Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag

Once upon a time, a very long while ago, Mrs. Jenny Freitag of The Penslayer held a "guess & giveway" where she listed the chapter titles of her book The Shadow Things and had her readers guess which one was her favorite and why.  The winner received the book. To my intense surprise, I was one of  the three people who guessed correctly, and to my even greater surprise (and extreme excitement), I won. Many moons later, I bring you this post.

This is a lovely book.  It's the kind of story you just plunge into and stay absorbed in until you reach the last page and heave a contented sigh.   At first I was disappointed that it was so slim, but it was the perfect size for the story, and created in me an insatiable thirst to read more of the author's work.  I can't wait till her next novel gets published.

Here is the summary from the back cover. (Speaking of covers, I approve of the design of this one.  So many first novels have very amatuer-ish covers - this is not one of them.)
The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos.  With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever.  In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one God---and face the consequences of his decision.
The writing of the story is colorful, with some unusually-worded sentences and gorgeous imagery.  The time period is an interesting choice, I think -- many newly-published writers start off with fantasy or some part of the 1800's (Regency writers, totally looking at you), but Mrs. Freitag chooses the Dark Ages in Britain, just as Christianity began to show its bright face in the British Isles.  The author is Protestant, but to my knowledge there is nothing against the Faith in the beautiful passages in which the main character learns about Christianity.  Naturally, being a Catholic, I would love to see baptisms and Masses, but the story is told in such a way that I can imagine that they are there and just didn't make their way into the visible action of the novel.  The way certain characters truly follow the life of Christ is touching, and got me thinking on how much more seriously and literally the early Christians took God's Word than we do today.  It is a pity.  (Read a life of Francis of Assisi, and you'll get the same sort of bewildered "wait...oops...we're actually supposed to be doing all this, aren't we?")

Jenny Freitag often cites Rosemary Sutcliff as one of her inspirations, and it is thanks to her that I ever picked up a Rosemary Sutcliff novel.  (If you're wondering what I think of them, words that come to mind are vivid, sad, detailed, and long.  I like them, but find them a bit more boyish than my general literary choices.  I am not fond of battles.)

For those who have read the book and are knowledgeable about these things, does the white horse-god Tir in the book have any connection with the White Horse of Chesterton's epic?  I rather hope he doesn't, but I have suspicions.

I think the book is appropriate for ages twelve or thirteen and up.  Children die and some talk of a character's relations with his wife takes place, but briefly and very tastefully, considering the character speaking.  As always, it depends a great deal on the maturity of the reader.
Four and 1/2 stars.

"Paul writes that creation groans, awaiting the revelation of the sons of God.  It remembers, I think, in dreams, the wonders of the sinless, perfect world.  You can hear it in the wild tinkle of the wind through the beech leaves, the splashing of  water through cold, crystal streams, the beauty of a hind poised against the sky on a hilltop, and all through heartbreaking, beautiful things that surround us each day.  They are memories, dear Indi, memories of long-lost days when God walked with man and all was well, when the lion lay down at peace with the lamb, when the wolf and pony ran together on the heights and laughed at the joke the mockingbird made."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Favorite Poetry: In a Library

I'm going to honestly confess that, having noticed that I haven't posted in forever, I ambled over to Project Gutenberg and scanned Dickinson poetry until I found something suitable.  My life has been pretty full the past few weeks - and it will continue to be so at least until October - hence the neglect of this blog.  Sorry about that.  But anyway, though I have just discovered it, this is a lovely poem (what poem of Emily Dickinson's isn't, really?) and I'm glad I found it.

In a Library
by Emily Dickinson 

A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is 
To meet an antique book, 
In just the dress his century wore; 
A privilege, I think, 

 His venerable hand to take, 
And warming in our own, 
A passage back, or two, to make 
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect, 
His knowledge to unfold 
On what concerns our mutual mind, 
The literature of old; 

What interested scholars most, 
What competitions ran 
When Plato was a certainty. 
And Sophocles a man; 

When Sappho was a living girl, 
And Beatrice wore 
The gown that Dante deified. 
Facts, centuries before, 

He traverses familiar, 
As one should come to town 
And tell you all your dreams were true; 
He lived where dreams were sown.
His presence is enchantment, 
You beg him not to go; 
Old volumes shake their vellum heads 
And tantalize, just so.
Pictures via Tumblr.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In Which I Drown You In My Indifferent Graphics

You all probably know that I enjoy making graphics and that I'm not specially good at them.  Well, I've been making a ton, especially since school ended, and I do believe I've gotten a little bit better.  I thought you might like to see some of what I've done -- I know I always like to see others' graphics.  I can always learn something from them.
Oh yes -- feel free to use them, they're mostly not watermarked so credit if you like, if not I don't really care.  I never really understood the whole DON'T STEAL MY WORK thing that much.... as long as you're not selling it, why fuss?  It's just a digital image.

All my images are made with one of three photo-editors: iPiccy, PicMonkey, and Pixlr.  (Why do they always have to have rather silly names?)  They're each good for different things, so sometimes I'll use all three in one image.

First come the ones that can be used as desktop backgrounds.  I tire of desktops quickly, and so make a lot of new ones. If you use one, be aware that sometimes I don't measure the ratios right and then they're a bit too long or too short - also, mine are made for a 16:9 screen.

This was my first try-out of iPiccy, and I was quite proud of it, though I have since decided that it's not as wonderful as I at first thought.  The battle-cry of the Cristeros has always inspired me - I used to write it on the inside covers of my school notebooks, and it would make me feel very brave and ready for battle - a sentiment often necessary for the completion of math exercises -- or English essays -- or French exams. 

Despite my love of quotes, I always draw a blank when I go to make a graphic, hence the generally famous quotes I use.  I would much prefer obscure quotes, as I prefer most anything obscure, but when the time comes I never remember what I wanted to use.  I rather like this particular image, and surprisingly it took very little time.

I think a desktop for purity, strictly speaking, ought to contain more light and brightness than this does, and I couldn't find an image of a lily (symbol of purity) that worked, but other than that I am rather fond of this one.

If you couldn't tell, this image was the result of my love-affair with The Ballad of the White Horse.  The watermark is there because I posted it on Tumblr, and didn't save a non-watermarked version.
I know the stanza I chose sounds depressing, but I just love it because Our Lady gives Alfred no comfort and tells him that things are just gonna get worse, and yet he still gains strength to fight back that he didn't have before.  I haven't explained it well, but it's just such a delicious oxymoron to me, and before I read the poem, I had never thought of Christianity as journeying "gaily in the dark."  It's just a beautiful idea, and this little snippet reminds me of it when I'd rather "spell the stars/And times and triumphs mark" than be going gaily in the dark.
Perhaps I should not talk about my love-affair with this poem in the past tense.

The rest of these are not strictly desktops, though they can be used as such if you don't mind the not fitting.

This was the result of studying "Elegy in a Country Courtyard" and reflecting on how much wailing and keening and rolling in melancholy poets do.  "Fell in love with melancholy" indeed.  I don't know if you can even read all the quotes.  It was an exercise in trying out a slightly different style, and I'm still not sure what I think about it.

My mom wrote out this quote for me instead of giving me a lecture -- and it worked.

These words are from a poem by a Catholic author named Joseph Mary Plunkett about how everything in nature reminds him of Our Lord.  It's a beautiful poem, and this line especially caught my fancy.  One of the many pictures I have taken of the ocean from Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks worked perfectly as the backdrop.

The background in this graphic is a photo taken by me at Round Top, NY, when I visited the convent there. The quote is from the Regina Spektor song "The Call."  Another instance of me trying out a different style.

Well, I do believe that's enough for now.  If you made it to the end of this post without skimming and skipping...thank you.  If not, I totally don't blame you.

Tell me, do you have any tips for me? Questions?  General comments?  You know I'd love to hear them.
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