‘Should he continue in the wide field of literature he will assuredly become one of our first writers of romance,’ wrote Launceston’s Daily Telegraph, reviewing journalist Thomas Prichard’s novel, Retaliation: An Early Tale of Melbourne (1891). It was not to be. This is the only novel Prichard was to publish before his death by suicide in 1907; in addition to his journalism, the rest of his oeuvre is filled out with two known short stories in The Bulletin and two serial Christmas stories in newspapers, as well as poems and some works of non-fiction. Retaliation was published in a cheap paperback edition with a green cover and sold for a shilling. Trove, the combined catalogue of libraries across Australia, lists six copies held in Australia; there may be several more in libraries not listed, and a few in private hands, but essentially, Prichard’s novel and his literary career have been forgotten. Retaliation is a popular fiction of its day, and while competent and representative, is not especially memorable. It does, however, read as a fascinating document of its time, especially in relation to the work of Prichard’s famous daughter, Katharine Susannah. Continue reading
Benjamin Ziskind steals a Chagall painting from the NY Jewish Art Gallery because his family used to own it.
The novel has many strands – Benjamin’s grandfather who was given the painting as a boy in a USSR orphanage; Benjamin’s parents – his father a Vietnam veteran and his mother a children’s book illustrator who takes Yiddish stories and folklore and brings them to life again; Benjamin’s twin sister, Sara, who forges a copy of the Chagall; Benjamin’s potential lover, Erica, curator at the gallery, who is trying to find the thief. And then finally, bringing the strands together, Benjamin’s unborn nephew, Daniel, who in the final chapter is shown through the ‘world to come’, the world he is entering, by angels who are his dead ancestors.
The two novels it reminds me of most are The Book Thief and Nicole Krauss’s History of Love. I wonder if Krauss and Horn are friends or rivals, being two Jewish women writers in New York with two years between them and both writing magic realism that concerns family and text
I read the Last Battle – C.S. Lewis’s final Narnia book – twice, but I never noticed the strong suggestion that the humans who have come to Narnia have been killed in a train crash. I found out this was the case after reading it as a casual aside in a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
It seems that all the Narnia ‘children’ – barring Susan, who’s rejected Aslan’s ways – are on the same train, having met up. Conveniently, this means that they all die at the same time and appear in Narnia simultaneously, where they are in high demand for the last battle.
If Narnia is the afterlife, then the idea is this: we die because we’re needed in the afterlife. This is a very comforting idea. My Granny died soon after Ron Pop because he was lonely in the afterlife and wanted her there as well. Perhaps some heavenly band needed Ian Pop to play drums, and that’s why he died of lung cancer in his early seventies. But I don’t know what God wanted with Mark Sandman, lead singer of Morphine, so young nor my favourite theologian, John Howard Yoder, who should have been given another twenty years to amaze the world. And then why such high demand for people in the afterlife during wars and epidemics?
Well, I might respond, these people were dying anyway, and it just so happens that God manages to make good the tragedy of their death by creating a reason for it – invisibly to us who are left behind.
Okay, I could almost live with that, but I’ve got a more serious and sustained objection. I don’t believe afterlife is lived in an invisible realm running parallel to this one like Narnia. I believe that the afterlife is resurrection, that it takes place on an Earth made right. Whatever existence we might have immediately after death, it is but a shadow, a waiting for the time of our resurrection with incorruptible bodies on a new Earth.
C.S. Lewis, I’m sure, never meant me to read his eschatology too literally. But I do think that a lot of Christians see ‘heaven’ as a Narnia-like realm in its basic disconnection from Earth.