Archives for category: Bible

Brazenly, I decided to call my ordinary family’s history A Book of Kells after Ireland’s finest, famous relic of western civilization The Book of Kells. My sister, Tanis, agreed it should be “a story for all people of all time.” Our father (John Kell of a farming family) and mother deserved no less. Like the ninth century monks behind ‘The’ illuminated Gospel vellum, our parents practiced selfless Christian tenets, taking no credit themselves but leaving a record behind for the after life.

  • Brazenly, I thought of my genre as ‘true novel’ which defies the Oxford dictionary’s definition of the novel as being “fictitious prose.” Professor Northop Frye loved to tell his students that the Greek word “myth” simply means “story” and the English word “fictitious” is from the Latin word for “something made”. I wanted to relate as accurately and excitedly as possible what really happened in my parents’ lives so people would enjoy reading about it. That would make the book authentic and launch a voyage of self-discovery and learning as I wrote.
  • Brazenly, I decided all the names of people and places in my book would be real. My parents had been dead for over six years when I started to write it in 1996 but some names linked them to ongoing connections. I disciplined myself to do careful research and record my sources. If it was going to be a classic, it had to be able to stand up to scrutiny. If anyone objected or threatened to sue, my defence would be that I wrote the truth and could substantiate it. 
  • Brazenly, I bet myself I could find a beginning, middle, climax and ending in the appropriate places if I studied my parents’ diaries, letters, etc. thoroughly enough. I would not have to write fantasy, which I can’t. In fact, the bones of a novel were there and so was a theme: selfless love and redemption. I added the subtitle Growing Up in an Ego Void. Making myself my parents’ foil kept up the pace of the post-honeymoon story. Frye taught his students that the Bible (“the grammar of western civilization”) had two types of continuity. One was the chronological continuity of the Hebrew people’s history and the other was a cyclical continuity on the theme of redemption.
  • Brazenly, I took a chance on having BookSurge, a pioneer in the technology of print-on-demand digital publishing, publish my book in 2002. It cost only $299 so I still had $500 burning a hole in my pocket. I took advantage of an offer BookSurge made to hire New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh, to review my manuscript prior to publication. She wrote a good, honest, favorable review from which I lifted a blurb to print on the back cover above her name and credentials.
  • Brazenly, I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in 2003 and dropped by the exhibit booths of the Canadian publishers to try to interest them in my book. BookSurge had invited its authors and we accepted because we were already planning a trip to Hungary. The publishers gave me the curt nods and surprised looks a self-publishing interloper on these hallowed premises might have expected. One publisher told me my book “reeked of self-publishing” although he felt BookSurge had done an excellent job. He pointed out that I had used “by” before my name on the cover, had no logo on the spine, did not have a page for chapter titles and did not refer back to my sub-title inside the book. When I came home I fixed these deficiencies. Two publishers called me later in Canada; Saint Paul University seriously considered publishing it but chose a competing book instead. They said mine fell between target audiences; they suggested I look for a publisher on the basis of location.
  • Stubbornly, I have persisted as an independent author, selling everywhere possible, but have now decided to be more selective and financially savvy. Aiming to write a classic is not the same thing as aiming to write a bestseller. At the recent conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa I was able to peddle editing services as well as books. I got a booming endorsement from a past president, Glen Wright, who said, “This is a marvellous book. I just read it. I hope you sell all the copies you brought with you.” Other good places for me to sell in are seniors’ residences where nostalgic, romantic, true books like mine are popular. I’m optimistic about returning to Galeries Aylmer’s Foire Artisanale on Nov. 25th along with Santa Claus. I’ll share a table with Stevie Szabad who is launching her book about being an army brat. For the first time I will have a Square register with me so I can accept credit cards. 
  • Brazenly, if someone asks who my role model author and favorite book are I reply, “Anonymous, who wrote The Summoning of Everyman. This morality play is the first play Frye mentions in his course on Modern Drama. It was written in fifteenth century England and is still being performed today. I saw it performed by Ottawa’s Third Wall Theatre in the National Art Gallery outdoor amphitheatre in 2005. It is being performed in the Pershing Square Theatre in New York City this year. 
  • Modestly, I do not plan to leave instructions in my will to have a copy of my book stolen and buried under the sod for two months and twenty nights before it is retrieved and presented to a university to be displayed, similarly to The Book of Kells. I’m very content to keep on trying to share the story and hearing from wonderful readers from all over who comment and say they enjoyed it. Writing a family history is memory’s classic way to create a link to loved ones and times that have passed on to the after life.


This fairy tale castle of a university has a text engraved over its entrance (left). Pretty vines at times obscure it but make a lasting picture to hang in a home to inspire kids.

A child made cozy with books from the earliest age will do well at school and live a good life. This is true and vital especially  in the midst of the electronic revolution. Here are six cues to help make old-fashioned happiness come to your young ones:

  1. Post a beautiful picture, not just a framed text, containing a good book quote that is meaningful to you on a prominent wall in your home.
  2. Tell a circle of children a classic story relevant to them. Then have them each draw a picture of it.
  3. Give them each a colorful sticker to decorate their work as a seal of approval so they’ll be proud of it.
  4. Read a story to a child at night so she or he relaxes and falls asleep peacefully. Do not allow electronic phones, i-pods, etc. in the bedroom.
  5. Build a bookcase out of  boards and bricks someone else is discarding if you have no other way of getting one. It adds color, can hold things and even divide areas.
  6. Fill it with enticing books bought cheaply at community sales. Let the books’ spines expose their titles and their cover graphics excite curiosity. If they are good books, they will find takers.

My Particular Story

What set me up to writing this blog post was news received on Palm Sunday that our church is headed for closure because of indebtedness. For me it is a loss of literature and I will fight not to let that happen. 

When our congregation started nearly two centuries ago, the one book that needed to be taught to a child as early as possible was the Bible. At age four in 1937 I recall emerging from Sunday nursery school into the spring air feeling happy and confident. My story picture had a singing robin on it. I too was one with nature. God saw the little sparrow fall and counted every hair on my head. We were both that important!

When I learned to read I made out the words, “The Truth Shall Make You Free”, not quite hidden by vines clinging around the imposing door of Victoria College at the University of Toronto in a picture hanging in our front hall. 

That pretty much explains the path my life took. God really went up in my estimation when I learned the text was biblical. He had nothing to fear from my intelligence, my curiosity, my independence, my desire to be free, read, study and write to my heart’s content. In fact, that’s what He wanted. Somehow I had no trouble growing into the habit of metaphorical thinking. The spirit of love and creation would always be the strength inside, ahead of, around and behind me — even if churches close and we have to regroup around family and more literary ways.

The beautiful Saguenay Fjord on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, Canada

The beautiful Saguenay Fjord on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River at Tadoussac, Canada. Image courtesy of Saguenay Fjord National Park

While I vacationed on the beautiful Saguenay Fjord this month my baby, otherwise known as A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, was in the hands of Dunlop House Books. Their background in teaching English and History, and their expertise in writing prehistoric fiction was turned to reviewing my work and accepting me as a member associate. Here’s what they have to say:

“A unique story, all the more compelling because it is true.  A young seaman marries an English bride and carries her off to his preaching and teaching Mission at God’s Lake, a community of 328 Swampy Crees located six hundred miles northeast of Winnipeg, Canada.  The reader is swept along with them, paddling the fur trade routes and keeping tabs on a mission, establishing a church and a farm, suffering terrible winters and thriving on northern summers. They find themselves alone in a frozen universe trying to find a place for their baby to be born.

The story does not stop there. The Great Depression and World War II intervene.   The missionaries’ grown child must find a delicate balance between ego and soul. The adults, away from the romance of the North must live a difficult life and perhaps it is only in the future that their daughter will rescue her parents’ lost egos.

This is not just a northern adventure, it is a journey into the souls of its characters.”

Written by Donella Dunlop

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon, Goodreads or my website. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride  for Christmas or Valentines giving, please contact V&V Publishing, Bookstores selling my books in the Ottawa area are Black Squirrel, Books on Beechwood, Brittons, Michabou, Octopus and Perfect Books.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

suwesleyA surprise comment from some women who read my family memoir  is, “Margaret!   We had the same mother!” What we seem to have in common is not the same DNA, but the same British tradition. They wonder why their mother never talked about herself, and never talked to them about their selves. “What were our mothers thinking?” they ask.

Susanna Annesley was so conscientious (a trait of the mothers we’re talking about) she set down her ideas about child raising so she could be a good example for all women.

This excerpt from A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void  flashes back to 1955:

“In my senior year, I was elected president of Annesley Hall, the girls’ residence a.k.a. the Bastion of Virginity. This home to sixty Vic
co-eds was named after John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Annesley, who set the Methodist pattern for raising children. She considered obedience the basis for all other virtues, since children must learn from their parents until old enough to form their own judgments. They must clean up their plates, speak softly to the servants and be honest, knowing that forgiveness was at hand. She taught her eight children the alphabet on their fifth birthdays, although two of the girls took one-and-one-half days to master it. They learned to pray and read the Bible, and each evening she spent an hour with one child alone. She paid particular attention to John, God’s special child who had been saved from a fire in the rectory at the age of six. He grew up to be called ‘the most influential Englishman since Shakespeare.’”

It was not a warm relationship between the egos of mother and child but a strict training in obedience, humility, appreciation, honesty, redemption, literacy, Biblical mythology and worth. My mother lived from 1900 to 1990 and was still dedicated enough to the Methodist pattern to try to instill these virtues in my sisters and me. Deeply affected by the trauma of  world war one, she particularly emphasized security, passing on a  sense of complete trust in God.

I had to spend six years doing research before I could understand her, celebrate our love and take real joy in having had her as my mother.

What do  you think? Is this child-raising pattern horrendous or sound? Too cold, strict and harsh?

John Wesley wrote, “My mother was the source from which I derived the guiding principles of my life”. Yet perhaps he might envy his contemporary, Benjamin West, who said, “A kiss from my mother made me a painter”.

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time as my guest on cozybookbasics. I hope you like it here, write a comment and browse around by clicking above on ‘Home.’ My writing, whether blog or book, is always personal, fast-paced and focused on the outer and inner adventures of real people, going back beyond three generations. You can familiarize yourself with my books at this Amazon link to A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church. Join me on Goodreads or my personal author page also.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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NF Northrop Frye Statue

As a writer, it’s freeing to learn that the natural habit of the human mind is to think metaphorically. Lately I  have ‘encountered’ many quotations on this subject from two men I would never have put in the same ‘boat’. Let me call them Norrie and Dan, since I’ve been ‘spending’  a lot of  time in their ‘company’. Frankly, I am sick of fruitless debates over subjects such as the literal account of ‘Creation’ and whether ‘God’ exists.

You might as well question whether we need words. Here are some quotations which ‘nail down’ answers to the wobbly question of  what a metaphor is. Of course the quotes are taken out of context, but they are exact. Take  your pick:

From Northrop Frye: Myth and Metaphor (Selected Essays 1974-88), edited by Robert D. Denham:

  • My own view is that every form of speech can be reduced to metaphor, but metaphor is primary language, and metaphor cannot be reduced to another kind of language: as long as we use words at all we can never escape metaphors, but only change them.
  • Our primary thinking…is not rational but metaphorical, an identifying of subjective and objective worlds in huge mental pictures.
  • Metaphors are statements of identity: they tell us, for instance, that the poet and the lady he loves are shadow and sun.
  • Metaphor does not evoke a world of things linked together by overstated analogies; it evokes a world of swirling currents of energy that run back and forth between subject and object.
  • (Metaphor) is also a primary structural effort of consciousness. (It) may be followed by or even translated into more continuous rational thinking.

From The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown:

  • Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical.
  • Every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith — acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration from the early Egyptians to modern Sunday School.
  • Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessable. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors.
  • By teaching through a metaphorical game (Tarot cards), the followers of the Grail disguised their message from the watchful eyes of the Church.
  • Magdalene’s story has been shouted from the rooftops for centuries in all kinds of metaphors and languages. Her story is everywhere once you open your eyes.

For an example of a practical application of this wisdom Frye says, “The account of creation in the Bible does not describe the origin of nature and was probably never intended to. If it were, it would have been a little cleverer and not had the trees created the day before the sun was.”

Have you written any metaphors lately you would like to brag about here? Please use the comment box to tell us!,,,,

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Remembering Northrop Frye: Recollections by His Students in the 1940’s and 1950’s edited by Robert D. Denham

This is a fascinating collection of student reminiscences about Northrop Frye, the world-renowned Canadian literary theorist. Robert D. Denham, retired English professor from Roanoke University, VA, has devoted much of his life to the criticism of Frye, faithfully preserving the work of a genius who started out as an obscure Canadian and might have remained so.
When Denham was preparing “The Diaries of Northrop Frye” for publication in 1994, he hit upon the idea of tracking down and contacting the 1200 persons named in them. The seven diaries were kept intermittently from 1947 to 1955.

One of his most famous students was Margaret Atwood, who says Frye stopped her from “dying young and poor in a Paris garret.” She is too young (class of 6T1)  to have been mentioned in the diaries.

Denham asked each person (mostly, but not all, former students) if they were the one mentioned and if they recalled the occasion. If so, would they please send him some biographical information about themselves, along with their memories of Frye as a person and teacher. This would help Denham annotate the diaries and fill in the social landscape on the campus of Victoria College, University of Toronto during those post WWII years. Denham also asked the respondents for permission to publish them and eighty-nine agreed. I was one of them since our graduating class was invited by Frye and his wife, Helen, to their home in 1955.
In the lengthy Preface, Denham sums up the most frequent of the letters’ subjects: assessments of Frye as a teacher and person, his hair, his shyness, his ‘Bible & Literature’ course and his spellbinding lectures. Then Denham winds up by quoting 24 of the most incisive expressions of Frye’s over-all significance, his power and lasting presence in their lives. I could hardly wait to get past the Preface and into the diary entries and letters, the ultimate class reunion. Of all the facts and features tightly focused on Frye, these especially grabbed my attention:
(1) The recognizable names and intimate letters not only of people I’d known but also of people who became famous media personalities, journalists, comedians, writers, actors and actresses, politicians, etc.
(2) The surprise of seeing the iconic Frye as ordinary, walking back from the grocery store trundling a cart for his wife, or managing work schedules and campus social duties without having a car.
(3)  Touching revelations of things that bothered him, like his students joking that he was ‘God’. He didn’t know what to do about it.
(4) Pondering Frye’s shyness. Everyone felt it and hung back because of it but, when it was challenged, it was found not to be real. A delegation went to his office to ask him if he believed in prayer and he had them sit down for a homey chat. An ex-student who was as shy of him as he was of her was forced into the situation of asking Frye to write a cover blurb for a book of erotica written by her husband, Steven Vizinczey,  since otherwise they would starve. Frye complied with alacrity, praise, honesty, brevity, elegance and wit.
(5) Humorous anecdotes. Two of them might be entitled ‘Norrie (Buttercup) Frye in the Bosoms of Ballroom Dancers (1933)’ and ‘The Girl Who Dared to Be Late for Professor Northrop Frye’s Class’.
(6) The excitement of his Bible course, which he called ‘The Mythological Framework of Western Civilization’. All Vic students were required to take a one-hour-a-week pass option of either Religious Knowledge or Art & Archaeology. Frye’s RK course was so stunning that students from the campus colleges founded on faiths other than Methodist also sat in on it. Thanks to Denham, notes from it are now posted on where anyone can read them. This course does the world a great service by presenting the Bible in an informative, literary way without preaching or proselytizing.
Reading this book is like inviting a genius of the caliber of Aristotle or William Blake into your home and life — an amazing opportunity for which we can thank our host, Robert D. Denham.

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English: Victoria College in the University To...

Victoria College at University of Toronto  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the fall of 1947-48, ‘The Finest Generation’ had returned from WW II  and gone back to school, looking for knowledge and inspiration to lead a peacetime society.

At Victoria College in Toronto English Professor Northrop Frye was ready and welcoming. He had compiled a punchy Bible course in line with the college motto, ‘The Truth Shall Make You Free‘.

These students were the most brilliant he ever taught, his diaries say. After an hour-long lecture, they’d head for a coffee with friends who wanted to know what “God” said today.

This fall students’ notes of those 24 lectures (36 pp) edited by Professor Robert Denham have been posted online. They have not lost their punch. You can read and download them as a PDF without paying fees.

Here’s what he told them in the beginning of his first lecture (direct,  unabridged quotes):

1. The Bible is the grammar of Western civilization; it brings down an entire culture and civilization to us.

2. The Bible  represents a vision of the whole of human life. Transcendental genius and ridiculous genealogies are side by side. It is crude, shocking, funny.  It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The narrative from Creation to Last Judgment takes an epic survey of time. The perspective is of eternity. Jesus is the center of the Bible. Jesus and the Bible are identical.

3. Several theological systems are based on the Bible and all claim to be equally correct. All religions are on a level as far as moral doctrines are concerned; the moral loftiness of the Bible is accidental, like its aesthetic beauty.

4. Recurrent symbols in the Bible form a single pattern. The structure is complicated and must be studied. The whole Bible is the history of man’s loss of freedom and organization and how he got it back.

5. There are two kinds of symmetry: (1) the chronological story of creation, etc., as a legendary, mythical story of the fortunes of the Jewish people from 2000 B.C. to 100 A.D.  and the spread of the Christian Church. (2) The second kind is circular. The conception of true and false as we think of it is not dealt with in the Bible. The fall of man and the apocalypse have nothing to do with history. The whole question of causation, order, purpose is not dealt with.

6. Christianity clings to revelation, and the only practical way to do this is in a book. All we know about God is in the Bible; there is no God in nature or “up there” in the sky. The association of God and Man is the basis of Christianity.

Frye gave his Bible course for decades and died twenty years ago. He became principal of the college; to honor him on an anniversary, the  motto carved in stone into the arch over Vic’s entrance door appeared almost miraculously to read ‘The Truth Shall Make You Frye’.

Click on this link to read all of the 24 lectures of Frye’s 1947-48 Bible course. The notes taken by students Margaret Gayfer and Richard Stingle are part of the Robert D. Denham collection in Moncton, NB, the birthplace of Frye.

Margaret Kell Virany, author of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void

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Photo by Deborah Shackleton

What I liked best about Professor Northrop Frye, whose birth centenary was celebrated in 2012, was his obvious love for his students. Methodist parents reared their youngest son on John Bunyan‘s Pilgrims’ Progress and the King James version of the Bible in Moncton, NB, Canada. With his mother’s milk he drank in the creation, the Garden of Eden, the expulsion, guardian angels, the tribes of Israel, the exodus,  prophecies,  kings,  the ten commandments,  God, Jesus, the apostles, the parables, redemption, heaven, hell, the apocalypse …

But what did it all add up to, what was it for, where did it come from and what made the words and stories so strong and beautiful? As he grew and finished school, he thirsted to go to the big city and learn more.  At age 16 he entered and won a typing contest and had arrived.

By the time I was a freshie at Victoria College, University of Toronto, in 1950  Professor Frye (Norrie) was a legend. Fearful Symmetry, his study of the poet William Blake, had awakened the western world of academics and critics to a new way of reading and interpreting its own literature that depended on the Bible to unlock its code. Actually it was an ancient way of myths, metaphors and types. His Anatomy of Criticism was in progress, taking on the task of finishing Aristotle’s Poetics.

Frye strode to his desk in the lecture room, fair hair and black robe flying,  sat down and surveyed us once with a  kind, friendly, forced, shy granny smile.  His blue eyes gave a glint of the force he nursed. Huge thoughts trotted out in perfect sentences that set the pace for agile note-taking.

I sat through four years of taking Frye’s notes on the usual fare of the novel, modern poetry, Spenser & Milton, modern drama, literary criticism, Greek & Latin literature, Canadian & American literature and 19th Century Thought. After graduating I put them in a box and forgot them. He never lectured on or commented on his own books but his basic ideas shone through.

When I reached middle age and asked myself big questions that had to be resolved I knew Frye was the only person who could help me. I invested my money and time in buying and reading several of his books and he did not let me down.

If you are interested in downloading free notes of Norrie Frye’s classes in pdf form, follow the link given below. When you are in, click on the Denham library in the right menu. For other cozybookbasics posts on Frye, go to ‘Home’ at the top of this page and scroll down.,,,,

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