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  01:19:00 am, by Airycat   , 409 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction

For the Good of the Cause by Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn

For the Good of the Cause by Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn

This is both a simple and a difficult book. It proved to be a much shorter story than I expected -- only 97 pages. What I liked about it was the way it opened. The entire first chapter is dialog and nothing else. The reader feels as if she were plunked down into the place, hearing many of the things, though not all, said by several people and not knowing who is saying what. The second chapter brings it into focus and we start to get to know some of the characters. Solzhenitsyn is good at making even briefly appearing characters real.

The term "right and wrong" is used several times in the story and it is clearly the point of the story, to make readers think what is right and what is wrong. And that's where the story becomes difficult. It's not a situation we're likely to encounter in the US. Americans will immediately side with the principal of the school. The main fuss about this is the political importance of the story. As a story, without taking into consideration the politics, it feels incomplete. It takes the reader to the climax and stops with no resolution of any sort. There are seeds for a fight to resolve the issue and there is also the sense of defeat because it's "for the good of the cause."

At first I thought that there is no point of this story with the Soviet Union no longer in existence, but upon further thought I've changed my mind. This isn't a story to be read simply for the pleasure of reading. Whether something is right or wrong is something that will always be a concern. After reading this story, our minds will debate how it ends, how it should end, how actually did/would end if it were a true story. That, I suppose it the greatest value of For the Good of the Cause. There is nothing to grasp from it that can deter the reader form the point of the story - no love story or grand adventure, just ordinary people with an relatively ordinary dilemma.

My copy of this book was published in 1974 and contains a short biography of Solzhenitsyn as a preface, and discussions from various Soviet sources as an appendix. My comments are on the the story and (since I haven't read them yet) do not take preface or appendix into consideration.

For the Good of the Cause


  11:50:00 pm, by Airycat   , 342 words  
Categories: Chitchat


Today has been about as blah as a day can be. I did not want to get up. Once I did, I knew why. My hip has been hurting all day and that's with the Vicodin! I don't really understand the on/off deal with this pain. It's not as bad with the Vicodin as without, but it's a pain, not an ache. Aches are easier to deal with. I suppose it's a bonus that my back isn't feeling much.

I finally found my water bottle. I was reusing the ones the water came in, but I don't want to buy more water. (Except for Mom and Alex because they both like the flavored water that's too acidic for me.) I am using the filtered water from the refrigerator and putting the Tea To Go in it. I think Mandarin Mango is my favorite, but they're all good.

I got my shelves cleared of non books. Now it's a matter of fitting all the books in. Probably the mass market paperbacks will end up on a different shelf, I guess. The shelf in the hall still has room and they fit well there. Not may of the trade paperbacks and hardcovers fit those shelves. It's going slower than I'd hoped because it just hurts too much to keep reaching and bending.

I like Lost, but it's so aggravating. As I watch I keep thinking "I wish this were a book I could read." Today didn't answer anything, really. Just more questions.

Something else that's aggravating me is that I can't find all my notebooks. It's hard enough to find what I'm looking for in them because I have no order. I write in the nearest notebook and may have a week or a few months in one and then start using another. That's OK, since I'm not likely to change. but I know I have more than four notebooks for the last thirty-five years. They must be somewhere, but it's not like I can go shuffling boxes around in order to find them.


  08:56:00 pm, by Airycat   , 597 words  
Categories: Chitchat

A Very ADDy Day

My goal for this week is to have all the stuff that isn't books or appropriate decorative items off my bookshelves by Friday dinner. I also want all the books on the bookshelves rather than the chair and the floor. I want the desk and worktable cleared off. In short, I want this room cleaned, dusted, vacuumed -- the whole works! It doesn't sound like much, but I remind myself of Pigpen from the Peanuts comic. It's not dirt that follows me like a tornado, though. It's disorder. (Although the dust level has gotten so high lately that I must admit it's also dirt right now.) It's always difficult for me to establish order (probably the ADD), but it seems even harder lately. I can't do half the things I want to do because they involve lifting, tugging, pushing or in other ways stressing my back. I don't want to do that without the doc's OK (especially since whenever I do forget and do something, it hurts for two days afterward). It also doesn't help that my good mood comes and goes with the sun. I still don't get that. I don't even have to know if it's sunny or not. I can tell by my mood. I guess it could be worse. For all the rainy cloudy weather days we have here, it's a big help that many of them are also partly sunny. Sometimes rain and sun together. That's a positive feeling, so it's not that rain is negative. It's lack of sun that's negative. I need to remember to turn on my desk lamp more often... no because I need it to see. I don't, which is why I forget to turn it on. I need it because it is also a SAD lamp and when I have it on enough, I feel better. &amp;#58;&amp;#105;&amp;#100;&amp;#101;&amp;#97;&amp;#58; OMG!! I just figured out why I'm getting to be more and more a night person! I turn the lamp on at night! I'm getting more of the light I need at night. Maybe that'll be my key to getting back to more of a day schedule. I must remember to turn the lamp on first thing when I get to my desk. And then turn it off earlier in the evening and use other lamps. I'll let you know how that works out.

ADD strikes again! I finished that last paragraph over two hours ago. Then I went looking for the bar above. Then I had to see if I could create a file like the smilies where I could just click on a thumbnail or type in a code. Then I discovered I had an awful lot of duplicates in my graphics folder, so I ran the duplicate file finder. At first nothing came up...huh??? Then I saw it was looking for them by name, so I set it for content and BOOM! It's still deleting... and I have to upload each bar, one by one... but I did it with my Filezilla so I put them all up. I still need to figure out how to make it so all blogs can use them without duplicating them. I will need to sort them and rename them also, or I will never know what is what.

With that, I think I should go read, now. And I didn't get anything picked up yet... maybe I'll do a little of that first. PS: Sorry Xanga and LJ folks, but my website host does not allow hosting photos for off site, so the bars I've used won't show for you.

  02:06:00 am, by Airycat   , 455 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, Biography, Memoir

China Cry by Nora Lam with Richard Schneider

What was it like to grow up in China during the Japanese occupation the early years of the PRC? China Cry answers this question. It was not an easy time. Sung Neng Yee was a spoiled child, but her family is forced to flee Shanghai and she grows up learning to be helpful.

After the war is won and the communists have taken over she is at first happy and believes it will be a good change. Soon, however her family learns the difficulties of having been wealthy. She becomes a law teacher for the state and her husband becomes a judge, but the his history of wealth also catches up with them and soon they are looking for cause to interrogate Neng Yee. She had attended Christian schools and she found that although her logical mind told her to say "No," she could not do it. When asked if she were a Christian, she said "Yes!" It was a difficult time and place to be Christian, made worse by the fact that she had not declared her Christianity at the start of the PRC because at the time she had thought it a passing phase of her childhood.

A difficult life gets even more difficult, but God, who had sent an angel to help her as a child, was there for her. Through the difficulties she learns to trust completely in Him. Several times when to anyone else, and occasionally to Neng Yee herself, it seems that God has abandoned her, but those times were just preludes to some breathtaking miracles.

Eventually Neng Yee comes to the United States adopting the name of Nora Lam (Lam is her husband's family name). Up to this point the book was very engrossing, but it becomes somewhat disappointing. From an intensely personal autobiography, we are distanced form Nora. It's as if with the name change the point of the book is no longer biography, but evangelism. I have nothing against evangelism as long as it isn't pushed on unwilling listeners, but changing from the intimate details of life to the grand sweep of her evangelical work is a let down. We got to know Lam Neng Yee, but we don't really get to know Nora Lam. Instead we learn about Nora Lam Ministries.

I was also disappointed to learn that Nora Lam Ministries has a very poor rating at Charity Navigator. I would not recommend sending them a donation until they improve financial efficiency, although I think the cause is essentially good. However, the book is still good reading for the first three fourths and valuable as record of the history of China during WW II and a few years following, and of the power and faithfulness of God.

China Cry


  04:34:00 pm, by Airycat   , 545 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction, Religion

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

For me, this book started out like one of Ann Rule's true crime books. It's set in the Northwest and details a lovely day gone terribly wrong and some of the heartbreaking aftermath. Then Mac went to the shack.

I did not read this book as fiction. Nor does Young present it as fiction. The complete story leaves it up to the reader how to interpret it. I choose to accept it as a vision. I don't believe that something that is "merely" fiction can change a person as this "experience" changed Mac. (Fiction can change people who read it, but I don't think Mac would have been changed by reading this as a story. He experienced it, whether it was a literal experience or not falls into the debate about faith and religion and reality. In this case the experience came before the writing. Normally, the written work comes first and, yes, a reader can become so involved as to be changed by the experience.)

I loved Mac's view of God and his view of Jesus's humanity. I believe any Christian can relate to these views even if it's not quite their own view. To me it shows the boundlessness of Who God is. I didn't quite understand his view of the Holy Spirit, but it did manage to to convey an uncertain understanding of exactly who the Spirit is as a separate person of the Trinity. Or perhaps it is only because of my own uncertainty that I saw it that way.

The most important message of the book is the loving relationship within the Trinity and that it is the aspiration of all mankind. It is unquestionably a message Jesus had for his followers. Readers may not feel it the way Mac did, but, I believe that Young managed to capture the sense of this relationship very well in his writing.

I was leery of this book when I started. I've read too many "religious" books that were either not well written, had a bland, lecturing message, or both.The Shack is well written in such a way that did not feel lectured to. It presents what happened to Mac as Mac experienced it and lets the reader draw his own conclusions as to the "reality" of it in a way that maintains the validity of the message. It's not what I would call evangelical, but fulfills the admonition in 1 Peter 3:15 to be ready to give an account of why one believes. At the end, my wariness had dissolved to praise to God.

EDIT: Young said in the August issue of Guideposts "The book is true, just not real, like a parable. I may not be exactly like the fictional main character, but what that man learns about the healing power of love and forgiveness, the liberation of the soul through transparency and grace, is a journey I know well." It was the forward and the similarity of names that led me to believe that Mack was someone who actually related this tale to Young. I agree with the first like of Young's quote, however. It's just that it was Young, himself, who experienced the lessons in this book, albeit in a different context and manner. ~Airycat 09/20/09

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