Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Here 'tis



Welcome to Highland cemetery, across the river and just up the road from town, where spirits dwell and soar and generally smile. Oh, there are tears--forgiveness being what it is. And there's hurt too--after all, the dead remain privy to a seemingly unending display of typically human shenanigans. And they care.  

But life up the hill is generally bereft of the Seven Deadlies. Just waitin' on the Lord isn't a bad gig altogether.

Come visit. You just might want to stay.

Up the Hill, twelve interconnected short stories narrated by a small-town newspaperman who just can't stop telling stories, even though he is, like everyone else, quite dead, is, as of this morning, on-line, an e-book only.  Here 'tis!

I thought I'd celebrate with a parade of blurbs. Here's what discerning readers say. (Haven't yet heard from the undiscerning! I'm sure they'll be in touch.)

“James Calvin Schaap has done the impossible. In Up the Hill, he has beautifully crafted a collection of stories written from the grave, and these voices are both humorous, powerfully moving, and scary. They capture the very ‘bones’ of what it means to be human—to face one's own transience. With irony and grace, this magical collection captures our attempts for both reconciliation and transcendence.” - Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa and co-author of Farmscape: The Changing Rural Environment (Ice Cube Press, 2012).

"Up the Hill is a very original and heartwarming collection of tales that invite readers to listen in on the congregation of the dead as they speak from the afterlife. The characters may not exactly be living our idea of heavenly bliss, but you’ll believe the narrator when he says, ‘You get a whole lot smarter when you die.  You’ll see.’  Every page sparkles with wit and is bathed with empathy and forgiveness." - Jim Heynen, author of The Fall of Alice K.: A Novel (Milkweed Editions, 2012), The One-Room Schoolhouse: Stories about the Boys (Vintage, 1994), and The Man Who Kept Cigars in His Cap (Graywolf, 1986).

“A fine mix of characteristic Schaap grit and wholesomeness, frugality and abundance, colloquialism and wisdom.  If you don't read these stories, ‘Honestly, you don't know what you're missing.’” - Diane Glancy, author of Stone Heart: A Novel of Sacajawea (Overland TP, 2004) and Pushing the Bear: After the Trail of Tears (Mariner Books, 1998), and co-author of Flutie (Moyer Bell, 1998), quoting from “The Music of the Spheres,” one of the stories in Up the Hill.

"When people imagine the dead they usually think zombies or angels, mindless corpses or fleshless sprites. In these sharply told folktales, James Calvin Schaap redeems the dead from these clich├ęd purgatories. In these ghost stories our dearly departed are canny and keen-witted, vivacious and full of life. There is comedy and tragedy here, and a wonderfully accented narrator who has one hell of an eye for what makes Highland Cemetery an interesting heaven-on-earth." - Samuel Thomas Martin, author of This Ramshackle Tabernacle (Breakwater Books Ltd., 2012) and co-author of A Blessed Snarl (Breakwater, 2012).

“Jim Schaap's stories go deep into human experience of communal life in small prairie towns. They are intimate, often funny, and sometimes painful. The only way they'd be better is if you had audio or video of him reading them.” - Virginia Stem Owens, author of And the Trees Clap Their Hands: Faith, Perception, and the New Physics (Wipf & Stock, 2005) and If You Do Love Old Men (Eerdmans, 1990), and co-author of Praying with Beads: Daily Prayers for the Christian Year (Eerdmans, 2007).

 “Do the dead being dead yet speaketh?  They sure do, and beautifully so in James Schaap's very special narrative voice.  These are remarkable stories, unique, wise, painfully honest, and funny as—well, heaven.” - Shirley Nelson, author of Fair, Clean, and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh Maine and The Last Year of the War.

"No-one who knows Jim Schaap or his considerable body of work would ever accuse him of ignoring the modern world at large. Nevertheless, the strength and authenticity of his fiction stems in large part because he has remained immersed his entire life in the ethnic and religious sub-culture that is his family heritage. As Faulkner had his Yoknapatawpha County and William Kennedy his city of Albany, New York as their own personal fictional worlds, James Schaap's fictional world is midwest small-town Dutch Reformed Calvinism. The strength and charm of this has never been more evident than in Up the Hill, his new collection of short stories." Rudy Nelson, co-author of The Risk of Returning (Nelson Family Partnership, 2014).

"It’s tempting to call these stories ‘Our Town in wooden shoes,’ but although the cemetery device is similar, the sensibility is all Schaap’s own—full of insight (bordering on wisdom) into how life and people really are, but even more full of affection, forgiveness, and grace.” - Daniel Taylor, author of Letters to My Children: A Father Passes on His Values (Bog Walk Press, 2010), In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands (Bog Walk, 2005), Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories (Bog Walk, 2001), and The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & the Risk of Commitment (IVP Books, 1999).

"Up the Hill offers 11 short stories of a Midwestern town—from the vantage point of those literally in the cemetery “up the hill.” The stories' engaging narrator is the village's former newspaper editor. In life, he couldn't tell all the truth in the Weekly—but now he can. Sometimes funny, and always touching and wise, this is a book to give to all sorts of people for the hopeful vision it offers of life after death—even particularly to give to seniors or to those facing death. 'We're not all-knowing, if you're wondering, but we're blessed with some pretty cagey powers,' the narrator explains of his post-mortem life 'slouching in eternity.' Like Jan Karon's Mitford stories, Up the Hill is rich in humanity and hope. Barbara Lounsberry, author of Becoming Virginia Woolf and co-editor of The Tales We Tell.

Come visit. It's a whole new world.

8 comments:

JW said...

Congratulations.

B. Netanyahu said...

I'm curious to know the political views of the Israel/Hama's conflict of this blogger. Do you agree with former Pres. J. Carter, when he says, "we must recognize Hama's as a 'legitimate political actor'."

Anonymous said...

Nancy Pelosi stated...

“And we have to confer with the Qataris, who have told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization. Maybe they could use their influence to–” -The Blaze

I am a different questioner than the post prior to this post....

I am curious to know the views of JCS regarding Naughty Nancy's referring to Hamas as a humanitarian organization... Do you agree with her? Ya think the Dems will run on that statement in the Fall elections?

Anonymous said...

I am curious what the last two posts have to do with the blog post. Irritating, that someone has to bring in another topic that is completely unrelated. Get a life people. If you are looking for a fight....... Take up boxing or something.

Anonymous said...

You must not read JCS's blog very often. He often slides a lefty morsel in to to get a rise out of his conservative readers.

When the roles are reversed it brings out the whinners and complainers. Some folks complain even if they are hung with a new rope... after all this is a blog on the Internet... if you can not take the heat in the kitchen, get out of the kitchen...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read it daily and as hard as I try to understand your point, I'm just not getting it.

Anonymous said...

Comprehension must have been an elective at your college.

Anonymous said...

Explanation. JCS is an excellent writer. That does not mean I agree with everything he writes. Periodically he writes a left wing blog piece that is so far out there you would think Ed Schultz or Nancy Pelosi wrote it. His latest bungle was a piece he wrote about John McCain's "hell to pay". These left blog pieces show up about every two to three week sandwiched primarily between interesting stories and book reviews etc.

They appear out of context with the rest of his pieces and often sound contrived to purposefully irritate his conservative readers.

Periodically his conservative readers write comments and questions that are also completely out of context as in this case.

Anything goes on the internet. Get used to it.