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.
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.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
What a terrific, terrific little book! I was hooked right away, and the novel sustained my attention to the end. I read this on the heels of Collins’ Hunger Games, and wow, what a distinct difference. While there’s little artistry in the former, Lowry’s novel is delightfully artistic.
Here’s one simple example of narration. (Narration sets the tone and foundation for everything else: plot, character, conflict, etc. How something is told is often as important, or perhaps intrinsically connected to, what is being told.)
Hunger Games is written in first-person. Our protagonist is a spunky, inventive, selfless, and confused girl of about fifteen: Katniss. Since she is narrating the novel, we learn about everything from her. However, she is so intensely obtuse at times; for example, it is abundantly clear to the reader that the other boy character, Peeta, “likes” her in a romantic sort of way. We need only hear one story about their past and we know it. However, Katniss doesn't see this through the entire novel, and in fact, she still is a bit confused by the end.
Now, it’s OK for a reader to “catch” more in first-person narratives than the narrators themselves – up to a point. It must be subtle and complex. Hunger Games is neither. The effect is that Suzanne Collins, the author of the novel, becomes so increasingly clear: something you don’t want in fiction. It’s so obvious Collins wants us to recognize Peeta’s interest, even if Katniss doesn’t. And besides this unfortunate intrusion of Collins into the narrative, the situation also doesn't make sense, since we need to assume that Katniss is incredibly dumb to not see what we see; however, we know what one thing she isn't is dumb.
Comparatively, the narration in The Giver is so gifted and well done, despite the fact that the intended audience is younger than Collin’s. Lowry uses a third-person, semi-omniscient narrator. From this lens, the narrator could give us more info than our protagonist, the young and reflective Jonas, has. But there is such compelling restraint in the narration. Although Lowry uses the third-person, she uses free indirect style, and so we tend only to see from Jonas’ perspective – and we tend to only have the knowledge that he has in the moment.
For example, the narrator tries to explain an experience of Jonas’ in which he is throwing an apple around with a friend, but Jonas notices something changing about the apple. The narration is vague and confused, just like Jonas. Later, we learn that Jonas lives in a world without color, and that he has begun to see the color red: hence, the apple. It is so superbly done. I can’t even imagine the butchering involved if Collins tried to write this scene.
So while Hunger Games is in first person, it drifts so far from Katniss’ knowledge and perspective, in fits of un-believability and author-intrusion – while The Giver’s third person narration stays so much closer to the protagonist, opening the door to a more interesting revealing of the plot, not to speak of its ability to introduce irony and psychological depth.
But I drift off topic. The Giver was well-written, well-narrated, and well-constructed. It is one of the best young adults / children’s books I’ve ever read. It only took a sitting or two, so take the time and enjoy it.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Hmm. I have mixed opinions about this novel. (By the way, there will be some spoilers here, but nothing concerning how the conflict is resolved; just some early stuff.)
On the one hand, literarily, the book is rather poor. It is intended for middle-school aged kids, but that’s no excuse. For example, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, intended for a younger audience, is superbly written. Hunger Games is probably closer to Harry Potter, in the sense that it tells a good story and gets you hooked, but it has little artistry. But it has even less than Potter, in my opinion.
But it keeps your attention – and not always in a bad way, like the horribly conceived and written Da Vinci Code. Collins spins a fast moving and exciting story, and I found myself rooting for the protagonist, despite the fact that she was an annoyingly naïve (and often just annoying).
But there was an ethical question that I feel the novel never entertained. Quick recap: In a post-apocalyptic world, the US is controlled by one wealthy city; it manages twelve outposts, who all do some sort of forced work for the city: one is agricultural; another technical; our protagonist’s deals with mining coal. In order to maintain their power and fear, every year the city sponsors the hunger games: an “entertainment” for all. Each outpost randomly selects one girl and one boy to go to the city and play in a “fight to the death” game, which is televised. There can only be one winner.
Now, apart from the reasonable furrowed foreheads on account of this being the storyline intended for twelve-year olds (I wouldn't let my kids, if they were twelve, read it), I have a bit of a moral question for the novel. How come the protagonist never engages the possible idea of not killing other people in the game: other people who are innocent? Now, I understand it wouldn't be much of a book then, and I also realize that most people wouldn't agree with this moral choice, but that the novel never even entertains the moral option is…well, beyond unpleasant, actually puzzling. Is the idea that if we were all faced with the choice of accepting death or trying to kill innocent people we would all take out the swords and clubs and bash each other to death?
Just once, the boy from our protagonist’s outpost lightly hints at the possibility of not killing anyone – but he admits he’s not serious. But that’s it. It never comes back up. I understand that in a kid’s book it’s difficult to deal with intricate moral quandaries, but this novel actually makes a moral statement: and it’s one that is self-defeating. While our protagonist desires to live, and more importantly, while she makes friends and teams up with other contestants, she essentially recognizes their humanity. But she is also free to kill other innocent people. Collins gets away with this by making some of the contestants bloodthirsty and consciously sadistic, so it’s easy for us to say, “Oh yeah, kill him, he’