It came to my attention yesterday that you can self-publish a “book” of any length with Kindle Direct Publishing, for free. So I gave it a whirl, and submitted a short story I wrote several years ago. It took slightly more than the 15 minutes advertised, because I had to take a minute to find suitable cover art. But there it is: I am now every bit as published as C.S. Lewis. You can buy my book here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01513ZIJ8
The price was set at 99 cents, with a 35% royalty going to me. I could have gotten a 70% cut, but I would have been required to charge $2.99, and my conscience couldn’t allow recommending anybody pay three dollars for 3500 words of content.
Now, of course, the only problem is that anybody interested has likely already read it. If you have read my story before, I would find it very amusing to see your review on the Amazon page.
“So we are to be treated to more and more modesty? Indeed Arthur if I could get a little of your diffidence, and you a little of my conceit we should both be very fine fellows.”
CS Lewis, 11 July 1916
I don’t know who asked me to jump on this top 10 books list, but I’ve finally gotten round to it. Here goes:
- Emma, by Jane Austin. It’s a long story, but this is how I decided I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I had a long discussion with the girl who became my wife, shortly after reading this book
- The Way the World Works, by June Wannasiki. I don’t know that this is the best economics book. Wannasiki is kind of like Algernon – he doesn’t necessarily write accurately, but he writes with wonderful expression. Anyway, this book opened my eyes to the sort of political shenanigans that are being done in the name of bad economics.
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark DeverI had been looking for what exactly was going wrong in the sort of churches I was going to. Even in the prosperous, well-populated churches, there was something rotten about their state. 9Marks pointed me in the right direction. Incidentally, I gave my copy to somebody, so if you’d like to help me replenish my library…
- Humility: True Greatness, by CJ Mahaney. It was a toss-up between this and The Cross-Centered Life. Either way, what I really appreciate about Mahaney’s little books is their practicality: “XYZ is true. Here are some habits you can build into your life so it will have an practical effect.” Want to be humble? Start by thanking God that you get tired at night.
- The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes. Just… Wow. I used to want to be Dennis Jernigan when I grew up. Now I want to be Richard Sibbes. So incredibly helpful to see how exactly the Spirit of God works in actual broken hearts. As a happy side effect: the sweetest, most reassuring teaching of God’s selection in salvation you have ever heard.
- Surprised by Joy, by CS Lewis. This is a cheat. It stands in for “The Complete Works of,” which I understand is against the rules. I might have been CS Lewis, if my middle class lawyer dad had just sent me to a private tutor for my entire high school, where I studied classics in Latin and Greek for 12 hours a day. Surprised by Joy is less biography and more a spiritual memoir in the style of Augustin’s Confession. The picture he give of his conversion still sticks with me: a lobster in a corset on a bus, I think. Strangely, he falls on the side of free will in salvation, while describing a perfectly Calvinist conversion.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I wrote a paper on Gustave Flaubert my junior year in college. It kind of revolutionized my view on the world. I got an A-. My hard drive crashed, and now I have only the vaguest recollection of what my conclusions were. Flaubert was set to be a fantasy author. He had this blockbuster story he wrote about Saint Anthony in the tombs. It was a colossal flop. His friends urged him to quit writing about “Chimeras,” that is fantastical ideas, and to focus on realism. So he wrote a story about a girl who wanted to have a truly great romance and ruined her life chasing it while ignoring the perfectly good romance right in her lap. I was totally unable to relate to this concept.
- Institutes of Christianity, by John Calvin. This is kind of a cheat, since I never actually finished the book. But he really knew how to pack ‘em in there. The one that comes up the most is his explanation of faith – not just confidence, but confidence in a person’s word in the face of very good reasons to doubt. We’ll skip past how much Calvin talks about the Spirit, and how I totally avoided him the first time I heard of him, because I knew he had nothing to say to me due to his ignorance of the Holy Spirit.
- Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer. More specifically, The Franklin’s Tale, which taught me about the complex overlay of loyalties that we would now call “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” As a bonus, reading journal articles on The Franklin’s Tale taught me that Feminism is bunk, specifically because it can’t see those loyalties as anything other than systematic oppression
- On the Cessation of the Charismata, by John Ruthven. Specifically, the footnotes to the first chapter, which gave me references to a whirlwind tour of early church thought on spiritual gifts, and the supernatural. I used it as the bibliographical launching point for a church history paper, and it inspired me for the thesis for my PhD, which I will probably never get to write.
(Yes, Tolkien is lovely, but he didn’t change my life. I’m very fond of Luther, but I haven’t actually read any books by him. Paradise lost did nothing for me, other than give me some perspective when reading Middlemarch. Inferno was extremely interesting, but Purgatorio was distressingly Catholic. Robinson Crusoe was a waste of time.)
There’s a strange lack of fiction titles in this list. I went through a major theological shift about 15 years ago, so my top 10 list changed accordingly. The books above are the ones that got me going in my current direction. It just so happened that when I was grasping, very few of the branches that held were fiction.
To go back to the sentiment controversy, your objection is non-sense. You argue that sentiment is delightful in art, because it is a part of human nature. Quite right. From that, you deduce that it ought not to be confined to that sphere of human nature where it is delightful – viz. art. That is almost as sensible as to say that trousers are delightful only because they are a part of human clothes: therefore they ought to be worn, not only on the legs, but every where else. Do you maintain that it is a highly commendable and philosophical act to wear trousers, say, on your head? My point is that art is a receptacle of human thought: sentiment, emotion etc make up that section of human thought which are best suited to fill that definite receptacle – and no other. For why, when we have found the best place to keep a thing, should we keep it in other places as well, or instead? By the analogy of the trousers I have shown how ridiculous that would be. As for your idea that to be young, one must be sentimental, let us go into it. Young children are practically devoid of sentiment: they are moved only by bodily pain: young men are a little more sentimental, middle aged ones considerably more so, and old ones the most mawkishly so of all. Sentiment, you see, is a distinct mark of age.
CS Lewis, letter to Arthur Greeves, 11 May 1915
I find that I begin to think in the same manner as whatever it is that I am reading, and I’m finding that definitely to be the case in this book of CS Lewis’ letters I’ve been reading. In this letter, Lewis is about 17. If he doesn’t grow up soon, I shall become almost unbearably obnoxious.
Since then, I have lived or existed as one does at School. How dreary it all is! I could make some shift to put up with the work, the discomfort, and the school feeding: such inconveniences are only to be expected. But what irritates me more than anything else is the absolute lack of appreciation of anything like music or books which prevails among the people whom I am forced to call my companions. Can you imagine what it is like to live for twelve long weeks among boys whose thoughts never rise above the dull daily round of cricket and work and eating?
C.S.Lewis, to Arthur Greeves, 5 June 1914
Rowling’s Ethics of Magic – Parableman.
Just in case you thought Rowling didn’t think.