Tag Archives: quote

Thoughts on “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield

Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. I went to an estate sale some years back that advertised having a large selection of books. Clearly, the person who had passed was a serious reader based upon the sheer volume of books for sale, most of which were nice hardcovers. Scanning through the stacks, the cover of this book caught my eye. The brief blurb on the jacket confirmed that this should be worth the couple dollars. Also of interest, the title page was inscribed. I guess a friend of the deceased had given this book as a gift. Kind of added to the overall mystique of the book.

The premise of the story is that a woman who is an antiquarian book dealer gets hired by a reclusive author, who is nearing the end of her life, to write her biography. As is to be expected, many dark secrets abound, and the tale unravels in a gothic atmosphere that works really well.

As a bibliophile who loves used and antiquarian bookstores, the early description drew me right into the story.

Rising from the stairs, I stepped into the darkness of the shop. I didn’t need the light to find my way. I know the shop the way you know the places of your childhood. Instantly the smell of leather and old paper was soothing. I ran my fingertips along the spines, like a pianist along his keyboard. Each book has its own individual note: the grainy, linen-covered spine of Daniel’s History of Map Making, the cracked leather of Lakunin’s minutes from the meetings of the St. Petersburg Cartographic Academy; a well-worn folder that contains his maps, hand-drawn, hand-colored. You could blindfold me and position me anywhere on the three floors of this shop and I could tell you from the books under my fingertips where I was.

(p. 12)

When reading a gothic novel, even a modern one, there are some tropes that you come to expect, such as the old, decaying house. Ms. Setterfield uses this image well throughout the book as a symbol for mental illness and psychological decline.

On the first day of silence, and as if nothing had ever happened to interrupt it, the house picked up again its long, slow project of decay. Small things first: Dirt began to seep from every crevice in every object in every room. Surfaces secreted dust. Windows covered themselves with the first fine layer of grime. All of Hester’s changes had been superficial. They required daily attention to be maintained. And as the Missus’s cleaning schedules at first wavered, and then crashed, the real, permanent nature of the house began to reassert itself. The time came when you couldn’t pick anything up without feeling the old cling of grime on your fingers.

(p. 197)

I don’t want to give away too much regarding this novel. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it. It was a quick read, the story was engaging, it was well-written, and there were some interesting metaphors and correspondences. Bottom line, no matter what type of reader you are, you’re likely to find something you’ll like in this book.

Thanks for stopping by!

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“To a Moth Seen in Winter” by Robert Frost

There’s first a gloveless hand warm from my pocket,
A perch and resting place ‘twixt wood and wood,
Bright-black-eyed silvery creature, brushed with brown,
The wings not folded in repose, but spread.
(Who would you be, I wonder, by those marks
If I had moths to friend as I have flowers?)
And now pray tell what lured you with false hope
To make the venture of eternity
And seek the love of kind in winter time?
But stay and hear me out. I surely think
You make a labor of flight for one so airy,
Spending yourself too much in self-support.
Nor will you find love either nor love you.
And what I pity in you is something human,
The old incurable untimeliness,
Only begetter of all ills that are.
But go. You are right. My pity cannot help.
Go till you wet your pinions and are quenched.
You must be made more simply wise than I
To know the hand I stretch impulsively
Across the gulf of well nigh everything
May reach to you, but cannot touch your fate.
I cannot touch your life, much less can save,
Who am tasked to save my own a little while.

This is a sad yet beautiful poem about searching for love in the waning years of one’s life.

The primary metaphor that Frost uses is the Winter Moth. This type of moth becomes active in November and December, when the males and females of the species mate. Because winter as a season symbolizes the end of a cycle and death in a human lifespan, the Winter Moth symbolizes a person who knows that death is near, but cannot help longing for the love and companionship of another.

While the general symbolism of this poem lends itself to individuals in the later years of life, I feel that the poem speaks to everyone. None of us knows how long we have on earth, and the pandemic has demonstrated just how fragile and ephemeral our existence truly is. So essentially, we are all Winter Moths, seeking that brief connection with another soul before we die, that warmth of love in the coldness of our harsh reality.

I come away from this poem knowing that I must never take love and life for granted. My relationships with the people I love are what matters most in my life. I hope you take the time to strengthen your connections with those who matter most in your life.

Thanks for stopping by, and may you find warmth and happiness in your life.

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“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 68” by Lao Tzu

A good soldier is never aggressive;
A good fighter is never angry.
The best way of conquering an enemy
Is to win him over by not antagonising him.
The best way of employing a man
Is to serve under him.
This is called the virtue of non-striving!
This is called using the abilities of men!
This is called being wedded to Heaven as of old!

I love this passage, especially the lines: “The best way of conquering an enemy / Is to win him over by not antagonising him.” This conveys a sense of civility that really seems to be missing in our public forums. More and more, the way individuals are dealing with people who have opposing views is to shut them down, scream at them, threaten them, or worse, physically attack them. No one has ever changed another person’s mind through abuse. I feel that if people toned down the rhetoric, we would find common ground and accomplish more.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope it inspires you.

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Thoughts on “Back to Frank Black”

In the late 1990s, Chris Carter (creator of “The X-Files”) produced a short-lived television series that is still one of my all-time favorites: “Millennium.” It was about a retired criminal profiler named Frank Black who becomes involved with a group that investigates cases that seem to be related to human evil and end-of-the-world prophesies. The series was dark, thoughtful, and brimming with rich symbolism. It is the only television series for which I purchased all seasons on DVD (three box sets) so I could rewatch them whenever I felt inspired. This book is a collection of essays about the series, as well as interviews with the cast and creative team.

Because the network suddenly cancelled the show (ironically, right before the millennium), there has been a strong movement among the fan base to attempt to influence the network to back a film or limited series that would bring satisfactory closure to this complex program. As one of the essays states, this was part of the impetus for compiling and publishing this book.

We felt that a book might serve as a testament to Millennium, the campaign, and the fans of the show. I won’t harp on too much about the book given I’m sure you’ll have found time to, at the very least, read this page of it, but suffice to say what we envisaged is very much what it became. In some respects, you could say it became all it could be: an intelligent compendium of responses to a mature and well-crafted television series.

(p. 440)

There is some interesting information in this book and I enjoyed reading it, but it is definitely intended for fans of the show and assumes that the reader is versed in the mythology and story arcs that are part of the series. I’ll conclude by sharing that I am currently working through the Season 3 box set of “Millennium,” and it is a little eerie to watch this 20+ years later. Almost makes me wonder if the biblical millennium did creep up on us while we were expecting Y2K computer failures and planes falling out of the sky. Maybe the end is more of a fizzle instead of a cataclysmic explosion.

Thanks for stopping by and reading.

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Thoughts on “Doctor Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe’s version of the Faustian legend is a cautionary tale for those who are obsessed with learning, the occult, and who suffer from pride and arrogance. “It was written sometime between 1589 and 1592, and may have been performed between 1592 and Marlowe’s death in 1593.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Early in the play, Faustus conjures the demon Mephistophilis and asks him a series of questions, including questions regarding Lucifer.

Faustus. Was not that Lucifer an angel once?

Mephistophilis. Yes, Faustus, and most dearly lov’d of God.

Faustus. How comes it, then, that he is prince of devils?

Mephistophilis. O, by aspiring pride and insolence;
For which God threw him from the face of heaven.

(Act I: scene iii)

It is important to note that Faustus also suffers from “aspiring pride and insolence,” like Lucifer. Marlowe is foreshadowing the inevitable tragic fall of Faustus.

As is often the case, it is only when Faustus is faced with his death and eternal damnation that he realizes his mistakes and suffers the pangs of remorse.

But Faustus’ offence can ne’er be pardoned:  the serpent
that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus.  Ah, gentlemen,
hear me with patience, and tremble not at my speeches!  Though
my heart pants and quivers to remember that I have been a student
here these thirty years, O, would I had never seen Wittenberg,
never read book! and what wonders I have done, all Germany can
witness, yea, all the world; for which Faustus hath lost both
Germany and the world, yea, heaven itself, heaven, the seat of
God, the throne of the blessed, the kingdom of joy; and must
remain in hell for ever, hell, ah, hell, forever!  Sweet friends,
what shall become of Faustus, being in hell forever?

(Act V: scene ii)

While it is generally accepted that the legend of Doctor Faustus is based upon an historical figure, Johann Faustus, who lived in Germany from about 1480 to about 1541, I could not help wondering if there was another inspiration for Marlowe’s adaptation of the legend. My first thought was that Marlowe was using the character of Faustus to criticize John Dee, one of his contemporaries who was a well-known magician and practitioner of the occult.

John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, teacher, occultist, and alchemist. He was the court astronomer for, and advisor to, Elizabeth I, and spent much of his time on alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy. As an antiquarian, he had one of the largest libraries in England at the time. As a political advisor, he advocated for the founding of English colonies in the New World to form a “British Empire”, a term he is credited with coining.

Dee eventually left Elizabeth’s service and went on a quest for additional knowledge in the deeper realms of the occult and supernatural.

(Source: Wikipedia)

While Marlowe could have been writing about John Dee, there is another possibility that I could not avoid considering, and that was that he was writing about himself. Marlowe died shortly after completing the play, and a close reading of the text demonstrates that Marlowe likely had studied occult philosophy. Did he sense that he was nearing his death, and did he harbor any remorse about things he did, or practices he might have engaged in? This is nothing but pure speculation on my part, but I feel that one could make a case.

As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings. Have a blessed day.

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Intelligent Dialogue

All this talk is useless blather, worse than gibberish. But at least I am able to find one intelligent, truth-telling person to talk to, to argue with sensibly, to dialogue with. Myself.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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Symbol of the Cross

As far as symbols go, the cross also predates Christianity and is found in one form or another in cultures around the world. Magicians have used the cross for centuries to stand for complete balance of all aspects of our psyche. When we’re in perfect balance, forces outside of us—human or otherwise—will have a much more difficult time implanting suggestions into our mind stream or otherwise influencing our energy field.

Damien Echols. Angels & Archangels

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A Stroll Around Paris

… and then, after I left the Louvre, the American tourists buying bushels of postcards of the Mona Lisa, I followed my nose down a web of back alleys and I saw it, bricks and planks, which I tore down with my bare hands: what signaled the find was an 1832 handbill for a wild beast show, so I knew, through that portal the past would spread her loins, a vestal virgin, and when the shroud collapsed, the rusted ruins of a mouldering arcade embraced me – a broken cat’s eye marble, the chipped arm of a porcelain doll, its milky glaze supple to the touch, physical evidence of time, the past gushing ahead of the non-existent future, an electric buzz to rival hashish or cocaine or opium, a true phantasmagoria of the space that echoes the passion of the gambler, the narcotic continuous present.

Ken Krimstein. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt

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Three Treasures

I have Three Treasures, which I hold fast and watch over closely. The first is Mercy. The second is Frugality. The third is Not Daring to Be First in the World. Because I am merciful, therefore I can be brave. Because I am frugal, therefore I can be generous. Because I dare not be first, therefore I can be the chief of all vessels.

If a man wants to be brave without first being merciful, generous without first being frugal, a leader without first wishing to follow, he is only courting death!

Lao Tzu. Tao Teh Ching

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Racism

Racism is a clear sign of humanity’s spiritual infancy.

Wayne William Snellgrove. Daily Medicine

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