Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stephen Ambrose's wonderful study of Easy Company (of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Div.) launched a great HBO series, and a number of follow-on books that illuminate the experiences of some of the individual members of E Co.

Beyond the bonds that grew between the men, these books show the hope and decency of the Americans who were part of our 'Greatest Generation". Many of these men are gone now, but their voices, and stories have been preserved...we are so fortunate to have them.

Stephen Ambrose highlighted Easy Co., but the stories extend to the experiences of every American who fought in the Second World War.

We are blessed to live in a world that these men made safe for us...there are so few left. When you see a WW2 veteran, thank him. He deserves it...and you owe it to him.

And please, read the stories they have left for us.

In no particular order...

"Beyond Band of Brothers" by Dick Winters

"Shifty's War" by Darrell "Shifty" Powers

"Easy Company Soldier" by Donald Malarkey

"Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends" by Edward "Babe" Heffron and William "Wild Bill" Guarnere

Friday, August 5, 2011


Sometimes the world just seems like such a discouraging place...the economy's stuck between fair and awful, our government can't figure out how to pitch in together and get things done, the news is full of out-of-control celebrities, and common decency just seems to be out of style.

Well...we can't change what's out there, but I think that maybe if we look to read books that nourish our spirits, we can improve our own outlook, and help to change the momentum of the world.

One person at a time. One day at a time. One book at a time.

Not necessarily religious or 'spiritual' books, either. I've found that the stories that move me are those of real people living real lives, sharing them with us. Some of them may seem pretty unlikely - Al Sever was a machine gunner on a helicopter in Viet Nam, and he wrote about his experiences ("Xin Loi, Viet Nam"). You'd think shooting people from a helicopter might be as far away from a spiritual message as you could get, but you'd be wrong. Mr. Sever looks beyond the gunsight, and into his own soul. And there he found a message of hope that could bring tears to the eyes of a statue.

What I'll do (since this is my blog!) is pick a book to highlight, every post. I'll write a brief review, and post the link to the title on Amazon.

So - first up, let's go with "Out of the Silent Planet", by C.S. LewisLink
"out of the Silent Planet" is the first book is Lewis' 'science fiction trilogy'. The others are "Perelandra" and "That Hideous Strength". they're not as good. "Silent Planet" has a freshness and charm that come from a good story, told well, and a meaning that comes through when you think about it for awhile. ("Perelandra" and "That Hideous Strength" are more about the message, and they're just not as effective.)

On a walking tour of rural England during his college's summer holiday, Professor Ransom is looking for lodging on a rainy night, when he comes upon two men struggling with a farmhand. When he intervenes to help the boy, Ransom realizes that one of the men, Devine, is a boyhood acquaintance, and the other a noted scientist, Dr. Weston. The boy is yelling that he "won't go into that thing", and Weston and Devine let him go, saying that he was merely a country simpleton who became panicky at the thought of entering the wash-house.

Let him go they might, for Ransom is a much better 'candidate'...Weston and Devine have built a spaceship, and by intervening Ransom has stepped into the role of Human Sacrifice, for a being called Oyarsa who lives on a planet the inhabitants know as Malacanrda...and which we know as Mars.

But once on Malacandra, Ransom escapes, and finds himself alone on a world in which nothing is familiar, and where all of his experience and knowledge can be more hindrance than help. Cut off from all he knew. he has to make contact with Malacandra's inhabitants - the otter-like Hrossa, and the huge, spectral Sorns. And it is they who convince him that he has to face the dreaded Oyarsa of his own free will.

What Ransom only comes to realize by degree is that, in spite of the weird appearance of the Sorns and Hrossa, he is the dangerous, savage creature (along with Weston and Devine), for Malacandra is a world that has not known evil. The humans bring the knowledge and experience of greed, cruelty, and violence in their hearts, and Ransom - as his name implies - has to offer himself to Oyarsa as a penance for being part of the pollution that has come to Malacandra.

"Out of the Silent Planet" is a book I've read many times, and each time I get something new, along with a revisit to a wonderful vibrant story set in a convincing, appealing world.

I hope you'll give it a chance, and post something here to let me know how you like it.

Cheers -