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NOW AVAILABLE–BOOK OF HOURS: UNHOLY ERROR

2600x1667BOOK OF HOURS: Unholy Error, is now available for your reading pleasure in both e-book and paperback formats.

An “extremely entertaining read,” said one pre-publication reviewer.  “I particularly like your wonderful descriptions, and the way you introduce enough questions to keep us wanting more,” said another.

In this second volume of a trilogy, Brother Alphaios discovers torn pieces of parchment hidden inside the covers of the Book of Hours.  Though warned away by Prior Bartholomew, he pursues their meaning until he learns their thirteenth-century secret–personal testimony of a crime which could undermine one of the very pillars of the Catholic Church.  With the Church seeking to destroy it, and real estate mogul Salton Motice demanding its return for nefarious purposes, Alphaios must find a way to protect the parchment for the truth it tells.

Available through Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com  and nook, Kobo and Smashwords.  On the author’s website, just click on the link to the bookstore of your choice on the side-bar and order your copy today.

Enjoy the read, and check out the website contest… Continue reading

A MOST GRAND AND EXCELLENT GOOGLE SEARCH–A POSTSCRIPT

img_1729-1Sometime during the afternoon of my visit to his home along the Sandy River, Father Palladino asked if I knew he’d been in a movie.

After his other startling revelations, this was just one more teaser.

Well, he qualified, his name had been in a movie.

While teaching calligraphy at Reed College, he said, he’d had a student in one of his classes–a young man who’d subsequently dropped out, though not before he’d returned for a second term studying and practicing the craft.

It was clear he wanted me to ask who the student was, and I did.

Steve Jobs, he replied.

Steve Jobs?  Studying calligraphy?

Father Palladino did not philosophize about the matter with me then and there, though he’d likely often done so with others.  He left me to wonder alone what it was about Steve Jobs, the great technological innovator of global consequence, which drew him to calligraphy–and not for just one college term but two.

It seemed to me this must provide a window in to the mind and motivation of the man, the titan.  Was it as simple as the elegance of the artform?

How would elegance fit into a mind of… Continue reading

A Most Grand and Excellent Google Search—Part 2

002bAnd so we continue…

Just a few months before, I’d had the pleasure of attending a series of seminars on ancient sacred texts—including illuminated books—at St. Martin’s University just up the road in Lacey.  They were given by an international panel of scholars of the Dead Sea scrolls and other ancient manuscripts.  They were paleographers, all four of them: experts in early languages, writings and religions.  Unfortunately for me, none of them had directly addressed the part of the craft I now needed to understand.  Even so, I called St. Martin’s and explained my problem.  No one here with that expertise, they said, and suggested that perhaps only Harvard University or Oxford might be able to help.

Daunted by that prospect, and preferring to meet with someone in person, I Googled “paleographer” and added the modifier “northwest United States”.  Nothing.  Deciding that the expertise I needed was more about the forms of scripts rather than their history, I typed in the words “calligraphy, northwest”. Down in the weeds I found a reference to Reed College in Portland (some forty miles south), and an undated press release.  In the last couple… Continue reading

A MOST GRAND AND EXCELLENT GOOGLE SEARCH–Part 1

IMG_1744It’s not often that a Google search is as productive as this one…

The principal character in my BOOK OF HOURS novels is Brother Alphaios, born into a poor village in Greece.  He entered a monastery as a young man as his only means to an education.  There he became a monk—a cloistered monk, one who lives entirely behind monastery walls. He showed considerable artistic talent, and was transferred to a cloister in Italy where he became a master painter and restorer of medieval books.  Now, in contemporary time, he has been brought to a metropolis in the United States—New York City.  Here, along with Inaki Arriaga, historian and archivist, he is recreating a large and magnificent but severely damaged Book of Hours from the fourteen hundreds. Together they oversee the work of two scribes who are duplicating the medieval text, its errors and anomalies included.  When done, it is to be gift for the pope, a gift for the ages.

I note above that Brother Alphaios is cloistered, which is only mostly true.  He has lived behind monastery walls virtually all his adult life, and has taken vows of strict prayer and obedience.… Continue reading

The Upside of Unfinished Art

San Xavier Unfinished

The subject of a recent radio segment on NPR’s Morning Edition was an ongoing exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s titled “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible”, and features some two hundred pieces of artwork which were never completed: paintings, sculptures, bronzes, reliefs.

The subject struck me perhaps because, I too, have hanging in my office an unfinished and unframed painting.  It is of San Xavier del Bac, the historic Spanish mission just south of Tucson, Arizona. The piece was abandoned, I suppose, when the artist became ill or died or just lost interest and moved on to other projects. It’s neither signed nor dated. I acquired it at a local estate sale, and didn’t pay much for it at all.

The strength of the artist’s colors draw me in: the rich, deep and variant blues of an active, stirring sky; the intense red ochre of the central façade; Burnt umber for the stone wall that surrounds the structure; the two white towers in the pink light and purple shade of a late Southwest evening. The west tower (the domed one) is more finished than the other, upon which the… Continue reading

Music in My Life: A Memoriam and Audio Recording

IMG_1449

On Sundays and too many special occasions to count, my aunt Marian Partner Cornish was for many years–decades–the principal alto soloist at the First Presbyterian Church in  Oakland, California.  It is a vast and grand venue with a great pipe organ at its front, conceived and built for the performance of great and aspirational music.   On Friday evenings and Saturdays, she sang in the same capacity for the Congregation Sherith Israel, a Jewish synagogue in nearby San Francisco.  She was a consummate vocalist.  (A recording of her singing Mendelssohn’s For the Mountains Shall Depart, is attached below.)

Most often when I think of Marian Gloria Partner Cornish, it is accompanied by a surprisingly vivid image. It is of Marian and her six sisters and one brother growing up in an impossibly small house set alongside an irrigation ditch in far-away Aberdeen, Idaho. It is with Marian and her sister Gayle Partner Hungerford in mind (whom I dearly loved as well), her sister Margaret Lacy, my own mother Florence and my Uncle Bob. I don’t have much memory of sisters Ethel and Josephine and Louise, but… Continue reading

A TALE OF TWO BOOKS

IMG_0815 (1)aIf you’re drawn to stories of the art world (and who isn’t?), the beauty and the money and the chicanery, you might have considered picking up the following books. For me, aspiring writer that I am, they illustrated some of the differences between rather ordinary storytelling and the remarkable. I didn’t set out to make such a comparison, but the rather startling weaknesses of the first were all the more apparent upon reading the second.

The Art Forger is a debut novel by B.A. Shapiro (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013). Glossy and sexy, the cover is clearly intended to draw the attention of what I’ll call the airport patron: quick choice, disposable, and full of positive reviews (“engaging”, “addictive”, “ingenious and skillful”, “blazingly good”, etc.). It was the subject matter, though, that drew this reader.

It’s a twist upon a twist in the art forgery sub-genre: Is the stolen, now-recovered Degas the original work or a forgery? If the latter, is making a forgery of a forgery a crime? It’s an interesting concept, and in more sure hands it might have been pulled off.

For me, the term “insouciance” came to mind. (I can’t tell you quite… Continue reading

JANE RYDER NOMINATES: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

123_2302a I nominate “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

One of the reasons I’m convinced of its sublimity is that I’m really not keen on poetry, and in fact don’t care for anything else Eliot ever wrote.

But this particular poem encompasses, encapsulates, the entirety of human existence, in a way no other type of writing could. A novel would make all the subtext into text, and rob it of its nuance; a play would make it mundane and common by forcing the words to be spoken by mere mortals; setting it to music would limit and trivialize it. It has a solemn, tragic beauty that would be diminished in any other form.

The poem isn’t flawless (“I should have been a pair of ragged claws …” is a tad goofy), but the missteps add to the poem’s overall perfection, the way a slightly “off” feature on a beautiful face makes it even more beautiful.

This is my favorite stanza:

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail… Continue reading

VAST PARAPETS AND PROMENTORIES OF SOUND

257bIt was mountains of sound—vast parapets and promontories and cliffs of sound. The deep bass notes were born of thunder, or the roar of a great fire, or the eruption of a volcano. They filled the space completely, as thoroughly as the air, as densely as water.

Somewhere in the interstitial spaces between the notes, the trills of the higher ranges could be heard flitting overhead.  It was as if the very songs of the birds had been captured for the pleasure of the composer.

It was the last few bars of the benedictory song being played one ordinary Sunday morning on the great pipe organ of New York’s Trinity Church.

It shook the air.

It was the roar of an immense waterfall. A roar of booms. It was primordial, as if left over from some great cataclysm. Or beginning.

It shook the air and vibrated the body and the soul.

It was sublime.

Though it was one of my mother’s great joys to finally obtain a Hammond for our small town church, I’ve never been enamored by the sound architecture of the ordinary organ. And though my favorite aunt Marian sang… Continue reading

THE SUBLIME: Rhapsody in Blue

 

 

 

069aI have suggested in a previous post (June 19, 2014) that George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue may reach that pinnacle of human accomplishment which is incomparable, transcendent, even sublime; that it is a composition—a musical invention—beyond the possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation. That it is an accomplishment of the human spirit which moves us to a place of great visceral, intellectual, emotional or spiritual wonderment.

Following is how Brother Alphaios (Al-fay-us) hears this amazing piece.  He’s a cloistered monk and the protagonist in BOOK OF HOURS: The Beguilement of Brother Alphaios, a novel written by this author and available to you at the click of a link.

Today, Alphaios was especially happy to escape the confines of the monastery. The morning had been spent in a dull chapter meeting that Brother Richard, possessed of a good heart but small mind, had stretched out interminably. And lunch had been uninspired even by monastery standards.

It was a false spring day. More rain and cold would come before winter released its grip on the city, but today he would enjoy the contrast of warm sun and chilled air. The… Continue reading

Buy the Books:
Unholy Error: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords

The Beguilement of Brother Alphaios: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords
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