Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Language of Jorge Luis Borges

You know me.

I'm a writer of nonfiction. (Though I reverse the right to fiction). Jorge Luis Borges was a writer of fictions. Minimalist fiction. He also wrote nonfiction. He reserved the right to write as he chose. In fact there is very little distinction between his fiction and his nonfiction. I would like to introduce him to you...I recently purchased a copy of his 'Selected Non-Fictions' edited by Eliot Weinberger. It's an interesting read. As interesting as any fiction. In fact, it is not so much a book to read as one that must be read and re-read again and again. It demands that with its intricate language and the almost impossible interconnectedness of its story lines and topics.

Richard Bernstein of 'The New York Times' said, "Borges's uniqueness in 20th-century letter is rooted in an almost monstrous combination: encyclopedic knkowledge, razorlike critical judgement and a ravishing appreciation for the magical and pagan dimension in every situation."This is no easy read, in short. But the works themselves are brief enough to invite a re-reading at any time. (You can pick it up almost anywhere and be as overwhelmed as you would have been by trying to read it straight through). If that hasn't been enough to frighten you off, let's continue.

Inside you will find his early writings (1922-1928) which include, (but are not by any means limited to), 'Joyce's Ulysses', 'Literary Pleasure', and 'An Investigation of the Word'.

The next section is 1929-1936 and includes 'The Superstitious Ethics of the Reader', 'The Translators of The Thousand and One Nights', and 'The Labyrinths of the Detective Story and Chesterton'.

Next come a whole series of 'Capsule Biographies' of the likes of Isaac Babel, Theodore Dreiser, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, among many others.

Then 'Book Reviews and Notes', including 'William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom!', 'Two Fantasy Novels', 'H.G. Wells' Latest Novel', and 'Joyce's Latest Novel'.

Next a section about the time of the Second World War 1937-1945, which is followed by 'Nine Dantesque Essays', the period of 1946-1955, and finally 'Dictations' with various lectures, his 'Prologues to the Library of Babel', and 'Prologues to a Personal Library'.

I am only telling you this to let you know what you are getting into if you decide to read this book. (But I consider it a must-read for those who write nonfiction. You will see why if you read it).I have found that I can get bogged down quite easily in any of his writings. The other day I was reading 'The Translators of The Thousand and One Nights'. "At Trieste, in 1872, in a palace with damp statues and deficient hygienic facilities, a gentleman on whose face an African scar told its tale - Captain Richard Francis Burton, the English consul - embarked on a famous translation of the Quitab alif laila un laila, which the roumis know by the title 'The Thousand and One Nights'. Now, I don't know about you, but that is an intriquing opening. So much is packed into a few sentences that I can't help but wonder what Borges will say next. "Lane translated against Galland," he writes, "Burton against Lane; to understand Burton we must understand this hostile dynasty."Now, I'm going going to spoil it by telling you what that hostiel dynasty is, or why it should matter to you. As my English teacher used to have us say at the end of a high school book report, "If you want to know the ending, you'll have to read the book." Actually, I'm not sure that applies in this case. Even if you read the book, you may not be able to make out the ending. Borges has a way of subverting the passage of time, too... But that is quite another story.

Keep Reading


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I began writing at a young age. At twelve years old, I think. I started out writing pretty lame stories about talking animals and such. That's what I thought you were supposed to do at twelve. But I was already reading Hemingway and Jack London and others by that age, so I wasn't going to keep writing at that level for long. By the time I got into Western Michigan University I aced a class in creative writing with a novella the professor thought I should try to see published. I burned it instead. "It's not good enough," I said.

Instead I sold my VW bug and went to Europe where I hitch-hiked around for five weeks. (This was the summer of 1971). When I returned, since I had blown off my draft deferment, I was drafted into the US Army, where I spent the next eight years.

My first novel was not published until 1994 - 'The Angelic Mysteries' (ISBN 1-884787-00-2) It is the first person narration of a how he met and fell in love with an angel. There was one complication, however. At the time he met her, she was being hunted across Europe by a psychopath - a man she believed to be an anti-angel. Breathlessly suspenseful and finely crafted, it is a study in human character and of humankind's continuing struggle against evil and insanity.

My second novel, 'Mirabilia' (ISBN1-884787-01-0) was published the following year - 1995. Hoping only that his kidnapped daughter is still alive, Daniel Allman enters the land of miracles in pursuit of her abductor. Along the way he is confronted by all manner of psychic obstacles and dangers from ferocious jackdogs and haunted swamps, to a sorcerer's malicious curse. With nothing more than his teacher's words to guide him and his own integrity to protect him, Daniel's very existence is in jeopardy.

While I continued writing, my publishing opportunities ceased until 2005, when 'Called To Love' (ISBN 1884787-02-9) was published. It is a nonfiction account of some of our adventures in Christian living (especially as lived out among the homeless in our community). Every day the world seems a little crazier than it was the day before. Fortunately there are some things that don't change. Our dedication to 'do to others as we wuold have them do to us' is the golden rule we can all live by - even in these uncertain times. We are called to love.

More recently I have had an article published in the May/June (2009) issue of 'Plain Truth' magazine, a Christian publication for those who are trying to get away from the 'religious spirit' of Christianity. It is entitled 'The Church of Horse Gulch'. This article gives an overview of our activities among the poor and homeless of our community.

I will try to keep this blog updated with publishing credits as they come along. Sorry, 'The Angelic Mysteries' and 'Mirabilia' are both out of print, though I think you can still get copies through e-bay or others. 'Called to Love' is now available as a free e-book download at Hope you'll take a look.

I have just finished up my nonfiction book about American literature: 'American Masters'. I am currently seeking a publisher for it, and I'm working on a similar work called 'A Book of Books'. See my blog that has some of my new writing from that book at Book Of Books.

Hope to hear from you soon.

James D. Sanderson


Hello again.

I thought I might as well follow up and let you know who I am. I was born in 1952 and have been a reader from an early age. Even as a kid I was always carrying books around - many of them classic literature - mostly American though some others as well. (I did not read War and Peace until I was a teen). I think Ernest Hemingway was the one who got me started. As a young boy I couldn't believe that someone was actually living those adventures. I vowed to have such a life myself. (I would never have run with the bulls in Pamplona, for instance, if it hadn't been for Hemingway's vivid descriptions of that event in 'The Sun Also Rises' and other places in his writing. I read F. Scott Fitzgerld, Sherwood Anderson, Mark Twain, and Jack London. All of these and many more of course are what has led to my interest in writing about great literature.

As with other areas in my life, however, I wanted to write in a way that anyone could understand and in a way that would be interesting. (I have to write the stuff, after all, and if it is dull, Jim will be a dull boy too). So I began to make connections between the various writers I have read and am still reading, and began to put these tales together in interesting, exciting, and even adventurous ways. (Did you know, for instance, the 'Little Women' is an allegory about young women who are struggling with the burdens of their faults that is based upon the allegorical novel 'Pilgrim's Progress' by English author John Bunyon? So it becomes a kind of allegory within an allegory - the only one I am aware of. (Though is you know of others you might want to let me know). I found that these writers made comments about each other - some sage and some just plain rude. They read each other and reviewed each other's works and influenced each other in sometimes very subtle ways. In making connections in this way it seems life has been breathed back into the authors and their works.

My wife and I live in Colorado and we are currently raising our two granddaughters. I write full time and have just finished my book 'American Masters' and have already started on my next, 'A Book of Books' (which is where the illustration about 'Little Women' is from). If you would like to check out some of my writing from this next book, please click on the link below for my other blog:

Let me know what you're reading and/or writing.


James D. Sanderson


Greetings Readers,

Sorry for the delay in getting this up and running but I have been busy putting the finishing touches on my new book. 'American Masters' is a book for those who love books. It is a popular history of American literature from its beginning in our colonial period (Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin), through our most recent Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. It is written in a sweeping narrative style (with a hidden first person narrator), drawing from the lives of the authors, their stories, their work, and interesting anecdotes from their own experiences. Did you know, for instance, that at age six Flannery O'Connor taught a chicken to walk backward. It was filmed by the Pathe News and was shown across the country. Little Mary O'Connor was on film helping with her chicken. She claimed that everything else in her life was anti-climactic. This is only one of the many such stories that have turned up in the research for this book. (And it has been just a plain ol' hoot to write, if you'll allow me that levity).

The study of literature has somehow become divided up by particular authors or poets, or various 'movements', or by their individual works. Very little has been done to mine the vast interconnectedness of the literary tradition from its earliest days until the present. Yet, not surprisingly, these authors knew each other, or had read each other, or had written reviews about each other, or had made comments about each other, and nothing was ever written in a vacuum as it sometimes appears in the classroom. Readers, (myself included), have approached the whole affair of reading our masters as a hit and miss matter, which seems to be more often miss than hit.

'American Masters' has a strong narrative insistence which does not sacrifice itself by use of obvious fictional techniques. Rather, it is written on several levels, giving it a deep tidal flow that is not fully appreciated by only a surface reading. Beyond the simple chronological reading there is a deeper symbolic level; and a deeper still mythic historicity of dreams, fears, imaginings; and a deeper still labyrinthine level of games, puzzles, codes, word play, and so on. (Which could be appreciated by the likes of Nabokov). 'American Masters' is going to need a respected agency to represent it for publication. If you know of one that might be interested, please blog me back and let me know.

Thanks, and good reading...

James D. Sanderson