Thursday, February 23, 2012

Angels in Fiction: A Collection of Short Stories

Before I picked up Visitants, a collection of short stories that involve angels, I would have ventured to say that the heavenly host are there for humanity's well-being.

Now... well, now I am not so sure.

You may not like every story in this collection, but you will never think of the heavenly host the same, ever.

I first became interested in this book because of Neil Gaiman: his is the first story in the collection. His tale, "Murder Mysteries," is personal and unreal at the same time, a character that makes the entire story immediate and plausible.

I felt brave, so I soldiered on.

From plagues to plays, from computers to curses, each author takes an interesting turn around the block with this subject. Each was interesting in its own right, and editor Stephen Jones arranges them in an interesting, attractive order. I have to admit, I was awash with a particular tide for a while, but as I read one or two stories a day, I wasn't too overwhelmed when a particular theme wove through too many in a row.

My favorites? Aside from Gaiman's story, I liked "An Infestation of Angels" and "Plague Angels." Both shared with me a perspective of angels I never imagined.

If you can read only one story (aside from Gaiman's), go for "Molly and the Angel."  Second choice: "Things I Didn't Know My Father Knew," which wasn't as much an angel story as — well, you'd have to read it to understand.

Pick up this great collection and prepare to be amazed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Month of Letters: How You Doin'?

How has your month of letters been coming along?

If you're anything like me, you may be close to your target.

You may also have been a bit of an overachiever from time to time, creating packages rather than "just" letters.

Some of your letters have been whoppers, saying things that have been unsaid to old friends.

Other times, you may have been able to relax and simply dash off what's in your heart and head, not having to think once putting pen to paper.

Maybe one or two of your letters was to the post office. (Hopefully you were able to praise excellent service.)

When a day goes past and the postmaster doesn't get something: why? Oh, that pesky thing called life: visitors, family, sick cats, sick kids, sick adults, long hours at work, headaches, weather.

Any way you look at it, it's not the end of the month — or even the end of the world. You have a few more days, a few more envelopes, a few more stamps. Keep it up (or start now, it's never too late to begin something this wonderful).

How about stepping down to the corner store and picking up some postcards? Someone you know doesn't live where you do, and they'd love to get that "kitchy" card.

Or get those postcard backs from the stationery store and mail some personal photo-postcards from your own snapshot collection. If the photos are still on your camera or phone, the store will show you how to upload the photos. Do it online or at the store. A picture is worth a few words right there (though dashing a few lines onto the back would be appreciated).

So, what are you waiting for? Write a letter!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Letters of Note

Who writes letters?

Smart people.
Happy people.
Compassionate people.
Funny people.
Famous people.
Angry people.

Like: Conan O'Brien, George Harrison, John Steinbeck, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Alleta Sullivan, Wil Wheaton — and many more, all available on Letters of Note.

This website shows the original letter and offers a transcript. They are lovely to read, and they make me want to write more letters — or maybe even mail a dream.

Check out a few of these letters, and be inspired.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Celebrating the Dickens Out of Today

I will celebrate Charles Dickens' 200th birthday tonight by reading the second chapter of Oliver Twist. (I read the first chapter a few days ago.)

I look forward to discovering the terrible nature of one of literature's vilest villains, Bill Sikes.

Interesting tidbit: the author was accused of anti-Semitism when the book was first published. At first, he defended himself.  Then, according to Wikipedia, he "then halted the printing of Oliver Twist, and changed the text for the parts of the book that had not been set, which is why Fagin is called 'the Jew' 257 times in the first 38 chapters, but barely at all in the next 179 references to him."

If you want something Dickens-ish — but not by Dickens — consider Drood, a fabulous mystery novel by Dan Simmons that speculates if there wasn't more truth to Dickens' final, unfinished novel.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Passing of Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska

Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska died February 1, and I was thrilled and saddened when I stumbled across this poem of hers. It took my breath away when I first read it  in the Washington Post years ago — and still does today.
I wish her peace.
The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to tidy up.
Things won't pick
themselves up, after all.

Someone has to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.

Someone has to trudge
through sludge and ashes,
through the sofa springs,
the shards of glass,
the bloody rags.

Someone has to lug the post
to prop the wall,
someone has to glaze the window,
set the door in its frame.

No sound bites, no photo opportunities,
and it takes years.
All the cameras have gone
to other wars.

The bridges need to be rebuilt,
the railroad stations, too.
Shirtsleeves will be rolled
to shreds.

Someone, broom in hand,
still remembers how it was.
Someone else listens, nodding
his unshattered head.

But others are bound to be bustling nearby
who'll find all that
a little boring.

From time to time someone still must
dig up a rusted argument
from underneath a bush
and haul it off to the dump.

Those who knew
what this was all about
must make way for those
who know little.
And less than that.
And at last nothing less than nothing.

Someone has to lie there
in the grass that covers up
the causes and effects
with a cornstalk in his teeth,
gawking at clouds.
(courtesy Web Archive)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Commercial We Should See During the Super Bowl

Dear Budweiser, think again — and let us see this quality of commercial during the Super Bowl. You usually have nice commercials, but this one... well, let's just watch.

Keep up the good work, and please share this quality of commercials with those of us south of the border. We will appreciate it, really — and I promise I'll cry again. (It's an easy promise to make.)

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Month of Letters: Postage

Happy Month of Letters!

Before you drop that letter in the mailbox, make sure you've used the proper amount of postage. The U.S. Postal Service recently changed postal rates, so check before you mail.

How much does it cost to mail a letter? What about a postcard?  Find out here.

Be sure to use proper postage so missives get to their destinations.