Monthly Archives: March 2017

Is Fiction Inferior to Non-fiction?

Many of the people I meet at book tables explain to me that they only read non-fiction. The implication is that fiction is somehow inferior. Just give me the facts whether of history or engineering or finance—write it out for me in logical order.

Non-fiction writing has great value. I’ve written nine non-fiction books and many articles. But soon after my book, Revolutionary Forgiveness was published, a neighbour asked me a question. “Why don’t you write about forgiveness using the medium of a story with descriptions of characters dealing with bitterness and hurt?’

Good question. I still feel it is important to summarize biblical teaching on forgiveness [and other subjects] and give examples of those who have abandoned bitterness and resentment. But in some ways fictional characters and situations can illustrate more deeply the thoughts and feelings, the anguish and pain of unforgiveness. Fiction can also reflect powerfully on the subtleties of joy and peace that comes with forgiveness.Scan_20170327 (5)

Consider historical fiction. It is one thing to read the facts and figures of life and death, of battles and defeats that occurred in World War Two. But when we read, for example, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doer, the effects of the war on allies and enemies become stark. We feel the story. A French family with a blind daughter open up to us the anguish and fears that reverberate deep inside the psyches of an occupied people. In the same book, a German family gives us an agonizing glimpse into the pressures and fears that drove many to conform and even resort to unbelievable cruelty under the Reich.

Rust Bucket jpeg, 288 pixOr take slavery. We are told that there are an estimated 27 million slaves today; men, women and children being trafficked for sale to brothels, farms, and businesses. Telling the true story of one or two who escaped can put a face on this evil. However, fiction, written, as I have done in Captives of Minara and Rust Bucket, helps to illuminate both those who traffic and those who are kidnapped. We can gain a heightened a sense of the unbridled malevolence of its practitioners and agony of the victims.

What about indigenous affairs in North America? The Back of the Turtle or The Inconvenient
Indian
by Thomas King, or Susan Cooper’s The Ghost Hawk probably accomplish more in raising awareness and sympathy than a dozen government studies.

Think of geogrScan_20170327 (6)aphy. In Christy, by Catherine Marshall, we journey back in time to an earlier day in t
he Great Smoky Mountains. We might be able to read depictions of the flora and fauna, the slang of the people and their superstitions in non-fiction books but we would miss the living sense she gives of people and place. We would not feel ourselves walking with Christy among spring dogwoods.

Consider terrorism and Islam. We have myriad books written about Islam, pro and con, but without fiction books such as The ReScan_20170327 (4)luctant Fundamentalist, or The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahanjan, we will miss insights into the influences moving liberal Muslims to become militant as well as the anguish of those affected by their militancy.

But let me hammer in the final nail in the coffin of those who restrict their reading to non-fiction. Do you mean to tell me that the method of the greatest teacher of all time is defective? That is, should we discount the parables and stories Jesus told to teach us about how to act and believe? The parable of the good Samaritan. The Lost Sheep. The Rich Man and Lazarus. I doubt any would go that far. Jesus not only taught straight-forward principles—the sermon on the mount—but a multitude of stories. He was the penultimate story-teller. It is an honourable calling.

Give fiction a try…but be careful of your choices. Not all fiction is created equal.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright  Also check out his books on Amazon.)

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The Crabby Old Lady

When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was believed that she had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Ireland.

The old lady’s sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on her simple, but eloquent, poem. And this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this “anonymous” poem winging across the Internet

Crabby Old woman
What do you see, nurses?
What do you see?
What are you thinking
When you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit,
With faraway eyes?

Who dribbles her food
And makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice,
“I do wish you’d try!”

Who seems not to notice
The things that you do,
And forever is losing
A stocking or shoe?

Who, resisting or not,
Let’s you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding,
The long day to fill?

Is that what you’re thinking?
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse,
You’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am
As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten
With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters,
Who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen
With wings on her feet
Dreaming that soon now
A lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty,

My heart gives a leap,

Remembering the vows

That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now,

I have young of my own,

Who need me to guide

And a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty,

My young now grown fast,

Bound to each other

With ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons

Have grown and are gone,

But man’s beside me

To see I don’t moan.

At fifty once more,

Babies play round my knee,

Again we know children

My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me,

My husband is dead,
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing
Young of their own,
And I think of the years
And the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old woman
And nature is cruel;
‘Tis jest to make old age
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again,
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living
Life over again.

I think of the years
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people,
Open and see,
Not a crabby old woman;
Look closer . . . see ME!!

=========================================================

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might
brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . we will all,
one day, be there, too! In fact it might be me.

On Portraiture

Steve’s portraits project character and depth

Steve McCurry's Blog

Portraits reveal a desire for human connection;
a desire so strong that people who know they will never see me again
open themselves to the camera,  all in the hope that at the other end
someone will be watching,

someone who will laugh or suffer with them.

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Afghanistan Afghanistan

What could be more simple and more complex,
more obvious and more profound than a portrait.

– Charles Baudelaire

Kashmir Kashmir

Yemen Yemen

Baluchistan, Pakistan Baluchistan, Pakistan

A good portrait is one that says something about the person.
We usually see parts of ourselves in others, so the

good portrait should also say something about the human condition.

Afghanistan Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan Kabul, Afghanistan

The most difficult thing for me is a portrait.
You have to try to put your camera between the
skin of a person and his shirt.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Philippines Philippines

Pokhara, Nepal Pokhara, Nepal

Lambari, Brazil Lambari, Brazil

Madhya Pradesh, India Madhya Pradesh, India

Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia

Photography and the genre…

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