The elegant storyteller


The second time through Harry Potter and The Sorceror’s Stone, eight years after my first experience with J.K. Rowling’s magnificent prose and Jim Dale’s equally magnificent narration, it’s still clear what a marvelous storyteller Rowling is, full of whimsy and love and imagination. And knowing how the story develops, from finishing the seven books and reliving them through eight films, it’s interesting to note how many seeds are dropped here and there that will bear fruit in later books.

The world can never have too much whimsy, says I, nor too much love or too much imagination. The world needs more like the three friends Harry, Hermione and Ron, who have the courage to step up and take action when the authorities are too blind to a problem or too corrupt to do anything.

The heroes of the Potter universe do not accept the world at face value — they do not do as they’re told when something is obviously wrong. It’s a good thing to stand for what’s right, especially when the evil is not so easy to see.

I waited too long to ask the library to hold a copy of the second Potter book, and so it will be a few weeks before I can explore the Chamber of Secrets again, so in the meantime I took a friend’s advice and checked out the first book by Rowling’s detective story-writing alter ego Robert Galbraith. Seven or eight chapters into The Cuckoo’s Calling, I am as enchanted as I was by Harry. Just as she brought whimsy and love and imagination to her tales of wizards and witches, she brings a literary elegance to the hard-boiled detective novel — and yes, perhaps a bit of whimsy.

J.K. Rowling is the greatest author of our era.

Photo ©2015 Mary McCartney



Riding the 2-Minute Hate

2-minute hate

It was called the Two-Minute Hate. In George Orwell’s sadly prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the populace would gather before their telescreens and scream and rage at images of the enemies of the state for two minutes a day, then move on.

Twitter has become our real-life Two-Minute Hate – if only it were only two minutes a day. Turn on the telescreen and we can discover so many reasons to be angry at someone else. Pour out the rage, cleanse ourselves and move on, having passed our hatred on to someone else.

What if, instead of a telescreen, people looked in a mirror? What sort of cleansing would happen then? Would they see someone to hate and pour out all their anger and hate in that direction? Or would they, having lived the life they’re looking at, have a sense of understanding?

Zen and the art of making deadline

zen and deadlines

I work best when I lose track of the time, but I work on deadline, so I have to keep track of time. To meet deadlines effectively, I have to get into that zone where I lose track of the passage of time but somehow still keep an eye on the clock.

There’s an analogy to the old concept that when you give of yourself you get back more in return, but it doesn’t work if you give of yourself BECAUSE you want to receive that payback. You can’t give in hopes of getting something out of it, but if you give selflessly you will, in fact, receive something back.

A similar concept is at play in forgetting about time in order to make deadline. I would say it’s a zen thing, but I really don’t fully understand what zen is.

Not Empty Yet

not empty yet

There will come a time when you’re tired and it feels like time to set down the mantle and rest – well, rest is OK – but the longer it goes, the more it seems like you’ve said and done all you have to say and do – those are the times you need to lift your head and look around and stretch your limbs and find a deeper reserve – because the truth is, you don’t run out of things to say and do – not in this lifetime – that’s why it’s called a lifetime: Your time of life. As long as your heart is beating and you’re drawing air, you’re not empty yet. Say what you have to say; do what you have to do.

Remember this

Saturday Stories #3


A rainy, autumn day at Willow Rest Assisted Living and Nursing Home, late in the 20th century.

The old man looked at the clock and set down his magazine. He stood up, examined himself in the mirror, poured a shot of gin, and downed it in a slow gulp.

He shuffled to the door, took a deep breath, and placed a disinterested but confident expression on his face.

Then, pulling open the door, he stepped into the corridor and strode the 50 feet down the corridor to his destination.

The old man paused at the entrance to the common room and saw her at once – pale, frail, but just as heart-stoppingly beautiful as ever – looking out the windows at the nearby trees as if they were a thousand miles and a lifetime ago.

“She won’t remember you,” said the orderly. “She never does.” Continue reading →

#TBT: I just want to go my way


One of the great characters in contemporary fiction is Capt. Malcolm Reynolds, owner of the cargo ship Serenity in Joss Whedon’s brilliant television show Firefly and the film named after the ship. At a pivotal moment in Serenity, Reynolds meets his main adversary, a nameless assassin we know simply as The Operative, and during their conversation comes an electrifying exchange that sums up Reynolds’ character in 11 words.

Operative: I have to hope you understand you can’t beat us.

Reynolds: I got no need to beat you; I just want to go my way.

Consider how powerful a message those words convey. I don’t need to convince you that my way is right and yours is wrong; I simply desire to live my life on my terms and let you live your life on your terms, as long as we do no harm to each other. There is plenty of room on this vast world for both of us. Continue reading →