“Yeh, but we don’t go to church much….”

I happened to notice recently that PBS America (meaning PBS’s UK channel) will begin showing The Roosevelts on October 19. My Mom back in Pennsylvania had told me the other day that, having seen it, she had been most impressed by Theodore. I told her that made sense: he lived life at triple the speed of the rest of us.

Because it rather reflects my personal outlook, for years I’ve liked this list by that first President Roosevelt:

In 1917, in an interview with Ladies Home Journal, President Roosevelt offered at least 10 reasons for going to church….

I won’t reproduce them: you can click *here* to read them. As we know, religion has *always* been a sensitive, and divisive, subject. We all have our own “personal journeys” of course.

Like many of you who were/ are Roman Catholic, growing up I had been escorted through all the “Catholic requirements.” But by my older teens and 20s, and, again, like many of you, I was definitely not a churchgoer. Frankly, I did not even really believe in any god.

However, as I moved into my 30s, I began to see the value in churchgoing much along the lines Theodore Roosevelt (he hated to be called “Teddy”) outlined. Do I believe in God now? Hmm. Let’s just say I don’t see a reason any longer to question others’ faith: my view is “faith” simply is.

The top of St. Peter's, The Vatican. [Photo by me, 2013.]

The top of St. Peter’s, The Vatican. [Photo by me, 2013.]

In fiction, faith is regularly portrayed as synonymous with an intolerant fanaticism. Yet what I encounter in various churches week in and week out are ordinary people full of life questions and doubts, and who enjoy gathering with their neighbors much as Roosevelt notes. That is worth attempting to portray accurately in fiction too.

So as I organized my tale, I decided I would include religion. But my characters would be similarly ordinary people with their own intensely personal, and varied, views. I would not attempt to ignore faith or pretend it is not there.

Here, during his first chat with Isabelle, James explains “what he is” after she casually inquires, “If you are Irish and Italian, you are Catholic, no?”:

“Yeh, but we don’t go to church much. I don’t think a lot about it. Busy with life I guess,” he sought to explain.

That was, essentially, also myself at his age. We may also find ourselves surprised by how people think of faith. When James explains his doubts, and meekly asks Isa about her own Catholicism, she replies:

“Do you think to be Catholic you have no doubt? A birth to a virgin? It is preposterous. …. You just have to have faith.”

Naturally not everyone “has faith.” In a previous post, we’ve already seen Uncle Bill tell Isabelle he considers himself a Unitarian. Separately, he also points out:

“You have faith. I admire that. I just can’t summon it up. Never could. Giuliana didn’t understand either.”

Indeed in the hope of better understanding someone, we may seek to “pry.” We might do so especially if what a person “believes” has not been overtly evident. For instance, James cagily asks Valérie if she’s a churchgoer like her friend, and she replies:

“Not regularly,” she admitted, sipping her drink. “My mother does go now and then. I think we did go more when we were little in Beirut. I remember church more in Beirut. Not as much in France. Not like Isabelle.”

And we also often encounter those who don’t want to be bothered with any of it:

“James, if you had answer wrong, you would not be here,” Béatrice stressed. “I don’t think [Isabelle] will marry a man who is not Catholic. Do not be offended, but I think it is all stupid and false. But that is me.”

How individuals approach religion is simply another aspect of their humanity. As in our own lives, it may be presented among character’ make-ups as complete individuals. It does not have to turn a book into a “religion debate.” It can just be part of “life.”

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

Sex, Violence And Obscenity

Early in the life of this blog, I posted on writing “love scenes.” More recently, I reflected on the struggle to avoid “the cringeworthy” while doing so. It’s not easy.

We’re also inconsistent. I find that wider issue perpetually intriguing. To broach it, in the sequel I inserted characters’ discussing it:

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I’m not sharing here which characters are having that exchange. ;-) Regardless, I think we get it: violence in storytelling appears to be simply more acceptable than sex.

Free Stock Photo: Man in a suit with a small pistol.

Free Stock Photo: Man in a suit with a small pistol.

We also know that, disturbingly, violence can be perceived as sexy, and that sex can be portrayed violently. And they may even overlap. Those are other issues.

Then there’s obscenity. I’m not a big fan of it. I use it only sparingly.

To point that out is not because I’m making some big personal statement; it’s merely because I don’t like it, so I opt simply to have my characters not use it excessively. I “*”d out an obvious letter in that excerpt above because, while it may be in the conversation in the book, I don’t really want to put up stuff like that in the open on my site.

So we slaughter right and left, but labor at locating the appropriate boundaries for how to depict intercourse tastefully, and we need to be mindful of when to use nasty words. It requires no especial insight to assert we’re full of paradoxes.

I’m capable of being of about half a dozen minds on the same issue at the same time. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. We all also know we’ll probably never change.

Men, As You Go Out Today, Remember….

Another one worth sharing:

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

Separately, in a similar vein, I recall once seeing this line somewhere:

Behind every successful man is a proud wife…. and a surprised mother-in-law.

Have a good Monday! :-)

Saturday In Bristol

Bristol is one of England’s most attractive cities. It often also has traffic to rival London’s. It certainly did yesterday afternoon.

The M32 crawled. The roads winding through the center crawled. We also discovered Rupert Street was closed.

“Is that a street we drive on [to get to our friends' house]?” my wife, behind the wheel, asked as we were stuck in traffic.

“I have no idea,” I said, scanning street names on the sat-nav on my iPhone.

It wasn’t.

Once you get into the city, it’s more than worth it:

Tiny portion of Clifton Downs, Bristol. Yes, I take photos occasionally of signs.

Tiny portion of Clifton Downs, Bristol. Yes, I take photos occasionally of signs.

Call this an English cheeseboard, laid out by a Danish woman. Which it was.

Call this an English cheeseboard, laid out by a Danish woman. Which it was.

Port.

Port.

We’re in, uh, recovery this morning. I like to call evenings like last night, umm, “research” for a future novel. ;-)

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UPDATE: Beautiful Sunday morning:

View over Bristol. [Photo by me, 2014]

View over Bristol. [Photo by me, 2014]

Onwards And Upwards….

….although, as we know, matters are rarely so “straightforward” of course. My wife shared this with me on Facebook. It seems too good not to pass on:

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit Organization. Via Facebook.

From NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!!! Non-Profit organization. Via Facebook.

Yes, how true. En route to our “goal”…. we always encounter reality. :-)

Closing Another Book

If you have stopped by here throughout 2014 (Hello again!), you know it has been something of a difficult year for me. Now, I don’t claim I’m unique, of course. We all have personal challenges and troubles.

For me, 2014 will forever be the year of the death of one of my dearest friends, the near death of my father (and he is not out of the woods yet by any means), and being told the other day of the soon to be death of another friend.

And it’s not even stinkin’ October yet.

During all of that, I wrote a sequel to a novel I’d completed in 2013. In the new one, I’ve tried to pen (technically, I typed) 94,000 words that I again hope captures in entertaining fashion the ups and downs of a group of international friends and lovers. I hope it manages to convey both a youthful optimism as well as a need to never forget the fragility of what we think we so firmly possess in this life.

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful sunset over a lake

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful sunset over a lake

Yesterday, having concluded re-reading it for “errors, dopiness, [and] continuity issues,” I sat back in the desk chair feeling mildly depressed. Again. Much like I recall having felt as I had completed the first book about the same time last year. (Long before there was this site.)

Is that how it will always feel in winding up a novel? There’s an interlude of satisfaction at having conquered a personal mountain. But there’s also almost a sense of loss too: that book is, shall we say, closed as well.

I had also run its 380 pages through the spell and grammar check. (My characters’ conversations are often so deliberately ungrammatical, it took ages.) Next I will read it “as a reader.” As I do that, I make further corrections. After that, I hope I can ship it ’round late next week or so to my faithful volunteer reader/ critics.

As I finished late yesterday, I also realized that in the background Sinatra’s version of Send In The Clowns happened to be coming out of my iPhone. I’ll just leave that where it is. I’m not going to even attempt to interpret the meaning of that coincidence.

When all is said and done, like the first novel this one will stand or fall on its own merits. I think it’s at least as good as the first, and maybe better. But who the heck knows really? Whatever I went through in composing it is meaningless to anyone who will read it. Still, I had quite a headache by the end of the day. I was exhausted.

I had a brandy last night. In the tale, some of the characters are partial to those. They are because I like that drink…. and they are my characters, gosh darn it! :-)

The first time I’d had one was in France a rather, uh, relatively long time ago. (Now, I’m getting depressed again.) I remember having had, umm, one too many. And so had a girlfriend. We were saved when her (sober, designated driver) friend “poured” us two into her tiny (French) car as we three left a party. I recall a lot of laughing among us being involved too.

Mind you, I’m far more mature, staid and intellectual nowadays. ;-)

Have a good Friday, wherever you are…

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Oh, by the way, I’m up to 444 social media shares as of this posting. In 48 hours, shares of my posts out there have about tripled. I don’t know where that’s come from, but I hope it’s an omen of good things to come. :-)

Share And Share Alike

These things seem to happen unpredictably and in bunches. As of yesterday, I had only about 160 shares on social media for the entire lifetime of this modest blog. (And that naturally included my occasional tweets of my own posts here.) This morning – only 24 hours later – that total has jumped to 274 and counting.

I have not the slightest idea why? I’m scratching my head? I did a screen grab of what I had noticed last night, and then again a little while ago this morning:

image

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image

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Two old posts in particular – but not exclusively – seem to be getting lots of interest: “Escaping An Extended Childhood” and “Dramatized Violence’s Sexual Divide.”

There have been quick jumps before. But they would always level off and that would be that. I know this will too.

Still how the internet works, eh? I have to admit I don’t really understand how WordPress tallies all this; and it’s not translating into more visitors than usual. Still, I suppose it’s interesting info to have.

Have a good Thursday!
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UPDATE [8:05pm UK time]:

It’s still going on. 368 shares:

image

I don’t understand this! :-)

“Something in the way she moves….”

Time for a little, uh, “Something” ;-) special mid-week:

“You know you are very European in your taste,” she stated as she inspected other tapes. “We will have to get you some French singers. Oh, wait, ‘Monsieur le Frank?’ Ha!” She crooned comically, “Do, duh, duh, duh, do….”

James chuckled. “You want to be a nightclub singer?”

“He’s so old!” she laughed loudly. “My father likes him!”

“Okay, okay,” James gave in, smiling, “you’ve made your point.”

Indeed. Everybody’s got an opinion!

Happy Wednesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

Always A Bit Of The Outsider

It’s a perennial issue. How does one best fit in when you are not from where you are? We all attack the matter in our own ways.

I try to go about my business without making a spectacle of myself. Still, one does have to open one’s mouth. The other day, when we were walking the hound, a woman fellow dog walker we’d bumped into and chatted briefly with several times recently, apparently felt confident enough to ask me where my accent was from.

On Facebook a few years ago, I posted a short video I had shot of my wife having a laugh chasing our dog around our house in Christchurch. Our hound loved to steal newly delivered mail off the floor after the letter carrier had been pushed it through the letterbox. My voice was naturally all over it.

Hearing me in the background, one of my cousins, who lived in New Jersey and whom I had not seen since I was a teenager (but with whom I had become Facebook friends), commented that I had sounded “so English.”

I commented back to her that that would have been news to my wife. “When I start speaking fast,” I joked, “she says I start to sound like Jerry Seinfeld.”

In turn my cousin came back roaring laughing – insofar as anyone can laugh loudly via Facebook, of course.

One thing I’ve learned is that most people speak “softer” here than in most of the U.S. – especially compared to New York – and I have always tried to “mimic” that. But don’t kid yourself. If you are not from somewhere originally, you will never 100 percent “fit in.”

My overall take is always to appreciate that as long as I accept I will never entirely “fit in,” that it doesn’t matter. I aim simply to try to be respectful of how others live, and not to try to impose my own standards on someone else. However they do “it” back “at home” is irrelevant: I’m not “back at home.”

Another thing to do is always to try to enjoy varied, local beverages :-)

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Old Jamaica Ginger Beer. [Photo by me, 2014.]

So you know, there is NO alcohol in that, okay. It’s a pleasant soft drink that I haven’t found on a supermarket shelf in the U.S.; at least not in New York. Great to sip while writing. :-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are….

Sworn To Secrecy

Not exactly an uplifting Monday post. For that, I apologize in advance. Sorry.

Sunday evening, my wife got an email from a friend whom we, and most everyone else, already know has a serious, long-term illness. She wrote that she has just been told she probably has only months to live. She noted that the only person who knows that is – unsurprisingly – her husband (they have no children).

And now, so does my wife; she’s second. She asked my wife not to tell anyone else; but, naturally, my wife immediately told me. However, I don’t really count as someone else, because I’m essentially a “dead end,” a cul-de-sac: I’m certainly not going to tell anyone.

There I was yesterday morning, thinking, oh, I’ll have a quiet day and try to “de-stress.” In my creative cocoon, I was seeing light at the end of the latest tunnel: the sequel is almost done. Finally, that struggle is nearing its end.

How unimportant the likes of that always seems whenever we are unexpectedly thrust back into unforgiving, actual reality.

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

View of a section of Trent Park, London, at dusk. [Photo by me, 2014]

Earlier this year, we’d already endured the worst death I have ever experienced. “I wonder if that’s what they told Kam?” was my knee-jerk response when my wife told me about this, more distant, friend. Later, we tried to lose ourselves in the first episode of the newest season of Downton Abbey.

Life is full of harsh moments like this. Yet this is new to me: What does one do with information like this when you are asked to keep it in confidence? The person facing the terminal illness has shared what she has been told of her fate, yet where does that leave those few who are told and then sworn to secrecy?

All I can say is that, having slept on it, possessing such information leaves me with a guilty sense of awful insider knowledge. Even if keeping it “quiet” is based on the best of intentions (to spare feelings, worry, etc.), important people are being left out of the loop; and they shouldn’t be. Ultimately, in my humble opinion, it’s never fair to them.