Cover to Cover

Books by UNH faculty and alumni

The Adventures of Allegra Fullerton, by Robert J. Begiebing '77G
Soul of the Sky compiled and edited by Dave Thurlow and C. Ralph Adler '76
Cosmology and Creation by Paul Brockelman '76

The Adventures of Allegra Fullerton
Or, A Memoir of Startling and Amusing Episodes from Itinerant Life
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In the afterword to this, his second novel, Robert J. Begiebing '77G writes about the genesis of his character, Allegra Fullerton. He had stumbled upon two traditions. "First was the tradition of the 18th- and 19th-century authors who created the female picaresque; second was the tradition of those American itinerant portrait painters who went on the road to make their living by wit, risk and rough skill." Allegra is a beautiful young widow, determined to make an independent life out of her love for painting, an unconventional choice for a woman of her time.

The author is skillful at depicting the New England of the 1830s and '40s and at providing an intellectual and cultural context for Allegra's adventures. Debates about women's rights and moral reform, so much a part of the period, are invoked as Allegra is stalked and abducted by a rake named Dudley and ultimately aided by the Boston Female Moral Reform Society. When Allegra needs a place to hide, none other than Margaret Fuller, America's first female correspondent, arranges for her to stay in a commune west of Boston. Here, Begiebing draws on the Transcendentalist ideas that led to such living experiments in the early part of the 19th century.

The soul of the novel is to be found in Allegra's observations about women and how they achieve the lives they want when their choices are so limited. At one point, she draws some conclusions about the remarkable women she has met in her travels: "All these women . . . bending like supple reeds under the weight of Necessity, nevertheless had fashioned lives of vital interest to themselves, of, by, and for themselves, so that they might then participate in the community of others—their families, their customers, or the powerless and ignorant among us. But in every case, before she could join the community through her chosen labors, each had first to map and pursue a path to the independent, cultivated core of herself, to the inner source of ripening and furtherance, without which even economic independence were but hollow."

This is a sensitive and inspired portrait of a woman struggling for wholeness in a world that would begrudgingly grant her only half her desires.

Soul of the Sky
Exploring the Human Side of Weather
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"We literally breathe the weather," Dave Thurlow and Ralph Adler '76 write in their introduction. "It affects what we wear, what we eat, how we feel, where we live, how we spend our time. The weather is a major character in the drama of our culture." I don't know anyone in northern New England who would argue with them, as my neighbors and I search for signs that will tell us what kind of winter we're going to have. Indeed, weather not only affects our present, but also the way we think about our future.

Soul of the Sky offers essays about people's experiences with hurricanes, tornadoes, puddles, ice, fog and floods in New England, around the Great Lakes, off the North Carolina coast, on the Great Plains. Many of the writers talk about severe weather's power to strip away security, the "knowledge of peril" that Jerry Dennis writes about in his haunting essay "Lake Squall, 1967."

Others write about an exploration inward, like Craig Werth '79, '93G, who writes about kayaking in the fog: "I've come to think of fog as a neutral thing. It's like a blank canvas—it becomes what we choose to shape and color it with: projected images, memories, imaginations, and even full-bodied emotional states. It can amplify and magnify these things, as if every suspended molecule of water is another mirror in a hall of a million mirrors, reflecting and revealing a fear, a hope, a dream, an insight, a vision. Letting loose a thought or feeling in such an environment can be unsettling, perhaps terrifying."

Perhaps Andrew Morrell's interview with Sebastian Junger, author of the best seller The Perfect Storm, sums up what this collection is all about. Junger says, "The weather is part of my emotional life. . . . I remember I was working overseas, in a war actually, as a journalist. It was summer and it was starting to get cold and I stepped on a dead leaf on the pavement in Zagreb, Croatia. It was a dead oak leaf and the sound of that crackling made me instantly homesick. In a way, that's my most intense weather experience." There are many other, equally intense weather experiences in this wonderful collection.

Cosmology and Creation
The Spiritual Significance of Contemporary Cosmology
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Paul Brockelman is a popular and well-respected professor of philosophy and religious studies at UNH. The idea for this book grew out of conversations he had with his friend and colleague Eberhard Möbius, an astrophysicist and UNH professor, about the relationship between contemporary science and religion.

"It seemed to us that not only were the two compatible, but that they in fact seemed to mutually support one another in so far as they lead ultimately to mysticism. That doesn't mean ignorance or mumbo-jumbo, nor does it mean that we ought to give up the scientific endeavor to understand. Rather, mysticism is a form of spiritual life which many 20th-century scientists such as Albert Einstein and Irwin Schrödinger endorsed, and which many scholars believe lies at the core of human religious life in general," Brockelman writes.

The professors developed a seminar at UNH based on these conversations, and the seminar became the background and context for this book. It is a remarkable study that draws on quantum physics, astrophysics, geology, biology, theology and creation mythology to point the way to the emergence of a new creation story.

"We need to restore our spiritual vision," the author asserts. "We need to renew the age-old experience of the sacred dimension of life; what is at stake is our understanding of the very meaning of existence itself." And the new scientific cosmology, or the study of the origins and development of the universe over 12 to 15 billion years (i.e., the Big Bang and beyond), can help us do it.

This is a deeply learned yet accessible examination of how the discoveries of contemporary science can be interpreted as a creation story, and how that story can reveal a new understanding of the nature of God. It may help you remember what it is like to feel wonder. But at the very least, you will want it on your bookshelf to remind you not to sweat the small stuff.