The Art of War – The Art of Loving

Movies, reading & walking across Iowa uncover surprising connections.

Art and history, love and war intersect as I continue my virtual trek across Iowa.

There can’t be many who haven’t heard about the movie Monuments Men, George Clooney’s film about the men who set out to save art during WWII. Here in Iowa, we’re getting special insight because the real Monuments Man, the man on whom the movie is based – George Leslie Stout – was born and grew up in Winterset, Iowa, and later graduated from the University of Iowa.

I’ve looked ahead as I continue my walk across Iowa, looking for just the right point to cross Interstate 80. (As though that would be really hard in my virtual world.) Nonetheless, when I realized I could pass through Winterset before heading north to cross the Interstate barrier, I thought why not? 

Now that The Bridges of Madison County (a book and a movie) has been made into a Broadway musical, and received some critical acclaim, I better see the bridges again before the tourists take over!

140px-34th_'Red_Bull'_Infantry_Division_SSI.svgAs I head toward Winterset, I’m enjoying other military history as I walk along the Red Bull Highway. The 34th Infantry Division of the Army National Guard, made up of military primarily from Iowa and Minnesota, served in World War I, World War II, Iraq and Afghanistan. The insignia of the division is a Red Bull designed by Iowa artist Marvin Cone.

As I look back on the titles that have passed through my hands this month, the overriding question is, What does it mean to love? Appropriate, don’t you think, since this is February, the month of love?

Setting the stage is a non-fiction work, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. A psychologist, Fromm explores love and loving in 120 pages packed with explorations of love in all its forms – parents for children, brotherly love, erotic love, self-love and love of God.

Fromm proposes that true love holds four elements in common: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. The other books I read – both fiction and non-fiction – show how difficult it is to find true love,


  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – This seriously disturbing novel explores the idea that “Marriage can be a real killer.” In alternating chapters, we come to know the husband in real time and the wife through her diary entries. Did he kill her or was she kidnapped and murdered? The tension in this novel is palpable and all of us can only pray we do not encounter a love like theirs.
  • safe keeping sisselSafe Keeping by Barbara Taylor Sissel –  “My son is a murderer,” begins this family drama. Emily tries to say these words about the son who has given their family so much heartache. But she doesn’t believe it. Her mother love could never believe it. They just have to prove it. Sissel draws characters with depth and a plot with complexity. She is a master at dropping clues that inform and confound. Her cliff-hanger chapter endings compel you to keep reading. (I was fortunate to receive an advance review copy. The novel is due out in late March.)

Non Fiction

  • Twelves Years a Slave by Soloman Northrup – I have yet to see the movie and I grabbed  the e-book when it I saw it in a promotion. This first-person account of a free black man who is kidnapped and thrown into slavery causes one to despair of man’s inability to love his fellow man.

Late-breaking news (literally): I end this post abruptly because winter has taken its toll. I slipped on the ice and broke my wrist. As a result, I am reduced to typing with one finger, so my blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks. When I return, I trust spring will be here. In the meantime, happy reading and safe walking!

Going visiting – Blog style

Would you like some coffee?

Most families in our farming neighborhood saw Sunday as a day for resting and visiting. A day of resting and visiting AFTER you milked the cows at 5 a.m., had breakfast, went to church, and ate Sunday dinner–and BEFORE you milked cows again that night. Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. there were a few hours for visiting.

The whole business of visiting is different these days. Particularly in the social media world. As I’ve made new friends in the worlds of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Goodreads, I’ve watched authors go visiting blog style. Just like Sunday afternoon visits on the farm, blog visits are a chance to share the news, deepen existing friendships and make new friends.

There were a few ‘rules’ to Sunday afternoon visits: catch up on neighborhood news, enjoy the lunch that will always be served, and leave when it was time for chores. I don’t know all the rules of blog visits yet, but they seem to be about the same: chat about appropriate topics and don’t stay to long. The lunch part is left to readers bringing their own cup of coffee and a bagel.

I’ve hosted Diane Glass and Debra Engle, the authors of Winter, here and I’ve made a few visits myself. Each discussion has been different, reflecting the personalities of the blog hosts. Here are three blogs I’ve been invited to visit recently to share thoughts about writing my memoir.  I hope you’ll click on the links below, catch up on our discussions and share your thoughts.  There’s nothing bloggers like more than to have readers jump into the conversation.

Rachelle’s Window  Rachelle Ayala wrote MICHAL’S WINDOW, a look at the biblical story of King David from the perspective of David’s first wife Michal. As a lover of historical fiction, I find these kinds of stories fascinating because they take someone many people know well (King David) and show the events from the perspective of a lesser known character. Rachelle is true to the biblical story while weaving a fascinating tale told from a woman’s perspective. 

A.D. Trosper Audra Trosper raises goats and writes fantasy. How interesting a combination is that? I haven’t read her book EMBERS AT GALDRILENE (Dragon’s Call) yet, but how can I resist when I know the author understands the seriousness of milk fever in dairy cows and goats?

All Dressed Up J.P. Lane and I connected because of clothes. She’s an expert on historical clothing and I needed to know what men’s underwear was like in 1910. Just let it be said that men wore far more then than they do today. Joan recently released The Tangled Web, a story of international intrigue, murder and romance played out in New York, London, Prague, and a Caribbean island.

As society changes, so do things like Sunday afternoon visits. Blog visits are one way I’m keeping up with friends. How about you? What do you see as the new way to visit?

photo credit: Jasmic via photo pin cc