Chaim Potok (1929-2002): New York native. Orthodox Jew. Rabbi. Bestselling author. Clearly a fascinating literary figure, by anyone’s standards. Continue reading
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
When Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote his famous ode to the power of the poet’s imagination in 1873, he had no inkling how prophetic those words would prove. A poet’s imagination and dreams molded and fired the Easter Rising of 1916—the final catalyst of Irish independence, after four centuries of British oppression. That poet was Joseph Mary Plunkett, and 1916 was his last year on earth. Continue reading
I was raised to believe in legends.
When I say that, I don’t just mean any legends. I mean the legends of the saints.
The word “legends” is not to imply that I’ve stopped believing in Catholic saints as an adult. I know they were (in most cases) real historical figures, and I have a reverence for the holy lives they led. But I now realize certain stories told about these men and women aren’t necessarily true… or, at least, aren’t verifiable. Maybe St. Patrick didn’t really turn the evil ruler into a fox and maybe St. Anthony didn’t really preach to the fishes in the sea when the townspeople cast him out. I won’t go on record saying it’s false, but I won’t go on record saying it’s true, either. Continue reading
You know it, and I know it. Superhero films are fun. They’re fast. Action-packed. Colorful. They feature inspiring journeys, by relatable protagonists—many of whom I love. Yet, even given my fondness for the genre there’s one superhero film which rests deeper in my heart than any other. And that would be… well, what else? The Winter Soldier. Continue reading
As a professional student of American history, there are many reasons why I have an enormous respect for Malcolm X. The most powerful of these reasons, however, is also the simplest: he was a man who never feared to change his mind. Continue reading
NOV / DEC 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT
“I’m always finding humans at their best and worst.
“I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.
“Still, they have one thing I envy.
“Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.”
If Death could speak… what would he say?
That’s the question asked by Markus Zusak’s bestselling coming-of-age novel, The Book Thief. It’s a story of bitter loss and even more bitter survival, narrated by the voice of Death and set in war-torn Germany during the 1940s. The protagonist, Death’s heroine, is a girl named Liesel Meminger; a girl who loses everyone she loves—mother, father, brother, foster parents, best friend—to the ravages of war. One by one, Death comes to take them away; and one by one, he bears their souls into eternity, leaving Liesel behind. Liesel wonders why it has to be this way. And Death has no answers. Continue reading
SEPT / OCT 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT
How old were you when you first realized good people do bad things?
Call me a late bloomer, but I was eighteen.
I was savoring my last summer before college; doing the thing I loved most in the whole world: reading. I was in the middle of a 600-page Western military epic called A Distant Trumpet, by Paul Horgan, and my precious, darling hero—Second Lieutenant Matthew Carlton Hazard—had just finished cheating on his fiancée by committing adultery with another officer’s wife.
Talk about a wake-up call, folks. Continue reading
JAN / FEB 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT
“These people you’re with now . . . would you leave any of them behind? Ever?”
Eliot Spencer grips the cellphone a little tighter, turning his head to glance over his shoulder at the young, blonde girl in the soft gray sweatshirt; and the look in his eyes says it all.
Leave her behind?
You can call it a romance. You can call it a platonic friendship. You can call it a pseudo-sibling love/hate dynamic. Whatever your personal opinion regarding its exact nature, pretty much anyone who’s ever watched the TV show Leverage will agree that there’s something special about the relationship between the man known as Eliot Spencer and the girl who simply calls herself Parker.
Opposites. Yet, in some odd fashion, soul mates.
The hitter and the thief.
The bitter loner and the naïve outcast.
Mr. That-Thing-You-Do-With-Your-Eyes and Miss Twenty-Pounds-Of-Crazy-In-A-Five-Pound-Bag.
They were meant to be a couple. No matter what anybody says, they were meant to be together. Destined from time immemorial.
For Pete’s sake, guys, will you just look at his eyes when he watches her?
And yet, even though I will rail until my dying day against the hard-heartedness and cruelty of the TV writers who chose to keep them apart, I’ll admit—grudgingly—that the choice did have a certain logic. As a former hired killer, Eliot Spencer has the darkest, most violent past of any of the Leverage gang, with a fair share of bloody secrets weighing heavily on his conscience. And, even though I’d argue that his strenuous efforts to redeem himself from that dark past have actually made him the most selfless, most heroic member of the team, Eliot himself doesn’t view it that way. When Eliot looks in the mirror, he doesn’t see a hero; all he sees is a man who can never be clean of the evil he’s done. Parker, on the other hand—despite her traumatic, abusive upbringing and her subsequent life as a successful thief—still remains fundamentally innocent, naïve, even childlike; and Eliot knows it. And, sadly, he simply can’t bring himself to believe he could ever deserve a girl like that.
But Eliot is still Eliot; and, being Eliot, he’ll never abandon Parker… even though he knows she can never belong to him. He’s always there to protect her, no matter how tough the job gets or how much danger he has to put himself through to keep her safe. If anybody tries to take advantage of her—even to treat her the least bit unfairly—Eliot never fails to step up and call them out.
And he does more than just protect Parker. He understands her, in a way that precious few people in her life ever have or ever will. Parker can definitely be a handful—maybe even two handfuls—at times; due largely to the deprivations and abuse of her childhood, she lacks even basic social skills and finds it virtually impossible to communicate her emotions. To top it all off, she’s weirdly addicted to physical risk-taking, routinely pulling stunts which would kill a normal human and still walking away unscathed. Although she doesn’t really know how to express it, Parker’s very much aware of these “abnormalities” in her character, and believes herself to be a hopeless misfit; somebody who can never fit in or find acceptance. But that’s not true with Eliot. Although he may grumble at her wild recklessness and shake his head bemusedly at a few of her more egregious faux pas, at the end of the day, Eliot still offers Parker wholehearted, unconditional acceptance—flaws, quirks, and all. And that’s not the kind of love you’ll find just anywhere.
Even as “just friends,” Parker and Eliot form an epic partnership that’s an absolute joy to watch. They work hard, and they play hard. They fight and they bicker and they argue. They tease and poke and prod each other to distraction. They laugh at each other’s jokes, they watch each other’s backs; and they will never, ever let each other down.
Although there are many Eliot/Parker moments that make me smile—and some that make me want to cry—my all-time favorite comes in the episode “The Snow Job,” when Parker, finding herself trapped in an upstairs room, takes a flying leap out the window and lands right on top of Eliot . . . who’d sprung to catch her the instant he saw her jump. As they collapse side-by-side on the grass, each struggling to catch their respective breaths, Eliot demands, “How’d you even know I’d be there?” Parker simply responds, “I didn’t.”
To me, this scene is a perfect symbol of Eliot and Parker’s overall relationship: Even though she herself may not know it, no matter how high Parker jumps or how far she falls, Eliot Spencer will always be there to catch her. Always.
Because that’s just how you roll, when you’re a born watchdog and when the girl you love is twenty pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Prescott is a former homeschool student and current graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree in American history with a focus on immigration studies. In her (sadly limited) free time, she can usually be found listening to “Hamilton” or Celine Dion or Twenty One Pilots and dreaming up new ideas for historical fiction novels. Which, she hopes, will someday make her famous. Someday . . . She also blogs.
NOV / DEC 2016: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT
I can still remember the day my father showed me and my older brother Star Wars: A New Hope for the very first time. I was about three or four years old, I think; and the three of us sat and watched the movie on a rented VHS tape in a living room which (to my mind) seemed like an enormous palace, but which I now realize was actually quite small. Such, they tell me, is childhood. Continue reading