An absolutely fantastic book about the spiritual positions of the "young" and the "older". Fr. Rohr did me a service by pointing out that my youth wasAn absolutely fantastic book about the spiritual positions of the "young" and the "older". Fr. Rohr did me a service by pointing out that my youth was not wasted in seeking "fame and fortune" and "identity", but rather that my search along with my fecklessness were, well, natural. He has also done me a service by pointing out how I don't seem to think that everything I do or that happens to me is crucially important and why I seem to have ambitions of less scope, in the worldly sense. This also turns out to be natural.
Like all non-fiction books regarding "soft" subjects, this book can be difficult for a hard-headed and critical person (i.e., me) to follow at the beginning. But then it became fascinating as the book snowballed, and I became familiar with FR's concepts, and his great erudition became evident. The result of this book for me is that I will try simply to live my life from now on in the present moment without regard for or, indeed, need for the continuing bolstering of my ego. I am willing to look for the satisfying true self.
I recommend this book highly. It was as influential and eye-opening for me as Gerald May's "The Dark Night of the Soul". Although it is a book written by a Christian, FR's presentation goes way beyond Christianity into the universal places where everybody lives. As he said or someone said somewhere: If it's true, it's true everyplace.
Also, I note that FR and the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) run a daily meditation that is unique, sincere, helpful, and learned. If you wish to key into this year's theme of these meditations, check out the very first one on the CAC website to see how the year is organized into themes and chapters. ...more
The Iliad is a book that stands on its own. It is meant to be read.. One can think about it, puzzle over it, try to understand its context, feel it, mThe Iliad is a book that stands on its own. It is meant to be read.. One can think about it, puzzle over it, try to understand its context, feel it, meditate on it. But, in my view, it is virtually impossible to rewrite it. It speaks to each heart in its own way.
Therefore - again in my view - attempts to rewrite stories from the foundational literature of the West - the Iliad or the Bible - are usually failures. And sometimes the retelling is cringingly bad. There are some exceptions. One is Thomas Mann's "Joseph and His Brothers". Another - as I recall for it's been so long - is Sholem Asch's "The Nazarene". But I actually can't think of any Iliad retellings that are good. I'm not counting the editions for children and young people that were gatekeepers for me.
I am sorry to say that I think Mr. Malouf's retelling is also a failure. His book is loaded with ponderous prose and poeticisms. His "humanization" of Priam is pale in comparison to the very human Priam that the Iliad itself provides. He shares to a degree the modern sexualIzed interest in the bond between Achilles and Patroclus which the Iliad takes for granted and describes only in its consequences. We do not need the coarseness of Achilles' camp as if Priam had willingly entered an SS barracks.
So, what was Mr. M. trying to do? Maybe he thought Priam had to be unlocked from a hieratic role as king and introduced to what makes living worth living? But this would be a wild-goose chase because Priam, throughout the Iliad, is always human, always a father, always affectionate. Indeed, it is the conflict between this humanness and the hieratic and conventional necessities of their lives that gives the Iliad's characters their intense liveliness. Mr. M. did not need to redo this job or speculate.
One character in Mr. M's book is quite nice. This is the fictional Sonax/Idaeus. Here we see a human being in his many aspects. I think this character works for me because Mr. M. created him out of whole cloth, and he is therefore Mr. M's brilliant creation and not the result of ponderous pondering....more
I totally loved this book. The winter scene, the isolated village, and the great cast of characters and their doings enthralled me. I wondered what woI totally loved this book. The winter scene, the isolated village, and the great cast of characters and their doings enthralled me. I wondered what would happen to them -- would the protagonist and the boat-builder become closer, would the artist become successful in another way, would the brother have a happy life, would the dog remain wild??
Nonetheless, I am also totally flummoxed. I am not very sure of what was going on. For me, there were fairy tale qualities in the scenery, the isolation, the mysterious dog, the transformation of characters into something they were not at the beginning, the piling of things onto the ice so it could sink in spring, the rabbit house. And I suppose, as with fairy tales, there was also darkness. For example, the odd, humorless, obsessive nature of the protagonist -- all of which seemed to be a cover for love of the brother. The fixation of the artist on her childhood and her slow wrenching from it. The stable innocence of the boy. The alienation of the dog. And BTW since the dog seemed an alter ego of the protagonist (to the point where it had no name of its own), was the dog's running away a hint of the relaxation of the protagonist's character, her own transformation? And when it attacked her, was it the revenge of the repressed nature?
Goodness, I have no idea. And, yet, this book was fascinating and unforgettable. I will look at more of Ms. Jansson's adult works. ...more
I really like Thomas Hardy's novels. I think that it may be because he does not try to entertain and because his realism, though unromantic, is filledI really like Thomas Hardy's novels. I think that it may be because he does not try to entertain and because his realism, though unromantic, is filled with a very deep sympathy for his characters. His skill is such and his "people" are so ultimately human that we accept them and even somewhat understand them. This is so even when they act stupidly or irritate us or seem feckless and irresponsible. Hardy's writing is, of course, also filled with a love for a kind of English rural life that I believe had likely disappeared or was disappearing when he wrote. Accordingly, he seems a loving archaeologist or, better, curator of the past, its ways, its language. He seems like a really likeable man.
I think that these impressions are born out even in Far from the Madding Crowd, which is quite an early Hardy book, published in 1872, I believe. Bathsheba Everdene in her pride is heading for a fall and does fall. Yet, her fall is a cause for the reader's sympathy as she pays a deep personal price for what might be termed her "foolishness". In her case, Hardy shows us his gift for presenting female characters who are credible in their collisions of their inner lives and aspirations with the conventions --- and law --- of their societies. Gabriel Oak is accepting of life's circumstances and therefore the happiest of the characters. He does not try ever to change fate or manipulate the world. Farmer Boldwin's obsessions are sad, and he is self-destructive in what is really a delayed adolescence that flourishes like a jungle at age 40. Yet, the description of that adolescence rings so true (as in "I love you; therefore you have to love me"). However, I think the best and most mysterious character is Francis Troy. He is well-described early on in the novel as living in the present without a thought for the future or the past. (I may be simplifying his description here.) Yet, the two chapters in which he prepares Fanny's grave are, in my opinion, the book's most emotionally intense. His fecklessness is mixed with real grief and remorse, and, even though the grief and remorse may be fleeting, they are nonetheless real.
As for rural life, there are the excellent conversations and asides of the country workers and gaffers. Indeed, the book closes with one of them. In addition, where else in literature can we find a strong chapter where events occur in the context of covering ricks with tarps and then, as an emergency, thatching them? Where else are sheep behaviors so well described or country markets? Where else does a character pick up on future weather by the fact that a slug has obviously slid across the kitchen table? All of this is remarkable.
Yet, I feel Far From the Madding Crowd is not one of Hardy's great books. I do not think that he has yet found his courage. Eventually, he does stride into the magnificence of Jude the Obscure, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and The Return of the Native. But with FFMC he's not yet there. I say this because I believe that the book has too pat an ending which comes upon us too quickly and with too little build-up and exploration. This is, after all, a book that spends half its pages building itself up to its high point, the marriage of Bathsheba and Troy. The rush at the end therefore seems odd. It makes me believe that Hardy bowed to convention and provided an ending that was acceptable in his or his publisher's eyes. There are signs of this, first, in the commutation of Farmer Boldwood's death sentence (whereas, later on in Hardy's career, Tess of the D'U ends with her hanging). Second, I was disappointed in the two sudden and coy pages in which Gabriel and Bathsheba declare themselves. I wonder if there was another ending that was scrapped as too scandalous or awful. Wouldn't it be great if someone found it? ...more
Joyce Carol Oates is a really interesting story-teller. First, the stories have an element of voyeurism for me. There's just a little of the supermarkJoyce Carol Oates is a really interesting story-teller. First, the stories have an element of voyeurism for me. There's just a little of the supermarket tabloid. So, the stories provide some titillation, including indulgence in schadenfreude.
Second, JCO makes me realize that the apparently simple life has layers of complexity and that I should be aware that "outsiders" are many and live alongside me. They are hidden and capable of tremendous upheavals, as in Carthage. Indeed, one of the values of Oates is an appreciation for individuals as unique. That is, if everyone is an outsider as to convention, then no one is really an outsider, and we should eschew generalities and look to the mysteries of particularity.
In Carthage, events are set in motion by the thoughtlessness and self-involvement --- well, mental illness --- of a female protagonist. Yet, in considering the actions and lives of other characters, like her immediate family or the Iraq war veteran, one cannot say that any character is responsible in any way for what happens. It just does happen. This sensation that events have no outside causation is enhanced by JCO's method of storytelling in this book. That is, the story is told from the viewpoints of the several characters, and there is no omniscient narrator. These viewpoints never quite match. Connections between characters are social or conventional or internal to each character's thoughts about the others. It is actually a bleak world. And, in the end, the female protagonist persists and ironically gets what she wanted in the first place.
It is wonderful to me how JCO names her fictional city "Carthage". Considering all the towns with classical names in New York state --- Utica, Syracuse, Troy --- Carthage is the outsider, the non-Greek, non-Roman city regarded as a powerful enemy that the Romans persistently wanted to destroy and that, eventually, they razed and obliterated from the face of the earth. Overtones of the dark outsider position of Carthage are present in this book.
I think this is a good 3-star book. The cover is 5-star. It is one of the best book covers I have ever seen.