Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars seems harsh for such a long novel. It merits 3.5 stars. I've been waiting several years to read one of Mr. Lamb's novels, but was put off by the huge page counts.

The Hour I First Believed is well-written (although I have concerns about the meandering plot and minutiae of details Lamb provides). Unfortunately the novel lived up to my initial fears that it would be too long. As it turned out, this story could have been written in half the amount of pages without losing anything in either substance or style. The reader wouldn't have cared any less about the events at Columbine nor about any of the main characters. I personally could live without reading about the narrator's tenant's research paper quoting the narrator's own great-grandmother's letter to her sister describing the wallpaper pattern in Mark Twain's house. I could also do without an extensive, tedious and pointless (as it turned out) product placement of Rheingold beer, the low point in the story's narrative for me.

This was the first Wally Lamb novel I read, but if all of his novels are like this one, I will not be reading another one.

I would nonetheless recommend it to those readers who like reading for its own sake. My guess is that they will thoroughly enjoy it, assuming they can stomach the topic of school shootings.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Two eFestival Nominated Stories!

Yes, it's true! You've read about it everywhere and I can now confirm the rumors... two of my short works have been nominated in the wildly popular eFestival of Words Virtual Book Fair. They are:

Best Novella

The Betrothal

Best Short Story
The Well

The competition looks fierce in both categories, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

See the complete list of nominations at the eFestival site:

Voting begins July 1 (don't worry I'll remind you) and I would appreciate people reading the stories and then casting a well-deserved vote or two my way.

The Stories:
The Well is a love story, and The Betrothal combines two genres (contemporary and historical) in one sweet romance.

Where to get the stories:
The Well is always free and can be downloaded in any popular ebook format from Smashwords. And, as a special nomination celebration bonus (read bribe), you can get The Betrothal for free at the same site here.

So, don't be shy and spread the word, there are plenty of copies for everyone!

If you're not registered with Smashwords, or if you're not a fan of their site, send me an email and I'll set you up. I know a guy...

I hope you have a chance to read them.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Topless Protesters and the TOB

Topless protesters interrupt Archbishop of Quebec at March for Life as he reads Pope’s blessing.

Image copyright 2014 Ottawa Sun

This was the headline on Friday May 9, 2014 - the day the March for Life took place in Ottawa, Canada's capital. I thought it was an occasion for, as our teachers call them, a teachable moment (or teachable blog in this case).

The headline made me chuckle.Did these protesters think that they would shock either a priest (the Archbishop from Quebec) by displaying themselves? These protesters are obviously not Catholic, or they are and they've never heard of the Theology of the Body (TOB). The TOB is St. John Paul II's theology, developed from the time before he became Pope, through his pontificate, where he explored the Biblical foundations that men and women were designed to be physically intimate with each other, moreover, that the physical union of men and women is a sign pointing to what Heaven will be like.

Yes, Catholics believe that sex is good! Who knew?

The belief that our physical bodies are "bad" is part of the Manichean heresy.

It's interesting how the world (non-Catholics and many, many Catholics) hold two opposing views: that we (Catholics) are a repressed people, and also that we can't stop procreating. I find that interesting. You'd think that people would agree on one position or the other, given that they are diametrically opposed.

But the truth is neither of those extremes. Catholics are beginning to understand, through the TOB, that men and women were created by God to partake of heaven on earth by being intimate with each other. Does that mean we can hook up with anyone, just to experience Heavenly bliss? Of course not. There must be a mutual respect, a complete self-giving of each other as divinely inspired persons, that allows us to share in the physical ecstasy that points to the Heavenly feast Jesus promised us in His ministry. Context is everything. That is why the marriage between a man and woman consists of a mutual self-giving. The priest only oversees the ceremony. Marriage is a sacrament performed by the couple themselves. And their physical union takes place within the context of that sacramental union.

Anyone slightly shocked or confused by this elevation of sex to divine-insight need only reflect that God the Creator deemed our physical bodies to be "very good" (Genesis), and he sent his only begotten Son, through the mystery of the incarnation, to partake in the wedding of divinity and humanity.

My Body My Rules? No. God's Body. His Rules.

In other words, if our physical bodies are supposed to be vehicles for corruption, instead of sacred vessels as the TOB and the Catholic Church has always maintained, why would Jesus Christ have willingly taken on our humanity?

Men and women's bodies are good. They were created by God, and everything God creates is good. So, what's the problem? With the fall of Adam and Eve, true eros, as understood as an authentic physical attraction between man and woman, was subverted. The self-giving becomes an inward giving, namely, a selfish taking. This grasping (of that which has not been freely given) has led to our current deplorable state, where human trafficking, sex-for-hire, pornography, and the rampant disregard for the dignity of life in pursuit of the culture of death have become so prevalent that they are commonplace.

People need to realize that what is shown on tv, in programs and on the news, does not do justice to God's hopes for humanity. We don't have to accept it. We can do better. As God's created beings, we're expected to do better. Remember, we were made in the image of God. We carry Him in our genes, in our bodies.

Catholics in particular will be hearing much more of the Theology of the Body in the near future. The news is just getting out now, some thirty years after St. John Paul II first began to meditate on this theology. Hold on to your hats, people, it's going to be an exciting journey!

Oh, and as for the protesters displaying themselves: they might be looking for love in all the wrong places but I applaud their courage and conviction to fervently pray with their whole body in such a public way. Yes, God gave us these amazing bodies for which we must always be ever grateful. God bless them and their misguided ways!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

Thanks For Being Born, Mom
Our son recently gave this card to his mother (my wife) for her birthday. Both she and I immediately saw beyond the humor to the implicit pro-life message: Thanks for being born, because otherwise I wouldn't exist.

The reason I mention this birthday card in the context of Mother's Day is that I feel this sentiment gets right to the central problem of the so-called "pro-choice" position on abortion, namely; people's mistaken belief (both men and women, because women aren't alone in making these decisions) thinking that, once having been given the gift of existence they feel that they can then decide whether their children should or should not receive the same gift. Besides being ignorant of several commandments (#5 most notably), and ignoring the growing body of evidence showing that abortions cause cancer, not to mention the simple humanity of loving one's offspring, the proponents of abortion actually believe that it is in their power to decide the fate of another human being!

Our culture has been driven so far away from God, and of our partaking of the Divine, that we are now actively committing genocide! It isn't enough for an individual to want to end their own life, we have been led to believe that we have the "right" to end other lives as well, even though we ourselves have been extended this right to life! How dare we be so selfish with this precious gift. 

Over 56 million children have been aborted in the US since Roe v Wade

On a related topic, the issue of "pro-choice" versus "pro-life" is truly baffling to most Catholics/Christians. We already know that God gave us complete freedom to choose our actions. No Christian has ever denied the fact that women who kill their children are exercising a choice. Of course they are, but abortionists and their clients, however, are accountable for that choice, as everyone is for all the choices we make every day of our lives; those choices that either lead us closer to God, or the ones where we spurn His love and graces for our selfish needs.

* * *

This Mother's Day I will once again be supporting the efforts of the Culture of Life by purchasing some white roses after Mass. I will take a moment to thank God for the gift of my life, and I will thank my (deceased) parents for upholding the dignity of life, and I will pray for an end to the continued pain caused by our culture of death and its disregard for life, which is sacred from conception to natural death.

Happy Mother's Day to Our Blessed Mother Mary, who suffered with her Son on the Cross, and also to the mothers in my life: to my wife, my mother-in-law, my godmother, my mother, my adopted brother's biological mother, and the rest of the moms out there. On behalf of your physical and spiritual children, I thank you for loving enough to bring us life.

* * *
A Mother's Day Gift
I invite you to read my free love story novella The Well. It is available at (you need an register for a free account), or you can download either a pdf, Kindle or Kobo (epub) version from my website

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