But first, a review of the Great Valley Bookfest
I ran into local poet Joy Willow at the Great Valley Bookfest in Manteca. I read her poetry collection, Soma Song, a couple of years ago. Our encounter reminded me that I had neglected to review this little gem. So, a few words about the Bookfest, a couple comments about reviews, and then I will sing Soma Song‘s praises.
A book festival is a community gathering centered on books. Book festivals usually feature local authors who set up display tables, chat with readers, and (hopefully) sell a few books. Authors and industry professionals give presentations throughout the day. Vendor and food booths provide additional opportunities to shop and eat. It’s a trade show meets county fair experience.
With five years’ experience under its belt, The Great Valley BookFest is a standout. The focus on children and literacy lifts it above the traveling flea market affair some festivals have become. The community support for this event is evident from the brightly tee-shirted volunteers who aid and abet the authors at every turn to the enthusiasm of the crowd.
You get a flavor for a community when you attend a local event. Manteca reads! That was evident. Children designed the bookmarks that advertised the event. They talked with authors and made careful book purchases.
Teachers gave students extra credit for volunteering at the event. A young girl sat in on my presentation on good literary citizenship and took notes. A class assignment perhaps, but she participated fully, writing down the name of her favorite book on a 3×5 card and exchanging it with another another person. They had a nice chat.
And now, my review of Soma Song
In the spirit of good literary citizenship, I am doing more book reviews these days. In my presentation, I encourage readers to say something when they read something good. Review under-promoted books. Help those books find their audience.
Soma Song graced my nightstand for a season. I used this collection of poems as a devotional, reading one per day. Reading poetry as a spiritual practice invites readers to slow down and savor each poem in this exquisite collection.
Intoxicating song might define this lovely work. Like Biblical poetry, each selection draws us into an experience at once human and divine. I love that!
This slim volume of poetry is a perfect tonic for weary souls who need an invitation to rest and reflect.
The Confessions of X illustrates the power of historical fiction to portray the earthiness of a saint in ways ethereal iconography cannot. Suzanne M. Wolfe gives us a slant on Saint Augustine that helps us mortals understand a mystery. That is, the roots of divine love dig deeply and affect our most formative relationships.
I confess I didn’t get beyond the second chapter in Augustine’s Confessions. Still, the man himself intrigued me. A poor little dissolute rich boy gives up his earthly inheritance for a Godly one. Although many facts are known about the Christian bishop and theologian, Wolfe shows us his heart.
Because the author describes daily life, the settings come alive. Wolfe captures lively interactions between different classes of people in ancient West Africa. This is where Augustine met the woman who became his concubine. Wolfe portrays their ill-fated relationship in a realistic way, thus making the story believable even though the actual details are undocumented.
Timeless and unchanging experiences
Hundreds of years between early Christianity and today shrink as Wolfe reveals the power of love, the pain of separation, and the healing of forgiveness. These are timeless and unchanging experiences we can identify with.
Perhaps most relevant, the author brings to light the culture and politics of Augustine’s day. I strongly believe Christians should view the developmental years of the early church in context. Listening to good pastors who have studied church history and literature, and reading authors who exercise imagination to bring events to life–these activities build our faith.
Choosing to play
Every year we can count on seeing great theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Like good books, great theater has the capacity to engage individuals in conversation. It might be an internal dialogue between reader and author over the treatment of a theme. It might be a lively book discussion with a friend. In the case of a play, the playwright, the director, and the audience each bring a unique point of view.
Choosing to engage in a theater experience challenges us in three areas: Understanding what the playwright was trying to convey; appreciating the lens through which the director chooses to view the work; and responding to what we are seeing. This year we chose to engage with the themes of Twelfth Night, Great Expectations, and Vietgone.
Twelfth Night is also titled What You Will, and that is the direction Christopher Liam Moore chose to take Shakespeare’s play about the grief of loss and the joy of discovery. The 1930s Hollywood setting and the slapstick antics of the clowns whose hands were welded to martini glasses overpowered the anguish of grief. Funny stuff, but on top of that we had to sort out the gender issues the director added to the masquerade at the core of this play.Read More»
Don’t overthink it, a friend laughed when I mused about the purpose of our trip to Costa Rica. Just have fun. We did have fun, but now that we’re back I feel compelled to shift back into overthink.
Papa survived the travel. His best days were hanging back with our son and grandson enjoying the hot springs in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano. That and zip lining in Costa Rica high above the Los Suenos canopy.
Son preferred the drier Pacific side to the hot, wet Caribbean side. Teacher that he is, he expressed particular enthusiasm for the presentation on the socio-political history of Costa Rica. Surfer that he is, he tried his darnedest to hitch a ride to a primo surfing spot but never made the connection. Still, he soaked in the experience.
Grandson learned to run with herd. Not one to pop right out of bed, he adjusted to early departures quite well. His proudest moment was the morning he rewrote his story. No more the boy who fell from a second floor window onto a concrete patio, he summoned the courage to kick away from a platform into the air. Suspended by cables, he zipped off the first of 12 platforms to the cheers of the other children, and the tears of his grandparents. He completed the course and now he’s a boy who zip lined in Costa Rica. He has new stories to tell.
A perfect trip for us
We all loved the meandering boat ride in the canal discovering new wonders around each bend: a brightly colored Northern Jacana trying to desperately to distract a caiman lurking in the water from a fuzzy chick hiding in the tall grass; a two-toed sloth, high is a tree, stuffing leaves into his mouth; leaping Jesus Christ lizards, sunning iguanas, soaring great green macaws.
As fun as observing the antics of spider, howler, and capuchin monkeys, our hearts were equally warmed watching a special group of eight children ages 8 to 15 bond immediately and treat each other with affection and respect. I highly recommend Road Scholar intergenerational tours.
A friend who visited Auschwitz recently told me tourists were buzzing about this book. Sadly, it’s a story that never gets old. Man’s inhumanity to man makes headlines daily. Holocaust can never happen again, we tell ourselves, but it can and it is.Read More»