Monthly Archives: March 2014

Review: O Love How Deep by Diana Maryon

Published: November 2nd 2011 by WestBow Press
Page count: 536

I’d like to go on record stating that I was given a gratis electronic edition of the book by the author, in exchange for an honest review. There was no bribery involved. At least, not much. I mean, none at all. No. Although you could say the author bribed me to give her a good review by writing a great novel. But a lot of authors have done that to me, and a lot of them came back from the dead to do it. Crafty ilk, writers. I digress.

This book is a story of the choices we make, our decisions and our successes and our failures and how they shape us. But more than anything, it’s a story of love, and fittingly, this review will be about how much I loved it, and also the things I didn’t love about it. In short, I loved it because it felt so real and so vivid, because the characters were genuine people, because it was an emotional and thought-provoking saga of their lives; but it is a very long, very slow read, and it does ramble and wander.

First of all the things I have to say, I have this to say: this book spoke to me, as it will probably speak to you if you are in love, especially if your love life is going through some sort of difficulty. If you’re disillusioned to happy endings and just plain sick of sappy superficial romances that, you know by experience, are farcical fantasies, you’re going to enjoy this book.

The book opens, and it’s the end already: marriage. That is, the marriage between the one you love and someone else. Act I briefly outlines the journal of David Carpenter, the man Diana loved but didn’t marry, and describes what is probably the hardest time of his life: when he loses her. The rest of the story is about Diana and the aftermath of her marriage to another man, its consequences and its rewards. But David’s story that was my favorite, because it was David’s story that was personal, David’s story that touched me. Diana’s story taught me something about David; David’s story taught me something about myself. The passion, the heartbreak, the broken love for the Her in his life, the broken love for God, made dubious and bitter by his wounded heart: . . . it’s real. It’s all poignantly real.

Act I left me hating Diana, hating David a little bit too, hating myself, and generally hating life. Oh, don’t worry, it’s downhill from here, emotionally. Now that you hate Diana for what she did to David, you get to keep hating her for a while with a subconscious self-loathing, because what she is, what she shows you of her innermost thoughts and feelings, are things you will recognize in yourself, sometimes things you will hate in her as much as you hate them in yourself. You get to follow Diana through most of her life, through doubt and angst and failure and mistakes and despair and grief, and it’s all depressing and theologically fatalistic. But by the end of the very long middle act, things begin to look up, ending on a liberating auspice that will finally let you sleep a little easier again. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so I’ll only say this: read through all the aforementioned dismal reality and vivid mediocrity. It’s worth it. Especially if you’re young, it will make you think a little more carefully about your future and choices. But it’s worth it just to follow a ripened Diana through to success, self-discovery, acceptance, release, and evolutional love. It’s worth reading all the way through, because you get to be Diana: you will love her and hate her, as she loves and hates herself, as we all love and hate ourselves.

This is not your average romance, and it is not, by any means, a light read. “‘Tis a tangled yarn, good and ill together,” that. It has many high points, but it’s very discursive, and as I’ve been saying, quite depressing. If you’re looking for something short and cheery that won’t make you think, well, I guess you’re looking in the wrong place. Try television, or suicide (there are certain poetic similarities). You won’t find what you’re looking for in this world.

It’s also long, and slow, very, very, slow. It’s not a page-turner, and it’s certainly not a book you can’t put down. It’s a book you’ll find yourself setting down when you smell dinner burning, and find lying half-forgotten on the bedside table that night. But it’s a book you’ll think about long and hard when you have put it down, and even after you’ve finished it. In this way, it took me about four weeks to read it; at a more leisurely pace it could be read in six to eight weeks, which is what I would ideally recommend. This is a steady, cerebral book, to be digested slowly, page by page; but above all, to be read at your own pace.

By the way, are you an autobiography lover? If the fictional Diana as well as the authorial Diana are to be believed, this book is at least semi-autobiographical, which means it’s based heavily on her own life (as opposed to a novel, which is organically but not intentionally autobiographical). You might enjoy it for that. I’m not much on autobiography myself, but the part-epistolary, part-diaristic style, while not my usual cup of tea, still appealed to me.

Now let’s talk about the cons that kept me from giving “O Love How Deep” that fifth star. Rather “the con” (I really only have one!): there was a heck of a lot of excess detail that was very hard to swallow, weighing down the story. I’m grateful for the footnotes, at least, but they weren’t always there, and sometimes when they were I still needed a footnote to explain the footnote. There were plenty of names and places and events that I had been told about earlier in the book, but by the time they were mentioned again I had forgotten who, where, or what they were. If you’re industrious or scholarly, you might have an easier time keeping up. If not, this might frustrate you. But more casual (read: artistic) readers such as myself won’t have much trouble following the information most relevant to the characters, and just disregarding mention of forgotten details that aren’t necessary to follow the story. And at the same time, they may find it in their hearts (like I did) to enjoy some of Diana’s many asides, which are admittedly often theologically, politically, or spiritually interesting.

But the pros that earned this book its four stars: First, it was emotional. Second, it was cerebral. Third, it was spiritual. Fourth, it was real. Fifth, a good book makes you think, teaches you something, and leaves you changed; consider me thunk, teached, and changeded.

tl;dr: If you don’t like to think, this book isn’t for you. If you don’t like God, or thinking about the consequences of our actions, about sin, or about the transience of mortality, this book isn’t for you. If you like to ignore life and what it means to live and what it means to be human, this book isn’t for you. If you have inexplicable prejudices against Cambridge, Canada, love, heartbreak, choices, ghosts from the past, redemption, honeymooners, married couples, children, amateur psychology, reality, romance, spirituality, emotion, or life, then this book isn’t for you. But if at least, say, five or six of those things please your sweet tooth, sink your teeth into this book and savor.

My evaluation:

four stars

About Diana Maryon: Born on St. Valentine’s Day in 1938, she has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada since 1971. She has been a convinced Christian for over 50 years, and married for nearly as long. She has two moderately grown-up children, and two young grandchildren. Her husband, a distinguished Medievalist and Modern Linguist, had suffered from Parkinson’s for eleven years, and died on July 30th. He is immortalised in O Love How Deep as Simon Rivers.

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The heartbreak of creativity: a public service announcement

I love what he’s saying and the humorous ways he’s saying it. This brilliant article on creativity is a work of art!

Drinking Tips for Teens

ross jobs A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.” You can hear the original audio version here .

Hello, I’m Ross Murray, beloved columnist, salad dressing connoisseur and author of the best-selling self-help book Don’t Kid Yourself, Mister. Today, I’d like to talk about a condition that afflicts 2 out of 6 Canadians and in some areas as many as 1 in 3. I’m talking about… creativity.

Creativity can strike anyone, anytime, though probably not before 10 a.m. Creative people are just like you and me, except with weirder clothes and occasionally dubious hygiene. Creativity is a highly distracting affliction, but, with regular treatment and flattery, most creative people lead full, productive lives… Let me try that again: most creative people lead full lives.

There are two types of creativity. Some people are born creative, although early creativity remains difficult to diagnose. Many parents become convinced that their…

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Categories: Imagining a Better World | Leave a comment

How to Get Ahead in Writing, Any Other Job, or Life in General

If there’s a secret to success, either I haven’t discovered it yet, or I know it well and it just hasn’t entirely paid off yet. But if there’s one trick that has seen me safely out of a lot of low points in my life and helped me to reach a lot of highs, it’s this:

Never give up.

It may sound trite. Indeed, it may be trite. I don’t doubt that you must have heard it before. Plenty of people have said it, told you to do it, but my question is, have you listened? And when I say listen, I mean nota bene and take it to heart. Have you ever really thought, long and hard and deep, about what it means to never give up?

It’s About Starting

“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.” *

Some people give up before they even make it out the starting gate. You’ll say “I don’t have the time for that,” or “I could never do that,” or “Sure, I can do that any time I feel like it—oh, look, something shiny.” Because you’re daunted or dispassionate or lazy, you won’t even try. But—if I can borrow Candace Cameron’s words off Monday night’s Dancing With the Stars premiere—”excuses are for losers.”

You can do it, if you try. You’ll surprise yourself, I promise you that.

But I’m not trying to sound like “The Little Engine That Could” here. I don’t want you to “think you can.” I want you to know you can. You have to set realistic goals. No, you can’t write a novel in a week without seriously altering your lifestyle for seven days. No, you can’t become astrophysicist while eating breakfast. No, you can’t become a Hollywood star or a professional athlete or a congressperson tomorrow just because you “think you can” today. But if you try, if you set not only your mind but your body to it, and stick to it with devotion and persistence, who knows? You could make it. But you won’t if you back down before giving yourself the chance.

It’s About Standing Firm

Now you’ve “tackled that thing that couldn’t be done”—so what now? Well, now that you’ve started, it’s easy street from here. All you have to do is find the time to fit it in. Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get to it later. That’s all right, put it off until tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll be less tired, lazy, unmotivated, distracted, stubborn, or whatever it is you are, then. If not, no problem! You can do it next week, when you’ll have more free time, when this is out of the way and that is over. (No. Seriously now, no. This is what we tell ourselves, and it’s not true.)

You need to prioritize. You need to dedicate. “Finding” time is for sissies. You make time, like the man or the woman that you are (assuming, that is, that you are one of the two). Whatever it is you’re trying to do, it’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to get done in one go. You have to be devoted and persistent.

Stop to rest? Sure, every once in a while, if it’s absolutely necessary to keep your sanity or to accomplish something else important. But never, ever “put it off.” That’s when you’ll never do it. That’s when it can’t be done; when you stop doing.

It’s About Trying Again

The sad truth is that you don’t always succeed. Sometimes you fail. And I’m going to be blunt here: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” Not everyone does. But it’s a cold hard fact that if you fail once but you don’t try again, you’ll never succeed. It’s not that you don’t know that—of course you do, we all do, by experience—it’s just that sometimes you forget it, don’t you?

To “give up” means more than just stopping because you’ve failed. You can give up at any step of the process: before you start, and that’s cowardly; by procrastinating, and that’s just lazy. But if you make it far enough to actually fail, and then give up—that’s so far beyond cowardice it deserves something bigger. Pusillanimous will do. That’s just plain pusillanimous.

It’s admitting defeat. It’s saying that you’re afraid to stand up because you might fall again. If you’d had that juvenile attitude as an infant, you would still be crawling! But you learned to walk because, even if you fell down and bruised yourself and cried about it, you were stronger and smarter because of it, and when you tried again, you were better prepared to succeed.

You’re always learning, always improving, always getting better, and each time you try, each time you fail, you’re another step closer to succeeding, until one day you do. Even then, it’s just another step forward.

But I’m going to be realistic again. You can only beat your head against a brick wall so many times. Sooner or later, something’s going to crack, be it the wall or you skull. There’s a definite risk it will be the latter. Maybe you’re already thinking that one does have to know “when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em”? I tell you, that’s still cowardice! Or stupidity, take your pick. Don’t batter your skull into the brick wall until you’re bruised and bloody. Picked up a sledgehammer, dumdum. Sometimes real perseverance means learning and adapting. If at first you don’t succeed, change your tactics!

Keep trying. Do what it takes to become a better, more successful you. Never give up.

“But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “couldn’t be done,” and you’ll do it.” *

* Quotes excerpted from Edgar Albert Guest’s “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done,” a poem I have always found very moving and inspirational. I actually first learned of it when I heard the parody performed by “Edwin Carp,” that is Richard Haydn, on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The parody ends “and he tackled that thing that couldn’t be done . . . and he couldn’t do it!” I always found that version very inspirational too, as a matter of fact.

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Philosophia Venereum: In Frustra Coincidi

In Frustra Coincidi

“Your hand fits mine like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.”

— Judi Picoult

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. But it’s obviously the only choice, and I don’t know why you’re making it so hard.”

“But . . . breaking up?”

“Face it, it just doesn’t work to be together. It’s not that complicated.”

“Butbut how can you say that? It’s perfect together!”

“Look, it doesn’t fit.”

“But the picture lines up

“But the edges don’t!”

“Fine.” I threw down the puzzle pieces in defeat. “I give up. I hate jigsaws.”

“This was your idea,” she said.

Photo Credit: Heliøs via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Heliøs via Compfight cc (altered)

“Don’t I have the right to complain about my own ideas once in a while? You do it all the time.””All I know is, it wasn’t my idea, but it beats going outside.”

She glanced toward the window, looking beyond its frost-bleared panes to the brightly moonlit snow outside. I thought it was pretty. She shivered just to look at it. I admitted to myself that it was cold, and at this point getting more than a little tiresome.

“Honestly,” I said, “I don’t believe that it’s March. If you ask me, it’s still February. See, my theory is that a couple months back, something earth-shattering happened, and the U.N. banded together and used top secret technology to mindwipe the whole earth, erasing February from their minds and setting us back a month.”

“It fits!”

“It does? . . . I mean, naturally!”

She rolled her eyes. “No, these three pieces here. See?” She showed me. “What you said made no sense. That would mean it’s actually April.”

An awkward silence followed. Finally I said, “That’s what they want us to think. Wake up, woman! You’re enslaved by the media! Your buying into the twisted into the distorted lies the world governments are feeding us!”

She chose this moment to be tactfully unresponsive. We worked without saying much more than what qualified as necessary communication as we colluded to crack the quandary before us.

“You know,” I began, giving up on mashing two pieces together and turning instead to tracking down their allotted soulmates, “this is a lot like life.”

“You don’t say,” she murmured, deep in concentration.

“Oh, sure. In lots of ways. Life’s a puzzle we’re all trying to make sense of. We spend our lives trying to gather all the pieces and arrange them the right way. Sometimes we waste our time thinking two pieces fit together, like I was a minute agoand then we realize they don’t. Sometimes we try to force them anyway, but there’s no use doing that.”

I found a handful of pieces that matched and quickly fit them together. I leaned back and viewed them with pride. “Sometimes, in an almost surprising flash of understanding, everything comes together, and we can be happy for a while that things are getting clearer.” I picked another piece that looked like a match, but after trying it against every edge of my section, I put it back in the pile. “Too bad it doesn’t always work that way. It never lasts.”

“Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work, and still doesn’t seem to come out right,” she observed helpfully, apparently frustrated in her search. “But it’s important to be persistent.”

“And sometimes it’s just nice to take a moment to appreciate the small little things,” I murmured, admiring a piece with half a sunflower on it. From the right angle it looked like a sunrise; from another it looked like a yellow octopus. I put it down and added grimly, “But who has time for that?”

“We should make time,” she said, picking up the piece I had put down and smiling at it. “We forget that too much. I’m lucky I have you around to remind me.”

I put my hand on hers. She twinkled at me. I said, “I’m glad to know I’m useful for a few things.”

“There’s another way a puzzle’s like life,” she mused.

“And what’s that?

“It’s better when you have someone to share it with.”

We returned to the puzzle; large segments were beginning to fit together, leaving only a few gaps to be filled. “It’s all about getting a clearer view of the picture,” I said, watching the materialization of a puppy and the slightly exasperated kitten it cuddled in a flower garden. “You examine, you calculate, you adjust, but you keep going, always trying again and again, never giving up, no matter how many setbacks and unexpected hitches and disappointments and frustrations stand against you. And at last, by working together, in the end,” I said“ah . . . in the end . . . huh.”

“In the end,” she finished, “you realize you’re missing a piece.”

We exchanged glances.

The End

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Categories: Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Watterson on Art and Commercialism

by Bill Watterson via GoComics

Some of my favorite comics nowadays are the ones when Calvin, whether by drawing on the sidewalk or doodling for art class, provides an analogy of Watterson’s own art, allowing him to voice his thoughts on the subject. This one, especially, depicts one of his greatest struggles, and no doubt his biggest annoyance, as an artist.

He also gives voice to a lot of my own feelings, as a writer, toward the modern world of art. We live in an age that lives day and night on commercialism. It’s a struggle for me to uphold my integrity as a writer while the tides are trying to drag me down. At least, as an indie author, I have more control over my own fate as an artist, and though it’s difficult, I can still fight for my beliefs as an artist and a Christian, and find ways to meet the practical needs of my craft without descending to the “crass and shallow values” my art “should transcend.”

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So You Think Writing Is Easy?

So you think writing is easy?

Do you?

You think writing is rewarding?

Do you?

You think writing is fun?

Do you?

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc (altered)

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc (altered)

Writing Is an Addiction

Nobody writes because they enjoy it. They write because they can’t stop. They write because, for some reason, they need it. They write until they can’t stand it. They write till they hate themselves for writing. They write until they hate everything they write. They write until their mind scream at them to stop and calls them an idiot and tries to find a way out of writing.

But they don’t stop. They never stop. No writer stops writing—because they’re already addicted. They can’t turn back now that they’ve tasted words. They hate words and they hate writing—but they can’t stop.

Writing Is a Disappointment

The fact is, they write, and maybe they overcome every obstacle life tries to throw at them and manage to write something worth publishing; then maybe, just maybe, they beat all the odds and get their book published; and then they find themselves adrift in a sea of books that will never sell, idiots who have nothing to say but write and publish it anyway, ideal readers who are reading someone else’s books, and blind bigoted readers gorged on Twilight, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey, not to mention film and television.

There’s a reader out there who will love their book—but the odds are slim that reader will ever find it. There are a lot more readers who won’t love it, and a lot more still who won’t ever know it exists.

Writers Have it Tough

No writer ever wrote because they had a write worth writing about. Who would be crazy enough to create their own worlds to live in, if they already had one worth living in?

Writers write because they have nowhere else to go. Writers write because they need to distance themselves from reality and find meaning in another existence, even if it’s a pseudo-reality based on their own lives with a few idealistic enhancements.

Writers . . . Have the Best Job in the World

Did I scare you away yet? Did I?

No? Why not? Probably because you’re a passionate writer who already knows the big secret about writing.

That secret is: writing is the best thing in the world.

Writing is a journey. Writing is a discovery. Writing is living. Writing may be pain, sorrow, defeat, fear; but more than that, writing is pleasure, writing is joy, writing is hope, writing is courage, and writing is wisdom. It can be tough, it can hurt, but that’s life; the bad has to be taken with the good for the good to be appreciated. And writing has a darn lot of good.

Writing is beauty. Writing is love. Writing is parenthood. Writing is brotherhood. Writing is perfection. Writing is understanding.

I write because I couldn’t do anything else. I write because it’s the only choice I have; I’m a writer, so I have to write. I’m a writer—and I’m glad. I love to write.

Do you?

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