enough to do, my brain starts to eat itself.”  There is also a different problem going on inside me, and it is my particular brand of procrastination.  The more I need to do something, the more I don’t want to do it.  What’s worse, when I am encouraged or reminded to do that something which I need to do, I become all the more stubborn that I won’t do it.  (I wanted to use ‘recalcitrant’ just then, but ‘stubborn’ is easier to use in a sentence.)  I’ve woken up every day this week and not wanted to get out of bed for fear of messing up the day.  And each night, I’ve not wanted to go to bed, because that late in the day I can let myself off the hook for wasting time.  I’m telling you because I know it’s unhealthy, by the way.

This week, the project was writing a sermon for tomorrow morning.  It is done.  (I’m thinking about posting it tomorrow.)  It was mostly done yesterday, and I even started it on Monday.  That is not to say, however, that it didn’t stress me out.  The other project which would have been great to finish would have been my Application for Holy Orders for the AMiA, and also all the kind official letters to official people in the UMC, telling them what they already know, that I have left them.

II. Reading and Reading

Other business.  As I look over several recent posts, it seems like so much of what I write is about books.  To make it official, you should know that Holly invented a quiz for us both to take: “What is your favorite thing to do?”  Her answer: laughing.  My answer: reading.  The real question is therefore not why I write so much about reading, but why she writes so little about laughing.

And this break, I have indeed read.  Almost all graphic novels, a Christian leadership book, and then Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  That book is so amazing.  I think I read it when I was too young.  Or I might have claimed to have read it in imitation of my idolized older brother.  The same thing happened with The Lord of the Rings; I know I read at least the first couple of those, but I don’t remember anything at all that wasn’t also covered in the movie.  Among other things in which I aped Zack: asking Jesus into my heart at the kitchen table two weeks after Zack had done the same; reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; claiming as a toddler that I had somehow had the exact same dream as he had had the night before, a claim which mysteriously only came up after he had described his own dream to Mom.  The weird thing is that I actually remembered having that dream for myself for a long time, and only later realized that it was probably impossible, and that I had most likely given myself a fake memory.

To return to reading, I am very disappointed in Duke and the Durham Downtown Library that neither has the full Wrinkle in Time series, but I was able to request A Wind in the Door from one of the branches.  I am disappointed in Duke alone for failing to carry the 2008 sequel (and second volume) to one of the best books of 2006, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, but Durham Library is vindicated on this count, and the book is in my sweaty-with-anticipation grasp.  If I haven’t yet told you to read it (yes, Wen, this is the one I told you to read) and you fancy yourself an interesting and interested person, you must read at least the first volume by M.T. Anderson.  I don’t really believe in the concept of an instant classic, but that first volume is one.  Synopsis of volume 1: The beginnings of the Revolutionary War as told by an African slave who doesn’t realize he is an African slave because he is raised by Enlightenment Christian philosopher/scientists as an experiment to see if an African can receive a classical education as well as a European.

And, again following the path of my older brother, Zack (as well as my own interest in David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, and speculative/science fiction, and I don’t even know if he’s read these particular books), I also checked out Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Frank Herbert’s Dune.  As you can see, I don’t read much in the way of stuff that’s not well-known, (or at least that’s not well-known in its own particular circle).  But I do try to read widely.  My recent philosophy of reading has tried to give up on lifetime reading plans.  As long as my reading setting is stuck on “Voracious,” and as long as I continue to follow my random interests, I think I’ll probably be fine.



Sunday Night Wrap Up Forward Style


Earlier this afternoon, I sat down to watch Paris, Je T’Aime.  Such auteurs as Gerard Depardieu, the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle (long-time cinematographer for Wong Kar-Wai), Alexander Payne, Gus Van Sant, Steve Buscemi, Natalie Portman, Willem Dafoe, Juliette Binoche, Bob Hoskins, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhall, and Elijah Wood (as a vampire, of course) join in a series of very lightly connected short films.  Holly wants me to have a favorite (as normal for her) short, but I don’t (as normal for me).  But Juliette Binoche may be the most attractive 44-year-old I know, something deeper than her looks.  And as for Steve Buscemi, well…he doesn’t really look this bad, but he really does look this bad. I hope that link didn’t cost him starring in my amazing screenplay.  For some reason, I suddenly feel like I’m writing for Us Weekly.

Tomorrow Holly goes back to work with students (having been at school without students on Friday), and she’s not yet looking forward to it.

As for my past Friday, I began reading what will surely be my last choose-to-read book for a while here (as the semester is upon us): Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis.  I think I randomly picked it up at a Durham Downtown Library book sale.  Buried it in a brown paper bag for 7 dollars or so.  When I pick a new book to read, for some reason I always start at the As on my alphabetized (for fiction, at least) bookshelf.  I think I know a bit too much about this book, namely that it is eventually about the Holocaust (sorry that you too now know too much).  I wouldn’t know that yet if I hadn’t read the critical blurbs all over the paperback.

An incredible storytelling maneuver (one which I assume will inform my future viewing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) in which the narrator is living inside a character as that character’s life is played in reverse.  Eating, sex, and bathroom use are of course interesting, as is dialogue, which is translated out of backwards gibberish (most of the time), but is not fixed for correct conversational order:

“I promise.”
“You promise?”
“Never,” she said.
“You wouldn’t?”
“But I’d never tell.” (p. 36)

The character goes to see a movie, a romantic comedy in which the characters are very close at the beginning, have a bunch of misunderstandings, and then end up parting ways as if they don’t know each other by the end.  Pimps become the nice fellows who heal prostitutes (who pay men after having sex with them) with knives and fists.

I thought an excerpt would be helpful for seeing how backward things become, with ER doctors (like the character in which the narrator lives) becoming monsters.  (Presumably the Holocaust will soon be God’s gift of life to humanity.)  From p. 76:

“You want to know what I do?  All right.  Some guy comes in with a bandage around his head.  We don’t mess about.  We’ll soon have that off.  He’s got a hole in his head.  So what do we do?  We stick a nail in it.  Get the nail–a good rusty one–from the trash or wherever.  And lead him out to the Waiting Room where he’s allowed to linger and holler for a while before we ferry him back into the night.”

Reminds me of Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joseph Heller, and the like.  And amazingly easy to follow for how experimental it may seem that it could be from my description.


On a more personal note, this Tuesday is my first real-life job interview (projected above, you can see that I already know the power-hold for pens during interviews, as well as how to match my tie and pocket neckerchief), for a CPE residency at UNC Hospital.  I need to gather my thoughts together on this one.  Pray for me if you’re the praying type.