I wonder why Charlene Weir isn't more famous. She wrote really good non-noir mystery featuring a likeable protagonist and an imaginable American sceneI wonder why Charlene Weir isn't more famous. She wrote really good non-noir mystery featuring a likeable protagonist and an imaginable American scene. Plus she was good at the details of scenes and at believable, real dialogue. The Winter Widow flows and is constructed in such a way that I didn't want to put it down. I was lured from chapter to chapter. She was an astute and professional writer.
She and I went to the same church. She was so modest that I had no idea she was a writer. When she died suddenly, I attended her memorial service which was a garland of tributes and of tears from a loving family. Piles of her books were at the back of the room. They were being given away for free in her honor!
This is an important practical book about illness and dying. It is an important book because the aging population in the United States is big. So, itThis is an important practical book about illness and dying. It is an important book because the aging population in the United States is big. So, it applies to the aging and to their children, families, and/or caregivers - millions of people. It is practical book in the sense that it discloses very simple principles. These principles touched me profoundly because I had actually never heard or imagined them and they affect my life at a very basic level.
What are the principles I discerned? The first is that I should think about what makes my life on earth worth living as I progress down life's road. Of course, these priorities will change as time goes by. But, if I were in the hands of a terminal illness, I must consider what it is that might still give me joy though my time were limited -- family love, friendship, a good book, movies, the ability to eat ice cream. In this way, i would continue to live life though, of course, my decline would still be frightening and uncomfortable at the same time. (And Dr. G writes that, remarkably, it is often the case that persons in a satisfying hospice programs live longer and more contentedly than persons to whom every last medical procedure is being applied.)
The second principle is that I should consider what I am going to do as I age in order to remain as independent and dignified as I can. In this respect, Dr. G actually surveys the options and their histories -- from nursing home, to assisted living communities, to the "village" which is a system for the relatively independent, but practically house-bound.because of lesser mobility and strength. Nonetheless, I think that choosing among these options is the hardest task. That is, one cannot choose while one is healthy and active because the nature of future debility is unknown. I think that educating oneself and hypothesizing is the most one can do.
Third, the medical establishment is far more immature than I had thought. That is, it is good at procedures of all kinds, useless or not, but its emotional intelligence can be low. In this respect, Dr. G. mentions that doctors can fall into two categories: the paternal/arrogant or the information providers. The former tell you what to do or simply do it without telling you anything. The latter fill your head with the options.
Dr. Gawande seems to realize that a third approach might be better: the honest approach that tailors medicine to the needs and wishes of the patient who is in dire circumstances. It requires the honesty to inform the patient directly or indirectly that time is limited. And to learn from the patient his or her conclusions regarding the first principle I mentioned above.
The fourth principle is about hospice care. I learned a different point of view. Hospice should help me to live the best life possible. It doesn't exist simply to hold my hand while I die.
I think all the above is quite a lot to consider. I do not fault Dr. G. for not taking a stand on physician-assisted suicide or "right to die" proposals. He does say, however, that in some ways he regards such an approach as a defeat. He means that the approach can, at least theoretically, mean that we forget about the positive aspects of accepting a life worth living within parameters. But, additionally, I think that he is a bit uncomfortable because hospice care (ease for the patient's life and suffering) and the goal of assisted death (easing the end of life) can, as a practical matter, seem to approach each other.
What can be more fascinating than the story of the longest lasting institution in Western history or the study of the Western spiritual tradition, espWhat can be more fascinating than the story of the longest lasting institution in Western history or the study of the Western spiritual tradition, especially for Westerners themselves who may have forgotten it or be unaware of it.
I read this book over the course of an academic year when I was participating in the third year of the Episcopal Church's program called Education for Ministry (EfM). So, I did not read the book in one sitting. I had leisure to read it chapter by chapter and I had companions, fellow students, to discuss it with.
After this relatively slow, but consistent, journey through each page, I can say that Mr. MacCulloch's book is an excellent introduction to the history of the Christian church from its beginning and in many of its variants. Mr. M. makes clear that the church has never been exactly unified except perhaps at an institutional level during the European Middle Ages. The understanding of "doctrine" and spiritual practice have had thousands of shapes, and there have been thousands and thousands of participants, some of them well-known (even if only to academics) and others just the unnamed common man and woman who, for example, was attracted to the "devotio moderna" of the late Middle Ages.
I thought also that Mr. M. was relatively fair to all sides. He does, for example, address the liveliness of the church and Catholic spirituality of the late Middle Ages, including the surprising fact that the Bible had been circulating in translations in many places (though not apparently in England). He also addresses the motivations and the activities of Luther and the other early reformers with clarity for their spiritual concerns and political situations. Most interesting to me, however, was his dispassionate view of early disputes such as those between the "Chalcedon" church and the monophysites and dyophysites who gave rise to the Church of the East, the Assyrian Christian Church, the Coptic and Ethiopian Churches, and to Christian religious activities quite early on in China and India. Mr. M. made me realize that these disputes did not end in factions that themselves withered away in ancient times; but rather that they continued with a religious life outside the borders of the Mediterranean world and exist even today albeit in terrible jeopardy given the traumatic events in the Middle East starting with the war in Iraq, the various rebellions in Syria, and now the rise of ISIS and its claims to reestablishment of the Caliphate.
Mr. M. does not go easy on the church or church people. He recognizes the wrong-headedness of Christians (e.g., the Crusades and the companionship between European colonialism and missionary work in the 19th century). But he also recognizes the authentic spirituality of institutions and persons within the church. I must say that his sympathies or discussions in the latter direction took me by surprise as I was expecting him to be a critical institutional historian only with a bias towards real-world causes, like greed or the desire to dominate.
The book does have parameters in my opinion. That is, it is Eurocentric. And, by this term, I mean also the Christianity of North and South America. It is true that one must regard Europe as a great generator and engine of Christianity. But do not expect as detailed a discussion of Christianity in China or Korea. (But I hasten to note that Mr. M. does, in fact, mention developments in these places.) Do expect a greater emphasis on the church in the British Isles and its role as a missionary church. But recognize that this is an endlessly fascinating story in itself.
In sum, there are several subjects for Ph.D. dissertations laid out on every page. There is a wealth of material to explore in greater detail if one wishes. In this sense, the book is a springboard to even more study for it arouses curiosity and interest. But that study should also include histories of the church by other scholars. ...more
This was quite an interesting book from the hand of the author of Jane Eyre. It was published after her death.
The protagonist - the professor (that isThis was quite an interesting book from the hand of the author of Jane Eyre. It was published after her death.
The protagonist - the professor (that is, "teacher") at a girls' school in Brussels - is a self-reliant person without attachments and with abrupt, blunted social skills. His psychological aloneness is likely the result of his never having had any family life, even as a child, where he might have begun to learn to live in society. But he also has a type of inward arrogance and self-righteousness. As a teacher, he is a determined to impose his will even on the flighty pretty girls in the classroom. Ms. Bronte uses these girls to show that he will not humanly bend a little to prettiness and flirtatiousness, but he did not. I wondered whether Ms. Bronte was describing a homosexual well before Balzac did.
But there is a certain balance to his unattractive independence and opinionated style. That is, his judgments are far from foolish in regard to the two main characters with whom he deals professionally - the master and owner of the school at which he is employed and the mistress and owner of the school at which he "moonlights" - and who are not models of kindness or probity. He is a prig, but a decent one.
Another interesting facet of his character is that he appears to suffer from periodic, debilitating depression. In the book, this attacks him at a time when he should be much happier,
This book has, to my mind, a plot without an ending. Our hero does get the girl of his dreams, and they are happy together. But his social ignorance follows him into his role as a father. He does not harm his child in any way, but there is an incident in which he is not deft and is unintentionally cruel. His wife's talk to their child is a model of parenthood, even in this 21st century. ...more
Although Sidney is a lot more understated than he is in the PBS series "Grantchester" (which is really good, by the way), this book was interesting anAlthough Sidney is a lot more understated than he is in the PBS series "Grantchester" (which is really good, by the way), this book was interesting and Sidney was, too.
This is a series of stories that are crime mysteries. But they fit with Sidney's status as a clergyman in that they are also morality tales --- about revenge, about honor and reputation, about obsession, about control of life and death, fidelity, etc. This weaves in very nicely to Sidney's musings and feelings of conflict over his sleuthing in view of his priesthood. Sidney also develops slowly through the stories. At first, he seems a bit Miss Marple - highly polite and refined. That's fine. But, further on, there arise the glimmers of love life, issues of conscience, sorrows of the past, tolerance, kindness, and really youthful energy. Sidney is a young professional, not quite like any other detective book hero I've "met".
I think I'd like to read more of these because I want to see how Mr. Runcie makes Sidney, not necessarily because I find the mysteries so compelling.
Oh . . . these are really good on the environment of the 50's --- the mores, the politeness, the sexism, classism, etc. Enjoy! ...more
I did not read every one of these essays, but I loved the ones I did read. These were the essays on more general topics - on the young man reading theI did not read every one of these essays, but I loved the ones I did read. These were the essays on more general topics - on the young man reading the classics, on the nature of the sentence, on evil.
The marvel of good essay writing is their language and style, their meandering and diction, their side trips. They make me scratch my head and say I didn't understand a word and, yet, I loved the reading of them. They also have the marks of erudition and, often, erudition on display, but without any sense of self-love. Rather, they express joy and take the reader into that joy on a companionable, sometimes serious, ride into the country.
Mr. Gass' essays have all these qualities that I love. ...more
I'd never read any Hugh Walpole and bought this book on a whim because the scenario is St. Petersburg at the time the Revolution begins and, well, becI'd never read any Hugh Walpole and bought this book on a whim because the scenario is St. Petersburg at the time the Revolution begins and, well, because I liked the cover.
I enjoyed the book very much. But I was uncertain exactly what I was reading. There are, in a way, two novels going on side-by-side. One is a novel in which the the beginnings of the Revolution, the very edge of things before tremendous change, is the protagonist. And this was very interesting, indeed, from the absolute quiet of the city, the indifference (Oh, that's a little thing going on across the river. . .), the incursion of change through marches and then violence, the merger of the times of old and new orders, the involvement of people in events when the whole basis of their lives was to change, etc. I thought, however, that the portentous image of the Neva River as a metaphor for lurking disaster and dinosaurish conquest was overdone, melodramatic, and just plain dull.
The second novel is about the narrator and the Markovitch family. Here there are three narrative threads. Vera's love; Nina's confusion; and the odd, awful playing out of the cat and mouse game between Nicolai and Uncle Andrei. The first two, in particular the first, were the most interesting. The third was leading up to a foregone conclusion shadowed in an earlier part of the book. It was not psychologically well enough done to hold my interest deeply. If one views the two men as one entity, however, one can appreciate the relationship between the two halves without expecting a great deal more development of each of the two characters. (I thought the younger of the two English boarders was the interesting one as he changes so greatly, and his youth is so well portrayed.)
Again in this book, as I saw in The Generations of Winter by Vasilii Aksyonov, there are connections between non-Russian westerners and Russian literature. In "Generations", a westerner judges Russians by his knowledge of the literature. In Walpole's book, a westerner is accused at least twice of Dostoyevskian attitudes. This is interesting - the use of Russian literature as a gauge for knowing a country or person. ...more
I thought this book was quite interesting. It's overview of plurality was not doctrinaire, and Prof. Kwok's purpose, I thought, was to provide food f I thought this book was quite interesting. It's overview of plurality was not doctrinaire, and Prof. Kwok's purpose, I thought, was to provide food for thought - even though I think she's clearly on the "leftie" side of the debate.
Here's a couple of comments or questions/comments. First, in chapter two, I like very much the lesson on misappropriation of different cultures or traditions (e.g., Native American) under the guise of honoring or benefiting from the fruits of diversity. I had never heard someone actually say that out loud. And I thought the discussion was particularly forceful because the professor was criticizing some of the layers of Western-style feminism. This discussion also spills over into the area of the "righteous critique" of what we generalize as oppression (e.g., the head scarf). So, I liked that kind of self-criticism.
My second comment is about something more troubling for me because I perceive an inconsistency and relativism. On page 14, the professor cites to Dianne Eck when she writes pluralism is not relativism, but is an " encounter of commitments". however, in the chapter on polydoxy on page 70, she writes about scholars who explore the notion that Christianity has no monopoly on revelation and that "divinity should be understood in terms of multiplicity, open-endedness, and relationality". Here, I think she reports on a point of view that does make pluralism relativistic and that seems to say that one religion is, indeed, as good as another. Of course, God is beyond us totally, and we have only the sliver of a sliver of a glimpse through the tiniest gap in a partly open door. So, in that way, the statement makes sense if multiplicity, open-endedness, and relationality are our attempts to understand this beyondness. But, really, where does Jesus fit into this? If Jesus is God's revelation, how do we accept this polydoxy? I realize that Kwok's thinkers come out of post-colonial world in which Christianity is the governor's religion. But I'm not seeing how polydoxy should discount a truth. And Prof. Kwok holds, I believe, a post in the Episcopal Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Am I misunderstanding something about Kwok's presentation? Is she just talking about behavior and not any kind of "doxy" (!) at all?
Third, I'm afraid that I find the discussion regarding multiple or hybrid identity to be somewhat b.s. Identity is complicated enough without this type of definitional tool that splits us up into more pieces. In fact, I believe the persons Prof. Kwok cites to are simply complicating the statement that identity is complicated. That is, I have one identity that is always with me, but that I react and act in ways that are appropriate to the environment I'm in or that are the expressions of a search for the appropriate way to express integrity....more
Well, I really like Mr. Cornwell's books. I've read about King Alfred, King Arthur, and now about Agincourt. Agincourt is not Mr. C's greatest book. TWell, I really like Mr. Cornwell's books. I've read about King Alfred, King Arthur, and now about Agincourt. Agincourt is not Mr. C's greatest book. The arc of the story is ok and uses Mr. C's stock of young man in trouble and maturing. But the characters are just not compelling. The moral problem of the death of Sara the Lollard is good, and the resolution is welcome and satisfactory.
The real hero of the book is the Battle of Agincourt. I could have, however, done with far less battle. There are only so many slashes and stabs and spurts of blood that I need to satisfy me. But I must say that now I get what Agincourt was and how it unrolled on the ground and why the French called it the unfortunate day.
The book's chapters where the scene is the siege of Harfleur were much more interesting to me though the warfare and suffering were so dreary and less well known. I was reminded of Zoe Oldenbourg's novel on the First Crusade which also shows the filth and disease of medieval warfare - though Mr. Oldenbourg's book trumps Mr. C's on filth, disease, death, and bleakness. Since Mr. C. had to invent the tunneling/sapping story in the Harfleur chapters, perhaps his imagination was more stimulated and his bondage to historical and/or scholarly detail loosened.
As always, I am impressed by Mr. C's knowledge and research. And I will certainly read more of his books of which there is, fortunately, a wide selection. ...more