Archives For Stories

 

The Perfect Book on Writing for the Non-writer

A Brief Review of

Creating a Spiritual Legacy:
How to Share Your Stories, Values, and Wisdom.

by Daniel Taylor.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Greg Schreur.

Few people would argue with Daniel Taylor’s fundamental premise: we all have a story to tell. Yet many who agree with that premise would also be reluctant to put that story into words on paper. To Dr. Taylor, this contradiction is regrettable and unnecessary. As well it should be to anyone who wishes they could write their own story and to anyone who might cherish a written story from their parents or grandparents.

To say we all have a story to tell is by now probably a platitude. Dr. Taylor, author of books such as Letters to My Children and cofounder of The Legacy Center, might call it a truism. Our lives are made up of stories, he points out. Each day is a narrative with all the elements of story: plot, character, setting, and sometimes irony, foreshadowing, and even symbolism. It is impossible not to have a story.

We glean Truth from these stories; we also ascribe Truth to them.
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“The ongoing dilemmas of every human heart

A review of

Quiet Americans: Stories.
By Erika Dreifus.

Review by Rebecca Henderson.


QUIET AMERICANS - Erika DreifusQuiet Americans: Stories.
By Erika Dreifus.

Paperback: Last Light Studio, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Paperback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

The real and lasting effects of war and genocide are more vividly portrayed in the personal stories of individual lives than in the timelines and statistics of history books. In Quiet Americans, her first book of fiction, Erika Dreifus explores the continuing impact of the Holocaust on survivors and their families, while delving into her characters’ relationships with both their loved ones and their aggressors. Quiet Americans is a book of historical detail combined with the intimacy and emotion of everyday happenings in the days, years, and decades after tragedy.

Past and future, death and birth, memories and hope, the themes of Dreifus’s stories engage the reader on a level that connects the extraordinary events of a devastating period of history to the ongoing dilemmas of every human heart. How do victims of atrocity, whose deep wounds may no longer throb but have turned to jagged scars, handle the humanity of their attackers? When given a choice of doing good or turning away from an enemy in time of need, how do they retain their own compassion, while not excusing the wicked done against them—especially when millions of others weren’t given that choice? How do they honor their family members who endured unspeakable suffering, never forgetting the past that shapes them, but finding ways to live in the present, to enjoy the closeness of loved ones in this moment, and to rebuild a “normal” life for future generations?

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“Nanostories: Overrunning Our Culture”

A Review of
And Then There’s This:
How Stories Live and Die In Viral Culture.

by Bill Wasik.

 Reviewed by Chris Smith.

 

And Then There’s This:
How Stories Live and Die In Viral Culture.

Bill Wasik.
Hardcover: Viking Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]

 

In 2003, Bill Wasik, an editor at Harper’s Magazine, was bored, and in his boredom, he came up with the idea of using the internet to gather a crowd of people in a certain place for a brief period of time.  This social experiment, the “flash mob” as it became known, was implemented by Wasik eight times in New York City and replicated in other cities around the world.  Wasik, has now chronicled his Internet-age social experiments and reflected on their insight into internet culture in a new book entitled And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture.  In telling his own stories, Wasik also narrates the story of viral internet culture.

    The success of this viral internet culture is based, in Wasik’s estimation on four defining attributes: speed, shamelessness, brief duration and interactivity. Wasik has created term for the ephemeral stories that define viral culture: nanostories.  It is intriguing to me that Wasik (and others) use the adjective “viral” to describe present day internet culture.  The adjective was likely chosen in reference to its contagion, the vast speed at which its stories spread.  However, it could just as easily refer to the power of its inherent deadliness, killing off stories as fast as they rise and spread, as the stories told in And Now There’s This remind us.  It is rather unfortunate that Wasik does not offer us here a little more reflection on the context around how the viral Internet culture arose: e.g., why have people become so bored that they are at all interested in the fleeting nanostories of viral culture?  Continue Reading…

 

A Brief Review of
Judas: A Biography.
Susan Gubar
Hardcover: W.W. Norton Co., 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chase Roden.

Susan Gubar’s Judas: A Biography is far from a typical biography; in fact, it’s not a biography at all.  This ambitious work covers nearly two thousand years of interpretation of the apostle Judas Iscariot, as he is presented in the Gospels and Acts.  The book deals largely with visual art, poetry, film, and creative prose (including several apocryphal gospels of the first few centuries), preferring these venues over nonfictive scholarly interpretation.  Gubar — an English professor with an interest in psychoanalysis — uses the structure of a biography in which the stages of Judas’s development correspond roughly with historical eras.  Judas’s infancy in antiquity has him develop through Freudian oral and anal stages.  His adolescence in the middle ages and renaissance is marked by erotic or sexualized art allegedly displaying Oedipal traits and castration anxiety.  Finally, he is led into an ambiguous but relatable adulthood in the modern era.  As the author admits in several places, the biographical format is a conceit that doesn’t work perfectly, but she ends up tracing various streams of Judas interpretation with a rough chronological cohesion.

The book is fascinating, disturbing, informative, and often frustrating.  Gubar’s approach is exhaustive; dozens and dozens of works are covered, to the point that it seems at times more like a catalog of Judas literature than an interpretive biography.  This is a blessing and a curse — even a reader highly familiar with Western art and scholarship will encounter many new creative works about Judas, but Gubar’s attempt to treat each work individually can lead to repetition.  Fortunately, Judas is filled with illustrations of the works being discussed, including beautiful color plates featuring key paintings.

The disturbing aspect of the book comes not from Gubar’s treatment so much as the history of Judas interpretation itself.  Judas has long served as a proxy for the Jews, especially during our eras of greatest antisemitism.  Gubar probably makes too much of anti-Jewish sentiment in the Gospels (especially John), but the book stands as a sobering reminder of just how terribly wrong the church and humanity as a whole can be.

The most frustrating aspect of Judas is that it doesn’t seem to know what it is; Gubar presents it variously as a book concerned with the historical Judas, an encyclopedic treatment of Judas literature, and also as a speculative interpretation of her subject.  Unfortunately, these missions often seem to work against one another.  Speculative interpretations don’t always suit the material and format of the book, and can seem deceptive to readers expecting a more historical-critical approach.  Gubar’s “against the grain” interpretive strategies are de rigeur in the liberal arts, but are probably best reserved for works the reader already knows the interpretive history of.  Anachronistic concepts such as modern sadomasochistic sex, homosexuality as self-identity, and “homophobic panic” are read into first-century Palestine.  Furthermore, readers familiar with historical Biblical scholarship may be disappointed by Gubar’s overdependence on Bart Ehrman and JD Crossan.  That being said, Gubar’s alternate readings of the works she treats are often engrossing.

Judas: A Biography will be enjoyed and appreciated by those who read it strictly as a history of interpretation, knowing that what they are getting is highly speculative though well-informed.

 

“AIDS:
Translating Numbers Into People”

 

A Review of
28: Stories of AIDS IN AFRICA
by Stephanie Nolen.

 

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin

 

28: Stories of AIDS IN AFRICA
Stephanie Nolen.
Paperback: Walker and Co., 2008.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $13 ]  [ Amazon ]

 

“I looked at AIDS in Africa for a long time before I understood what I was seeing.” (1)

Stephanie Nolen’s opening words, as quoted above,  seem to not only capture the reason for her writing but make a very insightful statement about many of us who live in this relatively safe and sheltered culture.  We are bombarded daily with images, articles, and reports depicting so many of the sorrows of this world…AIDS…hunger….war….refugee camps…genocide…but how many of us see without really seeing, hear without really hearing, and form very shallow thoughts and ideas about these issues with no real understanding.

 

As part of a group that spent several months studying the issue of AIDS, I have read several books dealing with the AIDS epidemic (which only serves to let one know how much that one really doesn’t know).  This book is by far one of the best.  Stephanie Nolen very powerfully puts a human face on all the numbing statistics and brings an incredibly deep human dimension to the “savage phenomenon” known as AIDS.  One of the very real struggles a great number of us have in attempting to wrap our minds around many of the crises of our time, of which AIDS certainly is one, is the ability to translate the numbers we hear into people – flesh and blood, feeling, suffering people.  Another struggle we have is in interpreting the numbers.  What do they say?  What do they mean? What is behind them?  What do they represent?  What are the effects, the consequences, the ramifications of the numbers?  How is life changed because of those numbers?    Ms. Nolen does an outstanding job in addressing both of these struggles.  Very simply, she helps us to really see, to really hear, to travel below the shallow surface where most of us are content to be and at least begin to understand.

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