Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just a quick note...

I think we'll continue to choose books in alphabetical order by the first letter of our screen names:

So after me this month follows:

Emily J--January
Mrs. Darwin--May

So, Emily's been in town this past week, and I know she's still on the road, so it might be awhile before she gets something up here--but we did get to chat a little about the book. Making a comparison with Mary Karr, which is difficult not to do, seeing as both authors overcame addiction by conversion, it seemed as though the conversion portions of both books were rather brief.

I understand there are numerous different reasons why this might be so, and I know Heather King writes about ongoing conversion elsewhere. But I was thinking specifically about the memoir genre, and how one weakness of the genre would be that the author has to fabricate an ending that hasn't actually taken place--particularly if that ending is of a spiritual nature. We know the authors accepted Christ, but do they finish the race? We cannot know.

Even though I'm drawn to a more personal style of spiritual writing, or testimony, the whole bit is plagued by this kind of, "...And then I found Jesus" simplicity. It feels like an easy ending.
Still, I'm not sure what the alternative would be.

I was reading through some old journals lately, and it was funny how quickly my own reversion took place. It really was the turn of a page--one day I decided to love Jesus. I made a few necessary ammends in my life, and all those pages of preparation and suffering were over. One day I didn't love, the next day I did.

Maybe the ending is just that easy. I don't know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Loss and Redemption

I have only read a few pages of Parched and don't have anything as interesting to say as Melanie and Betty in their discussion in the comments, but I thought I’d throw this thought out there as a new post just to continue the conversation. After reading the first chapter and knowing where the story is going, I found myself wishing that I had a drinking or drug problem or some other scandalous situation, just so that I could struggle through a tragedy and survive, and so that I could have an excuse for the self-pity I wallow in at times. I can’t blame my minor woes on anyone other than myself, because I’m the one who makes them up.  I’m like the prodigal son’s older brother who complains about the lack of appreciation. The virtue of gratitude seems to come easier to people who have lost everything and had life restored.  I just heard a new story of loss and hardship from Katrina the other day, and found myself wishing we had been here so we could lose everything, too. (Maybe this is related to the anticipation of Christmas glut.)  What I should be feeling is immense gratitude that we have been spared those sufferings and a sense of admiration for those who have suffered much and survived.  I know this in my head, but it’s easy to let the poor me story crowd out those virtuous thoughts. 

So perhaps my Advent challenge as I read the rest of this book on the trip to gather with family is to remember how blessed I am. We helped sort the gifts for the giving tree at church the other day, and I saw the name of a family from our school. Their kids are at the parish school on tuition assistance because they lost their business in Katrina and then lost their home in a foreclosure and had to declare bankruptcy. They went from riches to proverbial rags overnight. There but for the grace of God go I. 

But perhaps I belittle the losses I have experienced, and I know I forget the communal nature of suffering with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Reading dark and grungy tales confirms that the story of our souls is one of loss and redemption. I am reminded that even if the ways that we give into the temptation to isolate ourselves are only venial instead of mortal sin, they are a rejection of grace requiring a conversion of heart. So I'm interested in reading more to find out what King's initial moment of conversion was, to discover how she continues to turn away from the urge to give into temptation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heather King's "Parched"--First Impressions

I’m about halfway through the book, and should finish with one more night of good reading, but I wanted to get something up here for those who are ready to begin the discussion.

I’m enjoying the non-linear story-telling, sort of weaving the different elements of her life into a full portrait of the addict, but that leaves me with a non-linear approach to discussing her work. The following are a few pulled quotes that spoke to me, and a couple reasons why they did.


“When I wasn’t drinking in crappy bars, I was home by myself reading: a life that was achingly lonely, and yet perversely designed to prevent anybody from ever getting close enough to really know me.” (p 12)

Comparing this detail with other addiction stories, “Lit” and “The Edge of Sadness” it seems a recurring attribute of addiction is self isolation. I think it’s interesting how most addictive behaviors (internet use comes to mind) at first appear to be a remedy for isolation, but eventually become a reason to self-isolate.


“When it came to sibling dynamics, this meant we had one basic mode of communication—ridicule; and one base mode of interaction—violence.” (p 35)

For some reason this makes me want to have more kids. It gives me the sense that a lot of what happened in my childhood, and is currently taking place between my children, might not be as out of the ordinary as I thought it was. Sure it’s painful for everyone—but so’s life. And it does sort of confirm my suspicions that these modes of interaction among siblings can help build character.


“And it occurs to me now, as I write, that those two things I did at Nana’s—daydream and snoop—are pretty much what I do today for work.”(47)

This whole scene with her Nana was so touching to me, and also very similar to my own experiences with my Grandmother. I loved every minute of it. And again, it gives the idea that child-rearing is rarely as complicated as we want to make it. Give a girl a drawer to go through and she’ll be happy for a loooong time.


One of the most enjoyable elements of this book for me is the freedom with which she writes about the darker episodes of her life. I know that sounds oxy moronic, but it gives me hope for the kinds of books that can be written, read and accepted into the Redemption Narrative. We’ve discussed here before how glossing over details, like Merton’s illegitimate child, and Dorothy Day’s abortion, causes us to underestimate the immense power of God’s mercy. To me, all these details, though they detail a life of incredible suffering, help to affirm the life of faith.

An Excerpt from Parched

For those who can't get their hands on the book right away:

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Parched" by Heather King

Parched it is. And I'm sure all of you already read her blog, but if not please check out Shirt of Flame.

...Would like some Divine Intoxication myself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How are we feeling about December?

I think we're starting our list over again this month--which makes me chooser.

But is December too busy? Want to wait until January?

I plan to do much reading this month either way. On my list, if any of these should appeal to this group:

My copy of Heather King's "Parched" finally arrived, as did my copy of Jonathan Potter's "House of Words" (poetry).

ALso on the list:
1. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi--started this last night and didn't want to go to sleep. Funny and dry, full of interesting passages, though Steven Riddle says it might get rough in the middle.

2. "Comedy in a Minor Key" and/or "Death of the Adversary" by Hans Keilson--these just came in on my interlibrary loan, and Francine Prose said they're genius. I'll read anything Francine Prose tells me to.

3. Still wanting to read Murial Spark, Dorothy Sayers, and Marilyn Robinson's "Gilead."

4. Something "Advent-y."