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Book Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel


'Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.'
(Matthew Ten, Verse Twenty-Nine)

I find this book extremely difficult to describe, more difficult than it was to read it. The Sparrow raises some uncomfortable questions about our perception of and our (according to the book, unfounded) expectations from God. Mary Russell does a spectacular job of blending science and religion in this book, and for both agnostics and believers alike, this is a story that will send you reeling.

The Sparrow is based in the future, and revolves around Emilio Sandoz, a devout Jesuit priest and a good man whose friends love him, and the strength of whose devotion to and belief in God inspires everyone around him equally. Sandoz’s biggest virtue is that he is not without flaw and that he recognizes this, but it is also true that he has the faith which can move mountains. And boy, is his faith tested.

Emilio and a few of his closest friends are sent to a planet four light years away from earth, a planet called Rakhat, as part of a top-secret space mission in the search for extraterrestrial life. The bond among these seven travelers is a beauty to behold: they are like a close-knitted family, and I especially loved the wit of Anne Edwards, the fellow medic among them. I did find it odd that this motley group went off without space protection suits, vaccinations, defence weapons, alternative fuel supply, etc. to Rakhavat; how did they become so optimistic about meeting aliens of whom they knew nothing? Ah, but maybe Emilio’s faith inspired them to take a giant leap of optimism – anyway, this is a minor point, and our group does reach Rakhat safely and succeeds in making “first contact” with the aliens there. Russell paints the alien life well: she makes it seem alien and eerily beautiful at the same time, and it’s our Earth group which is outlandish there.

In the seventeen earth years (please apply theory of relativity here) that follow, something goes horribly wrong with that space mission. Only Emilio survives from the original group, and when he finally returns to earth, he is a broken, bitter and sickened man facing accusations of prostitution and infanticide – grave crimes for a Jesuit. The media is out for his blood even as he convalesces in a Jesuit home, and the Jesuits themselves want him to “confess” and tell all. Emilio himself has lost the love for God that he was once characterized by. This is what Emilio says:
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Disney

Poetry Friday: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

~ Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
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WHAT!?

Anime Review: Paprika

Paprika
Howl's Moving Castle was my first anime, and I loved it to pieces. Since then I haven't seen many anime shows, but now, I have a new one to add to that list -- Paprika. Paprika is about a groundbreaking device that a scientist has invented to help psychiatrists enter the dreams of their patients, detect and understand their problems (as manifested in the dreams of the patients) and fix them. Lately, however, someone has stolen that device and is causing mayhem by entering the dreams of the psychiatrists themselves. Paprika is a strangely hypnotic, mystifying and very well directed (by Satoshi Kon) anime show. I went into it looking to be puzzled by a convoluted story, and I was. I was also charmed beyond my expectations. It needs a second watch, though, before you finally can make sense of the entire picture, but its worth the effort.

Other (Better) Reviews: Heidenkind
Brightness, Travel

Graphic Novel/ Comic Book Review of "Naja"

NAJA
Magnetic Press
Diamond Book Distributors
Publication Date: June 3, 2014


NAJA is a graphic novel by J.D. Morvan, illustrated by Bengal. I received a copy of this based on a request at Net Galley, and I am glad I took a chance at this one. I have read very few graphic novels/ comics before -- limited to Persepolis and The Professor's Daughter, actually -- so this one was a lucky shot. NAJA is a female assassin who has the curse (or privilege?) of never being able to feel anything. You get the feeling from the start that she has some symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder. She works for Zero -- a person she has never seen -- and is in competition, so to speak, with two other assassins also working with Zero. Except, in the process, she uncovers some deadly, hair-raising secrets, which finally prove to be her undoing.
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What makes Naja a pleasure to read are the strangely symmetrical, even geometrical, style of drawing, and a fascinating concoction of various shades of blues and purples and browns. It's all very pretty to look at, even though there's a lot of blood and gore spilled across the pages. the best parts are the scenes where the assassins travel to new places, and a brief travelogue is given of the same, for example:
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Divinity

Poetry Friday: The Paradox by John Donne

The Paradox

~ by John Donne
No lover saith, I love, nor any other
        Can judge a perfect lover ;
He thinks that else none can or will agree,
        That any loves but he ;
I cannot say I loved, for who can say
        He was kill’d yesterday.
Love with excess of heat, more young than old,
        Death kills with too much cold ;
We die but once, and who loved last did die,
        He that saith, twice, doth lie ;
For though he seem to move, and stir a while,
        It doth the sense beguile.
Such life is like the light which bideth yet
        When the life’s light is set,
Or like the heat which fire in solid matter
        Leaves behind, two hours after.
Once I loved and died ; and am now become
        Mine epitaph and tomb ;
Here dead men speak their last, and so do I ;
        Love-slain, lo ! here I die.
Contemplation

Poetry Friday: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
~ Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
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Divinity

Poetry Friday: L'Envoi by Willa Cather

L'Envoi

Where are the loves that we have loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.

No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.

No matter when or how love did befall,
'Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.

No matter whose the eyes that I would keep
Near in the dark, 'tis in the eyes of Sleep
That I must look and look forever more,
When once I am alone, and shut the door.

~ Willa Cather
Reading

Food for Thought


"We would rather see those to whom we do good, than those who do good to us."

~ La Rochefoucauld, Collected Maxims and Other Reflections.