Monday, October 29, 2007

Book Roundup

I recently finished three books, feel like I could go on for pages discussing them, but I won't. Here are three mini-reviews.

The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis: Out of the three books mentioned here, everyone should read this one. It is a collection of essays and talks. Lewis is brilliant, as always; he blends the head and the heart so well. There is a lot of variety in these essays, so you can just flip through the book and read whatever suits your fancy at the time.

Apologia Pro Vita Sua, John Henry Newman: The Penguin Classics edition has Millais' portrait of the author on the cover--a gentle-faced old man in cardinal's robes. I felt when reading this book that I was getting a glimpse of a beautiful soul. This is a very odd book. It's not a defense of Roman Catholicism or even of Newman's views; it's plainly and simply a defense of himself--this little old man saying querulously, "Stop persecuting me for becoming a Catholic!" And yet in that feeble old voice you hear the deep whisper of a truly brilliant intellect and devout heart. How I wish I lived in the days when higher education fielded men like Newman!

On the Road, Jack Kerouac: Feeling very openminded, I read this book (this year is the 50th anniversary of its publication). Kerouac was obviously a very talented writer, which is why I wish his writing were edited a lot more thoroughly. I mean, c'mon, I know he hated Hemingway, but he could have cut or refined half his verbage without losing his own distinctive voice. It's a very sad book (and very funny in spots). A bunch of guys drive around without shirts on, sleep with women in every town along the way, and look for their fathers. Dean Moriarty is a guy with no roots who, in his attempt to find meaning, fathers children all over the continent and leaves them to live rootless lives just like his. I can see why this book is considered the voice of a generation, but why do people consider that a good thing? It's tragic.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Beauty is an attribute of holiness.

~ "Why Study Art?" Linda Trumbo, The Virginia Home Educator (vol. 13, no. 3)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Perfect Paragraph

It was mid-morning when the man dropped him at a corner beside a little country hotel. The snow had all lain and there was more in the sky and the day was extremely silent. Mark went into the little hotel and found a kind elderly landlady. He had a hot bath and a capital breakfast and then went to sleep in a chair before a roaring fire. He did not wake till about four. He reckoned he was only a few miles from St. Anne's, and decided to have tea before he set out. He had tea. At the landlady's suggestion he had a boiled egg with his tea. Two shelves in the little sitting room were filled with bound volumes of The Strand. In one of these he found a serial children's story which he had begun to read as a child but abandoned because his tenth birthday came when he was half way through it and he was ashamed to read it after that. Now, he chased it from volume to volume till he had finished it. It was good. The grown-up stories to which, after his tenth birthday, he had turned instead of it, now seemed to him, except for Sherlock Holmes, to be rubbish. "I suppose I must get on soon," he said to himself.

~ That Hideous Strength, ch. 17

How We Met

Reading is as much an experience as it is an accomplishment, so I love stories about how certain books get read. For instance, when I was elementary-age I checked a book out of the library whose title I misread as The Civil War. It was actually called The Cybil War (by Betsy Byars) and it had nothing to do with American history. But I did enjoy it very much.

With C.S. Lewis's space trilogy, which I just finished, the story is quite different. I've loved C.S. Lewis's work ever since I heard The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a book on tape when I was three or four. But I've never really been into science fiction. I came to be rather embarassed that I had read many of Lewis's writings, including obscure poems, but not his space trilogy.

So then one day when I was visiting my family last year, I picked up That Hideous Strength just to sort of fill some time. I started reading it and really got into all the college politics and the workings of the N.I.C.E., and somehow realized that this was the last book in the trilogy. After that I convinced myself to start with the beginning of the trilogy so that I could eventually get to the N.I.C.E. again, in context. Every time I visited home after that I would work through the trilogy. I enjoyed it so much that by the time I reached the last few chapters, I tried to stretch them out over a few days because I didn't want the books to be over.