Between the monster and the saint

Book signing
Book signing

76 years old and on his 27th book, Richard Holloway nicknamed the “Barmy Bish” has been for me a minor revelation. I can’t say I had massively high hopes, at The Auckland Writer and Readers Festival, of super enjoying an hour listening to an ex-Bishop burble on but hey, as always I was wrong. No burbling, not much religion, tears, laughter and a full-house.

Holloway resigned from the postitons of Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus Of the Scottish Episcopal Church in 2oo0 and now terms himself  an “after-religionist”, a label he prefers over the more loaded title agnostic. He still values the role of religion but is if anything even keener now without his mitre, he threw it in a river, to ponder the big existential questions and explore the nature of humanity both good and bad.

Holloway’s latest title Between the Monster and the Saint: Reflections on the human condition looks to explain and rate the differing responses to the “big questions” and he sees four major categories: those with strong religious conviction, those with a weak religious conviction, after-religionists like Holloway himself and those that just don’t get religion at all or are even hostile towards it. Of course Mr Richard Dawkins does in Holloway’s view fall into the latter category adding that “Dawkins needs to go back on the prozac and chill out a bit”. Holloway does see a role for atheism in combatting false idolatry; likewise he strongly emphasised the importance of writers, artists and general creativity in ridiculing authority figures to expose and temper corruption.

On forgiveness
On forgiveness

He talked briefly about his  energetic little dog Daisy and his sadness that the Christian church denies animals souls. He suggested that heaven might in fact be full of  homicidal turkeys, chickens, cows and pigs all looking for revenge, having suffered to make us fat.  Equally unappealing to him is the stereotype heaven with endless masses and choirs of angels.

The overriding message Holloway seeks to share, and he became quite emotional at this point, is the need for pity and the role of imagination in engendering empathy. Encounter with others is an essential part of understanding and with understanding comes a true humanity. At the end of the session  Aotea Centre volunteers had to almost forcibily eject several members of the audience, myself included, who had started impromtu conversations with complete strangers raving about the barmy bish, his courage and kindness.

David Eddings R.I.P

David Eddings, the master of sagas such as the Belgariad, Malloreon and Elenium has died at the age of 77. Not being a fantasy fan I asked a couple of colleagues about him, but they proved somewhat lukewarm. I then trawled library resources which lead me to Books and Authors from our Premium databases and this quote from the author

“My advice to the young writer is likely to be unpalatable in an age of instant successes and meteoric falls. I tell the neophyte: Write a million words–the absolute best you can write, then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.

When you are with people, listen; don’t talk. Writers are boring people. What are you going to talk about so brilliantly? Typewriters? The construction of paragraphs? Shut your mouth and listen. Listen to the cadences of speech. Engrave the sound of language on your mind. Language is our medium, and the spoken language is the sharp cutting edge of our art. Make your people sound human. The most tedious story will leap into life if the reader can hear the human voices in it. The most brilliant and profound of stories will sink unnoticed if the characters talk like sticks.

Most of all, enjoy what you’re doing. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth doing at all. If hard and unrewarding work bothers you, do something else. If rejection withers your soul, do something else. If the work itself is not reward enough, stop wasting paper. But if you absolutely have to write–if you’re compelled to do it even without hope of reward or recognition–then I welcome you to our sorry, exalted fraternity.”

Then I went to Wikipedia as you do and gleaned the following – his wife Leigh Eddings, was uncredited as co-author on many of his early books, but he later acknowledged that she contributed to them all. She was a credited co-author starting in the mid-1990s. He also accidentally burned down his office and his treasured Excalibur sports car by tossing a piece of paper into a puddle of water and petrol to see if was still flammable – an act he described as “Dumb”

Other sites I found indicated that Eddings, who based his novels on an imaginary world he mapped out, has a keen following of fans. Perhaps some of those fans are out there and can talk about his work.
Update: Another colleague,good librarian that she is, has compiled a list of authors you might like to read if you’ve read all the David Eddings books.
to go next. If you’ve read all of David Eddings, and are looking for more, here’s a list of similar authors and series:

Terry Brooks – Shannara
Kate Elliott – Crown of Stars
Raymond E Feist – Riftwar Saga
Barbara Hambly – Winterlands
Robin Hobb – Tawny Man Trilogy
Robert Jordan – Wheel of Time
Fiona McIntosh – Trinity
Tad Williams – Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
Janny Wurts – Wars of Light and Shadows

Plus how could I miss the mega source of lists – the library’s Fantasy and Science Fiction lists

Image of the week

Woman serving expresso coffee at Fails Cafe 82 Cashel Street, near the Bridge of Remembrance c. 1955

Woman serving expresso coffee at Fails Cafe, 82 Cashel Street, near the Bridge of Remembrance

One of the only coffee machines in Christchurch at the time.

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Recent necrology, 18 – 31 May 2009

Necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently. Now a regular feature on our blog.

  • Amos Elon, 1926-2009 Israeli writer and thinker who foresaw disaster for his homeland in the triumph of the 1967 war
  • Norman Gash, 1912-2009 Historian of 19th-century Britain celebrated for his magisterial biography of Sir Robert Peel
  • Alan Hackney, 1924-2009 Novelist and screenwriter who created a 1950s British comedy classic with I’m All Right Jack
  • Ninella Kurgapkina, 1929-2009 Russian ballerina of great charm who partnered Nureyev and was filmed performing a dazzling waltz
  • Nicholas Maw, 1935-2009 Composer who preferred melody to atonalism, annoying some critics but delighting the public