Fear and Literature
Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos
Is the novel a space of intense engagement with the world, of risk and adventure? Or is it a place of refuge, of hanging back from life? The answer will be all too easy if we are living in a country that does not allow certain stories to be told. For Solzhenitsyn writing novels was indeed a serious risk. But in the West?
In my last piece in this space I considered the idea that our personalities are formed in communities of origin where one particular polarity of values or qualities tends to dominate—fear or courage, winning or losing, belonging or not belonging, good or evil. As each person seeks to stake out a position for himself in his community and later in the world outside, it will be the position he or she assumes in relation to that polarity that will be felt as the most defining and any problems in establishing such a position (am I a strong person or a weak one, am I part of the group or not?) will be experienced as especially troubling.
( Fear and Lit )
Who is your literary crush?
Office favourites include Dorothea Brooke and PG Wodehouse's Psmith. Which fictional character would you wed?
In Japan they've launched a petition to legalise marriages between humans and cartoon characters. It's actually rather poignant: "For a long time I have only been able to fall in love with two-dimensional people and currently I have someone I really love," writes one signatory. "Even if she is fictional, it is still loving someone. I would like to have legal approval for this system at any cost."
It's gathered more than 1,000 signatures which is pretty impressive but there's some way to go before the cartoons start tripping down the aisle. As the ABC story points out (in a po-faced manner), at the moment "Japan only permits marriage between human men and women", so Jessica Rabbit will have to hold off buying that dress.
But it made me wonder which fictional character I'd marry, legal niceties permitting. As a teenager I'd have plumped for any of the Georgette Heyer heroes (particularly the Earl of Rule), or Jilly Cooper's Rupert Campbell-Black, or Rhett Butler. Before those days I had quite a crush on Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables and Laurie from Little Women. But now, well, I'm currently reading The Crimson Petal and the White and have fallen for Sugar (although reader, I don't think I'd marry her), and Jay Gatsby will always hold a place in my heart.
Around the blogosphere, literary crushes range from Hazel from Watership Down (!) to the Malory Towers girls, and Dune's Paul Atreides. Lots of people seem to have a thing for Mr Darcy – I never got that one, his broodiness always struck me as a little dull - and Aragorn is getting quite a few mentions.
Here in the office, people have come up with Ursula Brangwen from Women in Love, Middlemarch's Dorothea Brooke, Laura from The Blind Assassin and PG Wodehouse's Psmith. And some wit mentioned Lolita. But I'm holding out for D'Artagnan.
Can a fictional character take you over?
A new US study suggests readers may change their behaviour to emulate a fictional character – so who's gotten under your skin?
Good lord above! If this is really true then I dread to think what havoc is wreaked by people who've just finished reading A Clockwork Orange; what unrealistic expectations of romance are held by fans of Jane Austen; what heights of passion are reached by Wuthering Heights aficionados on a daily basis. Because, according to a new study from researchers at Ohio State University, "when you 'lose yourself' inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character".
Just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study gave undergraduates various stories to read and observed their reactions. In one example, students were given stories about voting, with the result that "people who strongly identified with a fictional character who overcame obstacles to vote were significantly more likely to vote in a real election several days later".
In another, 70 male, heterosexual students were given different versions of a story about a day in the life of another undergraduate. In one, he was revealed to be gay early on; in another, he was outed late in the story; in the third, he was heterosexual. The results? "Those who read the gay-late narrative reported significantly more favourable attitudes toward homosexuals after reading the story than did readers of both the gay-early narrative and the heterosexual narrative. Those who read the gay-late narrative also relied less on stereotypes of homosexuals – they rated the gay character as less feminine and less emotional than did the readers of the gay-early story."
Geoff Kaufman, who led the study, said: "If people identified with the character before they knew he was gay, if they went through experience-taking, they had more positive views – the readers accepted that this character was like them". Perhaps we could hand out some "gay-late narratives" to inhabitants of North Carolina.
But I'm not sure this is hugely earth-shattering news to anyone who loves reading. I've known I tend towards "experience-taking" when I read for ages; when I was younger I even tried to adopt the speech patterns of characters I admired – embarrassingly enough, when it was epic fantasy. The researchers sadly don't go into detail about what might happen if a story is violent, or homophobic, etc – would we still adopt the character's perspectives? Stephen King certainly worried we might, withdrawing his story Rage after the Columbine shootings.
Anyway, I'm fresh from reading Gillian Flynn's terrifyingly good tale of a marriage gone toxic and a wife disappeared, Gone Girl. I'll update you soon enough on the state of my own marriage. And if you don't hear from me, worry.
Maurice Sendak dead: ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ author was 83
Maurice Sendak, the renowned children's author whose books captivated generations of kids and simultaneously scared their parents, has died. He was 83.
Sendak passed away on Tuesday from complications caused by a recent stroke, his editor told the New York Times. He lived in Ridgefield, Conn., and was hospitalized in nearby Danbury. According to the Associated Press, Sendak suffered the stroke on Friday.
Sendak wrote and illustrated more than 50 children's books--including "Where the Wild Things Are," his most famous, published in 1963.
The book--about a disobedient boy named Max who, after being sent to his room without supper, creates a surreal world inhabited by wild creatures--won Sendak the coveted Caldecott Medal, the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize, in 1964. "Where The Wild Things Are" was adapted into a live-action film by Spike Jonze in 2009.
"Where The Wild Things Are" was not only revolutionary--but it was also wildly profitable, selling more than 17 million copies, according to Bloomberg.com.
Sendak's other groundbreaking works include "In the Night Kitchen," "Outside Over There," "The Sign on Rosie's Door," "Higglety Pigglety Pop!" and "The Nutshell Library." "Bumble-Ardy," his first book in 30 years, was published by HarperCollins last year. A posthumous picture book, "My Brother's Book," is slated for 2012.
Sendak "transformed children's literature from a gentle playscape into a medium to address the psychological intensity of growing up," the Washington Post said in an obituary.
His "unsentimental approach to storytelling revolutionized the genre," the Los Angeles Times said.
"In book after book," the New York Times wrote, "Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children's literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow."
That's why, perhaps, Sendak could never break free from being labeled a children's book author, despite his exploration of darker themes.
"I write books as an old man," Sendak said in a 2003 interview. "But in this country you have to be categorized, and I guess a little boy swimming in the nude in a bowl of milk can't be called an adult book. So I write books that seem more suitable for children, and that's OK with me. They are a better audience and tougher critics. Kids tell you what they think, not what they think they should think."
In January, Sendak appeared on "The Colbert Report," giving Stephen Colbert some advice on how to make it as a children's book author. "You've started already by being an idiot," Sendak said.
"I don't write for children," Sendak told Colbert. "I write, and then someone says, 'That's for children.'"
"Sendak understood," Slate observed, "that kids need literature that makes adults uncomfortable. They need books that reflect their chaotic and dark worlds, in which sometimes children do have to feed their mothers."
Guys, we did it. We really did it. Last month, in Guess The Plot's debut, I offered up four classic science-fiction covers and asked for LitReactor's help figuring out what the novels inside could possibly be about. And you all didn't just show up, you killed it. Go back and check out the hilarious comment section in that link. Gold, people, hot bubbling gold!
So I'm back, with just one cover this time. One amazing cover.
Here's How To Play: Come up with a short description of the following book’s plot. This theoretical summary should be the logical extension of the artwork and text on the covers, although wild-ass extrapolation is certainly encouraged. And no checking with Google for plot information, I want pure originality! Then post your work in the comment section below.
And now I present to you...
Into Plutonian Depths
Hello Nurse! Our buddy Señor Coblentz is really putting the 'fantasy' in 'Avon Fantasy Novels,' right? From her sassy golden-snake sandals, to that striking pearl/enormous green orb headpiece, this young woman is positively bedecked! No wonder all those dudes are chasing her - they need to know where on Pluto they can get a quality mani-pedi. As for her companion: yawn! It's just sad that Avon would spring for an icon of fashion like Timothy Dalton and then dress him in business casual. At least the editors have seen fit to release Coblentz's masterpiece unabridged, so readers can finally appreciate just how 'faraway' Pluto actually is. Moving on, let's see if we can't break down the 'three sexes' teased in the headline:
1) Former James Bonds. (Is it Jameses Bond? I can never remember.)
2) Hurdy-Gurdy Girls with impeccable taste and their insatiable, shirtless Fanboys.
3) Super Horny Stalagmites.
All right, have at it! And make 'em great, because now I have expectations. So make Papa Johnny proud!
Julia Bluhm, 14, is an eighth grader from rural Waterville, Maine. She loves ballet and attends class six days a week. She is also gaining national attention as an activist who is challenging the media to take responsibility for the way it warps girls' self-esteem.
"I've always noticed how a lot of the images in magazines look photo-shopped," Bluhm tells Yahoo! Shine. She wants all girls to feel comfortable in their own skin. "Girls shouldn't compare themselves to pictures in magazines," she says. "Because they are fake."
Eleven days ago, she launched a petition to ask one of her favorite magazines, Seventeen, to feature one un-retouched photo shoot a month. "They have already done a lot to help girls improve their body image. Their Body Peace feature is great. I thought that they could take it one step further with an unaltered photo spread." This morning, she is leading a protest outside of Seventeen's offices in Manhattan which will include a mock fashion shoot."I'm a little nervous. But excited."
Related: Stars Without Photoshop
Julia BluhmBluhm started blogging about girls and self-esteem a year ago when she joined SPARK, a non-profit organization for 13 to 22 year-olds that calls itself a "girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media." One of SPARKS' recent accomplishments was to get a meeting to with top LEGO executives to discuss, among other issues, the LEGO Friends line of toys which they say are demeaning to girls. However, the petition is, as Bluhm puts it, "my first big action."
Her petition on change.org reads:
"To girls today, the word 'pretty' means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It's because the media tells us that 'pretty' girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin.
( Real life vs. the media )
I'm running a test to see who's reading my posts. So, if you read this, leave me a one-word comment about your day that starts with the third letter of your LJ USERNAME. Only one word please. Then repost so I can leave a word for you. Don't just post a word and not copy - that's not as much fun!
Mine was counterproductive. :(
I stand here amongst the ashes and ruins of New York City. Here I chance upon a recognizable landmark -- an overpass sign announcing the exit for George Washington bridge, a ferry in the middle of what was Washington Square, the rubble of Carnegie Hall; there the odd memento of a person’s existence -- an alligator-skin boot with human foot, a Hummer stretch-limo crunched like an accordian, a woman’s silhouette scorched like graffiti in a wall.
All around me is panic and despair. For the first time, I do not know what to say to offer comfort to the survivors for I am as lost as they. My own mate is missing, vanished from my side in our search for our human children, and the strange, chemical smells around me make it impossible for me to detect his scent.
If he is even alive.
I fall in with them on their march down the cracked slabs of the New Jersey turnpike. Women, children, men -- all cry, desperate for someone to reassure them. I want to say that this, too, shall pass; that the history of man is filled with many such episodes and each time we emerged stronger, better. I want to tell them that all is not lost, never to give up hope for God is with us and we shall overcome this newest obstacle as we overcame all others. I want to call upon them to unite, for together we stand.
But I cannot say ‘we’ for I am not one of them.
My name is Carlisle Cullen. I am a vampire who has just survived a nuclear attack. And this is neither the beginning nor the end of my story.
In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you did not create. Drop a link to your post in the comments. See if you can rec fanworks that are less likely to be praised: tiny fandoms, rare pairings, fanworks other than stories, lesser known kinks or tropes. Find fanworks that have few to no comments, or creators new to a particular fandom and maybe aren't well known or appreciated. Appreciate them.
1. Lifetime Prelude: This was my introduction to Edward/Carlisle and each time I read it, I find something more. I swear every idea I have ever had came from here. :)
2. Blood Bank: from the creators of the above. I loved this because I felt Carlisle was so much more.
3. Immortalis Caris: this is something I NEVER expected to love. I was a bit turned-off by the idea of an androgynous Edward and Carlisle as a meth addict rubbed me all the wrong ways, but WOW! Was this ever brilliant!
In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you have created. It can be your favorite fanworks that you've created, or fanworks you feel no one ever saw, or fanworks you say would define you as a creator. Drop a link to your post in the comments.
1. Away from the Sun: my very first attempt at fanfic in September, 2009! I took it up because my favorite comm on LJ, Lifetime Prelude, went on hiatus and I wanted to encourage them to come back.
2. Changing: a prequel to the above, still not finished.Started Jan, 2010, and on hiatus as I have been running comms and working on the below.
3. A Separate Sphere: my current fic, also on ffnet. This is radically different in that it is my first attempt at a thriller/mystery and it is very hard to make it all work.
Historical note: The turn of the nineteenth century marks a period of profound change in the psychiatric profession. Medical doctors had made huge gains with the discovery of antiseptic and anaesthesia; surgery moved from the barber shop to the operating “theatre” with real success. For the first time, physicians were established as professionals rather than “quacks”, gaining credibility in the public eye for actually possessing curative skills. Psychiatrists hoped to duplicate that feat. Insane asylums (once known as “houses of horror”) were abandoned, and in their wake sprawling estates with parks and farms along the lines of the grand English country homes sprang up. Moral treatment was the order of the day in a society now accustomed to opulence, and asylum doctors firmly believed that compassionate care could and would assuage the ills of modern life.
On other fronts, psychiatrists begin to look at lunacy as a disease of the mind in a very literal sense. The claim by Emil Kraepelin in his Handbook of Psychiatry that madness was caused by organic diseases with corresponding brain pathologies was initially met with derision, but when Alois Alzheimer found distinct differences in the brain tissue of his 51-year-old dementia patient who exhibited short term memory loss and other unusual behaviors, the idea took root, sparking a frenzy of research. The idea was taken to the extreme: Henry Cotton made the bold claim that the root of all insanity was infection and took to removing teeth (the closest culprits to the brain) and vital body parts to cure his patients.
Simultaneously, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were on the rise in Europe with differing philosophies of neuroses that caused other types of mental illness, among them paranoia and homosexuality. These camps formed the opposition and very soon the battle of mental neuroses versus organic brain disease was being played out in the medical journals. Asylum doctors formed their own association (Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane -- the AMSAII) and incorporated one, both, and then some, into their own practices. The asylums -- now called “state hospitals” -- were unique in that a single doctor, the Superintendent, established the culture for his hospital. In the case of Cotton and Trenton State Hospital, this meant tremendous suffering and frequently death for his patients (Cotton was brought before the Bright Committee in 1925 to face his accusers); for the patients of McLean State Hospital, it meant luxury housing with quarters for their servants, fine dining, and leisurely days spent painting or reposing in lawn chairs.
The era of the great asylums ended with the reality that the dollar costs of these institutions were simply too great to be borne by society. With the advent of psycho-tropic drugs, patients were once again returned to the care of their family, relieving the state of the expense. Tragically, these beautiful monuments fell into decay and have for the most part been destroyed to make way for modern facilities. This story is penned in their great memory.
Author’s note: While some of people (Adolf Meyer, Sigmund Freud, G Stanley Hall), places (Worcester State Hospital, Clark University, Ellis Island), and events (WWI, 1918 pandemic) are real, this is a work of fiction. We have taken a great deal of liberty in re-writing the history of Worcester State Hospital for plot purposes. While the history of the asylums in the early 20th century is most definitely riddled with abuse, the accounts in this story are completely fabricated. Moreover, in the absence of a facility blueprint, we have reconstructed the original complex to the best of our ability based on photographs and the one surviving diagram of the original structure. Any ominous reputation we have bestowed on Lowell Home and its inhabitants stems entirely from our imaginations.
The clocktower of the old asylum is all that remains, the rest long since torn down after the fire. Its windows are boarded up, its walls crumbling. The vampire easily hops the high chain link fence and appears at the entrance he knows so very well. He carefully removes the door blocking the entry and slips undetected into the dark interior of the decaying building. The furniture is worn with time and the fixtures hang askew, but whether from vandals or work crews he isn't sure. Thoughtful, he passes down the hall until he comes to the staircase. It is still standing, a circular marvel spanning four stories. He climbs it, taking note of the weak spots that give under his weight, and opens the door on the landing of the fourth floor that leads further up to the attic of the great tower. There, he stares at the clockworks, stilled by rust, and leaning against the dank, rotting wood, vividly recalls that first day as if it were only yesterday.
Chapter 1: In the Company of Strangers
To His Excellency the Governor and the Honorable Council.
The trustees of the Worcester State Hospital respectfully submit their
eighty-fifth annual report and solicit your careful consideration of the
reports of the superintendent and treasurer which are appended.
To the Trustees of the Worcester State Hospital.
I herewith respectfully submit the following report of the hospital for
the year ending Nov. 30, 1917, it being the eighty- fifth annual report.
Though the number of patients admitted during the year has been appreciably
less than that of the year before, the number remaining in the hospital
is greater, due to a lessened number of discharges. It is pleasant to
note that the percentage of recoveries has been higher and the
percentage of deaths lower. It would be difficult, however, to draw
conclusions of much value from the statistics of a single year. Of the
patients admitted for the first time more than half were foreign born, some
twenty different countries being represented. In type of disease dementia praecox
leads by a large margin, followed by senility, alcoholism and general paralysis, in the
order given. Of the general paralytics nearly one-half were women.
Considering the ages at which first attacks of insanity occurred it
seems, as perhaps it would be reasonable to expect, that the greatest
prevalence of insanity is during the periods of the greatest
mental and physical activities. A study of environment seems to show
quite conclusively that general paralysis is many times more frequent in
persons admitted from urban than from rural communities. This is also
true in lesser degree of dementia praecox and alcoholism.
The general health of the house has been good. A few cases of contagious
disease have developed, all of which had a favorable outcome. Strict
quarantine quickly controlled the spread of disease and no general
Dr. Gilfillan was granted indefinite leave of absence to enter the medical
service of the United States Army. Much as we needed his services here
it was felt that his country needed him more.
E. V. SCRIBNER,
Nov. 30, 1917.
Of the figures racing pell-mell through the sudden shower, only one crossed the road at a regular pace, umbrella calmly held aloft. The new resident pathologist at Worcester State Hospital – the first in fact to occupy that new position – was seeing the grounds for the first time and while he loathed inclement weather, nothing could dampen his enthusiasm for the magnificent beauty of what was to be his home for the next several years. He gazed with something akin to pride at the granite and red brick structure that gracefully curved back around itself like an English gentleman’s country estate, every wing unique and critical to the art of the structure. The architectural detail was extraordinary, turrets and towers and arches and stairwells that appeared where one least expected, affecting near perfect if not actual symmetry. The manicured lawns and cultivated gardens pleased him inordinately for they demonstrated an additional touch of civility that he felt necessary for his own recovery. The limestone paths were laid with precision like criss-crossing rail road tracks and meticulously pruned of weeds and detritus so that they shone white against the greenery. The air itself was clean, natural, devoid of the stench of the inner city and the ocean harbor and for the first time he felt he might be able to reconcile himself to this life he was forced to endure.
Stepping under the portico of the clock tower, he folded and neatly deposited his umbrella in a bin where it stood solitary on that wet morning, removed first his gloves and then his hat to smooth his perfectly smooth hair, and unbuttoning his raincoat climbed the twelve unvarying stone steps to the heavy wooden door of the administration building. This he easily opened with his right forefinger (the others being engaged holding his gloves and hat) and stepped inside, preparing himself to face the public.
The hall was in an uproar as staff members struggled out of their sodden garments, leaving muddy puddles on the tiled floor, grumbling to one another about the unexpected downpour. He observed them briefly, lingering a few seconds to memorize the dozens of faces before his gaze fell on a large, stern woman standing in front of the window counter. She, too, watched the scene in the room with a grim satisfaction that he understood immediately. Having gauged her personality, he composed his features in a bland, humble manner and approached the hospital matron softly so as not to interrupt her many more important tasks.
She had already spied him – the only dry, tidy member of the room – and conveyed her complete and utter disapproval of his singularity in a withering stare that was meant to break him. He stifled the urge to rise to the bait and coughed delicately, eyes downcast, saying in what he hoped was an especially winning tone, “I’m Carlisle Cullen. I believe Dr. Wehler is expecting me?” He knew better than to affix a title to his own name.
She observed him coldly – blond hair to black Oxfords – and promptly put him in his place by turning her back to address another question before acknowledging his. “Dr. Wehler,” she said in the clipped manner of the New England blue bloods, “is indisposed. You’ll have to wait.” For emphasis she slammed the wooden clipboard she was holding onto the counter, making him flinch.
He meekly acquiesced, turning to take a seat on a bench as far away from her as possible. Inwardly he sighed; he had just made his first enemy not five minutes into his first day. It wasn’t altogether unexpected - he was the sort of person that aroused jealousy in others -- but he had hoped it might have been later rather than sooner.
Abruptly he cocked his head to one side. Amidst the noisy commotion in the hall, he could distinctly hear the heavy footfalls of a familiar figure approaching from the west end of the adjacent building. He knew Wehler was already on the way to greet him even before his keen eyes spotted him; he could smell him – the odd mixture of rich food, stale sweat on fine wool and expensive cigars.
"Carlisle!" The booming Germanic bass of his superior resounded even in the busyness of the room. "There you are! And didn’t bother to check in, eh?” Wehler clapped him hard on the back. Carlisle did his best to wince as the man’s sizable arm struck him, adding a slight stagger for effect. Wehler continued, undaunted by his own stinging hand, “Thank God someone had the sense to come prepared for the weather! Half the staff is holed up trying to dry out."
Carlisle murmured something polite about an Englishman always being prepared, only to be drowned out by his enormously fat friend who was eager to get started. "Leave your coat and things here and we'll go right in. I don't have an office for you yet," Wehler apologized, looking terribly embarrassed not to have better offerings. “We were lucky to get the position approved at all,” he added in his defense.
Carlisle hastened to assure him that he was delighted to be there and required nothing at the present. Mollified, the older man proposed a tour which was readily accepted and the two men strolled down the foyer past the drenched personnel to descend the steps to the basement. “It’s flooding,” Wehler looked out the window at the sheets of water forming pools in the lawn that then spilled onto the walkways, “We’ll take the tunnels so you don’t get your feet wet.”
Considering he had just hiked a good half-mile from Belmont Street, the idea seemed absurd but he expressed genuine excitement at seeing every part of the structure, even the complex’s connecting tunnels used to convey heat and water.
He followed the assistant superintendent to the basement of the clocktower, chatting amicably about shop matters. The stairs were neither steep nor numerous, but the fat man huffed and puffed and paused frequently to catch his breath. The tunnel was narrow but not uncomfortably so and well-worn so that the going was easy enough.
"You'll get lost the first few days. Or weeks!" The German wagered gleefully when they emerged into Appleton Hall. He was very pleased with his little kingdom.
Carlisle laughed as well -- eyes downcast to hide his real thoughts. He had already formed a complete mental grid of the hospital’s complex lay-out thus far during their walk and knew exactly where he -- and everything else -- was. He would never get lost.
Wehler introduced him to everyone they passed in the many halls, all of whom were delighted to make the pathologist’s acquaintance. (“You see, Carlisle, you are our hope for the future!”). And in response to their polite questions, he offered the standard explanation of his past.
“It’s a step up from the squalor of Ellis Island, at least,” Wehler offered as they walked through Howe on the other side of the complex.
“Ellis Island?” A fellow sniffed distastefully. “That has to be the pit of all humanity!”
Carlisle concurred, but for reasons, he suspected, quite different to those of his interlocutor.
They meandered back through Washburn to the laboratory where he was introduced to the Clark graduate students. He spent some time with them reminiscing about collegiate matters, an experience he in fact had never actually had. “Ah, the dissertation!” he clucked sympathetically to a young man and manufactured one of his own to discuss.
“Hospital life is a whole lot different to college!” a friendly soul laughed and the other attendants in the hall took it up, guffawing as if it were hilarious. Carlisle was baffled but appreciated their enthusiasm. It has been too long since he had felt anything like that.
“Enough!” Wehler roared across the room, causing the petri dishes and test tubes to rattle imperceptibly on the steel lab tables. (Carlisle smiled again, but to himself this time.) “You’ll have time to get acquainted after rounds. Now get to work!” he bellowed and his students all made good-natured retorts to his back as he pushed Carlisle through the door to continue on their way.
The final stop, as anticipated, was the dining hall where Wehler deposited his substantial bottom onto a chair many sizes too small. Carlisle heard the wood groan in protest.
He declined anything other than coffee (“You’ll never survive here on that,” Wehler warned) and listened patiently while his friend ordered almost everything available.
“Between you and me --” by which it was understood that this was common knowledge -- “you already know more than half the senior doctors here.” Wehler was eyeing his plate overflowing with runny eggs, crisp bacon, thick slabs of toasted bread, and a large stack of pancakes drowning in maple syrup. Carlisle paused to marvel at the human appetite. “I suspect you’ll be able to teach me a thing or two, hmmm?” Wehler’s enormous mouth opened like a cave as he shoveled an assortment of food items into the orifice before swallowing it half-masticated and continuing. “And I have decided to assign you your own ward. I think having living case studies will be more conducive to your research. Make you our own Meyer, eh?” He voraciously downed another substantial portion from the plate.
Carlisle was fascinated by the grotesque spectacle. It had been at least 250 years since he had sat at a table and watched a human being eat. He stared at the man's mouth as it chewed the mass, rolling it this way and that, and then followed the lump as it descended the gorge before speaking. “Will I be given the opportunity to perform my own autopsies?” Human clumsiness invariably destroyed valuable information and he preferred to work with the raw material, to observe the brain untouched, rather than having to reconstruct what it might have looked like before the careless slip of a finger.
“Oh, I am certain that can be arranged,” Wehler said airily, waving his fork. “Each of the wards has a staff surgeon but really we perform so few autopsies here. Most of the specimens we have come in from elsewhere. Still, just a matter of putting you in touch with the right people, I think.” And he turned his attention back to his breakfast.
Carlisle sat back, mulling over the possibilities. He was quite pleased with the state of things thus far.
“The Death of Moses”
September 18, 2010
A tale from our Sages: When, at age 120, Moses realized that the decree
of death had been sealed against him, he drew a small circle around himself,
stood in it, and said, “Master of the Universe, I will not budge from here until
You void that decree.”
He donned sackcloth…and persisted in prayer and supplications before
the Holy One, until heaven and earth – indeed, all things made during the six
days of creation – were shaken, so that they said, “Perhaps God intends to
remake the world!”
What did the Holy One do then? God had it proclaimed at every gate of
every Virmament that Moses’ prayer not be accepted…because the decree
concerning him had been sealed…
Then Moses said, “Master of the Universe, if you will not let me enter the
Land of Israel, allow me to remain alive like the beasts of the Vield…” But God
replied, “Enough. Speak to me no more of this matter.”
When Moses saw his prayer was not heeded, he implored heaven and
earth [and when they refused to intercede for him] he went on to demand the
stars and planets ask God for mercy on his behalf, who also refused.
Moses begged the mountains and the hills and sea and even God’s
ministering angel, until Vinally God said, “If you wish to cross the Jordan, then
Israel will die, for I must execute judgment on them for the Golden Calf. Who
will go to the Promised Land, you or they?”
Moses relented and said, “Let Moses and a thousand like him perish but
let not a Vingernail of one person in Israel be harmed.”
After Moses became reconciled to his dying, the Holy One asked the
angel Metatron to take Moses’ soul. He refused. God asked the angel Gabriel,
who also refused. And after that, the angel Michael declined as well.
God, sorely provoked, asked the evil angel Samael to take Moses’ soul.
The angel confronted Moses, who banished him forthwith. All of the angels
were terriVied of Moses!
Finally, God, the Divine Self, came down from the highest heavens, to
take the soul of Moses. Only when God appeared did Moses appear calm. But
then Moses’ soul, his neshama, spoke up in protest to God and said, “Is there a
body in the world more pure than Moses? I love him and I will not depart
God said gently, “If you depart Moses, I will take you up to the highest
heaven of heavens and I will set you by me always. Moses’ soul, his neshama,
Vinally agreed to be taken.
In that instant, God kissed Moses and took his soul with that kiss. Even
as God kissed Adam to breathe life into him, God gently kissed out the life of
Moses. And all the hosts of heaven and earth declared, “Let him enter in peace
and rest on his couch.” (Is. 57.2)
Moses may have been our greatest hero in the Torah, but he didn’t want
to die any more than we do. Unlike other faiths that deem their leading
Vigures to be immortal or divine, Moses dies in the Torah, but our Sages say it
was a narrow thing: Either Moses would live and there would be no Jewish
People or Moses would die and our history would unfold.
The irony is this – if Moses didn’t really die, we would be stuck with a
real life Moses, with real life challenges and behaviors, great and not so great.
Because Moses died, we can walk the garden of his life and Vind the blossoms
to behold and to inspire us rather than wondering what nonsense he’s gotten
himself into now, or whether or not he has simply become another cranky old
Our legacies are shaped during our lifetimes, but they become real after
we are gone. The challenges of daily life are such that we lose sight of what
made our beloved dead so memorable, what makes them so worthy of
A Chasidic master, R. Uri of Strelisk, once taught:
“None of us serves our generation alone. For example, David continues
to inspire the downcast with his Viery passion, generation after generation.
And Samson’s heroics continue to give courage to the meek ‘til this day.”
What if Dr. Seuss wrote The Call of Cthulhu? (UPDATED)
It's kookily impressive, and we're jazzed to see the artist's further work on it. Hat tip to Exploriens!
Update 11/27: DrFaustusAu has been plenty busy adding pages, and it looks like he's almost done. Check it out! Hat tip to Morris.
[Via Dr. FaustusAu]
Teenagers are coming out as early as 13. It is estimated that about 26% of all homeless teenagers are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. They are homeless because their parents don’t know what else to do with a gay child. They come out, because they have no where else to go.
The question of “will gay teens come to our student ministry” are obsolete … gay students are most likely around in our ministries. The question is, how are you ministering to them? How is your ministry offering them a safe and authentic place to come and seek the heart of the Father?
This entry was originally posted at http://kit-r-writing.dreamwidth.org/5246