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biographies..

June 5, 2017

I originally posted this essay on facebook..

Am I the only person who uses facebook to write blog posts? Probably not, but this is a rare thing to do, I think. Most people who are on facebook give each post they see a second or two of their attention, and maybe click like or leave a brief comment. Or post a meme, or write something very short.

Not me though, I don’t just do that, I write essays from time to time, and copy these to my blog, which you can find at wandering-spirit.com.

(I have much more essays, reviews and etc. on my blog than what I’ve posted here on facebook).

Why write something lengthy here, or anywhere? Too many thoughts in my head.. far too many.. my brain overloads itself everyday. I don’t behave manically, but I have a VERY manic mind. Writing helps.

The other reason is that I’m putting off mowing the lawn.

Today’s topic: Biographies.

I’ve grown tired of fiction.. it’s almost all I’ve read most of my life, except for the reading I do online – usually random topics on Wikipedia, or reviews of products I’m interested in buying. (I write unpaid product reviews too, over 80 on Amazon thus far).

I’ve started to take an interest in biographies. My mom has been in to reading biographical works for many years. I always wondered.. why read about real people? Why read about real life? Why not read sci-fi and fantasy and a few classics and mysteries here and there? Escapism is good!

Well.. I think the appeal of biographies is that they are about real people and real life.. extraordinary people who have actually lived.

The only biography I’ve read all the way through thus far was one about George Lucas. I read it earlier this year. Lots of interesting information.. particularly interesting to me because Lucas and my dad were at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, CA at the same time, and cruised the same streets, although they never met. If you want to know what life was like for young people in Modesto in 1962, watch Lucas’s classic film, “American Graffiti.”

The biography I read was called “George Lucas: A Life” by Brian Jay Jones. Very long, lots of information, but perhaps the most poorly written book I’ve ever read and managed to finish. Usually, if a book is terribly written, like “The Da Vinci Code,” (the movie adaptation sucked too) or various novels by Dean Koontz, I stop reading it.

Jones also wrote a huge biography about Jim Henson. I was planning on reading that one, but after reading Jones’s disaster of a Lucas biography, I might try to find another book on Henson.

The first biography I attempted to read was one about crazed but brilliant sci-fi author, Philip K. Dick. You might not be familiar with his name, but you have probably seen or at least heard of the films “Bladerunner,” Total Recall,” and “Minority report,” and also may have seen or heard about the incredible Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle.” (No spoiler comments please, I haven’t yet finished watching season II). These are all (very loosely) based on Dick’s works.

I didn’t finish “Divine Invasions A Life of Philip K. Dick.” (I’m noticing the use of the phrase “a life” instead of “the life” in biography titles.. I guess this is a way for a biographical author to admit the biography is the author’s interpretation of his or her subject’s life). I found the book interesting, but for whatever reason, was not in the mood for it. I started that book back in the ’90’s. I’d already read 10 of Dicks novels.. in a row. Quite a way to scramble one’s brain!

Just about an hour ago, I started my second biography of the year. (I read the one on Lucas in March) It is about G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). He was an English journalist, mystery writer, and Christian philosopher/apologist (an apologist is not someone who goes around saying sorry for this or that. No, what an apologist does is use reason to defend religion. According to Wikipedia, it “is the religious discipline of defending or proving the truth of religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse.”

So why did I start reading about this guy?

Reason 1. We have several bookshelves in the various common rooms of our house. In the family room, where my dad watches TV and reads the Wall Street Journal, where my aunt has her little office space, where our parakeet lives, and where I play with Tucker, our dog, there are two book shelves. In one of them, near the bird cage, and near the part of the room I usually play with Tucker, there is a book shelf, and on the bottom level of the shelf is a book that has been catching my eye for years.

It is called “The Outline of Sanity: A Life of G.K. Chesterton,” by Alzina Stone Dale. I wasn’t planning on starting this book today. However, I couldn’t find the front page of the Idaho Statesman, our local paper, and decided that even if I did, I wouldn’t want to read it, because I’d already listened to the news on NPR while I was doing my daily stretches on my yoga mat.

I decided to read something else instead. Time to read the Chesterton book. Or is it? I recently checked out an art book (one of those huge coffee table books) featuring the works of Edward Hopper. I’ve got another art book, “The Art of Andrew Wyeth” ready to be picked up at the library, and two other books at the library I have placed holds on.. one about the modern grocery store and food industry, and one on how to learn things quickly.

Also, I want to read the Bible cover to cover, along with one or more biblical commentaries.

Yes, I have an extremely over-active and restless mind.. and not exactly the world’s best attention span.

But.. maybe I will just read the Chesterton book for now, and browse through the art books a bit. Perhaps the other books can wait.

Reason 2. Chesterton quotes and references show up here and there. For example, one of my favorite novels, “Good Omens,” which is a parody of the Christian version of the apocalypse, written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, is dedicated to Chesterton, “a man who knew what was going on.”

Also, there’s a rather inspiring documentary about spirituality, problems in the world, and gaining a better perspective on life, called “I Am.” It was made by the guy who wrote and directed various Jim Carey hits such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Bruce Almighty.” The title refers to something Chesterton wrote.

He and many other great British thinkers of his day had been asked to write a response to the question, “What is wrong with the world?”

Instead of writing a lengthy essay, Chesterton simply wrote, “Dear sirs, I am.”

Reason 3. Chesterton was Catholic, and yes, I’m still interested in Catholicism, can’t help it. EWTN, the Catholic cable channel, even has a show in which an actor portrays and quotes the man.

The show is called “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.” It is based on the book of the same title, by Dale Ahlquist, which I’ve not read. I’ve only seen one episode so far, but would like to watch more. I don’t watch EWTN regularly, and don’t know if the show is still on the air.

I’ve just started “The Outline of Sanity: A Life of G.K. Chesterton.” I want to make an effort to finish the book, learn about this brilliant man, and not get too distracted by all these other books I want to read. I’ll let you know how the book is. I have somewhat high hopes. And also, I’m tired of passing by the family room bookshelf, and not reading this book.

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