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Archive for January, 2021

This is from a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of “The Gospel According To Gandalf.” The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

Janet Mason, novelist

When I first learned that the service for today was on the Gospel According to Gandalf, I drew a blank. I have long prided myself on the fact that fantasy writing has nothing to do with me. But I remembered that I really enjoyed the talk on this topic last year. I also remembered that I identified with the character Frodo in that he was defiant and had no interest in power but is the hero of his own story.

Then I remembered that I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I read it as a teen.  It allowed me to enter the mystery. I loved it so much that I wrote “Everybody should read The Lord of the Rings” in large letters with a black sharpie on the white bathroom wall in a dive bar in Trenton that I hung out in when I was a teenager. My then best friend, who died young, looked at me in utter delight and exclaimed, “I knew you wrote that. I knew it!”

What can I say? It was the seventies. I was a teen and, like all my friends, then, I had a substance abuse problem. It is something that I tried to leave behind me. I wrote one novel based on this experience and closed the book. I thought I was done. But the fact is that I have had an off again, on again relationship with substances over the years. My own story of abusing substances when I was a teen – in a certain time and place – is something I felt bad about for a long time.

Of course, I regretted how this behavior may have affected others – especially my parents. But the question that I always came back to was, “Why did I do that to myself?” After many years, I concluded that I had to do something to break out of the confines of my life, and that is what I did. So, I forgave myself. After all, the past is the past.

And while I would never want to encourage anyone to use substances, my experiences weren’t all bad. There were a few moments of breaking through to something brilliant and elusive that may have laid the seeds for the talking unicorn in my head whose words I wrote down in a novel titled The Unicorn, The Mystery which will be published later this year by Adelaide Books. The novel is based on the unicorn tapestries in The Cloisters that is part of The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan.

So, fantasy writing probably does have something to do with me – even if the talking unicorn in my head is a realist. And I may have unconsciously modeled myself on Frodo. Who knows? I do know that I have come here for a number of years – to this Unitarian Universalist church — and listened to the opening  statement that included some variation of you are welcome to bring all that you are.  It must have sunk in because here I am talking about something that I thought I was done with.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until last fall in the year that I turned sixty and embarked on a balanced plant-based diet for health reasons, that I experienced an absence of any craving – including alcohol and other products that contain sugar.  In addition to being addictive, sugar compromises the immune system – important to know during these trying times. It wasn’t just me who found that a plant-based diet eliminated cravings. At a party, I met a young woman with blue hair who had been formerly addicted to heroin but who had since gone to a plant-based diet.

We all have a past. So, I encourage you to bring all that you are here – including histories that you may not be proud of but that we can all learn from.

Remember, you are the hero of your own story.

Namaste

The Unicorn, The Mystery is available online where books are sold.  You can also find it at your local library (just ask the librarian to order it if the don’t already have it), through your local bookstore or directly from the publisher, Adelaide Books.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

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Recently, I stumbled across the novel on my bookshelf of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.  I decided to give it a rereading to put current events into perspective.

The news is upsetting, but Nazis, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and all types of bullies have been around for a long time. 

Rereading Roth’s novel was oddly reassuring despite the topic – or maybe because of it.  The Plot Against America is part memoir of Roth’s childhood (in a Jewish family living in New Jersey) and part alternative history. The alternative history enters in 1940 (when the story begins) when the American hero aviator Charles Lindbergh (known to many because his infant son was kidnapped and murdered). It was known to many including Roth that Lindbergh made antisemitic references in his speeches and had antisemitic tendencies.

Lindbergh was (in real life) the public face of the America First Committee. Enthused about his isolationist ideas, the more conservative Republicans wanted Lindbergh to run against Roosevelt. Roth said that when he discovered this piece of information, he was inspired to write the novel, which was published in 2004.  When the book was turned into an HBO miniseries that began airing in March of 2020, Roth said (he was still alive then) that Lindbergh was an actual American hero and was not meant to be compared to Trump who Roth described as a “con artist.”

I found myself oddly comforted by the novel because it is an extremely well-written story with vivid details of a child’s life told from the point of view of Roth when he was a boy. It is also a story of the human responses to antisemitism – including the fight responses of his father and cousin (who went off the fight the Nazi’s in the Canadian army and subsequently lost a leg), the flight response of the mother (who longs to move to Canada) and the internalized oppression of a rabbi who joins the Lindbergh administration and Roth’s aunt who is engaged to the rabbi.

It is also a novel about anxiety – the dread of a child raised in antisemitic America whose imagination ran away with him when he wondered what if. What if America had elected Lindbergh as president in 1940 (who in the book was a friend of Adolph Hitler) and changed the course of history.

I found myself identifying with the obstreperous father in the book and took particular note when he said of Lindbergh, “How dare he call us others. He’s the other — the one who looks most American.”

In this way, the novel is prescient. There are more of us than them.

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

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The basic theme, it seems to me, is the nature of wisdom and how to use it. Both the monk and the unicorn see themselves as wise yet are filled with inconsistencies as we all are…

We also get a discussion about the church through the views of two nuns. They are a couple who feel that their religion sees their relationship as sinful. Through then we become more aware of how Christianity sees morality and truth giving us a lot to think about.

—Amos Lassen

Mason, Janet. “The Unicorn, the Mystery: A Novel”, Adelaide Books, 2020.

The Seven Tapestries

Amos Lassen

A Unicorn shares the story of the seven tapestries in Janet Mason’s “The Unicorn, the Mystery”. The tapestries are known as“The Hunt of the Unicorn” and date back to the 1500s and can be seen in “the Unicorn Room” in The Cloister in Manhattan, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Together they tell the story of an “unsolved mystery” that occurred in an abbey in France near the place where the tapestries were discovered. The unicorn while being pursued by hunters spends its time observing birds, smelling and eating the abbey flowers and fruits including  fermented pomegranates. It chases chaste maidens and even speaks to other animals. A monk shares the unicorn’s story with the mystical animal.

The basic theme, it seems to me, is the nature of wisdom and how to use it. Both the monk and the unicorn see themselves as wise yet are filled with inconsistencies as we all are. As the unicorn views the tapestries, we see a reflection on life during different periods yet time demarcations are not noted. We also get a discussion about the church through the views of two nuns. They are a couple who feel that their religion sees their relationship as sinful. Through then we become more aware of how Christianity sees morality and truth giving us a lot to think about. To me, this is the purpose of literature—- thinking about what we have read after we close the covers of a book.

Mason very cleverly brings together questions of religion and theology with some wonderfully drawn characters that deal with issues that we all face in our lives. Her prose is gorgeous and her storytelling had me turning pages as quickly as possible once the plot began. I have always loved the medieval period but it had been a while before I read a book about the period. The union of myth and history is spellbinding and I really loved looking at the emotions of redemption and love and lust and insecurity. I have been a fan of Janet Mason since I read her book “Tea Leaves” and my respect for her writing is firmly cemented by “The Unicorn, The Mystery”.

The Unicorn, The Mystery is available online wherever books are sold, through your local bookstore, and through your local library (just ask the librarian to order the book if they don’t have it).

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

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I wanted to share some feedback that I just received on The Unicorn, The Mystery from a long-time friend and colleague:

A fun & intense read, at once earnest & ironic. Full of horny priests, pompous bishops, cavorting nuns, sexes of every kind and description & of course a unicorn who quickly gathers the reader’s sympathy and attention. So impressed by the depth & breadth of your research on the Middle Ages, where we find out people were every bit as crazy as they are now but daily life is far more perilous. What would same-sexers (Gore Vidal’s term) have had to deal with then? So you have given us a clear idea. I also admired the crisp & clear prose, and the narrative balancing act of the book’s organization.

— Jim Cory, author of (most recently) Birds & Buildings (Moonstone Press)

To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

Read Full Post »


To learn more about my recently published novel — The Unicorn, The Mystery, click on the following link:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/11/22/the-unicorn-the-mystery-now-available-from-adelaide-books-amreading-faithfullylgbt/

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, click on the following link:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/a-perfect-mind-segment-of-they-published-in-blazevox15-amreading/

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