Category Archives: Books

The Church, the Confessional, the Guilt

Chapel of Bones 

As a child, I was made to go to confession. The confessional was a scary place, and the voice through the grate was frightening even if it was Father Hubert, whose breath was scented with whiskey and Pall Malls. The sisters who taught us at CCD—leading up to our first confession and subsequently our first communion, the body of Christ Himself plopped on our tongues (Jesus tastes like dry library paste… who knew?)—told us that as long as we didn’t sin in thought or action, we would remain clean enough for heaven post-confessional. Naturally, my hand shot up. “So if we think about sinning—?”

“That’s right, Mr. Ovcak. Straight to hell.”

Ah, but sin. It’s always there, tempting us. Even for our clergy.  In his new book, The Dark Box, John Cornwell makes the case that the confessional allowed priests to groom certain youngsters for molestation. He also brings up something I didn’t know about Mother Church—that confession for kiddies is relatively knew. It was only in 1910 when the Pope (Pius at the time) infallibly required children to step into the confessional all by their little selves. And the confessional box (now mostly gone) was created in the sixteenth century to prevent priests from pawing at young women. Claw at the screen all you want, Father! You’ll not touch her!

I think I was seven at my first confession. I remember there being a lot of instruction required before we were allowed to kneel down before God Almighty’s representative on Earth and talk about how we filched cookies, or talked back to our parents. Afterward, I remember comparing notes with other children on the punishments meted out—Stations of the Cross, Hail Mary’s required, etc.—like we were prisoners out on the yard discussing our court cases.

Mostly what I remember was my overwhelming guilt. I never felt like my slate was clean. Never. I still don’t.

I once asked a woman, a friend of a friend, on a date. We were both in our 30′s and unmarried. She was hot, and it seemed like the sensible thing to do. She asked, “Are you Catholic?” I said yes. “I don’t date Catholic men. They’re lousy in the sack.” I was about to be offended, even though I am lousy in the sack. “It’s all the guilt,” she said. “It’s like God Himself is in the room with us, judging you.”

I shrugged. She was right.

Photo source.

Ellroy interview

I hate hipsters, I hate liberals, I hate rock’n’rollers, I hate the counter-culture, I hate movie people. I want to go somewhere quiet, peaceful and decorous, and be radical in my mind. I have fatuous American ideas about Britain. I want to go to the moors. I want to buy a shotgun from Purdey for a lot of money, but I understand it’s tough to buy a gun – you can’t just walk in and say, “I’m an American, give me that gun.” … The potential nightmare for me is I go to Britain and all I see is like in LA; meth labs, white trash and women with tattoos.

http://shortlist.com/entertainment/books/james-ellroy

Meanwhile, while James Ellroy contemplates leaving sickening America, Martin Amis has already left England for America, because England sickens him. The grass being greener, and all.

Rumored to Exist eBook Now Available

“One day in 1971, Ozzy and Tony Iommi took 47 hits of acid and just outside of Newark, New Jersey accidentally found the giant tablets of gold from which the Mormon religion was founded.  They decided it would be wise to melt it into a giant bong and take it on the road with them in a converted tractor-trailer.  With the aid of an early prototype of the first Apple computer, they hired several technicians and wrote a text-based video game based on the works and philosophy of John Locke, where you used the paddle controller to navigate corpuscles through a maze drawn with *’s and %’s.  However, in the course of developing the first video game, they sold all of the gold plates to fund the venture.  And after another acid bender, Ozzy had a vision of Locke arisen from the dead.  He sold his Apple computer to buy thousands of gallons of pure, artesian water for the mammoth bong that did not exist.  Ozzy went insane, and in a few years, Ronnie James Dio was trying to sing ‘Iron Man’ to clubs full of disgruntled Sabbath fans.”

-from section 99 of Rumored to Exist

Paragraph Line Books is proud to announce that Jon Konrath’s second novel Rumored to Exist has been released as an eBook in the Amazon Kindle store and via Smashwords.  It’s now available for only $2.99, in a new revised edition.

Rumored to Exist is a collection of 201 vignettes or flash fiction pieces, loosely tied together into a non-linear narrative about a protagonist attempting to find meaning in a bizarre near-future world. It’s a densely packed stew of ideas flashed together, morphing between dreams, emails, conversations, and action. It’s a novel in the style of Naked Lunch, written for today’s short-attention-span hypertextual world.

Influenced heavily by Burroughs, Mark Leyner, Raymond Federman, and Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Konrath knit together the dense patchwork of fiction over a seven-year period in a half-dozen cities across the US.

It’s also still available in its original print edition from iUniverse, but why spend $15.95 and wait a week to kill another tree, when you can spend under three bucks and check this out now?  There’s also a free preview available on both Amazon and Smashwords, so check out the first part for free.

More info

Buy it now

Details

  • 264 pages (print)
  • ISBN: 978-0595234769 (print, iUniverse)
  • ISBN: 978-0-9844223-1-9 (eBook, Kindle)
  • ISBN: 978-1-4581-0977-4 (eBook, Smashwords)

Part 8 of Tales of the Peacetime Army

[Note: this is part 8 of 8 of the complete text for John Sheppard's book Tales of the Peacetime Army. To start reading at the beginning and for a full list of all parts, please go to the table of contents.

And if you like the story, please visit the book's page and consider buying a copy!]

LIFE DURING WARTIME

I was never promoted to sergeant. I was, instead, a spec-four-promotable, a.k.a SP-4-Ever.

Each MOS had a magic number for promotion out of a possible 1,000. You could make 300 points for your PT test. I barely passed mine. You could make 100 points for college. I was maxed out there. The board gave you a certain number of points, too.

Ordnance specialists, at the time, had to have 450 points for promotion to sergeant. So most of them got promoted. Illustrators were stuck at 998.

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Part 7 of Tales of the Peacetime Army

[Note: this is part 7 of 8 of the complete text for John Sheppard's book Tales of the Peacetime Army. To start reading at the beginning and for a full list of all parts, please go to the table of contents.

And if you like the story, please visit the book's page and consider buying a copy!]

THE ETERNAL FLAME

I went bowling. I kept score in my head entirely against my will. The numbers kept adding up and I couldn’t stop them. It’s like being sick all the time, being me. I have to fight to be lazy every second that I’m lazy. It’s exhausting.

“What’s your score?” a girl’s voice asked. I knew the voice.

“Kelsey,” I said, turning around. I wasn’t particularly happy to see her, though she appeared to be delighted to see me.

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Part 6 of Tales of the Peacetime Army

[Note: this is part 6 of 8 of the complete text for John Sheppard's book Tales of the Peacetime Army. To start reading at the beginning and for a full list of all parts, please go to the table of contents.

And if you like the story, please visit the book's page and consider buying a copy!]

GOING STATESIDE

I had a rude welcome back to the 191st. I had been in the Army a year, and had accumulated 30 days of leave. I was in use-it-or-lose-it territory, the S-1 sergeant warned me. I decided to go home for two weeks. She also told me that I was going to get a medal.

“For what?” I went. “What’d I do? I didn’t do anything!”

“Quit complaining,” she said. “Some soldiers would welcome getting a medal.”

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