Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Too close to home

The latest school shooting, at a private Christian school in Nashville, took place about ten miles from my home. My older son got married at the church that the school is part of. 

I have always felt the sting of these horrid events, but this one? This one has shaken me to my core.

To my knowledge I don't know anyone with a child who goes to the school, nor do I know any faculty or staff members. I know a few folks who go to the church. 

But it's here in the community where I live, in an area I often visit. I just can't believe it. 

The home where the shooter lived is in an older area of town, an area that has become very popular and where home prices have risen like crazy in the last few years. Apparently, the shooter had once attended the school she decided to terrorize.

None of that matters, but it's part of what we have heard from our local newscasters and what has been conveyed by the police chief.  

Within a matter of about 14 minutes from getting the 911 call, our local police responded, engaged with the shooter and took her out. By all accounts, they prevented the loss of more lives. 

But three children and three adults are dead, and we are in a state of shock around here. 

It's way too close to home this time. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Recent reading

I have very much been on the non-fiction train since the beginning of the year. 

In fact, if I consider The Marriage Bureau, which is a true story with dialogue and narrative filled in by the author, non-fiction, then that is what makes up 100 percent of books I have finished in 2023. 

As an aside, Kelly (who recommended The Marriage Bureau) and I had a texting discussion this morning about how this excellent book would be categorized. It is a true story, but the author takes liberties as I just described. We agreed it would be similar to In Cold Blood in which Truman Capote chronicled the story of the heinous murders that took place in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959, but inserted imagined dialogue and settings among various parties. 

According to my research, it was Capote who coined the term "non-fiction novel." So, I am going to refer to The Marriage Bureau as a non-fiction novel and confirm all my reading this year has been non-fiction. (And since I have spent so much time telling you about this book, I'll also take the time to highly recommend it.)

But I digress. 

My main point in this post is to tell you about a couple of the books I have read, both of which are memoirs, but are very different in content. 

The first is Spare, by Prince Harry. And let me just say to the nay-sayers, I agree I could have probably better spent my time. But the royal family, and the U.K. in general, holds great interest for me. On principle, I would never have bought this book, but as soon as it came out, I put my name on the list to get it on my electronic reader through my library. 

The first estimate I was given for the wait time was, as I recall, 24 weeks, as I was something like 80th in line for a handful of volumes available. That was fine with me. I was in no rush. It seems, however, it took less than half that time. So, when it popped up for me, I grabbed it and read it. 

My impressions? Well, I am sympathetic toward Harry in the death of his mother at the hands of the paparazzi who chased her car through the streets of Paris. He had some tough times growing up. 

I'm also sympathetic toward the situation with his wife Meghan and I don't necessarily blame them for fleeing his homeland to seek a better life for their family. If you believe what he writes in the book, she was near suicide, and he was saving her life. 

This book, however, is his clear retaliation toward his family. After Spare, I don't see how the rift with his family, especially Prince William (referred to by Harry as Willy) and King Charles, is ever repaired. If I were them, I don't think I would be very interested in reconciliation after what he wrote. 

It is rather ironic that, while a recurring theme throughout the book is his complaint about never having any privacy, he seems to have no problem airing his family's dirty laundry for the world to read about. 

Also, the more I read, the less I liked Harry. While he took some responsibility for missteps on his part (for example, when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party), for the most part, his narrative consists of self-serving finger pointing. I couldn't help but think, in many ways, he did a lot of whining for someone who was (and is) very privileged. 

I will say he expressed great affection for his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The books ends with the queen's death. 

Am I glad I read it? Yes. I found it very interesting. And if you would like an inside look at the royals, I would recommend it, but would also recommend you read with a critical eye, keeping in mind the ones of which he is so critical would also have a side to this story. 

The other memoir I wanted to tell you about is All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore. Moore, a renowned Bible teacher who has written numerous Bible studies and started a conference series for women called Living Proof, made headlines during the past several years for her outspoken opposition to Donald Trump and her eventual parting from the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination in which she grew up and whose publishing arm (Lifeway) published most of her studies and sponsored her conferences. 

My wife has gone through several of Beth Moore's studies and has enjoyed them immensely. I never really knew much about her until she made news for what I just described. From reading the book I learned we are about the same age and grew up less than 100 miles from each other in south Arkansas until she moved to Houston before her sophomore year of high school. 

The book captured my interest because I enjoy memoirs, and what I had heard about Beth Moore intrigued me. I admired her courage in speaking out about her convictions and holding fast when criticized for doing so. 

And I can say, after reading her book, she is a gifted writer. She is also outrageously funny. She incorporates southern euphemisms and dialect into her narrative, something with which I easily identify. 

What I most admire about her, of course, is her faith. She writes about it without being preachy and presents herself, warts and all, as a humble servant of Christ. 

Even if Christianity is not your thing, if you enjoy memoirs as I do, I think this book might be enjoyable for you. 

So there you have it -- two very different memoirs by two very different people. Let me know if you decide to read either or both.