Spirit Away: ‘The Sentence’ by Louise Erdrich

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich is about the power of words, spoken or written, awakening the spirits of the author, storyteller, characters, and readers, all adrift and luminous as the boundary between the real and the ideal collapses. It’s a polyphonic work of trauma narrative, cultural studies, social commentary, and philosophical memoir interwoven in multiple strands of a joint account.

The story evolves around Tookie, a doubting bibliophile who thinks books have everything you should know except what actually matters. Books are no more than a portal to mental escapade, a world of make-believe in the likeness of truth or reflected in the highest ether of reason and sentiment, which makes no defining impact on her checkered life as if it were her sentence from the judges of this world and the beyond. So much so that when Tookie finds that the newly deceased soul of a regular customer haunts the bookstore, she works at, she laments her fate of chaos that seems ever to stalk her small wish to live a quiet everyday life. Is it her sentence to live In perceptual existential malaise? And yet, Tookie ends up living daily life with a loving husband and daughter in a house of their own with a steady job as a bookstore attendant. Isn’t it what is considered an everyday life? So why can’t Tookie let the ghost alone when ghosts refuse to depart for the other until they finish their businesses in the world as part of their spiritual sentence?

I decided to read this book after reading a review from the NYT Book Review a couple of months ago because of Tookie for being exceptional wanting to be ordinary. I felt for her, which was valid until the middle of the book. But as Tookie became settled with her husband in their own house burgeoning as a knowledgeable employee at a local bookstore, she began to lose her fabulous, unique luster. Indeed, I was all high fives for her happiness that I felt deserving, but the further I progressed to pages, the more my heart parted with Tookie’s existential frustration, except the touching moments of love between her and her husband. Also, unlike the book’s general introduction as a ghost story, It is not a supernatural book that will fulfill your cravings for an intelligent horror story. Instead, it is an extended short story featuring a ghost as a fire-starter of narratives connected by bibliophilia. The author believes bibliotherapy is a recipe for the existential malady to quiet the anxious mind. There is no more enchanting than a book, electronic or bound. The lifeless words become alive as the reader awakens the book’s spirit by entering the world of make-believe through the labyrinth of stories leading to the secret garden of truths that the author has fruited.



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“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (2021) – film review

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (2021) is the newest in the Conjuring Universe Series, a new artifact to the Museum of The Haunted All and Sundry. The legendary Ed and Lorraine Warren are as inseparable as a couple in love and benevolent as rescuers of souls afflicted with the forces of evil as ever. But the mysteriously noble and spiritually convincing atmospheric elements are barely there, albeit the mix still has the thematic Catholic flavor. They said that when fact becomes legend, publish legend. So the story of the movie may be based on an actual event that has become American folklore, a modern legend, and it is the legend that the movie published.

As with the tradition of the Conjuring World, the movie evolves from the actual event of the supernatural phenomenon beyond the reasonable explanation on what the eyes only can see. First, an insidious ambiance surrounding a family house that seems strangely alienated adumbrates a sinister force lurking behind the bathroom door, over the shower curtains, and finally inside your head. Then comes a Catholic priest, thanks to the rite of exorcism popularized by The Exorcist and the Warrens’ association with the religion as their spiritual base. But he is usually not too much of significant help, if not a trouble, so it is always the Warrens’ job to ghost-bust with a style of a medieval magician who used to reconcile esoteric paganism with Christian faith. In this installation, Lorraine proves to be a mighty Christian mystic and a white witch in crossing over the space and reading memories of the dead, all for the fighting the devil’s deputy in a tunnel that promised to capture as many human souls as possible to fill up Hell’s Circles.

The essential thematic elements of good v. evil, love v. hatred, violence v. peace are unfailingly ubiquitous in this installment. Still, more violence and hatred make up the scenes than the others, making the movie more aligned with screaming scary movies than classified as supernatural horror. Perhaps the application of Catholic elements as a credible supplementary spell on the movie’s ambiance might have slightly fared well with the director’s intention (or the producer James Wan, the original creative director) to make the film elevated to a canon of classic supernatural movies. But it doesn’t give much of the movie’s intended effect when the Warrens can do what priests can do. Besides, the characters other than the Warrens themselves are not convincingly real, sympathetic, or natural. Instead, they are either surreal or theatrical to the point of playing a masque in Elizabethan time, so to speak, which would have been excellent.

I watched the movie with high hope when it first started showing on HBO Max last Friday night. But my expectation was already turning ominous when I had trouble viewing it at first for some unknown technical reason. Once I got into the third world of Conjuring Universe, I knew it wouldn’t be what I had expected. The real Warrens have become the ghosts themselves, and I wonder what they would have thought about the movie. Judging from their celebrity status in the society of paranormal investigators, I think they would probably have been thrilled about their being the creative subject of the movie. Then maybe, it’s time for me to leave the Conjuring Universe in search of a new world of the supernatural without celebrity.

‘Ancient Magic’, by Philip Matyszak – book review

Ancient Magic: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Supernatural in Greece and Rome by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Magic in ancient Greece and Rome was an art of crafting natural force with a bit of help from the world of gods and spirits wonderous to the user without fully knowing them. Contrary to traditional orthodox Christian teachings, magic was not associated by default with sorcery privileged to an esoteric spiritual elitist often dark and sinister. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, magic was their belief system, part of their modus vivendi in everyday life from slaves to emperors in the sense that we go to doctors or counselors. In a word, magic, as we understand now, was not so much deviltry as a variety of rituals of individual petitions pleaded for the fulfillment, which even the tremendous ancient minds regarded worthwhile to record.

Before the era of Christianity, the concept of magic was often interchangeably used with the knowledge of natural and supernatural worlds, which the ancients saw as not impossible to cross in between and thus believed the ghosts and the afterlife. Plato and Pliny, the Elder, advised no mortals go to graves alone after dark because there the restless souls of the dead not crossing the Styx, wandered. The most significant of the ghost story is Pliny the Younger’s letter to his friend Licinius Sura. He tells of the philosopher Athenodorus, a stoic astronomer and tutor to Octavian, the future emperor, witnessing a ghost of an old man in shackles showing his improper burial site.

Magic encompasses auguries and omens by the flights of birds, spells, and potions to charm the figures of desires, and the astrological signs in the ascendant at births and the sun, all of which to make uncertain futures known as guides to walk the paths of life to arrive at the fates. Matyszak tells the reader in the capacity of a Virgil leading Dante to the Underworld that seers at Delphi and Cumae were relatively easy to foretell the futures, which were unchangeable. Their acute intuition took a dreamy leap to poetically versed oracle pronouncement in the background of ethylene atmosphere and told what the petitioners could do at their best to deal with what laid ahead of them because there was no more than one fixed future.

The book invites the reader into the world of magic like never before because knowledge is a composite of Herodotus, Plutarch, Pliny the Younger, Socrates, and Plato. They took the extraordinary subject seriously because it was part of their daily lives bordering on a thin line of the spiritual world that was as real as they were. The book is written in a language accessible to all spectrums of education and walks of life. It is philosophy, religion, and history magically mixed in the author’s magic potion of erudition that significantly produces learning charmed in natural wits.



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