"READING maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing
an exact man."
This saying of Francis Bacon, quoted near the beginning of
chapter 11 of As the Sparks Fly Upwards (Sid Harta
Publishers, £17.95; 978-1-921829-35-2), typifies the book, and says
much about its author, Richard Stamp.
The stories contain the kind of thoughtfulness that comes only
from reading, reflecting, and bouncing ideas off others. The
distilled wisdom is then brought to life in the interaction of the
characters with each other and with their surroundings.
The book is about a young priest and his ministry as a Bush
Brother in the Australian outback. It contains 16 stories.
Some are very funny, like the one in which two charming old
ladies announced that they were whores before they were married.
Some are moving, like the account of young Glen's death and
funeral. All of the stories are thoughtful and sensitive.
They are very nicely written with an eye for detail that verges
on the poetic: "Square weatherboard houses pulled tin roofed
verandas over their eyes and tried not to blink into the sunlight.
. ." The characters are drawn with masterly understatement and
economy. Most of them pop up in more than one story: we are looking
at and listening to the complications of a small social system in
which the characters move in and out of their comfort zones. By the
end of the book, you feel you know most of them - and like
A note at the beginning of the book declares that the places
mentioned and all of the characters are entirely fictional. We are
also told, however, that most of the incidents in the book "do have
some basis in fact". Let the reader understand!
It is a great read and recommended highly, especially to those
in ministry or preparing for it, and more especially for those of
the clergy who are prone to "foot and mouth disease" (see page
Fr Ewer is a member of the Society of the Sacred Mission and
a resident member of the Well Community in Milton Keynes.