How I Unlearned What I Learned in ‘School’ (About Sir Walter Scott)

First as a student, and later as a teacher, I came to suspect that the purpose of required reading programs in public “school” was to impart to children a distaste for reading.

Case in point: Sir Walter Scott. I had to read Ivanhoe in high school, and it left me with the impression that Scott was one of the worst writers ever to abuse the English language. Maybe not quite as bad as George Eliot with Silas Marner, but certainly bad enough to justify never reading him again. So I shunned his books for most of my life.

Just a couple of years ago, some unaccountable impulse moved me to give Sir Walter another chance; so I read Kenilworth, and it turned out to be a work of genius that knocked my socks off. I went on to read Rob Roy (the story in the book bears very little resemblance to the story in the movie, although I do enjoy the movie) and The Heart of Midlothian; and now, after all this time, I’m reading Ivanhoe again–and enjoying it tremendously.

These are truly great books. I see now that what they did in high school was to give us an edition of Ivanhoe that had all the guts and passion edited out of it. They dumbed it down, mangled it, mugged it. Why? Beats me.

Kenilworth is dark, suspenseful, gripping: a startling look inside the workings of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. The only thing I can find to compare it with would be Solzhenitsyn’s writings about life in Stalin’s Russia.

Rob Roy takes us on a shocking visit to a Scotland that we never knew existed. In the midst of almost unimaginable poverty and chaos, we find honor, courage, love, and forgiveness blooming like rare flowers.

In The Heart of Midlothian, a young woman armed only with goodness and indomitable perseverance sets out to rescue her fiancee, who has been cast into prison for a crime he didn’t commit–a tale of moral heroism. And Ivanhoe takes us into the very heart of the Middle Ages…

Scott is one of those rare authors who can create characters who are good without being goody-goody. He does it again and again, as if it were easy. What a great soul he must have had! And his message is one we very badly need to hear today: that even in the darkest of times, the light of God-given goodness can never be extinguished.

So let’s have a Walter Scott revival! It would do us good.

Miracles Do Happen–and Here’s a Book about a Miracle

I’ve just enjoyed a special screening, before its release in theaters, of Kirk Cameron’s new film, Monumental. If I hadn’t read a certain book not long ago, the amazing story told by the film would have been news to me.

I heartily recommend Monumental, although it’ll do just fine without me. But what I want to do here and now is recommend the book: The Governor’s Story, by Dorothy Robbins, available from Nordskog Publishing.

Yes, Dorothy is a friend of mine and a frequent visitor to this blog. But that’s not why I’m urging you to read her book.

This is the story of a miracle. No kidding. What else would you call it when a handful of men, women, and children transport themselves to an uncharted wilderness at the beginning of a harsh winter, and half of them die before the next spring comes–and before the last of the original settlers dies, the landscape features a full-sized modern city, several hundred towns and churches, and a brand-new university: all of which are still functioning 400 years later?

This is the miracle of the Pilgrims; and–I say this as someone who has closely studied history all his life–there is nothing else even a little bit like it.

Yeah, yeah, we already heard all about it in “school,” and we know about Thanksgiving, ho-hum…

When I read The Governor’s Story, I discovered, to my shock, that I really didn’t know that story at all–not a bit! The pap they shovel up in “school” falls so far short of doing justice to the true history, it rises almost to the level of crapola.

So forget everything (and I do mean everything!) you think you know about the Pilgrims, and read Dorothy’s book before you go see Monumental. Between the two of them, your whole outlook on a l0t of important things will be changed forever.

I think I can promise you that.



Religion For Atheists?

As civilization corrodes before our very eyes, even intellectuals have begun to say, “Uh-oh…”

Not many intellectuals, I grant you: most of them are out there rejoicing that “the Left has won the Culture War,” and made the world safe for abortion, sodomy, euthanasia, gender-bending, and out-of-wedlock births and fatherless homes. This is going to be the way it is for humanity from now on, they believe, and they are tickled pink.

But in a recent Wall Street Journal article, written to herald the publication of his new book, Religion for Atheists, Euro-intellectual Alain de Botton seems to be getting cold feet. Maybe, he suggests, the secularization of society has gone too far. In nailing down our freedom to fornicate without restriction, maybe we’ve thrown out some things we should have kept.

Alberta School Act: They Won’t Allow Anyone to Diverge from ‘Diversity’

Do you ever get the impression that a lot of people are working very hard to abolish human liberty everywhere in the world? I do!

Alberta is about to enact new legislation that will apparently require Christian homeschooling parents to teach their children that homosexuality is good and right, and their own Bible is wrong. It is similar to the government campaign in the USA  to force Catholic institutions to provide free birth control–including pills that bring on spontaneous abortions–to their employees.

Consider these remarks by Donna McColl, assistant director of communications for the Alberta Ministry of Education.

“Whatever the nature of schooling–homeschool, private school, Catholic school–we do not tolerate disrespect for differences… You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction… [Families] can’t be hate-mongering, if you will.”

The new education law would require homeschooling families to “honor and respect” the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Stalinist “human rights” tribunal. These arms of the provincial government have become infamous for serving as a blunt instrument for the persecution of Christians by “gay” activists. Americans used to living under civilized law may find this hard to believe, but Canadian “human rights” tribunals and commissions can do anything they please, ignore actual laws, and financially ruin, and terrorize, hapless individuals who have committed no crime. In the wonderful world of “human rights,” the government pays all the plaintiff’s legal expenses, and the entire burden of proof is on the defendant.

The Alberta Education Act proposes to bring the “human rights” Inquisition right into families’ living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. This is malicious mischief by the government.

A functionary of Canada’s federal Human Rights Commission explained to me that their business is to “outlaw hate” and root out bad thoughts. He even proposed giving the commission some kind of authority over basic human relationships–explaining that people really aren’t “diverse enough” in their choices of friends and drinking buddies, etc. It is all based on the truly lurid fantasy that “government knows best.”

The battle of our age will be to keep personal liberty from being extinguished altogether.

Gutter Covers and Heroic Fantasy

One of the articles on this blog previewed the cover art for my book, The Thunder King. On my site stats page are listed “Search Engine Terms” that tell me how some readers wind up visiting my blog.

I was surprised today to find the term, “Gutter King Cover.” This means some poor guy was trying to buy a cover for his gutter and the computer sent him to my book instead. I would like to think he appreciated the serendipity of it all, and bought my book; but that won’t keep dead leaves from clogging up his gutter. It’ll just give him something nice to read while he’s waiting for someone to come and clean out his gutter.

I hope the man who needed a gutter cover wasn’t so put out that he didn’t buy the book. You know, folks, it’s getting harder and harder to write fantasy, these days. Fantasy was never meant for people who are already delusional. But I turn on the radio, and there’s some 30-year-old college student telling Congress–that’s the United States Congress–that her sex life is so bodacious, she can’t keep up with the cost of contraceptives, and she wants the government to force the university to pay for her birth control pills. How the dickens am I going to write a fantasy for her? She’s already in one!

My stories are written for sane people. I hope that’s not a shrinking demographic.

Was C.S. Lewis Wrong to Allow Magic in Narnia?

Some Christian readers don’t like C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia because certain characters in the stories use magic. For these readers, “magic” is the same as “witchcraft,” a practice strongly condemned in the Bible: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18).

I don’t think we need to spend any time defending C.S. Lewis against a charge of promoting the use of witchcraft. Even so, he might have been well-advised to be more careful.

Dr. Cornelius, a dwarf, has “some small magic” which includes a sleeping spell. The magician Coriakin has a book of spells which apparently anyone can open and use (kind of like leaving a loaded gun lying around the house). Uncle Andrew makes a great deal of trouble for himself by fooling around with magic that he doesn’t understand. And there are a werewolf and a hag who intend to use magic to call up the White Witch from the dead, but are killed before they can do it.

An Algae-Based Economy? (They Feel Our Pain)

As gas prices go up and up and up, the price of everything else will go up, too. All the stuff on the shelves at your local supermarket, and just about everything else you buy, has to be transported to the store by trucks: and the trucks all run on gas.

So as the price at the pump climbs to $4 a gallon, and then $5, and then $6, and everything else you need costs more, you might wonder what our glorious national leaders are going to do about it. Might they decide to allow the pipeline from Canada, after all? Maybe lift the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (remember, that moratorium only applies to American oil companies; Chinese and Brazilian companies are making a fortune)?


Instead, what the current occupier of the White House recommends as the solution to our problems is… are you ready for it?… Algae!

Yup, plain old pond scum–just dump it in your gas tank, and off you go.

Oops, wait a minute–we don’t have the technology to do that yet. Putting algae in our cars will only … well, damage them. But hey, maybe in another 10 or 20 years…

When they get bored with simply abusing us, our leaders like to insult us, too.

The Tattered Flag

Sometimes when I look up from work, I notice things in my own neighborhood that I never saw before.

At the neighborhood school, practically next door to me, the American flag hangs from the pole in tatters. The wind has torn it into several flapping pieces. The school never lowers the flag, leaves it out night and day, in all sorts of weather.

When I went to elementary school, the flag was lowered at the end of each school day, folded correctly according to flag etiquette (usually by Boy Scouts), and stored in a special locker until it was run up the pole the next day–unless there was foul weather.

Am I surprised that a public school today would show such flagrant disrespect to America’s flag?

Absolutely not one freakin’ bit!

A New Fad?

It’s winter. Compared to last winter, this one’s rather tame and chicken-hearted.
But it’s still winter, and around here, temperatures at mid-day only get into the low 40s.

So what’s with all these people walking around in shorts and T-shirts?

It’s not everybody, but you see at least a couple of them on every block in town. Is it a reality TV thing? Where does it come from? I mean, there’s a pretty stiff north wind blowing all the time, and it’s not very comfortable. Why are all these characters dressed like it’s mid-May or early June? It’s February!

What is the origin of this foolishness? Are these “People of Walmart” wannabes? Does some “star” do this on a music video?

Some of these folks are going to get good and sick before this winter’s over.

Did C.S. Lewis Make a Major Error in the Narnia Books?

I think I have discovered a serious error in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia–an author’s slip-up that nobody seems to have noticed.

Remember, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the four Pevensey children stumble into Narnia, they’re the only human beings in the country. Tumnus the Faun tells Lucy that he’s never seen a human being before. When the four become kings and queens of Narnia, they’re still the only human beings in the country. This is still the case at the end of the book, when they stumble back into our world.

But then there’s The Horse and His Boy, a flashback to a time before the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Peter and his siblings are kings and queens of Narnia: but now they have a whole nation of human subjects in addition to the talking animals, dwarfs, fauns, etc. The kingdom of Archenland is also inhabited and ruled by humans; and south of that, there’s the vast empire of Calormen, inhabited by another race of humans culturally very different from the Narnians.

Given that only a few years could have gone by since the Pevenseys were crowned kings and queens… where did all those people come from?

Adding to the confusion, in the prequel, The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and Polly are present at the creation of Narnia. They return to our world; but Frank, the London cabman, and his wife, Helen, remain in Narnia as king and queen. And Aslan prophecies that their descendants will be kings and queens in Narnia and Archenland. But by the time the Pevensey children discover Narnia, there is no trace left of any of those descendants, and human beings are the stuff of Narnian folklore.

Where did those people go?

In Prince Caspian, in a story that takes place many centuries after the Pevenseys left Narnia, there is another race of human beings ruling Narnia. But these are Telmarines, the descendants of a band of pirates who somehow found their way into Narnia from our world, couldn’t get back, and multiplied into a whole nation. So they don’t count.

Now it’s not hard for an author to stumble into inconsistencies when he’s writing a series of books. Believe me, I know! My extremely able copy editor, Kathy Franklin, has been kept fairly busy correcting the inconsistencies that slip into my Bell Mountain books. Had she been C.S. Lewis’ editor, The Horse and His Boy would have surely prompted an urgent email to the author: “Jack, where did all those people come from–the ones in Narnia, Archenland, and Calormen?”

Is there anyone else out there who has noticed, or even researched, this seeming inconsistency? If so, I’d love to hear about it!