Lost in a Walker Percy Cosmos, Part 1

A couple of months ago Eldest Daughter asked if I would like to accompany her to an academic conference in New Orleans in October. New Orleans in October with Eldest Daughter who is one of my favorite persons? Of course, I would love to go. Then, she told me the subject of the conference, “Still Lost in the Cosmos: Walker Percy & the 21st Century.”

Now I am not a fan, really, of Mr. Percy’s fiction. I say that, having read one, maybe two, books by Percy, The Moviegoer and another book long ago that I think was The Thanatos Syndrome. I remember people in trees(?) or sitting on flagpoles and something about poisoning the water supply and a priest and a doctor. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, and unfortunately that’s all I remember of the novel. The Moviegoer I read more recently, and according to Eldest Daughter herself, who is a fan, I just didn’t get it. I concur: I didn’t get it. The main character, Binx Bolling, was the kind of person who, if I were to meet him, I would feel strongly impelled to shake until he spits, as my mother would say. Existentialists (Percy had a thing for Kierkegaard) affect me that way, oddly enough.

Still I am a fan of Eldest Daughter and of a trip to New Orleans, and I like to feel as if I know what people are talking about when I listen to them speak. So in preparation for the conference I began reading Mr. Percy’s book, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book. Lost in the Cosmos is not a novel, but rather a parody of the myriad of self-help books that tell us that we can categorize our angst and work it out in six easy steps or by repeating one mantra or by listening to the author who will tell us who we really are. The first part of the book is really quite clever as Percy gets the reader first to admit that “it [is] possible to learn more in ten minutes about the Crab Nebula in Taurus, which is 6,000 light-years away, than you presently know about yourself, even though you’ve been stuck with yourself all your life.” Then, through a series of “thought experiments”, Percy leads his readers to recognize the existential lostness that afflicts each of us: we are indeed lost in the cosmos.

So far, so clever. In the middle of the book, however, Percy stops for an extended tour of the science of semiotics, a word I had to look up in my handy, dandy dictionary. Semiotics is “the study of signs and symbols, and their use or interpretation.” (Clear as mud? No? You obviously need to undertake a serious study of semiotics.) This part of the book is called “A Semiotic Primer on the Self.” The print becomes much smaller, and the text much, much more dense. Diagrams are inserted, and footnotes abound. Percy himself writes, “The following section, an intermezzo of some forty pages, can be skipped without fatal consequences.” I skipped. Not only did I skip, I also skipped out and never managed to finish Lost in the Cosmos before the conference in New Orleans. The consequences were not fatal, but perhaps were an inhibition to my understanding of the presenters at the conference.

So, there you have a synopsis of my preparation for the Walker Percy conference at Loyola University in New Orleans. My preliminary studies were inadequate at best. However, I went with the expectation that I would be enriched and challenged by the conference speakers and satiated and enlivened by the food and sights of New Orleans. And Eldest Daughter is still one of my favorite people, even if she does understand Walker Percy when I do not.

Tomorrow, read part 2, Amnesia, Moby Dick, Gulliver’s Travels, and the Shadow of Catastrophe, or How to Title an Academic Paper on Walker Percy.

Lots of LOST Thoughts; Probably More to Come

Idol or icon?
LOST, Lord of the Rings, the books referenced in LOST, even the Bible itself can become idol rather than icon if we become enmeshed in the details of the stories or of the Word and never see through to the Author, to God Himself.

It is possible to find True Truth in LOST or in LOTR or in Kierkegaard or Augustine or in Matthew Henry’s commentaries, but if we look to any story or philosophical treatise or commentary as the Source of Ultimate Truth, that work of literature has become an idol rather an icon that points us to the Ultimate Truth of God in Christ Jesus. Stories and poetry, and in our culture movies and television, are powerful icons that can point us to the source—because in the end all Truth is God’s truth (which is NOT the same thing as saying all religions lead to the same Source).

Cuse and Lindelof (LOST producers) wisely refused to answer all the questions raised over the course of six seasons of LOST for at least two reasons. First of all they don’t have all the answers. LOST raised many philosophical questions for which the answers are incomplete in any story. Cuse and Lindelof and the writers of LOST are telling us, “LIFE/LOST is messy. We have faith that it does have meaning, but the whole thing is a group project. No man is an island. We live in community, whether we want to or not, and we work out our salvation in fear and in trembling and in community.”

Secondly, and related, the answers are not neat packages. Each answer leads to more questions. LOST is like life. Things happen that seem meaningless and even perverse, and only later on can we see the meaning and the reason. Other parts of life we never do understand. Perhaps those incomprehensible and seemingly random events (Jack getting pounded in Thailand, Walt’s special abilities) also have meaning, but it’s a meaning that we are unable to discern even from the vantage point of the future. Like Jack and Hurley and the rest of the LOSTies, we just have to muddle through, having faith that there is a light at the center of the universe and a place and time where all be made clear.

In the end the LOST writers, the story itself, came down on the side of faith. Granted, it was faith in anything or everything, Buddha or Jesus, take your pick. But that’s our culture. That’s the part of the story that’s misleading and untrue. Still, some of the themes were truth-filled. It does take a community to work through your issues and help you to become the person you were meant to be. Human beings do have choices, and choices do matter, even when it seems as if everything is predestined and predetermined. Forgiveness is important and healing. In one sense, what happened, happened. You can’t change the past. But in another sense, nothing is irreversible. Resurrection and redemption are possible. (“Christian Shepard? Are you kidding?”)

And faith is vital. Not faith in oneself, as was implied in certain lines of dialog in the season finale, but rather faith in a God who is there and who is weaving meaning into every single event and relationship of our lives. In fact, we have a God who is so much bigger than Jacob or Jack or the Island itself. We have a Savior who by His sacrifice on the cross gave meaning to all the little mirror sacrifices that we sometimes make for each other. Jack and Desmond and Charlie and Jin and even Kate were all little Christ-figures, icons for the true story of sacrifice and servanthood that is found in the Bible. If you’ve never read it and you’re looking for a story to fill the LOST void now that LOST is over, you might try the real thing. God’s story is as mysterious and profound and beautiful and iconic as LOST, and it’s completely True. Time to go further up and further in and enter the Door that is now open into the most exciting story of all.

LOST Rehash: Across the Sea

“Mom always liked you best!”–Tommy Smothers

“Expectant moms, let that be a lesson to you: always choose more than one name, just in case.” –via Twitter

“Just because you don’t understand something, that doesn’t mean it’s over your heads. It might just be gibberish.” –also via Twitter

“In Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, the main protagonist uses her power of Telekinesis to kill her mother, after she had tried to rid Carrie of being possessed by Satan.” –Wikipedia article on matricide.

“In Babylonian legend, the supreme god Marduk slew his mother Tiamet by cutting her in half with a great sword.” –same Wikipedia article

You want answers? Well, this is how we give answers.” –Carlton Cuse on tonight’s episode

“”Every question I answer will simply lead to another question.” –Eve Lady in tonight’s episode

The most significant things about tonight’s episode, even though I don’t know what they mean:

Jacob, the eldest twin, gets a name, but his brother apparently doesn’t. Hey, Brother.

Jacob and MIB are twin brothers.

MIB killed his mother, and she thanked him just before she died.

Jacob sort of killed or transformed or light sabered Brother, and out came Smokey.

Adam and Eve are really Cain and Eve? Or Abel and Eve? Or Esau and Rebekah? Or Marduk and Tiamet? Or none of the above?

We know that Eve says she came from her mother, and we know that Eve lies and kills to protect the Light Source of the Island.

The Light under the island is both good, life-giving and bad, deathly, and dangerous. Is this LIghtSource God, unapproachable and perilous?

I’m really just as confused as ever, but some things that had better be resolved before the end are:

What happens to Desmond, Ben, Richard, Widmore, Penny, Rose and Bernard, Aaron, Ji-what’s her name and probably someone else I’m forgetting?

And especially what happens with Hurley? They had better not kill Hurley on-island or off. They can take whomever they want, but Hurley is off-limits. (By the way, Hurley says “dude” a lot.)

It looks as if Jack will be the new Protector of the Island or of the Light or whatever, and that’s OK, I suppose. It looks like a thankless job to me. However, I repeat, nobody had better mess with Hurley!

The Sideways World is kind of creepy to me. Jack is all perfect and button-down. And Locke is stoically resigned to his fate in the wheelchair, and everybody is just too, too Hollywood with near-perfect lives, or at least better lives than they had in the original world before the plane crashed. But their lives aren’t really better because they’re just mirror images, not real. I think the Sideways World should never have happened, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it undone.

How does the MIB go about re-inhabiting dead bodies? What is the rule for that? Who’s making up the rules now?

LOST Rehash: Happily Ever After

Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve written a LOST rehash, and a lot has happened. But I’ve been watching; I didn’t give up LOST for Lent.

So as far as Widmore is concerned, Desmond is the key to protecting the island and saving world. And Desmond is willing to follow whoever comes along with a good story, even Zombie Sayid, after he gets zapped in the electromagnetic generator thingamabob. (I generally leave the science and engineering to Engineer Husband.)

In fact, this entire episode had a bit too much science mixed up with love-at-first-sight for my tastes. And suicidal Charlie? Yuck! But it’s all part of the story, or the wrong story, that Desmond has to save them from —or something. Musician or scientist either one, I still love Daniel Faraday.

SIgnificant lines tonight:

Desmond to Charlie: “There’s always a choice, brotha.”

Eloise to Desmond: “What happened, happened.”

Faraday to Desmond: “What if all of this wasn’t supposed to be our life? What if for some reason we changed things?”

Questions (there are always questions):
Who is that George guy, the limo driver? I know we’ve seen him before in another life, but I can’t remember who he was. He’s kind of creepy.

Michael is coming back?

Who’s Penny Milton? Is that Penny’s last name in sideways world? Milton, as in John Milton, Paradise Lost?

If Widmore needs Desmond, why was he so mean to him in that other lifetime, back when Desmond was in love with Penny? Was that before Widmore knew he needed Desmond? If so, when did Widmore find out that he needed to make somewhat nice with Desmond?

In fact, the when question is getting more and more insistent. Who knew what when? And how does stuff “cross over” from one time stream to another, like the “Not Penny’s Boat” vision that Desmond had? I need a timeline in three dimensions. Or else they need to go back and put all the scenes from all the seasons in chronological order, according to time stream. For instance, Season 1-3 only shows the stuff that happened to all the island people if the plane crashed, but starting way back when they were all born or something, if their births like Locke’s and Ben’s were significant. No flashbacks, memories of childhood, or anything like that–just everything in order. And give us dates. I’ll never get it straight otherwise. (Which means I’d better be content to never get it straight at all.)

It looks as if, from the previews for next week, Hurley is going to take on the leadership role. I think that’s a great idea. I always thought Hurley, in spite of his somewhat superstitious fear of the numbers, was the only one who had any sense on the island. Jack and Locke always acted like a couple of sixth graders fighting over who’s King of the Island.

The blog What’s Alan Watching has some good ideas about tonight’s episode.

The Cain and Abel Motif

I’m setting these speculations to post on a Tuesday, the day that LOST airs in the U.S., but I am still on blog hiatus for Lent. My Cain and Abel thoughts may be outdated or superseded by events in the TV show by the time this post appears.

Cain and Abel were the first brothers. Cain murdered Abel out of jealousy.

Isaac and Ishmael were the sons of Abraham. Ishmael, the older but also the son of a slave-wife instead of Abraham’s true wife, Sarah, mocked his younger half-brother until things were so dysfunctional that Abraham had to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Some say the rivalry between Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabic nations, and Isaac, the ancestor of the Jews, continues to this day.

Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and his wife Rebekah. Their rivalry started in the womb and continued into adulthood. Romans 9:10-16:

10 This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. 11 But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; 12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” 13 In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”[h]

14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! 15 For God said to Moses,

“I will show mercy to anyone I choose,
and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”[i]

16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.

Of course, Joseph and his brothers are full of jealousy and rivalry, and as the story goes Joseph, the younger brother, becomes the most powerful man in Egypt and saves his entire family from extinction. Again, God chooses whom He will bless and how.

Then, there was at least some rivalry and bad feeling between Moses and his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam. When Moses went up Mr. Sinai to meet with God and receive the commandments, Aaron was persuaded by his long absence and by the people’s need for guidance to build them a golden calf to worship. Later, Aaron and Miriam began to speak against Moses because he had a foreign wife, and they attempted what sounds like a coup. But God thwarted their rebellion by giving Miriam a temporary case of leprosy.

I noticed something interesting as I was thinking about the Cain/Abel motif in LOST. Not many of the guys on LOST have brothers. Sayid may have had a brother, or maybe it was a cousin? No brother for Jack or Sawyer or Ben or Locke or Miles or Faraday or Richard or Boone or Walt or . . . Hurley had a married brother, I think. Mostly the rest are only children or they have one sister or half-sister.

Mr. Eko had a brother, Yemi, and in their relationship the Cain and Abel motif comes through loud and clear. Yemi is the good and chosen younger brother; Mr. Eko is locked outside of society and the grace of God. Then Yemi dies as a result of Mr. Eko’s actions, and Mr. Eko must take on the role of his Good Brother, become a priest, and later a spiritual leader on the island.

Charlie had a brother, too, and the two of them play out not so much the story of Cain and Abel as Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son and the Elder Brother. Charlie is the good brother at first, the one who stays off drugs, who goes straight, who goes to confession, and his brother Liam is as wild and prodigal as the prodigal in the parable. But as Liam comes to his senses, Charlie loses his. Then, Charlie wonders why Liam receives grace and a family while Charlie is shut out from everything good by his addiction and his chasing after fame and fortune. It’s not fair. God’s grace and forgiveness are never fair; that’s why we who deserve justice and the wages of sin (death) receive grace with thanksgiving.

Now as last season ended and in this final season we have another set of (maybe) brothers on LOST: Jacob and, let’s call him Esau. There is a definite rivalry between the two who have differing ideas about how the Island should be run. “Cain” has “Abel” killed, but the two come back to fight another day.

Is one of these brothers or rivals the son of blessing and the other the cursed one? Whose sons are they?

LOST Rehash: What Kate Does

Wow! LOST becomes Island of the Zombies.

So, to start toward the beginning, this episode is called What Kate Does. In an episode in season two of LOST called What Kate Did, we found out that Kate blew up her biological father, Wayne, and that she has a step-father named Sam Austen. On the island in this episode, Kate kisses Jack, runs away from him, and then has a heart-to-heart conversation with Sawyer who is recovering from being sick and infected and whatever else he was when he trekked halfway across the island with Ana Lucia and her crew.

I’m assuming this episode has something to do with that one, but other than Kate still running, chasing Sawyer, and generally being a fruitcake, I don’t know what. Kate and Claire are bonding in the No Crash World in spite of Kate’s having taken Claire hostage and scared the heck out of her. Claire even lies for Kate and gives Kate her credit card. Is Claire the world’s biggest sucker or what? (Maybe Sawyer should try a con on Claire, except Claire has no money —and now no credit card either.) Oh, and Kate also tells Claire that she’s “innocent”, and Claire believes that, too.

At least, we’re fairly sure that Kate is Kate. What Kate does is run away. Kate is The Fugitive. So since she’s still running, she’s still Kate. But who is Sayid? Is he still Sayid, or has he been “claimed”? Hurley asks Sayid if he’s a zombie, and Sayid says no. But this episode is all about trust, and can we trust the resurrected Sayid? Then, again, can we trust Temple Master Dogen? He says the pill that Jack is supposed to give Sayid is “medicine”; then, it turns out that it’s really poison. If they wanted to kill Sayid, why didn’t they do it while he was on the torture table? If they want to cure him, why use Jack to be the go-between?

How many times tonight did someone tell someone else that everything would be explained? Dogen said that they would answer all the Losties’ questions as soon as they talked to Sayid. But they didn’t. The show’s masterminds told us again at the beginning of the show and at the end that this was the last season when all questions would be answered. Then, at the end in the sneak peeks at next week, Fake Locke tells someone (I can’t remember) that he will explain everything. I think they’re teasing us. To paraphrase Hurley, whenever we go away and allow private conversations (among the writers), we end up doing something we don’t understand.

I am glad that Hurley’s back. “We’ll just wait outside in the Food Court.”
Miles: “As you can see, Hurley’s taken on the leadership position.”

Hurley is my hero, and Miles makes a good sidekick.

Next week’s episode is called The Substitute. Who do you think will be substituting for whom and doing what?

LOST Rehash: LA X

Antagonist: “They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same.”
Jacob: “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.”

Antagonist aka Smokey aka Fake Locke aka Dark Suit aka Esau—if the writers would just provide a name for the guy I would be pleased.

Are we making any progress at all here in terms of resolving this story?

(By the way, if you’re reading any further, there are SPOILERS!)

Tonight’s double episode was supposed to start providing answers, but all I found out was what was in the guitar case. And I didn’t care about the guitar case contents that much. I recognized the ankh, an Egyptian symbol. It’s supposed to symbolize eternal life. Interesting note from Wikipedia that may have nothing whatsoever to do with LOST: “the depiction of the Ancient Egyptian Ankh was preserved by the Copts in their representation of the Christian cross.” It does look like a cross to someone like me, bathed in Christianity and Christian symbols.

And then they went and “baptized” Sayid, practically drowning him in the process. I felt so sorry for Sayid in this episode when he was talking to Hurley about what would happen to him after death. He was so guilty, and I wanted to run in there and give him the hope of the gospel. “Yes, you’ve done horrible stuff. But you can be forgiven. You’ve been bought with a price! Jesus can redeem you!”

So has Sayid become Jacob? Or vice-versa? Sort of the way Smokey Guy has become a Locke twin? And what’s with Locke having two bodies? One dead and one alive. Was Jacob using Christian Shepherd’s body, and now he’s using Sayid’s?

I think we know for sure who the “good guys” are and who the “bad guys” are. If they’re with Jacob, even after Jacob’s death, they’re good, and if they’re with Mr. Fake Locke, they’re bad guys. And Ben’s so confused, he doesn’t know which side he’s on anymore.

Has Time itself split into two streams? The LOSTies at LAX are going from bad to worse as they pursue their not-so-merry lives. Did you notice that none of the Tailies showed up on the airplane, except for Bernard and that stewardess, Cindy. Where are Libby and Ana Lucia and Eko? And how did Desmond get on the plane? (Ha, Desmond is seeing Jack in another life, brotha!)

Meanwhile back on the island, they’re still alive even after the explosion of a hydrogen bomb. How can that be? And how did Juliet know that “it worked?”

I don’t want Juliet to be dead—again. In LOST no one is completely, totally, without a doubt, dead until they’re buried and Miles can hear them speak from the dead. Sayid wasn’t dead, and Miles knew it. Juliet is dead, at least in island time.

The book that Hurley picked up in the tunnels underneath (?) the temple was Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard. According to Eldest Daughter, who’s a fan of Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling is mostly about the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. For Kierkegaard, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac was an example of “faith” which is contrary to reason and even absurd. The Knight of Faith, against reason according to Kierkegaard, believes that with God all things are possible and works out his salvation “with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

Jack tells Locke in this episode that “nothing is irreversible” in reference to Locke’s paralysis. Could this statement also refer to Jack’s decision to detonate the hydrogen bomb and send them all back to their miserable pre-crash lives?

Also, Lostpedia says that Desmond was reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. It’s a novel about Indian history and the events leading up to India’s independence. I’ve never read anything by Rushdie, but this Booker prize-winning novel is said to feature “magical realism.” Give me magic or give me realism; magical realism confuses me.

No live blogging at Thinklings, but there are lots of comments.
Bill: “In this series we’ve done flash backs. Then we did flash forward. Now we’re doing flash sidewayses.”

Sunday Salon: Twelve Projects for 2010

The Sunday Salon.comFor the last couple of years, instead of resolutions, I’ve been thinking in terms of projects, lots of projects that I wanted to complete during the year. I wouldn’t say I was any more or less successful with my projects than most people are with resolutions, but I like the tradition anyway and plan to to continue it this year. So here are my twelve projects for 2010, with evaluations of how I did on some of the same projects in 2009.

1. Bible Reading Project. Last year’s Bible reading project was a qualified success. I didn’t read every day, and I didn’t study the books and passages I chose as intensely as I wanted, but I did read and study some. This year’s Bible reading plan is the same as last year’s: choose a book or part of a book of the BIble for each month of the year, read it daily, and study it using some good study tools. Take notes in my Bible and maybe this year in a journal, too. The selections for this year:

January: Esther. The women of my church are going on retreat in early March, and we’ll be studying the book of Esther. So I thought I’d get a head start.
February: Revelation 1-11. My pastor is preaching through Revelation this spring, so I thought I should be reading it. Revelation is my least favorite book in the Bible, so I’ll need some major self-discipline and encouragement from the Holy Spirit to finish this project.
March: Exodus 1-12 in preparation for Resurrection Sunday (April 4, 2010) and remembering Jesus, our Passover lamb.
April: Revelation 12-22.
May: Exodus 13-20.
June: I Timothy
July: Exodus 21-30.
August: II Timothy
September: Exodus 31-40.
October: Titus
November: Psalms 11-15.
December: Psalms 16-20.

2. Pulitzer Project. This year for the Pulitzer Project I read Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor and found it very absorbing and thought-provoking, one of the best books I read this past year. This next year I plan to read March by Geraldine Brooks and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

3. My Newbery Project for last year was also something of a bust. I think I got stuck because the winners for 1925 and 1926 were both story collections, and I don’t like story collections. I may skip the storybooks and get back on track this year.

4. Homeschooling Project: I need to focus on homeschooling the three remaining students in our homeschool.
Karate Kid (age 12)
Betsy-Bee (age 10)
Z-Baby (age 8)
You’ll see posts about how that project is going, plans for school and reading and science and history and field trips and all manner of educational schemes and visions. Perhaps you’ll also see a few desperate pleas for HELP! Just because I’ve graduated four students doesn’t mean I know how to homeschool the rest of the bunch.

5. Operation Clean House. I thought last year that if I took a room or area of the house and concentrated on that section each month, I might get somewhere with the de-cluttering and cleaning. Maybe. I didn’t. So this project is a repeat.
January: My closet and dressing area.
February: The rest of my bedroom.
March: Front hallway and entryway.
April: Living Room.
May: Kitchen.
June: Laundry room.
July: Half of the gameroom.
August: The other half of the gameroom.
September: Front bathroom.
October: Z-baby’s bedrooom.
November: Karate Kid’s bedroom.
December: Sit back and enjoy my reorganized home?
I might even, if I’m brave enough, post before and after pictures to keep myself motivated.

6. LOST Reading Project. I really want to get back to this project this year. I read Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin, enjoyed it, and tried a couple of others on the list that I didn’t care for at all (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien).
This year I think I’d like to read Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabakov and perhaps, Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor. I’m not sure I’m sophisticated enough to “get” Flannery O’Connor, but I’ll give it a try.

7. The U.S. Presidents Reading Project has a list of all of the U.S. presidents and suggested reading selections (non-fiction) for each one. The challenge is to read one biography of each one. Last year I read biographies of George Washington, John Adams, James and Dollie Madison, and Alexander Hamilton (I know, not a president, but closely related). This year I plane to continue with biographies of James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson, not necessarily in that order. I skipped Jefferson because I don’t like him very much.
8. Tournament of Reading Project. Probably the only reading challenge I sign up for this year, The Tournament of Reading is a challenge to read nine medieval books in three categories: history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Most of these books that I plan to read come from my TBR list anyway:
Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.
Justinian’s Flea: The First Great Plague and The End of the Roman Empire by WIlliam Rosen.

Historical Fiction:
The King’s Daughter by Sandra Worth.
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner.
The Master of Verona by David Blixt.

As for actual medieval literature, I’ll have to ask Eldest Daughter to suggest something.

9. Poetry Project: I would like to continue having my urchins memorizing and reading poetry. I would like to read and memorize poetry. I would like to have more Poetry Parties. Poetry Friday is the place and time to get an update on the Poetry Project. Plus, I’ll be celebrating Poetry Month again in April.

10. Prayer Project. I need to spend some daily concentrated time in prayer and meditation. My plan is to pray and read my Bible before I get on the computer each day so that I can bathe all these projects and all my children and my husband in prayer.

11. Book Club Project. I’m re-starting my book club this year. If any of you are interested in participating (virtually), email me at sherryDOTearlyATgmailDOTcom, and I’ll send you the details. I’ll also be posting the book club selections for each month of 2010 here at Semicolon soon. I’m also leading a middle school girls book club at our homeschool co-op, and I’ll be posting the book list for that club before long.

12. Advanced Reading Survey Project. I decided last year that on Mondays I was going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.
Texas Tuesday Project. I also plan to keep posting about books set in or published in or related to Texas on Tuesdays. Or at least on most Tuesdays.

Bonus Project: I’ll keep blogging, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, and I’ll keep you all updated on all my projects for 201-.

LOST Anyone?

“ABC finally announced that the sixth and final season of Lost will debut on Feb. 2, 2010, starting with a one-hour recap special at 8 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the two-hour season premiere at 9.

Lost will then air in its regular time period, Tuesdays at 9, beginning the following week, on Feb. 9.”

So does anyone still remember those poor lost souls on Nameless Island? Did they all blow up in a nuclear holocaust? Did Juliet save the island or destroy it? Will Jack and Kate get together? Stay together for more than ten minutes? Will Sawyer reform? Who comes back to life and who stays dead for good?

How many of you will be watching in February to find out?

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin

lathe: a machine for shaping a piece of material, such as wood or metal, by rotating it rapidly along its axis while pressing a fixed cutting or abrading tool against it.

The Lathe of Heaven is about dreams and dreaming, about playing God, and about getting by with a little help from my friends. It’s about time travel in a one sense, but also about changes and how the past changes the future and how each person’s actions change the both the past and the future. It’s about the elusive nature of memory. And, of course, like all good books it’s about LOST.

OK, not all good books relate to LOST, but The Lathe of Heaven appeared on my reading list because I saw it on a list of LOST-related books. And the relationship is both obvious and intriguing.

Benjamin Linus to John Locke: Let me put it so you’ll understand. Picture a box. You know something about boxes, don’t you John? What if I told you that, somewhere on this island, there is a very large box and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it when you opened that box, there it would be? What would you say about that, John?

One answer that Locke could have given to Ben’s question is that one should be very careful about one imagines into such a (metaphorical) box. In The Lathe of Heaven, the protagonist, George, has “effective dreams,” dreams that alter the future by also altering the past and making it as if it had always been on the trajectory that the dream imaged. The characters also change history by imagining or dreaming. As they travel in time their actions change was has been, or what will be, maybe, and make it as if it had always been the way it is. The problem in The Lathe of Heaven is that George has no control over his dreams; the dreams change things in sometimes good, sometimes horribly immoral and detrimental ways.

So George gets a psychiatrist to help him quit dreaming, but the psychiatrist, instead of finding a way to eliminate the effective dreams, tries to control them, to improve the world by suggesting to George what he should dream. “Dream about peace.” “Dream an end to pollution.” Just as our waking actions have unforeseen consequences, George’s dreams don’t turn out exactly as planned.

I think the LOSTies are going to have to deal in the last season next year with unforeseen consequences of their attempts to “fix” the past. They really don’t know enough about the way the Island works or about time travel or about Destiny to be blowing stuff up in hopes of resetting the future into a more palatable, or even moral, universe. Perhaps one of the “morals” of LOST, and of The Lathe of Heaven, is that human beings don’t know enough to play God. Rose and Bernard seem to have learned this lesson, and they have opted for withdrawal, cultivating their own garden, not trying to rescue or change things or save anyone.

Does the Island itself grant wishes? Healing? Is that a good thing, or perhaps does that very changing of events disturb the balance of the universe in ways that are destructive and ultimately harmful? What will it take to fix what Jack and Juliet and the others have done in the final episode of season 5? Is the “loophole” that Jacob’s enemy exploits to get to him a result of the time-tinkering that the LOSTies have been doing?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. However, just as The Lathe of Heaven ends on a somewhat ambiguous and confusing note, I predict that LOST’s ending will not satisfy everyone. Some questions will be answered definitively; other answers will be obscure with more than one possible meaning and open to interpretation; and still other questions and answers will be notably absent.

And that continuum of elucidation will again make LOST a lot like Life.