The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

 

Behind that really long title is a wonderful story that I don’t particularly have to encapsulate for you because the title does it for me. It is a nonfiction work, but with the narrative and descriptive drive of a novel. In that regards it reminds me of Thermopylae: Battle for the West, by Ernie Bradford, or The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson.

Daniel James Brown  draws you into a full sensory presentation by focusing most tightly on the story of rower Joe Rantz. However, the book is rich with back story for the people and events presented. It abounds with intriguing behind the scenes historical detail. These details never hinder the narrative, but rather serve to enhance it. I can’t imagine ever having the mental discipline to do the amount of quality research this book had to have demanded.

The only caveat, as relates to why I enjoyed it more than maybe some readers might: I love history, and I’ve always been fascinated by rowing. That said, I do not  believe this review can do justice to the sensory, spiritual and emotional impact The Boys in the Boat delivers.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Boys-Boat-Americans-Berlin-Olympics/dp/067002581X/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

All is well with my soul.

archokc.org

I recently was told the story of a toddler who had been so badly abused that the social worker, upon returning to her office could only sit down and cry for the child. While DSS removed the child from the home and placed it in a hospital it is unlikely to be placed in a foster home with a male for quite some time due to the issues surrounding the abuse.

This morning at Mass, as we moved from the liturgy of the Word to the liturgy of the Eucharist, I thought of that child. Sadness welled within me so intense I had to fight tears. Why do we do such things to one another?

Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.

I tried to  devour my own sadness as if doing so could alleviate some of the fear and hurt that child had borne. As if my soul could absorb the loneliness and betrayal. Why do we do such things to one another? Then I thought of the abuser. For a moment I wanted to be the avenger, but to what end? It burned to think that God loves that wretch as much as he does the innocent child. God can love only one way, absolutely.

Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for this is the chalice of my Blood,
the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.

I know nothing of the abuser. He may have himself been abused. He may have been so damaged that he never recovered. Perhaps drugs fed on his anger, dragging him further and further into depravity. It was not for me to judge the worth of his soul.

The mystery of faith. . .

We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.

When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your Death, O Lord,
until you come again.

Save us, Savior of the world,
for by your Cross and Resurrection
you have set us free.

The child, Lord. The child.

Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb. . .

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

The child, Lord. The child. Heal the child.

With that fey sadness like a yoke upon my shoulders I stand and proceed to the priest.

The Body of Christ. . . 

Amen.

Then to the deacon and the chalice.

The Blood of Christ. .  .

Amen.

Then back to my seat. I ponder the child, and over and again the Agnus Dei is repeated in my mind.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world.

Have mercy on the child.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world.

Have mercy on the child.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world.

Grant that child peace.

Leaving Mass, I tell Mary, one of the three Massketeers I blogged about earlier, the story of the child and asked her to pray for this nameless victim of such depravity and betrayal that my mind reels from pondering it. If you are given to prayer, pray for that child and all like it. Difficult as it is, pray too for the abuser.

If you are uncertain in faith, just say, “God, if you are there, heal that child.” If you believe not at all, just do some small kindness for a child. If there is a God, then acts of kindness are the best of all prayers.

(Photo from Archdiocese of Kansas City)

The Last Ugly Person by Roger B. Thomas

My facebook timeline reminded me of this blog. I’ve decided to reblog it because it’s easier than writing a new blog. Also, it really is a very good anthology of short stories by an insightful author. . . even if he IS wrong about Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.

MichaelNicholasRichard

I chanced upon the short story collection “The Last Ugly Person”  because the author wrote a favorable and insightful review of Tobit’s Dog. We traded some messages and emails that led to me sending him a copy of my earlier novel, Bogfoke, and him sending me a copy of his collection of short stories.

Short stories seem out of favor these days, and this collection proves that is too bad. This particular collection ranges from the prose-poem length “I Have Slaved For You” to the near novella length “Numaris.” Like C.S. Lewis or Charles Williams, they lean much on allegory.

The Last Ugly Person, from which the collection gets is name, is a particularly finely crafted story. I mean, it is jewel-like in its precision.  Of course, the problem with allegory is that it is very difficult to give many plot details for fear of revealing too much. I have mentioned…

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Just a rainy Sunday morning when I’ve gone to Mass on Saturday evening.

 


I love the sound of tires on a wet road. Even a major highway sounds better when it is wet, but I’m talking really about the random vehicle passing through a quiet neighborhood.

It is one of the few sounds of technology that can at times enhance a “pastoral” scene. I kinda like the distant sound of a solitary lawnmower on a sunny day as well.

Not a sound, but I also like walking around a neighborhood and passing through the scent of a clothes dryer.

The Three Massketeers

 

 

An unlikely friendship given that we’re about a generation apart. This photo is from this past Ash Wednesday (2/10/16). To my right, with the short hair is Mary and to my left is Audrey. Not too long after I had returned to the Church, these two ladies basically adopted me as their friend. These are not you typical “church ladies” to be sure.

Somehow we just “clicked” as Audrey has pointed out. There’s hardly a conversation in which Mary at some point doesn’t say, “Your wife has got to be a saint!” Then there was the time Audrey was telling me about her son having really enjoyed my book. I expressed my appreciation for that. To which Audrey replied, “I told him it wasn’t that good.”

Recently Audrey has had some trouble with dizziness (the real sort, not the blonde sort) and hasn’t been able to often make daily Mass. Mary and I conspired to get her to and from for a Mass dedicated to her late husband. Sitting between us she patted our hands and said, “This is nice.”

It was. It felt like how it should be. So Mary and I made plans to do it again for Ash Wednesday. This photo was taken after the Mass. It was supposed to show our “Holy Smudges” but owing to all the sunlight in the church atrium, all that white hair, and my expansive forehead, evidence of the ashes is near impossible to see.

Afterward we went to lunch. We made each other laugh. It was nice.

I hope that when God looks at us, He is thinking, “The agape is strong in these three.”

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. . . and it all started as a joke.

So I was talking with a friend, back in April or so, who was going on a trip in early/mid June. The itinerary was London, to Paris, to Rome/Vatican, Naples/Pompeii/Capri. The National Gallery in London was one of the planned stops. I jokingly suggested it would be cool to have a photo taken of Tobit’s Dog in front of the Gallery, considering its relevance to Francis “Crafty” Forgeron  in Tobit’s Dog. We bantered about that the way friends do (or at least the way my friends and I do) for awhile, and then I forgot all about it. . . until I got a call from Rick a few days before his departure telling me he was in fact taking a copy of the book with him.

As it turned out, the National Gallery was removed from the itinerary, but while he was in London he did take a photo of Tobit’s Dog from the top of the London Eye, that giant Ferris wheel. I saw it on his phone, but he forgot to load it onto the flash drive of photos he gave to me. Still, London was not wasted. Knowing my love for classic cars, especially British and European classic cars, he did include this:

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Then it was off to Paris, where Rick and his wife, Brenda showed Tobit’s Dog the sights:

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Tobit’s Dog got to go to Notre Dame:

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It even got to go into the cathedral:

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Then it was off to Italy, where Tobit’s Dog seemed especially excited about going to the Vatican. . . while Rick is best described as looking, errr, determined.

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So in to the Vatican:

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Rick said he kept seeing statues similar to these in both the Louvre and the Vatican. He thought it would be a great idea to pose Tobit’s Dog in their hands or whatever. Unfortunately, he decided that ropes, glass, metal grates, rails, security guards and probably Brenda, made it impractical:

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We like to think that this seagull is the same one who was sitting on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel during the election of Pope Francis:

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With the tour of the Vatican done, it was on to Pompeii. By this time Tobit’s Dog was a bit travel weary, so it skipped the ruins. However, the hard travelling. hardworking  hardback was treated to day of rest and relaxation on Capri:

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When Rick returned to the USofA, he brought the copy Tobit’s Dog to me as a gift, complete with stamps, stickers and stuff it had accrued during its travels. It had even been taken into the Vatican to be blessed. Rick said a stranger, with an American accent, said he wanted to read that book, but that it was difficult to get American books in Italy. Rick pointed out the publishers name and told him it should easily be had online at Ignatius Press or Amazon, even in Italy.

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It seems to me that a man can easily have too many acquaintances, but never too many good friends. Another, late, friend of mine, Stephen Carter (still luv’ya and miss ya, man), loved this quote:

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.
― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

If so, I have been very lucky indeed.

Next Chapter Bookstore

The Next Chapter bookstore in New Bern, NC is now carrying Tobit’s Dog. Should you be in downtown New Bern, stop in and check out the store, which in addition to used books features books and art by local artists.

 

Really, visiting the Next Chapter is a good excuse for visiting downtown New Bern, which is almost always a fun do.

http://www.thenextchapternc.com/

Book Signing

I will be having a book signing Saturday, 3/28 at Books a Million in New Bern. I’ll be there approximately from 1 to 4 that afternoon.

Also signing books at that time will be Lee Mims. In addition to being an author, Lee is a very talented artist.

http://www.leemims.com/2015/03/local-author-signing-day-at-books-a-million-in-new-bern-nc/

We will be joined by Simon Spalding. Like Lee Mims, Simon is multi-talented, being a musician in addition to an author. You can find links to some of his Cds and downloads on his website below.

http://www.musicalhistorian.com/book.html

I’m feeling very one dimensional at the moment. Maybe I should take up juggling or something?

…your halflings gruff, and your terrain tough, and your storyline rough

The title of this blog post comes from a blurb my cyber-friend and fellow author, Roger Thomas, wrote in an off-hand way concerning my novel, Bogfoke. Other than being totally wrong about Graham Greene, Roger is a pretty perceptive guy.

Of course, Roger understands that the bogfoke themselves aren’t “halflings” in the Tolkienian sense. But like any decent writer in a more or less casual jotting, he couldn’t resist an almost alliterative rhyme. However, halflings, or hobbits as they are more commonly known, are essentially human. The bogfoke are not.

I wondered if I had made that clear enough in early versions of the novel, so I finally put it straight-forward through the perception of one of the human characters, Remus Wolfe.

The sound of it made the hair stand on Remus Wolfe’s neck. The sound of the bogfoke  was like a chant of human voices, but also with sounds resembling flutes and a soft thrumming like distant drums. The communion of voices made him realize just how not human these creatures were. 

More than a few readers of Bogfoke have expressed a desire for a sequel, but I have to point out that the novel ended with their story well tidied up. I would not rule out a prequel at some point in time. Though I have other tales wanting to be told, the tale of Askuwhetaeau, the old one waiting by the water, would tell of the beginning of the bogfoke and their kindred folk. It would stretch from the marring of Creation, revealing how that set the kindred folk on myriad paths that became not just all the “little people” of so many legends, but also monstrous folk like Grendel, the Banshee and more.

I may not live long enough to get ’round to it, but it percolates in my mind nonetheless.

Also, sharp eyed readers might notice an off stage appearance in Tobit’s Dog of two human characters from Bogfoke.

Finally, links to a couple of Roger Thomas’s work below.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Accidental-Marriage-Roger-B-Thomas-ebook/dp/B00OIBA3R2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425571464&sr=8-1&keywords=Accidental+Marriage+by+roger+thomas

 

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Ugly-Person-Other-Stories/dp/0898703956/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Bogfoke: Free e-book

There is a five day FREE promotion on amazon for my novel Bogfoke. For those who have read Tobit’s Dog, it is not the same sort of book, but if you enjoy fantasy fiction, you might like this. Some people have written of Tobit’s Dog not being quite like anything else. I like to think that while it is a fantasy fiction, Bogfoke is not quite like anything else.

My wife assures me that this is probably because a guy who is odd, not quite like anyone else, would probably produce books like this. If I were to ask, “Is that a compliment?” She’d probably say something like, “That can depend, but at least your oddness has a freshness to it.”

http://www.amazon.com/BOGFOKE-Michael-Nicholas-Richard-ebook/dp/B008A6F1AU/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_3