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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Introduce Yourself



MaTere wrote:
My name is MaTere (Maria Teresa). I am just starting the book, Soul Catcher, now. I have read the first chapter. I was very impressed by the way the book pulls us immediately into the action: Cain is a real "character" with a difficulty... We want to know right away how he is going to deal with it. Also the details of his room, clothes, etc. make the atmosphere very real.
I wondered when I read the description on the back if it has some relation to Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, a book I just re-read and like very much, although the whole thing at the end about freeing Jim when he is already free gets a bit long, and made me not like Tom Sawyer anymore; he was a cute little boy in his own book but seemed very bad in HF. Which made me question where is the line between cute and bad.
What captured me about HF is that Huck and Jim are forced through circumstances to stop and really "see" each other, the way two people have to put pressure on each other's hands when they are dancing. Even though I would not say precisely that Huck and Jim become friends, as some people say. When Jim is not with Huck, Huck seems to forget about him and get caught up in adventures with white people. And I don't see how he could let Tom do all those crazy things when planning Jim's escape.
Anyway, I read somewhere that every writer likes to take some inspiration from a classic and update it for our times, and I was asking myself if SoulCatcher has this bit of inspiration from Huck Finn, except updated for our time where understanding is more central than ever to survival of society.




Hello Maria,

Yes, I think the comparison to Huck Finn is an apt one. Both Cain (an adult) and Huck (a child) have to make a moral choice regarding slavery. But my own sights were on the novels BELOVED and CLOUDSPLITTER for my immediate inspiration. Both are great and profouned novels.

Look forward to talking with you.

Michael White


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Stephanie
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Re: Introduce Yourself



Fozzie wrote:
Hi! My name is Laura and I live on the south coast of Maine.

Michael, I read your previous book, The Garden of Martyrs, and attended a reading you did from it at the York Public Library a couple of years ago. I have been awaiting your next novel and was thrilled to see that it would be discussed here on B&N.

I am just beginning Soul Catcher and am looking forward to discussing it with you and my fellow readers.




Great to see you again Laura- it's been a while! Really looking forward to chatting again.
Stephanie
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Stephanie
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Hello All -

Great to see everyone here ready to get into reading and discussing. I'm very eager to delve into the story and the history- the Civil War was a fascinating time - almost unbelievable that our nation could have been so divided such a short time ago.
Stephanie
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vivico1
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Re: Introduce Yourself


Stephanie wrote:
Hello All -

Great to see everyone here ready to get into reading and discussing. I'm very eager to delve into the story and the history- the Civil War was a fascinating time - almost unbelievable that our nation could have been so divided such a short time ago.


I don't know Stephanie, isn't our nation very divided today over political things at the moment too? We just arent running at each other with guns...yet. And some want this president impeached as much as anyone during the civil war did. These are pretty scary times to me actually and I can't find any real answers in my heart one way or the other about what to do about the war. I just know I support the troops very much. Not trying to get into any political debate here at all, so wont say more. Besides, like I said, I have no solutions but just saying, we are divided today in a way that scares me and sorrows me too.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Fozzie
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Re: Introduce Yourself



Stephanie wrote:


Great to see you again Laura- it's been a while!



I know! I think it's been since last December and Lisey's Story!
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Hi Vivian,

While I couldn't agree more that our nation is divided today and that we are in difficult times in many ways, the Civil War and the period right before it were of a completely different magnitude. Just to put it in perspective. In 1860, our population was about 25 million. Of that number, we had 3 million people in bondage. 3 million slaves! During the Civil War we lost 620,000 men. That is more than the total of all deaths in all other American wars combined. To give this number (620,000) more relevance, it would be like losing over 7 million soldiers in a single war (for example, in WWII we lost something like 225,000)! Every community throughout the country was touched--battered would be a better word. Unlike our current war which touches only a segment of our population (my hats off to those brave men and women who sacrifice for us, whatever my feelings about the war are). But the Civil War tore the fabric of our country apart. And before the war, we were divided over what states would be free or slave, thus John Brown and his sons going out to Kansas and fighting (some would say killing) people there to prevent Kansas from going slave. So as bad as our current period is, the Civil War was utter chaos. Thanks for beginning a great dialogue on both our time and that earlier one.


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vivico1
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Re: Introduce Yourself


MichaelCWhite wrote:
Hi Vivian,

While I couldn't agree more that our nation is divided today and that we are in difficult times in many ways, the Civil War and the period right before it were of a completely different magnitude. Just to put it in perspective. In 1860, our population was about 25 million. Of that number, we had 3 million people in bondage. 3 million slaves! During the Civil War we lost 620,000 men. That is more than the total of all deaths in all other American wars combined. To give this number (620,000) more relevance, it would be like losing over 7 million soldiers in a single war (for example, in WWII we lost something like 225,000)! Every community throughout the country was touched--battered would be a better word. Unlike our current war which touches only a segment of our population (my hats off to those brave men and women who sacrifice for us, whatever my feelings about the war are). But the Civil War tore the fabric of our country apart. And before the war, we were divided over what states would be free or slave, thus John Brown and his sons going out to Kansas and fighting (some would say killing) people there to prevent Kansas from going slave. So as bad as our current period is, the Civil War was utter chaos. Thanks for beginning a great dialogue on both our time and that earlier one.


Michael,
Oh, I agree with you in magnitude of deaths and scope of chaos on our own land. I knew the death toll of the civil war was more than all our other wars combined. And this one was on our own soil so it had great impact on economics, every family's life and even the landscape itself. Not something I would want to see happen here again. I worry tho, that emotionally, we are becoming just as divided of a nation again. We may not be killing each other on our own land, but even family members or best friends find it hard to talk about what we are or arent doing right now without arguments and fights. I worry where we are going. We cant go back to the Isolationist country we were before world war I or II, we live in the world at large and anyone can bring the war to us now on our soil and I feel that, no matter what we do, that is inevitable. It will just be a different type of war than we have ever fought before and it will be here and it will be what some other nations have to deal with all the time. I sometimes get the feeling that when we even speak of trying to stop terrorism before it strikes here again, other nations are looking at us thinking "well welcome to my world!". And we are a part of that world now. I think thats why there is such division in our country now about what to do and people are so scared,or tired of helping other countries, that the responses of what to do range from the far left to the far right with nothing in the middle that doesnt feel like a knee jerk reaction. In some of the letters that I have read and transcribed for this woman that are pre Civil War, I hear some of the same kinds of feelings in the people, there is no middle ground and I think about today and wonder if we are in some kind of "pre war" of some kind, something to come, that even if it is not fought here, will affect us all with a magnitude we never expected. And just as I believe every war is disguised as something else, to me the Civil War was not about slavery per say, I don't think that many people really cared about if there were slaves or not or just didnt think about that "unpleasantry". I think it was about economics and a way of life for the south, which of course affected the economics of the north. I think slaves were only involved because they were the work force and a "cause" to get behind.

Even WWII - what many call our "romantic war" because of the closeness of people at home, the music, the feelings for one another and even other nations, we did not go into it to help anyone, till the battle was brought to us by the Japanese. England had cried for help long before,Europe was in chaos, but hey, it didn't really affect us. Would we go to fight in the middle east so often if it werent for the oil? Will we ever do more for Darfur and how long will it take, since there are governmental ties with our government and theirs? Peace keepers who are sent to "observe" can do no more than they did in Rwanda, watch the half a million killed and then leave. Its really all we have offered Darfur because of those ties. Now if the majority of our oil supply was there, well then we would be there in a heartbeat and say we are doing it to save the lives there.

You would think I am one who must be one of those -pull our troups out now- people about the war we are in, but I'm not. The fact is, I don't know what to do but I feel like the only answers being offered anymore in these pre-elections years are two extremes, just so they sound completely different and I wonder if either way is right, if there is not something between the two extremes that really is right. So maybe its the emotions of the nation now and pre -civil war that I am comparing. As far as the outcome, ours is yet to be decided.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Some good observations about our times compared to then, Vivian.

Michael


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MaTere
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Re: Introduce Yourself





Hello Maria,

Yes, I think the comparison to Huck Finn is an apt one. Both Cain (an adult) and Huck (a child) have to make a moral choice regarding slavery. But my own sights were on the novels BELOVED and CLOUDSPLITTER for my immediate inspiration. Both are great and profound novels.

Look forward to talking with you.

Michael White




Dear Mr. White,
I think maybe I should say this in some other part of the threads, but also I want to respond to what you said to me. I haven't read BELOVED or CLOUDSPLITTER, maybe I will after this, but I have to read slowly in English. What I wanted to say about Cain, he is an adult, but I think also he has PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome). I was just doing some work in a house for soldiers who are back from the war. They had some holes in the walls where the soldiers punched their fists all the time. We were going to fix them or cover them up but the woman who was the boss said, "no, no, we leave them there. We don't want to hide that they have PTSD. We don't want to pretend." That is how I found out what PTSD was. Some of those soldiers, she had to follow them around all the time to make sure they didn't run away or hurt themselves or maybe somebody else. It's very bad for them, so young, to have this. They bring back a poison with them.
In the beginning when Cain wakes up and doesn't remember anything, I thought he had PTSD, then I had to ask, is Eberly tricking him? Maybe Eberly knows he always takes drugs and is always drunk so the whole thing is a trick. But also it seems that Cain has some serious problems. We would say "he has a lot of demons." Later you say that Preacher was in a "fugue state." I didn't know this either, but later I wondered if Cain was in a "fugue state" when he woke up and didn't know Eberly or remember about his IOU.
I liked very much your explanation of honor in the South. I have never been to the south, only Texas. I don't think they have this idea of honor there, only big national Texas pride. In Spanish culture we have a difference between honor and pride. The old name was "pundonor". I like the old name because it's just like you say (p33), that honor is a "thing distorted and self-serving, molded around their own needs and failings and views of how the world should be governed." To me "pundonor" sounds like that, if you play with the word in English, "pun on honor". I wonder now if honor is really a good thing, or a good idea.
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Re: Introduce Yourself

I think you are right on the mark about Cain, like many current soldiers, have PTSD. He does fit that. Additionally, he is addicted to laudanum, as were many soldiers coming back from war injuries in the 19th century. So your observations are very similar to mine.
Michael


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mpbarker
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Hi, Michael,

I'm Michele from Western Mass. My non-virtual book group enjoyed reading Garden of Martyrs last year and will be "officially" reading Soul Catcher next January. Thanks for letting me know about this on-line discussion, Michael--it'll be good prep! I'm only about halfway through the book, though reading fast (it's hard to put down), so I'll have to watch out for spoilers until I finish. I find knowing what happens next often keeps me from getting as emotionally involved in the characters as I'd like. I'll have to give you credit, Michael, when I read Garden of Martyrs, I was afraid that knowing the ending ahead of time would make me feel too distanced from the book. But you sucked me in totally--I felt so involved with Halligan especially that it was all the more upsetting knowing that there wasn't going to be any last-minute rescue. It looks as though you've got another lost soul in Cain--I'm hoping there's redemption in store for him.

As for my background, I'm an archivist, historical consultant, and writer, so this book is right up my alley. I'm looking forward to learning more about your research and writing process, as well as discussing the story itself.

Michele
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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Michele,

Great to have you in the club. I look forward to talking to you about Soul Catcher. Yes, Cain is a lost "soul" like Halligan. Both are isolated, and emotionally dead, at least at the beginning of the novel. Cain, however, has potential for change and growth. Hope you enjoy.

Michael


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Hello Michael,

My name is Art and I live in Marshfield, MA, on the south shore. This is my very first Book Club experience. I am recently retired and have always been a history buff. In fact I taught American History in Philadelphia for many years right after college. I remember as newly minted "inner city" teachers we were encouraged to learn more about the Afro-American experience. I became a quick study realizing that my education lacked this critical perspective. I have always been concerned about this "scar" in American society and am looking forward to reading your book. I'm running off to Borders this morning to get it. I look forward to participating in these discussions.
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vivico1
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Re: Introduce Yourself/ letters from 1800s


MichaelCWhite wrote:
Vivian,

Glad to have you with us. I would think such letters as those you mentioned would be fascinating. Look forward to talking with you about the book (and I'll try not to divulge anything that would spoil the book for you!).

Michael


I had to share a letter I transcribed tonight, forgive the indulgence and just skip over it if your not interested :smileywink: but as I said, I am transcribing these letters from the late 1700s to the early 1900s for a woman and am in the middle of some that are pre-civil war, during the war, and post civil war, so together with this book, it has been most interesting. This letter tonight is late 1800s from a father to his daughter on her 19th birthday. I find his advice to her about learning to write, really write interesting and also about not taking expensive gifts from young men as they will, well, "expect" something for it basically. Gee, nothing changes does it LOL! Sorry guys hehe. And I love him telling her..and dont say you mother or father told you not to take them! Actually his reasoning about it is right. Anyway, just a touch of family sentiment for any interested from that time period. (any misspelling is his and I have to leave that way)

My dear Daughter,

I trust that you are so much improved in convalescence, that you feel today like receiving "Many Happy returns of the day"- at any rate, I send you my best wishes and hopes for your happiness in life on this your 19th birthday.
I send by bearer a small bottle of wine and some cake which I hope will restore some of your wasted strength. Also I send out by wagon, a writing desk. I trust that the note paper and envelopes ordered by me some time ago, nearly 1 month, will arrive in a few days. I had hoped to be able to have you find the note paper in the desk when you opened it, but Liddell disappointed me. I hope you may find the desk useful. I should like you to cultivate the art of writing - not only the use of the Pen, but the habit of composition. You would by practice become a good writer - maybe, a brilliant writer. I have noticed that whenever you (bottom line of first page cut off)

that you narrate the salient points in the book with remarkable fluency; and this is an indication that if you have the thoughts in your mind, you would compose with ease and grace. The art of composition is a great solace and ornament in life, and I trust the possession of the new desk will encourage you to practice, study, and the reading of standard works, and the study of these works as you read them, will enrich your mind, and when you essay to compose, you will find that the process is any easier one than you imagine. You will no doubt have many presents tendered you on this your 19th birthday; and I hope you will receive many and enjoy a pleasant day after your painful illness; but I want to caution you about the acceptance of presents from your beaux, of values and character, which it does not become you to receive at their hands. A young lady of your birth and age, should not receive as presents from a young gentleman, anything of intrinsick value, unless she be engaged to be married to him in a short while. Ladies can receive from young gentlemen with

candy and flowers and fruit, but when it comes to "pins and jewelry", or articles of intrinsic value, they should politely but firmly decline it. To accept articles of intrinsic value from an admirer, places the recipient at once under obligation to him, which give him an undue advantage over her. She does not feel any sense of this at the time of receiving, but later on she will feel it, and it exercises over the young and inexperienced lady, an undue influence, which she may live to seriously regret. You should adopt England's motto. "Friendship with all - entangling alliances with none". And in informing your admirers of any decision you have made, whether it be to decline a present, a buggy ride, a correspondence, or an engagement, you should not say "Mama won't let me do this", and "Papa won't let me do that", this sounds ridiculous and childish in a girl 19 yrs old, but you should say "I won't do this," and I "greatly regret that I can't do that". This shows character, because it appears to be self decision, and arouses greater respect, esteem, and admiration on the part of your admirers. You are now 19 years old my beloved

time you were adopting as your own opinion, the matured advice of your parents. To give as a reason for any cause of action, that "this person told you to do this or that", gives the impression to your auditor that if it were not for that advice, you would comply with his wishes or request; and stamps you as vacillating in character; and produces on his part, an unwarranted presumption.
Well, I hope this long homily on the art of writing, and the art of conduct, will not bore you too much. I want you to be heart free, light hearted, & happy until you have seen something of the big world outside of your present sphere of life. Maybe the day will come, maybe, when we can go forth and see something of the higher forms of civilization in Europe as well as America. And ardently hoping that your father's ship will someday come to port laden with means to indulge you in travel, and wishing for you on this birthday all blessings & happiness.
Your loving father, John Jenkins.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Hi Art,

Look forward to talking to you about SC.

Michael


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Re: Introduce Yourself/ letters from 1800s

Vivian,

A delightful letter for me to read, for two reasons. As a writing teacher, I find the letters of the 19th century (and earlier) to be wonderful examples of finely written prose, offering the deepest sentiments and insights of human nature. People then really thought and reflected, and poured their soul into their letters. Secondly, my own daughter has a birthday in two days (she will be 25), so the man's advice warning her to beware of men bearing gifts is very timely. Thanks for sending it.

Michael


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Arthur62
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Michael,

I've been reading through everyone's thoughts and input so far and find it all really interesting. One of things I've been struck by regarding Cain is his reading: the role it plays in the story and the impact it seems to have on him. I think that literacy in general during this time was unusual. Most people were probably illiterate to a large degree but those who were read a lot, wrote a great deal and it played a large role in their lives. Cain is very well informed regarding the world around him, current affairs and literature. His reading seems to serve as his conscience in some ways, his muse perhaps, but also his tormenter. I think it might be interesting to explore this topic.

Art
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Art,

A great thought about Cain's reading serving as his conscience. I didn't think of it as that when I was writing about his reading Milton, but I believe you're on to something. Cain does commit evil in his professional life, and yet in private he reads a great moral writer like Milton and his great work, Paradise Lost. In some ways, Cain's reading leaches into his public world, and forces him to see his actions in moral terms.

Michael


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TiffsReadingBuddy
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Hi my name is Jona, and this is my first book club that I've joined online. I've just started reading Soul Catcher, and I am excited to interpret the story and participate in this club as well. I have not read many Civil War books, but reading Michael White's novel will definitely allow me to see different dimensions and witness various viewpoints of the Civil War era. I am really looking forward to reading more of Soul Catcher and discussing certain intriguing aspects of the novel along the way.
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MichaelCWhite
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Re: Introduce Yourself

Hi Jona,

I am looking forward to talking to you about SC.

Michael


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