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I’ve just finished two wonderful and remarkable books: My Father’s Blood by Amy Krout-Horn (the new) and Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (the old) . In all sincerity, I think both would be appreciated by a great many readers. Excellent material to kick off a new year of reading. I would have to say that both are examples of Spiritual Fiction, as they explore the realities of beliefs and practices as they relate to the practice of a spiritual life in the face of so-called “real life”. Below are my reviews, as posted on goodreads.com.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. Please comment if so inclined–even if only mildly inclined–no problem.      jesse s. hanson

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jesse hanson‘s review

Jan 04, 12  · 
 
5 of 5 stars
Recommended for: anyone
Read in January, 2012

Relations
A review of Amy Krout-Horn’s autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood

It’s difficult to sufficiently express the connection I felt reading Amy Krout-Horn’s autobiographical novel. As her self-portrait style character of both European and Native American descent comes to identify more strongly with her Lakota ancestry, I am reminded of the phrase—the prayer—All My Relations. I am aware that those words have a particular significance in this story. Finding her way is, in fact, a gradual process, since her father’s Lakota blood is not the primary heritage she learns about as a young girl. Rather, she is raised in mainstream, small-town, upper Midwest America, with the religion, history, and values that come with that territory. To that, I can most certainly relate, just like Amy, but ultimately, cannot truly identify with it.

The young girl’s American dream is challenged at a young age. Her trials are deeply emotional as are the trials of all young girls. Yet the comparison with most other young girls stops there. Forced to make her own way in a world that relentlessly removes her from security, she recovers again and again from the dark nature of despair. Krout-Horn allows the reader to experience both the brutality and the poetry of life right along with her. And, I think, therein lies the depth of this early memoir. She writes with a flourish that is not flowery, with a poignancy that is not contrived. I did find the omniscience of the narrator slightly disconcerting, in the case of a memoir, yet the book is presented as a novel, so of course, it’s obviously a matter of style.

Yes, I feel more deeply connected, having read My Father’s Blood, even as I feel more deeply the great chasms of separateness, culture to culture—as I mourn the separation of individuals from one another, created by our all-consuming culture of consumerism. This is one of those fine books that speak to us in a profound way about our relations. To those of us who have, to whatever extent, left behind our small towns or our old neighborhoods, we often feel a need to recognize our relationship with all as brothers and sisters. Yet there is also great relevance in the preservation of a people, in the reverence for and devotion to a way of life. “Are we Indians, Grandpa?” the little girl asks. “I suppose some places we would be,” he said…

There are so many levels of interest in this little novel; we are intimately exposed to and educated about the familiy’s debilitating and life-threatening illness and we become witness to the intuitive strengths that are sometimes granted to the handicapped. Another one of the very interesting aspects to me was the author’s personal question: who is an Indian? I certainly appreciated the expressed vulnerability in a brief but openhearted examination of this subject. From Chapter Six, Spring of Bleeding Hearts: “My grandfather’s eyes met mine and I saw the tiniest pinpoint of light flickering in the shiny black pupils, like the gleam of a star, its brilliance diminished only by the unfathomable space and time that exists between itself and Earth.”

I recommend My Fathers Blood. It is a remarkably tasteful and yet artistic work for so young a writer. I suspect she is young, only in years, as we know them.

 
 
 
3550640

jesse hanson‘s review

Jan 04, 12  · 
 
5 of 5 stars
Read from November 20 to December 23, 2011
 
A Great, and I Think, Little Known Classic
A review of Kurban Said’s novel, Ali and Nino 

I’d never even heard of this story, but my circles don’t run that wide. I stumbled across it: a love story, extraordinare–a love story in more ways than one. Where Asia meets Russia meets Europe. An Islamic boy and a Georgian girl. A Russian revolution and a World War. All of this lovingly and elegantly captured in classic novel format by an unknown author with the ghost name, Kurban Said.

Just click on the edition here (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46284…) and read the great synopsis by Alix Wilbur. If you’d rather just read it cold without the synopsis, then just read it. It may be even more relevant today than in the time of its inception. It is such a lovingly rendered view of fundamental Islamic culture that the non-Islamist reader is irresistably drawn in. Simultaneously sincere and lighthearted.

Please read it… You won’t forget it.

 
 
 
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I just felt that I had to post this particular review of Song of George by spiritual fiction author Judy Croome, not because it’s such a flattering review, which it is, but because of the attention to detail, regarding the novel, that she has expressed.
 
I must say that in the comparisons to the work of the old Russian novelists, she has really gone too far. Nevertheless, I really appreciate her sincere focus on specific aspects of a work that I consider an experimental effort.
 
That she referred to that experimentation as pure art was, for me, a deep honor. That she quoted from my poetry, was a  joy. She referred to the book as a challenging read (that that was a good thing) and I am again honored and grateful. And that she addressed the fragile love relationship between George and his followers in such a poignant way was very touching to me. Finally, Judy saw the story as representing a philosophy of hope, which really made my day. I hope my readers will consider Judy’s wonderful and compelling novel: Dancing in the Shadows of Love, based, primarily in her native rural Zimbabwean bush country of  South Africa.
 
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 Art & Anguish,September 17, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

“Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man”is not a novel…it’s pure Art. This intense, unusual story contains original prose, poetry, song lyrics and artwork, all welded together by a thread of human suffering reminiscent of the great Russian authors such as Dostoevksy.

Although they are very different stories, at times the struggles and comradeship of George’s disciples reminded me of Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” with its portrayal of just how much anguish humanity can endure despite enormous odds, for “We lay like scattered bones on the floor of her lair, mother earth some, broken splintered things, white against the dirt, the pain is gone.”

In “Song of George” much of the suffering comes from in the treatment of the inmates by the guards, but even more comes from their supposed distorted realities. One of the major themes in this nuanced novel is the exploration of how one defines madness (is George mad or is he a visionary? And who is to decide which he is?)

When you pick up this book, expect a challenging read in more ways than one: dense with characters, packed with philosophy and resonating with compassion, “Song of George” forces the reader to examine different realities through the lives, minds and experiences of three students interviewing (mainly) numerous inmates in a prison mental institution.

Despite the need to concentrate hard, the pace of the story is fast and the author’s portrayal of his multitude of characters is simply superb. Each character is unique and fascinating, even the less appealing ones such as Jaiden. The author’s compassion and understanding for those of us classified as “insane” clearly runs deep.

Throughout the book I felt I was reading profound truths about life. From the suggestion of reincarnation (in Toby’s story) to a conversation about “low burning fires” the student Jeff eavesdropped on, the themes of this immense novel are shrouded in a sense of futility and despair at the ugliness of a world that denies ultimate truths in favour of modern commercialisation, materialism and alienation. When George was freed on parole, the collapse of the inmates’ fragile serenity at the loss of their holy man, is symbolic of the apocalyptic threat to humanity facing us as we turn away from the universal language of Love and a spiritual path.

And yet this was an uplifting story. The glimpses of hope were there: Harold/Horatio’s relationship with his sister Illy, who believed in him against all reason, ultimately becoming his safe haven, almost a “reward” for his innocence despite all that had been done to him. The final scene, despite the ambiguity of the closing paragraphs, also suggests that all hope is not lost when the little girl on the stoop shames the boys tormenting George into helping him.

With its weighty philosophical nature, this novel needs more than one reading to be fully appreciated. Like all good novels that endure, each reading of “Song of George” will, I’m sure, raise more questions and offer new spiritual insights for its readers.

Finally wrote my review of War and Peace: Original Version. I try to include here, reviews that have some relation to spiritual fiction. Although that is a rather debateable aspect of this novel, I do think it exists, as it does in much classical literature. Hope you enjoy the review. As always: thanks for stopping by my blog. I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a comment if so inclined.
                                           Jesse S. Hanson

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Heroes and Heroines or Failures and Fools… or both?

 

I guess the first responsibility one has in writing a review of War and Peace is to be clear about what version is being reviewed. My review concerns, War and Peace: Original Version, translated by Andrew Bromfield, Paperback, 912 pages, Published September 1st 2008 by Harper Perennial. The 912 pages is short by most standards (Goodreads.com shows 383 editions and the lengths of some of these editions can run into several thousands of pages, divided into multiple  books. The most common versions read by English readers run something less than 1500 pages, I believe.

 

Whew, I’m glad that part’s over! It’s all quite relevant, I’m sure, on the one hand, which edition/version we’re talking about and yet on the other, perhaps not so much so. There are the issues of a “happy ending” or not, philosophical “fill” or not, etc. Leave it to the Tolstoy geeks, I’m sorry. It’s not the only good story in the world and, great as he was/is, he’s not the only great writer in the world. I don’t personally see how saying that detracts anything from his greatness or the novel’s greatness.

 

So let me begin by saying, It’s a great novel. I felt a strong sense of loss when I finished it. It had become a friend over the nearly five months that I was reading it (I’m a slow reader and I have a very busy life and I was reading other books simultaneously).

 

I must say that if I hadn’t been coming into it with the expectation of it being a great novel, I may have abandoned it early on. Those glamorous society parlor soirees, full of gossip and all manner of arrogant types of conversation would have done me in. The fact that the author was obviously critically mocking the characters didn’t help much. I think that when it was written, such authorial mockery may have served an important purpose and been quite entertaining, as well, but we’ve had such a diet of it over the years of my life that I now find it quite boring and repugnant—the stuff of soap operas. Still, I cannot deny, Tolstoy was a master of minute observation and when the stuff of his writing is sincere, I was in constant admiration of that ability.

 

My other problem with the novel was the fact that it was written from the point of view of privileged society in the first place. My Australian Goodreads friend Laurel sent me her thoughts: “With Tolstoy’s two great books, Anna Karina and War and Peace, he very much writes about family life. You feel as if you know the families concerned. For me, it is his greatest achievement.” I could not help but agree with her about the contribution regarding family, but it’s just a personal thing with me: I’m not often fascinated by the family doings of the rich and famous. So when I remarked that I was likely to remain a bigger Dostoevsky fan, that was perhaps the reason. Personally, I am a product of middle class America. From that starting point, in the board game of life, I have occasionally travelled through the slums and the low places of those without “opportunity” as it is usually called, and I have, in turn, traversed, on other occasions, the high roads and visited the lofty nests of the well-to-do. There are good and bad people in all walks, and I’m not comfortable anywhere, but certainly not in the lap of luxury.  

 

I think the greatest delight in reading War and Peace is that the reader is always kept guessing as to the quality of a character’s character, so to speak. My favorite one, Pierre is a perfect case in point. For some time I thought that he was the only character with character. Later, I became convinced that the same was true of Prince Andrei. Up and down I was thrown and plunged through my identification with individual personalities. Whether it was in terms of family relations, or those of friends and peers, or those uniquely military or nationalistic, the story always had me going, pulling for this character or that, despairing in his or her shortcomings and reveling in that same one’s transcendence.

 

The war scenes, though relatively brief, are very powerful. Ultimately, War and Peace is an anti-war novel. I think it’s also a pro-Russia novel; I mean to say a work that revels in the character of the pre-socialist Russia. But it seems so ironic that Tolstoy freely expresses this love of country while he relentlessly mocks every one of his own characters and the entire Russian mentality. He openly portrays the Russian military organism, from the beloved sovereign to the generals to the foot soldiers, as absolutely clueless. He places no value whatsoever on the genius of anyone in command (not even Napolean, the enemy’s great emperor hero who is widely acclaimed, even today as a military genius). The business of war, the author sees as baseless murder, yet the business of peace he seems to see as ridiculous comedy.

 

There is really one primary question that I have, and I think the reader must decide for her/himself: are there any heroines/heroes in this great sprawling and endearing epic? I believe there are only three characters who genuinely concern themselves with any higher, spiritual questions or pursuits in their lives; how those questions or pursuits are resolved is, to me, part of the same primary question.

 

I do highly recommend War and Peace. I think it will be a joy to discuss it with others—a joy one won’t be able to relate to unless one reads it. 

 

 

 

Spiritually inspired recording artist, Denis Morreau

Spiritually inspired recording artist, Denis Morreau

Spiritually inspired recording artist, Denis Moreau has offered some very unique and insightful comments, after reading my spiritual allegory, Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man. My wife, Lilasuka, and I are big fans of Denis, so the comments are special, coming from him.

Here is a brief bio of Denis from his facebook profile:

Born in Temiscaming Quebec, a small paper mill town, Denis received his musical training early, in the church choir. By the time he was 15, his attention leaned toward the music of the day. Inspired he learned how to play guitar and harmonica then soon lost interest in all others matters. He hitchhiked across Canada and parts of the US mingling with the citizens and sharing his music.

At 25 years of age, yearning for spiritual awakening, he donned the robes of a monk. For the following 15 years he was fully engaged in meditation, devotional practices, and welfare activities. His services led him to different parts of Canada, the United States, and the Far East.

In 1995 he renewed his efforts in music while living in New York City. Since, he has been recording and touring many festivals and venues performing in theaters, clubs, coffee houses, retirement communities and charitable outreaches. 

And the following are Denis’ comments regarding Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man:

“Here is a voice that defies the boundaries of sanity, and beckons me to drop certain preconceived notions of sanctity.

This voice wanders in the midst of horror, cynicism, absurdity, and wisdom, inviting me to bare my soul before the human condition— all along urging me to look for the spiritual thread tying it all together.”            –Denis Moreau

In my ongoing effort to propagate awareness of Spiritual Fiction, I’d like to present an excellent example. Unfortunately, Howard Fast, who is among the most prolific of American writers, is no longer with us to give an opinion regarding my obsession with the genre. 

Having read his memoir, Being Red, I came to believe that Howard did not necessarily believe in God. He did certainly believe in humanitarianism and fought bravely, brilliantly, and even physically for that cause in all of its purposes. He was a long-time Unitarian Universalist, though he is more often cited for his temporary ties with the American Communist movement. Those modern day souls, fearful of the very word socialism (a fear bred and bolstered by the hate mongering of political opportunists and Joe McCarthy groupies) would do well to read Howard Fast to get the other, and much truer side of the story.

Nevertheless, The Confession of Joe Cullen is, in my opinion, great Spiritual Fiction… Well, it’s all in the review. No, not really; it’s all in the novel. I highly recommend it.

As always, thanks for coming by. Please leave a comment if you’re so inclined.          jesse s. hanson

 

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by Howard Fast

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Spiritual Fiction Novel by Howard Fast

The Confession of Joe Cullen

I loved this Confession of Joe Cullen book, although, if it hadn’t been Howard Fast (it’s no secret–I’m a huge fan), I may well have not read beyond the first chapter/confession–Guy walks into a bar, says, “Hey bartender, who’s the good lookin’ dame in the corner…” Well, i’m being facetious, but it really came off as second rate New York gumshoe material. But it is Howard Fast so I didn’t quit there, and it turned out to be, not only great historical fiction and social commentary, so typical of this fine American author, but also a really wonderful example of spiritual fiction.

There isn’t a lot you can tell about this novel, without giving out spoilers. Suffice it to say that it really is a gumshoe story, with all the trappings of that form, including extreme simplicity and a certain corniness. As I was thinking of comparisons just now, Road to Perdition came to mind. People tend to be, after all, simple and a bit corny from one perspective, and yet from another, they are vital, sincere, tormented, and trajic. Having spent most of my life as an artist trapped in a blue collar body, these characters (the good guys, not the bad guys) are my friends. Yes, they are often melodramatic, but that does not negate the very real and powerful drama of their lives and their deaths. Herein, these men and women deal with important questions, such as truth, integrity, love, loneliness, despair, betrayal, loyalty, and forgiveness.

Set in 1987, The Confession is rather pre-technology as we think of it today. But it is a time, not so very far removed and I cannot see it as anything less than still relevant, even socially, to today’s world. Spiritually… well spirituality is transcendant of time, is it not? If not, I’m not sure what value it would have.

View all my reviews

Some folks know, Lilasuka and I have plans (informal ones, I mean, not blueprints) for a house on our little piece of property in West Virginia. Although, completely realizeable, God willing, it has taken on the status of a dream house to some extent. I wrote a little poem about it, which is the subject of this post. Since the house does not exist yet, except in our minds and hearts, I’ve included a picture of/from the site of the house to be in twilight.

As always, I hope you enjoy the post and I thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog. Please leave a comment if you’re so inclined. jesse

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O House
jesse s. hanson

O house of our future, upon the hill
I’ve sat in you, perfectly still on a fair day
with the sun going easily across the sky
and sometimes I wonder
as the soft bundled clouds go strolling by, I tag along
remembering, forgetting, as I please

Yet, now I’m on my knees
they call this longing, love
I hope that’s what it is­—and that it’s not an end in itself
because the appetite of the world is a dragon of lust and violence,
anxiety and madness
and I have this eternal, ageless longing
and I’m ultimately defenseless
and I’m so afraid that it’s all endless

In our house that sits among the stars
where we belong, where we are on a quiet night
your voice and mine sound good and true
our hearts full of wonder
listening to the night birds tender song, and to you singing along
thoughtful, hopeful, part of it all

Later, crying out
It’s just a dream; you had a bad dream
But, wasn’t it so all along—with every moment flitting by?
There’ll be nothing left, because nothing ever really was but entertaining
scenes, so well contrived, we’re just the dead that are alive
What seems most real is the awful heartache
that, with tears of sympathy, survives
so sadly watching, twas never born and never died

O house of dreams, made for children
a place to play, a little buildin’, in the morning sun
dress up and dress down, I hear you chant and I meditate
is it any wonder
the teapot’s whistling, “It’s not too late!”: more to it than fate
keep remembering—always—don’t forget

I’ve just created a new page here on my blog to display Christine Sherwood’s wonderful  pencil illustrations (they’re full size on the new page) for my spiritual fiction novel, Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man. See the link at the top of this page or click https://jesseshanson.wordpress.com/song-of-george-illustrations-by-christine-sherwood/

I wanted to repost this little article (which is definitely NOT a HOW TO) on the subject of self-promotion that I wrote last March, shortly after creating my blog. I am especially feeling it, in the promotion of my novel, as I reach out, specifically to friends, brothers and sisters on the spiritual journey, people who are very important and dear to me.
I’ve updated it only slightly. Updates are in bold print.
As always, thanks for stopping by my blog. Please feel free to comment.
 
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     Unfortunately, these days, more than ever before, if one is pursuing artistic endeavors, one is put in the position of having to promote, promote, and self-promote. It’s true for musicians, writers, visual artists, any type of artist. With a great measure of success, perhaps, one gets beyond it to a greater or lesser extent… i wouldn’t know.

     i’m saying this because having spent years writing a spiritual fiction novel, putting my heart and soul into it, and with it now enroute to becoming  a product (It was since published in July, 2010 by All Things That Matter Press), i find myself in such a position. True, i have been involved in self-promotion all along, not only in regards to my music with The Primatives, but in the submission process for short stories (excerpts in my case), poetry, and the novel manuscripts themselves. But now it’s become even more necessary, lest my work become just another bubble that forms and pops instantly and quietly into oblivion in the vast ocean of published literature.

     So i’m just asking that my friends, my fans, my brothers and sisters in spirituality, and my associates in general, bear with me as i make the efforts in this process of trying to inform the world about the existence and merits of my novel and other work. Please don’t find me arrogant, although i don’t claim to possess true humility either. And please don’t find me a bore, as it seems to be a necessary and unavoidable process, one in which i may at times, in my lack of knowledge, pursue innapropriately. Try and try my best i may have some measure of success or i may fail, but it would certainly be a failure, in one sense, if i should lose or annoy my friends and supporters.                         
              As always, i thank you for reading,   jesse s. hanson

My Publisher, All Things That Matter Press, has just informed me of an amazing pre-Christmas promotion in which I have enthusiastically chosen to participate.

So here it isBetween now and December 7th, my spiritual fiction book, Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Manis available in PDF format FREE. This is a short term opportunity for you to read my novel absolutely free. All you have to do is ask.

Just send an email to me at dragonssong100ml@yahoo.com and I will send you the PDF.

Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!
Feel free to tell your friends. No Strings. My goal is just to gain exposure for my novel.

The following is my review of the fine debut novel by All Things That Matter Press author, Jerry Scwhartz, Pixels of Young Mueller. This review has been  posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to comment.    jesse s. hanson

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pixels of young mueller

     I really enjoyed these pixels of a young aspiring artist named Mueller. It is a fact that the modern world is chock full of musicians, writers, and all varieties of artists struggling–asking for the slightest attention to our “real” work, as we “don’t quit our day jobs” yet. I say “our” as I am one such musician, writer, artist myself. I can relate.

     I actually put it in a song of my own, “I want you to see me–I want you to hear me–just another nobody.” But of course we’re not really nobodies. Whether we make it or not we do affect those who come in contact with us, some more, some less. We really do. And some of us will even achieve success as the society of the world measures its artists. Many of us will not.

     Jerry Schwartz tells the story of one of us with an engaging and entertaining style. I liked the presentation, in which the narrator knows very little more than the character knows. So the reader gets the story straight, so to speak, whether it is from Mueller as a pre-schooler, Mueller as a member of the work force, or Mueller the multi-talented artist.

     Does he make it? You’ll have to read it to find out. Well written and relevant, even spiritual in a notably subtle way, I most surely recommend it. Four stars for the very fine debut effort. I think Schwartz is capable of better yet.

Jesse S. Hanson’s spiritual fiction novel

Jesse S. Hanson's spiritual fiction novel

Click picture to Buy or learn about my novel