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Thursday, May 06, 2004

What I'm Reading...

God's Secretaries : The Making of the King James Bible

I finally heard a term used to describe books such as this and the Michelangelo book I mentioned a few weeks ago -- a micro-history. This books use a particular historical figure or event to illuminate the period. This book was mentioned in some publication, I can't remember which, and I added it to my growing collection of books to get from the library.

The reign of King James I was tumultuous and filled with political and religious fighting. James sought to use a new translation of the Bible to help bridge the growing gap between the traditional Chruch of England and the growing number of Puritan's who sought a simpler, purer and less Roman Catholic religion. Instead, the disclusion of many, more radical Puritan leaders seems to have only pushed the country close to the Civil War that would occur a few decades later.

Thime time period is important for American's, as the persecution of Purtains in England led directly to their arrival in America. Already, at the very beginning of its history, America was filled with radicals not content with the status quo in England. Given a choice of surrender to the traditional dogma, imprisonment or exile, they chose to leave their home and create a new life based on their own beliefs. Even in America, though, the thought of religious freedom was a moot point. Just like James and his bishops in England, they demanded strict adherence to their religious beliefs.

God's Secretaries is an illuminating story of an often-ignored period of history and the creation of one of the most well-known translations of the Bible in the world today. In time, even the Puritans began to use the translation as their own official text, despite their exclusion during its development.

The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch

This book of essays follows the familiar path of Cameron's non-fiction writing, teaching writers how to deal with themselves and their work. Roughly following the cycle of a year, first living in New York and then retiring to her summer retreat in Taos, New Mexico, Cameron covers the ins and outs of a writer's life.

Unlike The Artist's Way and others, this is not a workbook, divided into a series of weekly exercises. While each essay has a quick "Try this" section, they are gentle proddings to think further about the essay you have just read. This is not a book to be swallowed whole in one sitting. I found myself reading 1 or 2 essays and then spending a bit of time absorbing what I just read. It was a fine companion for 3-4 weeks as I dipped into it again and again.

I have enjoyed Cameron's other books, so I was pre-disposed to read her latest. There is a highly spiritual element to these essay if not specifically religious. Here idea of "The Great Creator" might put off some readers, but if they supply their own verison of the "creator" that they relate to, this helps to put the essays into perspective.

Cameron takes a gentle hand with writers, not giving them full rein to be obnoxious parodies of how they think writers should act, but giving them and understanding on how they are different from those around them. Understanding, even from a distant writer of books, can be a well-spring of relief to an isolated writer wondering if they are crazy.


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