The title of this blog borrows from a phrase used by the British novelist and Catholic convert, Evelyn Waugh: “There is an Easter sense in which all things are made new in the risen Christ. A tiny gleam of this is reflected in all true art.” It is a hopeful and worthwhile idea and aspiration to believe that the human creation of art is a refracting of the truth as expressed in the person of the risen Christ.
This blog serves as a place to comment on and explore literature – or any other mode of art, such as film, poetry, visual art, and the like. Although the explorations and reactions here need not be centered on religious structures or ideas, it is assumed that the foundational core of the responses is a belief in the power and truth of Catholicism. Rather than this having the effect of a narrowing of perspectives, as some may claim, this standpoint is in fact one of freedom, for freedom is found fully only in truth – while a detachment from this bedrock of veracity, even in hopes of finding objectivity, is bound to end in hollow and incomplete untruth.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Sunday, January 1, 2017
I still read 27 books in 2016, and a number of them were fantastic and memorable. I read my first (and still my favorite) Wendell Berry novel, Jayber Crow. It was one of my favorite books of all time. Top ten, I might say---at least top 15. It was the tops of 2016, no doubt in my mind. Another Berry snuck into my Top 5 this year, A Place on Earth. Interestingly, two of the other three on my Top 5 list were by Tobias Wolff: his memoir A Boy's Life and his short story collection, A Night in Question. The last book, PD James's Children of Men, came out of nowhere for me. I was hooked immediately, and I remain entranced by the atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic world created by the British mystery writer.
Here is my Top 5, sort of in order:
Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry
A Boy's Life, Tobias Wolff
The Children of Men, PD James
A Place on Earth, Wendell Berry
A Night in Question, Tobias Wolff
Other notable/memorable books of 2016:
Wizard of Earthsea, Usula K. LeGuin
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami
Jeweler's Shop, Karol Wojtyla
The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark
Pastoria, George Saunders
Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
Interesting (or not-so-interesting) Breakdowns
I didn't reach too many of my other goals, although their presence did push me into areas I wouldn't have gone otherwise, e.g. I received Wendell Berry's name from the Image list.
Just as I'm cutting back on my total book count, I'm also making my goals less ambitious. Hopefully this will help me not ignore them.
1. Read at least ONE book/author from "Image's Top 25 Contemporary Writers of Faith" List, found here
2. Read at least ONE book of poetry
3. Read at least ONE classic (pre-1900)
4. Read at least ONE book strictly philosophical or theological
5. Read TWO prize winners
Monday, April 18, 2016
Monday, March 14, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
P.S. Goal #11: Read FIVE books from five new authors from "Image's Top 25 Contemporary Writers of Faith" List, found here
I ended the year with 41 books read, exceeding my goal by 1. More importantly, 2015 stopped my trending reading decline, going from 55 to 40 to 33. In fact, 41 puts me at more books read (in recent history, at least) than any year but my monster 2012 year. I am more than pleased with my reading habits over the past 12 months.
Last, here are some interesting stats on my "reading year." I broke down my 41 books by looking at 4 categories: gender of writer, length of book, genre of book, and religion of writer. The last category is a bit tenuous: I went with what I knew, and put "other" down if I didn't know. Also, for someone to classify as a Catholic or Christian writer, I need to know they were practicing and orthodox---not perfect, just actually affiliated with a religious dogma.
Gender of author: 76% male; 24% female
Length of book: 34% short; 61% medium; 5% long
Religion of author: 44% Catholic; 12% Christian; 44% other
Genre: 39% novel; 5% novella; 10% science-fiction; 7% fantasy; 22% short stories; 2% poetry; 2% young adult; 12% non-fiction
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I read 56 books in 2012, 40 in 2013, and 33 in 2014. I hope to buck the trend in 2015. I may not get back up into the 50s, but I think I can get close to 40.
I read a number of terrific books this year: some were classics (Heart of Darkness); some are on their way to being classics (a bunch of Flannery O'Connor's); some were published this year (Lila); some were non-fiction (Pieper), which is shocking for me; some were rather obscure (Shusako Endo).
Top 5 Books I Read in 2014 (in order of when I read them)
Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Shusaku Endo's Silence
Marilynne Robinson's Lila
Joseph Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture
Other Notable Reads of the Year (in order of when I read them)
Ron Hansen's Nebraska
Ron Hansen's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners
Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried
Franz Kafka's The Trial
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Saturday, August 2, 2014
Monday, July 21, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Monday, December 30, 2013
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Friday, August 9, 2013
Monday, August 5, 2013
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Monday, March 11, 2013
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
“The Geranium,” “The Displaced Person,” and “Judgment Day”
I’m fond of saying I love Flannery O’Connor; I am also considering using some of her work in my dissertation. However, I must admit that I haven’t read enough. What I have read has been terrific: “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is still one of my favorite short stories.
What I was reminded of as I read these three O’Connor stories yesterday was the intricate craftsmanship in an O’Connor story. I think it was Hemingway who said something to the extent of, “In a good story, 90% isn’t stated.” Well, if this is the real judge of good short story writing, then Flannery O’Connor is one of the best. Almost every one of her lines says more than it says – or, perhaps, they all do more than they simply say.
If you’ve never read her before, be prepared to meet spiteful, hypocritical characters that are hard to like; be prepared to be shocked by the bursts of violence. Don’t expect to be coddled; don't expect to find stories with trite, happy endings. Don’t expect to be comforted – well, at least not in the normal sense. In worlds of egotistical and myopic characters, worlds of bitter labor and little reward, the hand and grace of God (mind you, not in any overt or saintly way) is at work – and this should be comforting.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
It must stated off the bat that there is not too much biography in this biography. Some of this is the fact that we don't know a whole lot about St. Thomas; some a result of Chesterton’s rambling structure, using points about St. Thomas as springboards to criticize of Chesterton's contemporary thinkers or personal ideas he saw as important – but they are wonderful ramblings: full of life and wit and lightheartedness and seriousness: in a word, a vibrant orthodoxy.
You get a flavor of Thomas’ philosophy from the book, but the taste, while succinct, is also thorough. In explaining some of the foundation of Aquinas’ philosophy, Chesterton states:
“To this question, ‘Is there anything?’ St. Thomas begins by answering, ‘Yes’; if he began by answering, ‘No’, it would not be the beginning, but the end. That is what some of us call common sense. Either there is no philosophy, no philosophers, no thinkers, no thought, no anything; or else there is a real bridge between the mind and reality.”
Particularly interesting to me was a view into Aquinas’ use of Aristotle to combat narrow Augustinian pessimism or Manichaeism: the idea that the natural world is corrupt and evil, and only the spiritual is positively good. Using Aristotle’s anti-dualism (the soul is not separate from the body as in Plato, but instead the soul is the form of the body), St. Thomas reaffirms the ancient Catholic truth that all creation is good. The physical and natural is real and holy and dignified, even if affected by the Fall: “Any extreme of Catholic asceticism is a wise, or unwise, precaution against the evil of the Fall; it is never a doubt about the good of the Creation.”
I fully recommend this book for anyone with an interest in Aquinas or philosophy, or Catholic thought. For me, more than inspiring me to go back and relook at Aquinas (which I should do) this book have reminded me to get back into the books and ideas and words of the genius of Gilbert Keith.