Archive for April 2007

Great Time Had at Captain Nathan Hale Middle School!

April 27, 2007


I spent an hour answering questions from and enjoying the company of about 50 fans of THE PURLOINED BOY.

Thanks for the great time!


Everyone Loves a Good Story, Part 3

April 26, 2007


Sorry for the delay. Life got busy.

Anyway, back to the point. Here are some reasons I like the Harry Potter stories.

Before I begin I think I should just acknowledge that there are some folks who have problems with these stories. I applaude the notion that we should judge literature and moral content is part of that. But I think some folks have taken some elements in these stories a little too seriously while completely missing other things.

Some of what they miss isn’t so good (from my earlier posts you can see that I think J.K. Rowling is a little unrealistic about human nature in some areas and the true nature of magic) — but other things are very praise worthy. Over all I’d say the underlying morality of the Harry Potter stories is excellent.

Now, to the point.

1. The stories are well crafted. Rowling is a good story teller, she particularly is good at weaving character, plot and subplot together into a coherent whole. This takes a great deal of work and is accomplished largely by feel.

2. The larger moral vision of the stories is wonderful — it is the power of self sacrificial love to protect and preserve. This is what I think most negative critics miss. Harry is The Boy Who Lived because his parents died for him — especially his mother. (Others die too — i.e. Dumbledore. I’ll give away who I think will die in the last book — Snape will die for Harry.)

3. Rowling actually seems to like and admire good men — not only as human beings, but as men. I find this refreshing in our world of man-hating. She shows in Dumbledore what a true father looks like — a true patriarch. I think she knows that one of the problems with our world is not that there is too much patriarchy — the real problem is there is not enough.

4. Finally, I could say a lot more, she correctly sees the connections between fear and evil. Voldemort is a coward — his fear of death is the reason he dominates and crushes others.

These are some of the elements that make the Harry Potter stories good stories. They are well-crafted and edifying.


Everyone Loves a Good Story, Part 2

April 23, 2007


Plot, character, suspense, pace, resolution, hardship, loss, joy — good stories have them all.

But that’s like saying: wheels, motor, paint, plastic, gas — good cars have them all. It doesn’t really say anything about why we like cars.

I think we like stories because they draw us in. They weave a kind of spell over us. Indeed, according to Tolkien in his great essay On Fairy Stories, the word spell means a story told as well as a formula of power over living men.

By them we are lifted out of ourselves and we enter into the minds of others — ostensibly the minds of the characters in the stories — but in truth, the minds of the authors who tell the stories. It is magic — the closest thing to magic that we can know without delving into matters too great for mortals.

And what wonders do we behold? Well, that depends on the author. Some worlds are dark and ugly, others bright, some sticky sweet and cloying, others majestic and profound. It depends.

And do we like what we find? Again it depends — it depends on who we are. If we are shallow, depth will elude us and perhaps even annoy or frighten. If we’re deep, shallowness will disgust us or bore us. It is a matter of taste — but that’s not all — and some people really do have better taste than other folks.

Tomorrow I’ll say more and I’ll do it by talking about the things I like in the Harry Potter stories.


Everyone Loves a Good Story

April 19, 2007


It never fails, whenever I begin a story, people listen.

I’ve done a lot of public speaking — large groups, small groups, children, teens, adults, the elderly, different ethic groups, people with beliefs different than mine — it doesn’t matter, people love a story.

Whenever I feel like I’m losing an audience, or when the audience is so diverse I know it is nearly impossible to communicate with them all, I turn to a story and I’ve got ’em.

What is it about stories that makes them so attractive to people? On the other side of the coin, what does the love of stories tell us about human nature?

Over the next few days I’ll be blogging on this subject. Come on back and let’s talk about it.


Writing about Bad Guys, Part 2

April 16, 2007


While there are common elements to good guys, good guys seem easier to distinguish from one another. Good is a fountain of variety. Think of birds. How many species are there? How many can there be? The more “birdness” is expressed, the greater the range of expression.

Bad birds, on the other hand, all devolve into dead birds over time.

In other words, the worse the characters the more alike they are.

On the way down, though, truly bad characters can be distinguished by besetting vices.

Among the bad guys in THE PURLOINED BOY two classes can be discerned. There are what could be called “blue collar” baddies and “white collar” baddies.

What distinguishes them is the nature of their appetites. Both are ravenous, greedy, and downright nasty. But the blue collar lack the refined taste of the white collar.

Sabnock would be satisfied (can evil ever truly be satisfied?) gnawing on Trevor’s leg bone, but Molech wants to gnaw on his soul.



Writing about Bad Guys

April 13, 2007


I’m not the first to notice this — but it’s easier, and sometimes it’s more fun, to write about bad guys.

I’m not entirely sure why that is.

Maybe its because they’re more dramatic. I’ve heard the term, “the spectacle of evil.” I think that’s right, evil has a certain visual appeal. Think of an accident on the highway — that’s bad. If we were more sympathetic and discreet wouldn’t we all avert our eyes? Is that what we do? Nooo. Instead we slow down and rubberneck, nearly causing another accident!

Perhaps another reason bad guys are fun is because we can give vent to our darker passions through them. I can’t tell how often I spoke aloud Sabnock’s lines as I wrote them — or even Gorgon’s.

Good guys, on the other hand, are self-controlled. They’re more often defined by what they don’t do than by what they do. To really understand a good guy you have to get into his head — to witness the drama of the inner-self in conflict with itself.

Good guys are capable of visual drama — but only when you drive them to it. And who does that? Why the bad guys, of course!


Another School Joins THE PURLOINED BOY Juggernaut: Trinity Christian Academy!

April 12, 2007


Trinity is located in Barnstable on Cape Cod. Students in the 7th and 8th grades will begin reading in May.

Welcome Trinity!