E.A. Bucchianeri's Blog: Books, Babble and Blarney
November 13, 2013
St. Bridget of Sweden was graced with numerous visitations from heaven, many times she saw the Blessed Virgin. Many revelations and devotions were given to her, one of the simplest and most beautiful is the devotion to the Seven Sorrows of our Blessed Mother. The Mother of God declared she would grant seven graces to the souls who honour her daily by saying seven Hail Mary’s and meditating on her tears and dolors.
The Seven Graces:
1) I will grant peace to their families.
2) They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries.
3) I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
4) I will give them as much as they ask for, as long as it doe not oppose the Adorable Will of my Divine Son, or the sanctification of their souls.
5) I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy. I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
6) I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.
7) I have obtained this grace from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and sorrows, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.
The Seven Sorrows:
1) The prophecy of Simeon.
2) The flight into Egypt.
3) The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.
4) The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
5) The Crucifixion.
6) The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.
7) The burial of Jesus.
Why do Catholics honour Mary so much? The key word is “honour”, not “worship”~ worship is given to God alone. As the angel declared: “Hail full of grace”. She was granted all possible graces that could be granted to a human being in order to become the sinless Mother of God. She who was sinless was also willing to suffer so much for our salvation in union with her Divine Son. We honour Mary as the Mother of Sorrows and our powerful intercessor before the Throne of God.
You may read more on the Glories of Mary and the graces given to her in: Glories of Mary, LP
October 7, 2013
Already the usual cries have risen up around the world declaring that America the ‘bully’ has once more barged in and stomped on the sovereign rights of other nations, in this case, Libya, without due process. While I disapprove of the concept of any government jumping in and taking matters into their own hands regarding another country’s citizens or residents without resorting to proper extradition procedures, etc. etc., I was struck with the question: where does the buck stop?
How could we forget the millions if not billions of dollars the USA has been pouring into supposed allies like Pakistan in terms of governmental assistance and aid the last decade or so during the War on Terror only to be treated like a patsy for years with the Osama Bin Laden fiasco? Come on! If you claim to be our ally and are quite willing to take our citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars, then you certainly have a moral obligation to hand over our enemies and not hide them for decades at a time! You cannot tell me the Pakistani government had no idea where Osama was, hiding out next to a military academy like he was in a huge complex with all his wives and followers in attendance. Uncle Sam had every right in that instance to fly in with guns blazing and go after him, having paid dearly for that right in blood and money.
So, what about all the other countries who so wilfully take all our aid and assistance to shore up their broke governments and militaries, and yet will do little or next to nothing to help apprehend our enemies, if not outright help to slow up the extradition process, allowing them to elude capture? You dare take our cash, call us ‘friend’, and stab us in the back? If those countries will not fulfil their moral obligation out of gratitude or a sense of duty, then it is my opinion America has certainly paid for the right to go in and grab a man or woman here or there that has done untold damage to our nation and our true allies, and bring them to justice. The US embassies in other countries are our sovereign soil too. Despite these strong opinions, I do not support torture nor long years of imprisonment without a fair trial. Our country should become a model of justice it hopes to show to the world, and I hope that after the suspects are apprehended, they are treated fairly and with due process of the law.
The conclusion to my political rant is this: dear countries of the world, if you do not want the US to interfere in the management of your affairs and your citizens, then please learn to support yourselves and return all monetary and all other grants that have been granted to you. In fact, I would also demand compound interest! On the other hand, if you agree to benefit by our generous help, then please note you have sold the right to sacrosanct boundaries when it comes to hiding terrorists and criminals, especially if they are affiliated in any way with al Qaeda. Do not forget where the buck stops.
July 17, 2013
What would you do if opposing forces seized your castle, left it go to wrack and ruin for nearly a decade, and try to sell it out from under you in the meantime? With your title deeds held firmly in your gauntlet, you would storm the castle and retake it, right? Well, a man’s home is his castle as they say, and this is exactly what my uncle in Ireland has attempted.
In 2006 my uncle, John Ryan with my aunt Breda, and my cousin, John Noel Ryan, and another couple, Michelle Burke and William Buck, bought beautiful new homes on the same estate in Ard na Deirge near Killaloe, County Clare. The week they were to take possession and move into their homes, they were in for a rude shock: the building developer had suddenly declared they were in financial difficulty and skipped the country, taking everyone’s money with them. AIB, an Irish bank, quickly swooped in and appointed a receiver, KPMG, to oversee the liquidation of the estate, which in turn locked down the houses already bought. They wasted no time in erecting barriers plus installing cameras and loudspeakers Big Brother fashion to deter any trespassers from coming on to the properties. The estate was then sold to another developer, and the houses, that were already sold, were left in legal limbo. The new developer has done nothing to resolve the issue.
My uncle and cousin have clear title to their homes, but have never been given the keys, and have been kept off the properties. In fact, they discovered that the personal property that my cousin had moved in, items such as his dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, down to the taps for the water faucets, had all been stripped! Robbed in broad daylight!
To make matters worse, my uncle is still paying a bridging loan he took out to purchase the new house. Between both houses, my uncle and cousin have spent over €600,000 in purchasing them plus all the legal fees this has racked up. My cousin is paying a mortgage on the house he cannot enter, and is paying rent for the apartment he is living in. Michelle and William are also paying a mortgage on their house, plus paying rent for the residence they currently live in as they, like my uncle and cousin, cannot move into their property.
For seven years they have waited and have used all the legal channels to claim their own properties, until finally, my uncle had figured it was time to do something. Giving them one last chance, he went to the estate agent that handled the initial sale of the properties, he showed them his title and deeds to the property and asked for the keys. As the legal owner, he had every right to have the keys. They said they did not have them and did not know who did. That was the last straw. He next went to the Guards, the Irish police, with his deeds in hand and informed them of his plan of action~ he was the legal owner of the house, he was illegally kept from it, and was now planning to take up residency and claim what was his. As a civil matter, the Guards did not see this was an issue that involved them and did not try to stop him.
On July 1, 2013, my uncle moved furniture in and has claimed Squatter’s Rights on his own home! Watched by the security teams and boomed at by a voice over the loudspeakers to leave the property since he was ‘trespassing’, my uncle paid no attention, and is in the processes of having all the locks changed. The first week he had no electricity or running water, but arranged to have a generator brought to him later.
His story has hit the national news in Ireland, a country that has been devastated by the international economic and housing crises. Angered by the banks and their billion euro bailouts while the little people get shafted and their homes repossessed, the people are on my uncle’s side. The Irish are particularly enraged against AIB at any rate as a scandal has just broken out detailing how the managers of that bank laughed to each other and made jokes wondering how much they should ask the Irish government for a bailout, a government that was solvent with a surplus in revenue until the banks came with their begging bowls in 2008 and helped to crash the Irish economy. The Irish government is now in hoc to the burning red tape and demands of the IMF thanks to the likes of them, and the population is furious. Crippled with increasing taxes and job cuts to pay for it all, I am surprised they are not getting ready to light the torches, heat the tar and open up their feather pillows and douse the bankers royally.
In my uncle’s situation, the very idea that they would suggest no sale had been completed when the money had been handed over and ownership papers on the property were issued. How can he be held responsible for the actions of the AIB bank or the developer, who absconded? After all, he had completed his side of the contract, and the Irish government issues a bond to protect the rights of home purchasers. The property has been neglected for seven years, what happened to their new houses in that time? Not to mention whoever holds the keys are responsible for the loss of the personal property my cousin had installed in his house. Have the laws of Ireland been reduced to complete dysfunction whereupon the people of Ireland can no longer occupy their own property? Is tyranny and oppression once more rearing its ugly head in Ireland? What happened to the island of Saints and Scholars? We would suggest it has become the island of demons, thieves and corruption. Has Ireland now joined the One World Order where countries are run by godless governments and godless laws? A very sad world marching to the anthem of Hell.
In my uncle’s case, was AIB bank hoping to sit on this property until the statute of limitations ran out and then sell the properties out from under them all without so much as a ‘by your leave’? No action was taken by AIB bank or the receiver to resolve this issue until my uncle decided drastic situations required drastic measures. This may bring matters to some resolution and he will get his day in court.
With the publicity he is receiving, plus all the scathing publicity AIB has already received, it is obvious that the bank and the receiver are already up a creek without a paddle and will have to do something, if only to get him off their backs! Currently, my uncle is stilled on point duty at the house, doing some badly needed cleaning and weeding since the place was left neglected all this time. The Guards have not evicted him, and said they would not do anything unless they had a court order. Clare county council has come to the rescue and have set up temporary amenities until the legal issue of the property has been sorted out. So far, he has not heard from AIB or the receiver KPMG. Keep up the good fight, we’re with you all the way!
March 16, 2013
Why was fasting and penance so important to him? According to Catholic teaching, if you do not make reparation for your sins, even if you are saved, you must still make satisfaction for them in the next life in Purgatory where your sins are ‘purged’ from your soul before you may enter Eternal bliss. Saints and mystics who had been granted visions of the dreaded place of cleansing described the various torments endured there, each torture depending on the nature of the sins committed. One poor soul who had been granted permission to come back and tell of his sufferings said the pains were so bad that minutes felt like hours if not whole days. Also, there were many poor souls there with years, even centuries, left to serve on their sentences in that woeful prison. In all, the soul warned it was far better to do penance on earth than see what may await you in Purgatory.
Returning to St. Patrick, Station Island situated on Lough Derg, County Donegal became famed for his teaching on the subject. According to one story, he gave a sermon on Hell and Purgatory to the locals, but they remained sceptical about the existence of these places saying they would not be so doubtful if one of them could be permitted to descend, see what was there, and return to tell the tale. The saint was so upset by this lack of faith he wondered how he could convince the Irish and prayed to God for assistance. Christ appeared and showed the entrance to a cave on the island which led to Purgatory and Hell. A man was sent down to see these strange abodes, and according to the story, returned to describe what he had seen. In other stories, St. Patrick ordered a pit to be dug into which the man descended. Medieval accounts describe the ‘pit’ as a shaft that was a low and narrow kiln. Ever since, the island has sometimes been referred to as ‘St. Patrick’s Purgatory’.
Illustration of Station Island by Thomas Carve, (1666). 'Caverna Purgatory' marks the site of the cave.
Was it just a legend? There is in a fact a cave on the island, which has been closed to the public since October 25, 1632. Some authorities claim it received the name ‘purgatory’ from the Latin medical term of ‘purgatorium’, a room to purge the body of all ailments and impurities, further pointing out that the ancient druids would often use caves to smoke medicinal herbs to cleanse the body through sweating similar to modern saunas. In addition, historians note that the ‘purgatorial’ nature of the cave was not attached to St. Patrick and the Christian doctrine of Purgatory until much later in medieval documents. Despite these observations, the old texts are still fascinating. They tell of other brave souls who wished to follow in that first adventurer’s footsteps and see the gloomy realms of the Christian underworld for themselves. By the time the monastery was built on the island, the brave pilgrims had to seek the permission of its founder, St. Dabheog, who was one of St. Patrick’s disciples, before they could venture into the pit, or a series of nine ‘pits’, after which they were lowered into the final dreaded shaft.
Picture of the chapel, bell tower, and 'penential pits' or 'beds of the saints'on Station Island. The cave lies under the bell tower.
What did the penitents endure? Here legend becomes blurred. One story relates that St. Patrick was attacked by demons in the shape of black crows for forty days on the island as a penance, and that those who came to the island were assaulted by the same bird-like demons. If they survived, they had accomplished their purgatory. The text by the famed medieval chronicler of Ireland, Giraldus Cambrensis, relates a different description. According Giraldus, the island was occupied by the monks on one side and a hoard of demons on the other that continued to cause an uproar and disrupt the monks’ peace with their pagan festivities. By then, the pilgrimage had developed a set ritual. Before they were permitted on the island, the pilgrims had to seek permission of the local bishop whose duty it was to dissuade them from undertaking this perilous journey. First they would be reminded of the horrific torments they would endure, then learn about the fate of those penitents who had never been seen again. Tales abounded of those reprobates who were not worthy of salvation and were dragged body and soul to hell instead. If the pilgrims persisted in performing the penance, they were conducted to the shaft with all due ceremony and lowered down by means of a rope with nothing but a loaf of bread and a vessel of water to sustain them in their fight against the evil demons. The pilgrims spent a night in each of the nine ‘pits’ and were tormented in a thousand different ways by devils for those nine nights before being lowered into the cave. At the end of each night, if the pilgrim survived, he was taken to the church in a joyous procession bearing the cross and chanting psalms. If a pilgrim was not to be found, the sacristan simply closed the doors to the church, that soul was lost for all time.
In some texts there is evidence the ritual of the pilgrimage had changed in the later Medieval period, that the penitents were allowed only one drink a day from the sacred lake, but were not expected to go into the nine ‘pits’. Instead, they took part in procession and prayed at the ‘stations’, or ‘penitential beds of the saints’ for nine days. On the ninth day they listened to sermons telling them of the danger they were about to undergo by venturing into the cave, and if they still wished to undertake the penance of staying a full day and night in the kiln, they forgave their enemies and said farewell to each other before they were lowered into the cave in case they might never be seen again.
The various legends state that several people returned to bear witness of the terrible sights they had seen of Purgatory and sometimes Hell. The place was so terrifying they could laugh no more and could no longer take part in anything mirthful on earth. The reputation of the island became so great during the Middle Ages that it was a continual point of reference for preachers when people doubted the existence of Purgatory. Many flocked there to perform penance, and perhaps, to see what awaited them in the next world. A ‘Knight Owen’ supposedly made a descent in 1153 and came back to tell of his experiences. In 1358 Edward III gave a Hungarian nobleman letters patent attesting that he had indeed ‘undergone his purgatory’.
Believe it or not, the island is still a popular place of penance and is often booked out. For three days pilgrims ‘undertake their purgatory’ by going barefoot and saying prayers, walking around to the famous ‘prayer stations’ or ‘beds of the saints’ in all weather be it rain or shine. On the first day, a twenty-four hour prayer vigil is commenced, only on the second day are they allowed to sleep. Until then, each pilgrim must watch out for their neighbours and prod them awake if they happen to nod off. Mass is also celebrated, and of course, penitents participate in the sacrament of confession. Furthermore, a strict fast of one meal a day is observed and consists of dry toast, oatcakes and black weak tea or coffee. If this is too unbearable, I have heard that the staff will provide a bowl of broth, but don’t expect it to be fancy! The penitential soup is so watery that the poor pilgrim is wondering what was boiled in it, if indeed, anything made it into the pot at all besides a dash of salt and pepper. Lough Derg is considered the toughest Christian pilgrimage sites in all of Europe if not the world, and not recommended for anyone under the age of fifteen or who has health issues. At least the ordeal now lasts only three days instead of nine!
Interested in booking a pilgrimage? Visit: http://www.loughderg.org
For those who are curious about Purgatory, this is one of my favourite books on the subject:
(Commentary for this blog post about the medieval legends of St. Patrick’s Purgatory taken from: ‘The Poetry of the Celtic Races’ by Ernest Renan (1823-1892), The Harvard Classics, Vol. 32, pp. 177-178.)
February 14, 2013
Ah yes, tales of doomed love. The first that springs to mind is Shakespeare's celebrated Romeo and Juliet, lovers from feuding households fated to meet a tragic end.
One cannot help but wonder what masterful drama the Great Bard might have penned if he had turned to Portugal instead of Verona for his inspiration. If I may dare make a suggestion, no doubt the tale of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro would be foremost on his list.
King Afonso IV (1291-1357), Pedro's father, promised him in marriage to a Castillian princess, Constance of Peñafiel. As with all members of royal dynasties in those days, Pedro was left with no choice and married the princess to secure the alliance between their two kingdoms, but immediately he fell in love with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Inês, who was the daughter of a prominent Castillian nobleman.
King Afonso hoped that nothing would come of the affair, but to his dismay, Pedro went to live with Inês in Coimbra after Constance's death, openly declared their love and had several illegitimate children, whom Pedro publicly recognized. The last straw occured when Pedro went so far as to grant several important posts to the Castillians. While Afonso wished to secure alliances with the court of Castille, there was always the danger that one day the Spanish could use these marriage alliances between their households to take over the crown of Portugal. Fearing that Inês and her supporters were growing in power and influence over his son, Afonso ordered that she be murdered. The horrific deed was accomplished in the town of Coimbra on January 7th, 1355. To this day, locals show the site where Inês was stabbed by three assassins. According to legend, a spring immediately began to flow that is now called the 'Fonte dos Amores'.
That is not the end of the story...
After Afonso´s death, the inconsolable Pedro ascended the throne and immediately sentenced to death the two assassins that were apprehended. Hanging would be too good for them, so would a quick beheading.
What did Pedro demand as the mode of execution? He ordered their hearts to be ripped out, the perfect demise for those who had killed his lady love and in the process, tore out his own heart. According to some reports, he executed them with his own hands. Although there is no proof this ever happened, he was forever called Pedro 'The Cruel'. Next, he stunned the royal court by announcing that he and Inês were married. No one believed him, there was no proof of his claim as the wedding was obviously conducted in secret and therefore invalid, and yet, he commanded Inês´ body to be exhumed, that her corpse be dressed in the full royal regalia befitting a queen, that she be placed on throne beside him, and that all the royal court bow and kiss her hand, thereby publicly recognizing their true queen. He then had her body taken to the monastery of Alcobaça, and had his own tomb prepared facing hers, declaring that she was the first person whom he wanted see when the dead would rise again on the Day of Judgement. Pedro died in 1367 and was buried according to his wishes. Today you can visit their elaborately carved Gothic tombs in the monastery of Alcobaça.
Verily a sad tale of love and grief turned to madness.
(Tomb of King Pedro)
(Inês' Tomb, Detail of the Last Judgement)
September 28, 2012
( New to this blog post? Click Here to read Part 1.)
“Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” ~ C.S. Lewis
He most certainly offered excellent advice. Whatever you choose to write, be it historical, fictitious, academic or poetic, if you do not write about subjects and themes that interest you, it is difficult to keep the fires of inspiration burning bright for long. Motivation smoulders quickly with the death of inspiration and a creative project may die with them, or be hurried in anxious anticipation to reach the end of the tedium, which in the end will reflect poorly on the author. Write about subjects that fascinate and intrigue you, and you are assured of presenting your finest work to the reading public.
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow
Amusing, but yes, it is true. Inspiration can strike at the strangest times when you are not thinking or working on your book at all, and this includes more than the story line, actual sentences will fall on you from out of the blue, forcing you to drop everything and sprint to the closest sheet of paper at hand lest everything that the invisible muse has whispered disappears for good. It is a mystery, but these lightning bolts are near perfect when they strike and need very little revision in comparison to lines poured over and pondered on for hours at the desk or computer screen. Some instances, I have had these “midnight bolts” while just settling into my best sleep of the night, but more often when I’m house cleaning, especially vacuuming! Scientists may attribute this to the limbic system, that when you move and exercise, brain cell growth is stimulated and hence stimulate new ideas. While this explanation is not as romantic as the image of the “hidden muse”, whatever gives these inspirations, long may it continue.
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scot Fitzgerald
Guilty, guilty, guilty. What is it about us lady authors and our fascination for the exclamation mark? My personal e-mails are heavily peppered with the dastardly things, and my first drafts are no better. Dashes are also a glaring weakness and cost many hours of revision time. Out they must go, and still, I cannot bear to part with a number of them. Are men also afflicted with punctuation addictions? Enquiring minds would like to know. I am comforted by the fact that it is not just this age in which we ladies have been afflicted with this mania as Louisa May Alcott discloses in “Little Women” when Josephine prepares to send her latest short story to the local paper:
“Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript carefully through, making dashes here and there, and putting in many exclamation points, which looked like little balloons, then she tied it up with a smart, red ribbon, and sat a minute looking at it with a sober wistful expression, which plainly showed how earnest her work had been.”
I suppose it is a good sign a writer has learned to recognise this fault when they remove exclamation points and dashes from a manuscript and not add more of them before going to the press.
“The hardest part about writing a novel is finishing it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Hard? It’s downright torture. Not that you run out of things to say, you have too much that will remain unsaid. The author creates a whole world of characters and has only just begun to scratch the surface of their story. How to stop is the question. Eventually, one does come some point they can call ‘the end’, only to find no else wants the book to end either. When having reached the finale of “Brushstrokes”, my greatest critic, vis my mother, was in turmoil. “You can’t leave them all like that! You can’t! It’s not right! I can’t see it end there! Not like that! You’ll have to go on! I want to know what happens!” Yes, I shared her sentiments, including the exclamation points in her voice. I cannot say goodbye to Katherine and her world just yet, and so, work begins on the sequel. I shall see what new lessons lie in store with the new project.
To be continued...
July 6, 2012
Our family is no exception. If I may say so, my mother and I are an explosive combination: “Kitchen Philosophy 101” as she has dubbed our little Open Academy of Free Thinking.
As with all academies, we are provided with ample material for study and comment, vis the antics of the world at large brought straight to the table vis the information and entertainment machine in the corner ~ the television. When we are not in the lecture hall preparing lunch or supper, there are plenty of opportunities for fieldwork, vis, the hundred and one observations of daily life as we head out from the walls of our academy to fulfil the tasks necessary to keep a household well-organized, grocery-shopping, bill-paying, all those manifold duties that must be taken care of. Little escapes our scrutiny, and many times we have reached some hard-to-forget conclusions, observations and philosophical questions that leave us meditating or laughing for days on end.
Since I am a writer, everything heard and said can and will be used in a story or blog, therefore, it was time to start a series publishing the work of our honourable academy lest its words of wisdom be lost for all time. Yes, you have guessed it: this new series is entitled “Kitchen Philosophy 101”.
To begin, here are a few examples of our various ponderings of late:
“When all is said and done, we are the sum total of the decisions we have made.” ~ This conclusion was reached after much deliberation on why events in life turn out the way they do. Yes, it all boils down to us at some point or another!
“Will the Almighty God allow mankind to reduce Him to a subatomic particle?” ~ A thought proposed for deliberation on the day the scientists of CERN announced their discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. Look how far the physicists will go to try and prove how the Universe came to be. For what purpose? ´To gain a better understanding of how everything came to be´, is the general answer. Don´t get me wrong, I'm excited about many scientific discoveries, but the travail the physicists are subjecting themselves to is pathetic when viewed from the aspect of Eternity. So, scientists discovered the micro-cosmic glue that keeps subatomic particles together, that is no different than discovering Michaelangelo used paint layer on layer to make his frescoes. One must never set aside the mind behind the masterpiece. Yes, God is a humble and patient God, but the worldly-wise are distracting themselves with work that will not bring them any closer to understanding Him, only the materials He created. Of course, if they do not want to acknowledge that a Creator exists, what a shame, all they are left with then is their cosmic dust and particles, for a limited time only.
“Think before you speak, particularly when you are about to ask a question or give your opinion, your intelligence may be questioned.” It is mind-boggling some of the questions members of the media ask their guests. In a documentary highlighting the shortage of water and the management of the world's water supplies, a reporter asked a Chilean fish-farmer ´How important is water for your business?´ And this question was put forward as they stood amidst his fish tanks. All he could do was reply with a smile, `It's essential´. I witnessed this, I kid you not! That is no different than asking a corn farmer how important the sun is for their line of work. Another example of comic moments at the Kitchen Academy, CNBC recently requested viewers to Tweet or e-mail what they think of the employment situation in America today. My mother and I just looked at each other and it hit us both at once: “That IS the problem! There IS nothing to think about!”
By now you have probably tumbled to the obvious conclusion: despite everything that is going on around you, going up or down, day by day, it's important we keep our sense of humour. One belly laugh a day adds a year to your life they say.
If you enjoyed this introductory course to Kitchen Philosophy 101, considered yourself enrolled in our College of Common Sense, or the lack thereof. For the students' question and answer session, just leave your comments below for the consideration of the absent-minded professors. Stay tuned for the next lecture. Pot-Walloping Diplomas and Kitchen Mechanic Degrees will be awarded on the completion of the course. Lecture adjourned.
June 12, 2012
How do we address the distressing reality of unjust criticism? The general rule has been to accept everyone is entitled to their opinions, be they good, bad, or incorrect, and simply ignore their bad comments. However, there are times when reviews are completely erroneous they leave us wondering if the reviewer had actually read the book and could comprehend its contents. Or, might we dare suggest, are deliberately condemning a work for some unknown ulterior motive? I have read reviews on other people's work that I had studied and the results were totally perplexing, and now I too have fallen prey to the poison pen.
Must we authors stay silent, or are we entitled to defend our work and beat back the flames of unjust criticism? With your permission, I offer you an example below: a review of my work,Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World Volume 1 , written by Nicholas Holland for Folklore, the Journal of the Folklore Society UK, published March / April 2012. My defence is presented in Italics.
“E.A. Bucchianeri's book, the first of a two-volume study, surveys works concerned with the famous magician Doctor Faustus from the earliest German notices to Christopher Marlowe's eponymous play. A short final section discusses seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century works before Goethe. The first chapter reviews German accounts of Faustus prior to the earliest known version of the German Faust Book, and places a particular emphasis on the search for biographical evidence about the historical Faustus. Bucchianeri surveys the various early accounts, including those of Trithemius, Melanchthon, and Weyer. The majority of the material covered will be familiar from other modern studies, but whereas the studies of Frank Baron, for example, draw out the complexities of the relationship between historical evidence and the subsequent fashioning of the legend, this study tends to place great emphasis on searching for insight into the biography of the historical Faustus; an approach that can be detrimental to the consideration of the sources surveyed in their historical context.”
(I tend to place more emphasis on the biography? Of course, we cannot see how the folklore developed without arriving at a clear picture of Faustus, this historical man of mystery. To all intents and purposes, I followed Baron's analytical example in discovering the historical Faustus, and offered additional findings / observations to the material Baron provided and discussed. The chapter dealing with Faustus' biography is only one quarter of Volume I, (125 pages) and roughly half of this chapter also examines the legend-formation process. The rest of Volume I (nearly 400 pages), features the Faust folklore / literature. Holland then declares in so many words it is 'detrimental' to piece together a biography of Faustus from the sources that exist and that I did not consider their historical context. Did Mr. Holland actually read and comprehend my work? ~ E.A.B.)
“For example, when considering the account of the famous abbot and philosopher Trithemius that Faustus declared himself the source of the necromancers, Bucchianeri's bewilderment that Faustus "would freely choose a profession that would utterly ruin his reputation" (p. 28) seemingly takes Trithemius's report at face value. Trithemius's opinions concerning Faustus surely demand more cautious consideration in the light of his own possible motivations, reputation, and interests; in particular since so little concerning the historical Faustus and his magical practices can confidently be corroborated using other sources. More generally, Bucchianeri's biographical focus in the early part of the book tends to direct the reader's attention away from what must be the most significant and astonishing aspect of the documentary legacy: the impact, durability, and openness to further interpretation of the legend of Faustus through the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, first in German and later in English culture. Whereas the historical Faustus is an almost invisible footnote in early modern intellectual history, the legend of Faustus became, in the hands of a number of important writers, a means of expressing early modern interest concerning both the potential power and also the potential dangers of magic.”
(I could find no evidence presented to date to doubt Trithemius' letter written to a friend and colleague, warning him to be wary of Faustus. The letter was reprinted during Faustus' lifetime, it could not be a bogus document. Trithemius may have aggrandized Faustus' claims concerning his magic skills, but this topic is discussed in detail. Faustus was known to declare himself a "necromancer" according to well-documented historical sources, therefore, according to the historical evidence, Trithemius was accurate in describing Faustus. I have examined the content of Trithemius' letter minutely from all aspects, similar to Frank Baron. To declare oneself a 'necromancer' was a serious matter in those times, Faustus could have been tried and executed. Why take such a risk? His motives had to be questioned, and these questions hypothetically answered. I find it curious Mr. Holland believes the biographical material in Volume I detracts from the efforts to describe the "impact" and the "openness to further investigation" of the legend: as I said, three quarters of Volume I (about 400 pages) explores the rich Faustian material inspired by his legend over the centuries and how it was used to deter people from studying magic in addition to admonishing people to live good Christian lives. Holland's conclusion that I digressed from explaining the "early modern" fascination and fear of black magic is erroneous. ~ E.A.B.)
“The remainder of the volume is mostly dedicated to substantial descriptive accounts of the German and English Faust books, and of Marlowe's Doctor Fautus. Bucchianeri's major new proposition concerning the latter is that the B-text shows that "Marlowe had regained a considerable measure of the defiant 'Machiavellian' optimism", which was absent from the A-Text (p. 368). Although precisely what she means by "Machiavellian" (or "liberal Epicurean," a phrase she applies to Marlowe's Faustus in the same passage) is unclear, her reading of the play evidently belongs to the school of interpretations which considers the overarching admonitory message of the play as being in some way questioned by the manner of its presentation. However, her core interest again is in trying to establish firm connections between biography and text. Her proposal is that the B-text of the play is a revision of the A-text chiefly undertaken by Marlowe himself in the light of personal experiences and historical events that enable it to be dated to 1592. This is an unusually precise stance concerning the genesis and authorship of this text, but ultimately fails to persuade. For example, some basic textual evidence seems to conflict with such a precise and confident dating. The author argues, in particular, that the references to the Anti-Pope Bruno in the B-Text are inspired by news of the arrest of Giordano Bruno in Venice in 1592. However, if a similar method is applied to the reading of two of the most striking points of similarity between the fictional Bruno and the historical Bruno, these events have no direct connection to 1592. The fictional Bruno undergoes excommunication, a punishment which the historical Bruno stated to his interrogators in Venice he knew had been imposed on him in absentia by a hearing convened by the Dominicans in Naples prior to this period in England (1583-5). The execution by burning for heresy, pronounced on the fictional Bruno by Faustus in disguise, was visited on the historical Bruno as late as 1600, seven years after Marlowe's death. While there is a case to be made for the influence of the historical Bruno's person and thought on Marlowe via the circle of Earl of Northumberland, there is in fact nothing tangible to link the scene in Doctor Faustus more strongly to the news of 1592 than to the news of any other year of a period spanning the whole of Marlowe's writing career. Furthermore, by attempting to bind the play's genesis too tightly to Marlowe's biography, the author underestimates not only the imaginative capacities of Marlowe himself and of the other writers who most probably had a hand in the B-Text, but also the uncertainties that cloud our understanding of Marlowe's personal beliefs. Such an approach also fails to place sufficient emphasis on the need to understand the contents of Doctor Faustus in the context of the early modern performance traditions upon which it draws.”
(The terms "Machiavellian" and "Epicurean" may be on the same page, but not in the same paragraph. From the context of the study, Holland should have understood the term "machiavellian" to mean Faustus' thirst for power and his determination to acquire it by whatever means or cost. The philosophical term Epicurean was explained in the first chapter, but possibly Holland forgot: "... pleasure is the supreme goal one should aim for in life, particularly intellectual pleasures above those of sensual ones. Epicurus taught that one could only acquire true happiness and serenity by conquering one’s fear of the gods, death, and the afterlife. He also believed that humans ceased to exist after death, declaring the soul died with the body." The term was referred to in this philosophical context throughout the chapter on Marlowe, and we note Faustus in Marlowe's play begs his soul to dissolve at death. The context of Epicurean should have been clear from the beginning.
I am sorry if my argument concerning the dating of the A and B Texts "failed to persuade" Mr. Holland, but I notice he discussed only one piece of evidence I presented, and omitted to mention all other observations pertaining to the 1592 date. If it was a matter of that one detail, Bruno's arrest, then there would not be enough evidence, but a good detective should look at all the evidence presented.
I also notice Mr. Holland points out every historical detail of the the real Bruno, and how this factual information does not match the action of Marlowe's play: must everything in the drama display historical fact? Surely, Marlowe had the creativity to imagine the scene of Bruno's arrest and make artistic predictions concerning the possible outcome of that event, even if they proved incorrect in the future. In this instance, Holland has failed to follow his own conclusion and has committed the same supposed 'error' he condemns me for, that is, trying to find the historical details that correspond with Marlowe's biography and are included in the play ~ let us note that Holland's states "by attempting to bind the play's genesis too tightly to Marlowe's biography, the author underestimates not only the imaginative capacities of Marlowe himself and the other writers who most probably had a hand in the B Text". In so many words, Holland has proposed that authors, playwrights and artists are uncreative and unimaginative when they draw upon their life experiences, (and therefore, contemporary history), for their material. Interesting observation, Mr. Holland.
He also says by binding the play´s genesis too closely to Marlowe's biography, I also "underestimated the uncertainties" that cloud everyone's understanding of Marlowe's personal beliefs. Not so. It was due to these uncertainties I conducted a close reading of Doctor Faustus with Marlowe's known biography. I simply examined the claims Marlowe was an "atheist" in that he did not believe in the established Christian religions, and noted how these claims may have a basis in fact through a close reading of Doctor Faustus. I endeavoured to shed some light on the accusations levied against Marlowe, and if possible, display how close the creative soul of the writer is to his work. ~ E.A.B)
“The stated aim of this study is to provide a "comprehensive exploration" of Faustus and his legacy. It provides lengthy descriptive discussion of the contents of the texts surveyed and, to some extent, it offers a useful single point of reference for them, although it must also be noted that the author's digressive style makes it relatively hard to read. As a work of analysis, however, its most serious failing is that it does not examine more fully and in a more systematic way the complex forces that worked to shape the legend of Faustus within a wider cultural context, and instead places its primary focus on an attempt to find close relationships between biography and text. As a consequence, it fails to offer readings of the material under consideration which have the depth of insight or nuance of the most valuable works already written on the various works it surveys.”
(The aim of this study was to provide "a comprehensive exploration of Dr. Faustus, the man who sold his soul to the devil, and those who lived to tell his tale" ~ so yes, providing detailed explanations of the texts and why each author presented the Faust material as they did was the object of the work. I do not see how Holland thinks this does not present the "complex forces" that shaped the legend of Faustus, when everything from religious intolerance, the Reformation, academic competition, fear of black magic, the scientific discoveries of the day such as the Copernican / Galileo controversy, folklore and history, and how they were included in the Faustian tales, are discussed. Can the "cultural context" become any wider? If this study lacks "the depth of insight or nuance of the most valuable works" already written on the subject of Faust and Faustian literature, I shall leave it to you, the reader, to discover if this be true or not. I thank Mr. Holland for his review, albeit it took nearly four years for it to appear from the time the paperback edition was published and sent in for review. E.A.B.)
Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World Volume 1
May 16, 2012
For 2012 presidential campaign season I thought I would share another excerpt from my novel, "Brushstrokes of a Gadfly", recently entitled:
Liberty Peals Silent in Our Times
How this fits into a romance novel, you will have to read Brushstrokes of a Gadfly to find out!
May 13, 2012
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