Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

Archive for March, 2007

Refiner’s Fire: Christian fiction on the Civil War

Posted by Reiko on March 11, 2007

I recently finished a trilogy of books, the Refiner’s Fire trilogy by Lynn Austin. I’ve read several of her books now, but this trilogy is particularly noteworthy because it is Civil War fiction, as well as written from a Christian perspective. The three books are loosely related, containing some of the same characters while giving an excellent picture of both sides of the war.

The first book, Candle in the Darkness, follows Caroline, the daughter of a wealthy Virginian slave-owner, as she deals with the effects of slavery on her black slave friends. She has to decide what side of the war to be on when the Union army approaches her town of Richmond. Betrayal and romance complete this engrossing book.

The second book, Fire by Night, tells the stories of two very different girls. There’s Julia, a wealthy Northern girl who is shamed into becoming a Union nurse and discovers her calling there, and Phoebe, a tomboy who, abandoned by her brothers, decides to join the Union army by pretending to be a man. Their stories eventually intertwine in what becomes a great story of compassion, romance, and mystery.

The third book, A Light to My Path, illustrates what being a slave was like through the stories of Kitty, originally called Anna, and Grady, the man who became her husband. They must deal with the whims of Claire, the spoiled daughter of the plantation owner, and the effects of the war and the Union army, including chances to escape.

I was actually inspired by this trilogy, and particularly by the third book, to write a tiny story called Cotton Blossom. It was submitted as part of a contest to write flash fiction, stories of 300 words or less. It’s slightly gimmicky, relying on a twist of meaning, but it was fun to write, anyway.


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Adam Smith’s economics according to O’Rourke

Posted by Reiko on March 7, 2007

I just got in the mail a shiny new book which I decided to wade into today. It’s a book called On the Wealth of Nations by P. J. O’Rourke, who seems to be rather more of a comedian than an economist, at least in writing. (Is there another name for that kind of writer?) The economist part is important because he’s basically giving a capsule summary (in two hundred pages) of Adam’s Smith’s massive book on economic theory.

One particular quote near the beginning caught my attention. O’Rourke says, “Productivity of every kind can be increased by specialization. And the specialization of politics at least keeps politicians from running businesses where their stupidity and ignorance could do even greater harm to economic growth.” (p 7)

The only problem with this is that politicians happen to be running the state, or nation, or whatever. If they do a bad job at running a business, well, that’s their problem and their employees’ problem. The bigger the business, the more of a problem it is. If the nation goes bankrupt though, that’s everyone’s problem. And you know what? The nation is already bankrupt, so I think we already have a problem anyway.

O’Rourke is amusingly sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. This isn’t exactly a scholarly treatment of the subject, but it’s certainly an interesting one. I’ve only read through the first chapter, but I’m looking forward to the rest of it, and hey, maybe I’ll learn something along the way.  At a retail price of $22, while I paid about $8, it was a pretty good deal.

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