I love bees. I don’t love them as much as spiders (bees don’t do thread art) but I do love them. Let’s flash back to the summer of 2000 for a moment.
In September of 1999 we moved into our house. In January of 2000 my husband’s company–a tech startup–hit the skids. We were hanging on by our teeth. I went out and got a job and began learning a lot of lessons about how it’s not always getting what you want but keeping what you’ve gotten that drives a person. The job in a bank was not a good one physically or emotionally and I did what I’ve always done when life’s tempestuous sea is battering against the gunwhale. I read books. The first book was The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. The idea of Sherlock Holmes keeping bees was a sort of super heaven for me and I sat on the front porch in the spring warmth and disappeared into that world. When I finished all of King’s series I wanted something else to read. There was a battered copy of a book in Tim’s home office that was given to us by a friend at the company. I had at first told Tim I didn’t want it in the house but since the book was someone else’s property I didn’t think I should throw it away. But it was evil and I didn’t want it around. I told him to take it back to Steven but Steven was sailing in some flotilla down to Bermuda and the book stayed in its desultory place. Finally my 30 year old self said “you have enough discernment. You read it for yourself and see for yourself. Then you can at least talk about it intelligently.”
That’s how I picked up Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone in the Summer of 2000. Anyone who knows me knows what happened next, knows how the books became so close to my heart and how in their pages I found not a lurking Satan but a loving Christ.
It wasn’t until many years later that I made the connection and saw that God’s hand is so much in everything that even as it directs events it leaves poetry in the margins.
A main character in the Harry Potter series is Dumbledore.
Dumbledore is an old word for what is now more commonly called ‘bumblebee’
Deborah (my hebrew name and almost my given English name) comes from the same word root as ‘dumbledore’ (dbr) and that root means Word
In John 1 we see that Jesus is the Living Word.
In the Middle Ages the Bee was used as a symbol of Christ himself.
It all weaves together in the prettiest of tapestries, in God signing “I Am” in the corner of the painting that is my life.
I love bees. And now bees are dying. There are several arguments as to exactly why. The cause is not yet known for certain. But it’s happening and it’s a major concern.
I know it’s trendy to keep chickens, and I can’t fault people for wanting fresh eggs, although I find chickens disgusting. Ideally more folks will start home beekeeping as well. Bees save the planet…kind of like Christ.
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I just logged into GoodReads to mark that I’d started reading Mildred Pierce by James N. Cain. I’d long ago seen the movie version starring Joan Crawford and didn’t care for the people involved. It never occurred to me that the film may be based on a novel or that the novel may be very good in spite of the essentially grim characters who people it. But when Laura Lippmann mentioned offhandedly that the book was “quotidian” I downloaded that sucker from the library. I adore quotidian stories, because I love the stories of everyday people having every day lives and making it through their everyday battles. I love Maeve Binchy’s stories where the issue is “how do we earn enough for jam for tea?” and “how shall we brighten this dreary shed in the garden?” Those are the kinds of stories that hide in the skin of all of us and those conflicts are oddly satisfying to see resolved. Add to that usual fascination with the beauty of the ordinary the fact that lately I’ve tired of the endless parades of stories about What The King Is Doing Tonight. All of the top books–and even some of my favourites–are about bloodshed and kingships. All the conflict is intense and bloody and world-changing. I was in the mood for some “let’s see how a normal person pays her mortgage”. And so…quotidian book, here I come.
I’m about 40% of the way through the story now, and just thought to log it in GoodReads before I forgot altogether. When I got there I saw that a GR Friend from a Christian Reading Group had given the book two stars. No explanation was appended; the two stars were all the friend was going to say. After three years of seeing this person remark upon books, though, I had a fairly good idea what the issue was. And while this person didn’t address it directly others did. They didn’t like the book because the characters drink. The characters get divorced. The characters have sex outside of marriage.
IS THE BOOK GOOD? IS THE STORY WELL-WRITTEN? ARE THE CHARACTERS REALISTIC?
Those are reasons to dislike a book. Yes, I have my prejudices. I know that I personally have trouble with a book when an animal is in jeopardy. I can’t get into a book if none of the characters are at all likable. Those may not be fair prejudices but I own them and I admit them when they affect a review.
I’ve read countless reviews from other Christians where well-written, masterful works of fiction are given a poor grade because the occasional “foul language” shows up or the characters do something that Good People Don’t Do. I used to just chalk it up to the cost of doing business in a vacuum but now I think I’m truly over it.
I’m over people who can’t appreciate the beauty of a thing, the essential good in the thing simply because the thing isn’t perfect. There’s that old saying about perfect being the enemy of the good and it’s never more true than when some Christians evaluate stories. These folks think that standing ground and frowning upon humans acting human in story is what God would want from them. The same God who loves them in spite of their flaws…
This book is well-written. I know it is because I don’t think the characters are especially likable but the story has exacted such a pull upon me that I can’t put it down in spite of the characters’ basic baseness. This is not a two-star book, quality-wise. It’s a story of how flawed humans get through life. It’s the story God has read billions of times since our creation. Rating books is not an exercise in censorship.
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I know a lot of writers and entertainers make use of the thing where they get a google alert every time their name gets mentioned somewhere online. I’m pretty sure the talked-about-incessently people like Miley Cyrus don’t use them but I’ve gotten enough blog comments and emails from various authors when I’ve talked about there work here to know that it’s common enough.
So I’m resorting to this cheap, underhanded, probably useless trick. I’ve tried everything else. I started simple, hitting minor notification buttons on other websites. Then I started emailing.
Now I’m using my blog to openly plead.
Marge Piercy, I’m begging you. I’m pleading with you. I don’t know what pull you have–if any–with your publisher. I know they’ve converted many of your wonderful books to e-book already.
But back in the 80s you wrote what may be one of the top three novels about World War II, and is definitely the absolute hands-down best book about how the war was lived by women. Yes, Marge Piercy, I have read Gone To Soldiers at least a dozen times since I first read it in 1986 or 1987 as a teenager recovering from surgery. There is a well-worn paperback copy in the shelf next to my bed where I keep the books that mean the most to me. (Yes, you’re right next to the Bible, funnily enough.)
The problem is that now I’m disabled by RA and can’t hold the giant book anymore. I have a Kindle because it’s the assistive device that allows me to continue reading wonderful things. Once a week–every monday–I check Amazon to see if Gone To Soldiers has been added to the Kindle format. It never is. Marge Piercy, I have been doing this FOR FOUR YEARS NOW. Please, Marge Piercy, you’re one of my favourite authors. You wrote one of my favourite books. Please put it on ebook so that I can read it again and so that I can brag to people about how this is one of the books they HAVE to read so go buy it right now.
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