Posts Tagged ‘books’

Zelda

August 28, 2008

I just finished the book “Zelda” by Nancy Milford.  Its actually about forty years old, and I read it about forty years ago, although it means a lot more to me now that I’m older.  Zelda wasthe wife of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.  They evidently were quite a pair in their day–always hitting the headlines for something outrageous.  She was the Brittney Spears or Madonna of her day, although she was not an entertainer. 

Zelda was raised as the much spoiled baby of the family.  Her father rarely paid any attention to her.  Her mother doted on her, thought everything she did was charming, paid much attention to the daring, or sassy things her daughter did as though they indicated genius.  Zelda was a young woman with no sense of purpose in her life other than to attract attention and to do things for effect.  It helped that she was very beautiful and intelligent.  She married F. Scott Fitzgerald when she was still a teenager, and his fame and wealth came too early for either of them to handle.  The marriage was almost doomed from the start.  Scott Fitzgerald was wrapped up in his writing and his friends.  Zelda was expected to fend for herself when Scott was writing, which really went against her grain.  She was always the center of attention in her family and hometown.  She had never learned to make real friends, but instead saw people as an audience to be worked.  She had a child while quite young, and because of their wealth was able to have nannys for her daughter, hence never really developing a significant mother-daughter attachment.  She had an affair of sorts during one particularly busy summer of writing for Scott, and that was a turning point for the worse in their marriage. 

Scott, for his part, was so wrapped up in his writing and his friendships he failed to see Zelda as having needs.  She was supposed to be available to him, but not need him too much.  As time went on, partying and alcohol became more and more of the fabric of their lives, and their lives became emptier.  Zelda was very jealous of Scott and began to try to have something in which she excelled so that he wouldn’t in any way be superior to her.  She tried and exhausted herself trying to be a ballerina, when she hadn’t the talent for it.  She tried writing, and indeed she and Scott became enemies, fighting over who owned the history of their lives which they were both using as their writing material.  Eventually they were destroying each other.

The authors premise was that Zelda was suffering from a “boredom of the soul”.  She never seemed to have a purpose other than her own promotion and her own pleasure.  She always said she was an eternal flapper.  To her a flapper was someone who always did whatever she wanted and took risks to get whatever she wanted.  Ultimately the utter selfishness, along with heavy drinking, slowly became her undoing.  The authors premise was that a person who draws so far into themselves that their communication becomes understood only to themselves goes mad.  Zelda did.

Novels aren’t Factual Truth

June 16, 2008

The novel has always told truth about people, relationships, culture, society and life in a roundabout way.  Through the thoughts and conversations of the characters, the reader gains an insight into how people think, what they believe, their motivations and emotions–at least in the time of the novel’s setting.  Today a new genre of novel attempts to tell truth more often found in non-fiction work, but tell it without the kind of research, footnotes, quotes and debate found in articles and essays.  The medium used to tell the author’s version of truth about some present societal or political debate is a lecture by one of the characters (usually portrayed as an expert of some sort), or fictional articles, fictional tv shows and the like.  The reader begins to believe the fictional characters and media in the novel are the result of well-researched, well-weighed, even-handed evidence.  Most often this is not the case.  The author is interested in the reader being persuaded to the authors point of view through the medium of a “page-turner”, the involvement of the reader’s emotions and the reader’s identification with characters.  As a result, a lot of readers change their opinion on many topics, but without the critical thinking and study expected of the reader of serious prose.  Its a free country, and speech is free, but these days readers need to use critical thinking when reading the “information” in novels, as much as they do when reading editorials.

Accurate Accounts of Jesus Life

May 6, 2008

Some time ago I mentioned in a post that one could learn of Jesus through reading the original four accounts of his life, death and resurrection.  I had a sarcastic comment asking if I had read original papyri.  What I meant were the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Recently a lot of attention has been paid to the “other gospels”, such as the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Judas, etc.  These aren’t the original accounts.  The proponents of including these “other” gospels in one’s picture of Jesus, may or may not realize they paint a very different picture of Jesus than the accounts written by his friends and contemporaries.  Like any other religion, Christianity had unusual sects and splinter groups.  Groups who misunderstood the message were even more common in those early days because of the difficulty of travel and communication.  This makes the spread of the original writings all the more extraordinary.  Today we have more than 10,000 manuscripts or fragments of the original New Testament writings dated within a century or so of the time of Jesus.  This is more than we have for any other writings of the time, or even later!  The writings spread all over the Roman empire—all the places where churches were founded.  What else is amazing—the copies all essentially agree, and they agree with the gospels and epistles we have today, despite 1900 years and numerous translations.  In contrast, the “other” gospel accounts exist in one or two copies, and were found with Gnostic writings.  Gnostics developed their philosophy in the century following Jesus, and they tried to spiritualize everything—explain Jesus appearance and his miracles, including his resurrection as spiritual experiences.  They were in many ways like unbelievers today, they didn’t want to believe what the four original gospels said occurred.

 

The Gospel of Thomas was found in Egypt, written in Coptic.  What is interesting about that is Thomas is believed to have gone to India—indeed there are monuments to Thomas in India.  Orthodox Rabbis (who hardly have a dog in the fight where Christian scriptures are concerned) have stated the writers of the so-called “Gnostic” gospels have no understanding of first century Jewish thought, as the apostles would.

 

I would venture this, where the Christian canon of scripture is concerned.  Rather than “stifle truth”, the 4th century church leaders, solemnized a list of books that had been widely accepted as valid for many years.  Their other criteria  was the necessity of apostolic authorship or apostolic authority.  The book must have been widely disseminated and accepted by most of the churches.  There was, as there is today, much writing that has little to commend it.  If one were writing the history of the twentieth century, how much credibility should they give to the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News?  Indeed, how much credibility should they give to stories that circulated on the internet.  What if I, today, decided to write a fictional Civil War diary?  I might have some political or philosophical point to make, or I might just be interested in telling a good story, never mind the facts.  Should my “Civil War Diary” have the credibility of one written by someone who was there?  My own book would be found out by my lack of proper language use for the time, and my misunderstanding of the time.  Some of the Gnostic writings fall into this category, but all “other” gospels and epistles were written without any connection to the actual apostles and that inner circle.

 

So, the “original” accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by people who were contemporaries of Jesus, who were in partnership with the apostles if not apostles themselves, and we have so many fragments, manuscripts and references to these writings in other manuscripts from the era, we can find them trustworthy as history, or else be skeptical of all history.

 

Nonni

How I like to read the bible

February 23, 2008
Here is Nonni’s next post.   Michelle

People have often asked me how to start reading scripture and where to begin.  I have always believed its best to start with the stories about Jesus.  I also believe its best to start with a translation that makes sense for you.  I loved the JB Phillips translation of the New Testament, but then I’m British, and I understand that style of writing.  If you’re American, then the Living Bible translation is very good.  There’s even an updated New Living Bible translation.  If you’re new to reading the Bible, and you aren’t familiar with chapters and verses, I really like “The Message”.  It reads so much more like a book.  The language is so familiar too.

 Anyway, I just start with the gospel of Matthew.  Then I like to go to the gospel of Luke, and finally to the gospel of John.  John’s gospel is much more poetic, and contains symbolism and allusions to prophecy that are somewhat harder to grasp for a beginner, although, don’t get me wrong, there’s very, very much in it that is beautifully understandable for a beginner as well.  Just don’t worry about what you don’t understand.  Enjoy, savor and cherish what you do understand.  There’s more than enough spiritual food for everyone at every stage.

After reading the three gospels I love most, I then enjoy reading the Acts of the Apostles.  These are the historical accounts of the very early church–the first 20 years or so.  Very exciting reading.  From there I read the epistles, which are simply letters the early apostles wrote to the early churches.  Since these were the very first generation of Christians and most of them knew Jesus when he walked the earth, you get an even more detailed version of the things Jesus taught. 

All through the New Testament you will see footnotes referring to Old Testament passages.  Read these passages for yourself, and you will get a bigger picture of what you are reading in the New Testament passage.  When you have done all of this, its time to get a study bible.  When you read the Old Testament, its really helpful to have a study bible to help you get the historical context of the writing.  Unless you know who the writing was for and what was going on, you miss a lot.  I like to just read the Old Testament straight through.  Your study bible will help you get it all into historical order.  I have always kind of skimmed over all the ceremonial laws since they don’t apply to Christians (you learn all about this when you read the New Testament), and I also skim over the lists of geneologies.  I know they are there for a reason, but I haven’t felt led to read them for my own inspiration.

Happy reading!  Read with a pen or marker and underline things that jump off the page at you.  These are verses that will mean a lot to you personally and be an inspiration and encouragement to you.

 God bless you!  He WILL bless you as you read the book He has put together for you.

 Till next time…  Nonni