While Scott runs through a frustrating maze, Julie marvels at her ability to find Karl Urban in every inkblot she sees. We dig deep below the surfaceWhile Scott runs through a frustrating maze, Julie marvels at her ability to find Karl Urban in every inkblot she sees. We dig deep below the surface Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and find Genesis everywhere we look. Get it all in Episode 154 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.
I didn't realize the hidden riches in this story, mostly remembering it as something that made me cry in high school. So I was glad to discover more when I read it for the podcast....more
I've always been drawn to the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago, that ancient pilgrimage which treks over mountains and takes weeks to complete.I've always been drawn to the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago, that ancient pilgrimage which treks over mountains and takes weeks to complete. I've also always known in the depths of my sensible heart that time and money will never allow that pilgrimage.
However, it never occurred to me that there is a camino of sorts in the United States. California has a well known string of twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to San Francisco. On foot, on bike, or by car, that is within my reach. Stephen J. Binz has written an eminently usable guidebook which has all the usual practical travel guide info, ranging from GPS to area history to mission bell names.
I learned a lot about California's early history that I never knew before, including details about problems between native people, colonists, and soldiers. Binz also includes that the unintended consequences of Spanish evangelization which didn't always work out for either the missionaries or the natives. I really respected Binz's acknowledgement that history is never simple as we like to paint it, while he sorted through each mission's story.
What makes this more than a travel guide, however, is that Binz takes care to feed the traveler's spiritual side. He explores each mission's patron with the lessons they have for us in our times. Each entry includes a litany and spiritual readings from scripture or missionary letters. These are designed to make each mission visit into a visit with Our Lord.
The only thing I'd change would be to include more photos of each location and to print them in color. But if you want to make a camino pilgrimage, this is the most complete resource I can imagine. ...more
We've spoken frankly so far about the American landscape as we now know it. Some of the words have been difficult. But candor is not an enemy of love
We've spoken frankly so far about the American landscape as we now know it. Some of the words have been difficult. But candor is not an enemy of love. And real hope begins in honesty.
The current spirit of our country inclines us to be troubled. It's a sensible temptation. How can any one person or small group of people make a difference? How can we change and renew things so that our children grow up in a better world? We come back to a question suggested at the start of this book: How can we live in joy, and serve the common good as leaven, in a culture that no longer shares what we believe?
As we might expect from the author of Render Unto Caesar, this is a book which focuses on how we can live both an authentically Catholic life and an American life in changing, chaotic times.
The first half of the book examines our nation's history, especially as it is tied to religion; how our society became "post Christian;" and why it will not return to the way it was. That last truth hit me hard. I'm not someone who thinks restoring a few laws is going to change the national psyche but I think I felt as if everything would settle back into old norms at some point. Absorbing Chaput's explanation was tough. But if we don't know the truth, then we aren't on firm ground for future decisions. So I'm grateful.
The second half looks at where we go from here, as Catholics, as Americans. I found it realistic and hope-filled and inspiring. What is hope and how do we maintain it? How do Jesus' promises in the Beatitudes apply to our lives and times? What does it mean to be the "people of God" in a distracted and unbelieving age?
Chaput's answer is one that I have always felt is a basic truth, perhaps because I myself came from a completely secular life before my conversion. We begin by reforming our own hearts, being authentic Christian witnesses by living our own lives with conviction. We have to be in love with our faith and with God. That is what spills over as we go into the world for work, school, and all the things that make up a normal life.
It may not always be easy, but, let's face it, we've been spoiled. All you have to do is look at the way Christians are persecuted around the world to see that.
In different ways, with varying directness, Chaput repeatedly points out that people living a fully Christian life make a difference in the world.
Jesus uses three images to describe using our gifts for God's kingdom: salt, light, and leaven, or yeast. ...
Note the logic at work here. Yeast mixes with flour and makes dough rise. We sprinkle salt on our food, and the meal tastes better. We turn on the lights of a dark room so we can see. The yeast, salt, and light aren't the focus of our attention. Rather, they impart their qualities to something else to make it better. And so it should be with the work of the Church in the world.
Chaput directly addresses why withdrawing from the world won't work. I found his first reason the most compelling: "The world will come after us" because reminders of an abandoned past will be increasingly irritating. In his discussion of forming a Catholic identity, Chaput acknowledges the Benedict Option idea, albeit without naming it specifically, adding:
This is wisdom, so long as we don't give up on the good present in American society. We need to create places where Catholic culture can flourish and be handed down to the next generation. ...
I'm not a fan of the Benedict Option, at least as I've read about it to date, but I do think it has begun a much needed discussion. Catholics and, indeed, all Christians need to be mindful of the uneasy ground beneath our feet as our society goes through a watershed moment. Strangers in a Strange Land is a clear-sighted road map to where we've been and where we need to head now....more
How can this be? I know I must have read this before but nothing seems familiar. So I have the delightful feeling of a fresh, new Agatha Christie.
TheHow can this be? I know I must have read this before but nothing seems familiar. So I have the delightful feeling of a fresh, new Agatha Christie.
The premise is delightful. Mystery author Ariadne Oliver has been hired to organize a Murder Hunt game for a small village fete. She asks Hercule Poirot to join her because her intuition tells her something is off.
And, of course, that pretty much guarantees murder is going to be one of the events....more
I listened to the excellent narration just as I did with all the previous books.
This one doesn't roll out quite as the others in the series have butI listened to the excellent narration just as I did with all the previous books.
This one doesn't roll out quite as the others in the series have but it is still very enjoyable. It was very much a crime investigation and almost a procedural. I enjoy those when you've got Peter Grant's snarky asides about police procedures and London architecture. Also, we finally get back to a real pursuit of The Faceless Man and Leslie May, which I have been wanting since a couple of books ago.
It almost felt low key through a lot of the story, despite occasional dramatic magical events, but I also didn't mind that. Just working the case, you know. I'll be curious to see where the story goes from here because Aaronovitch can't put off certain characters reaping the consequences of their actions or the series will go stale....more
I am writing this book to bring back the words of great Christian hymns, most of which are no longer heard anywhere. These hymns are not pious sentim
I am writing this book to bring back the words of great Christian hymns, most of which are no longer heard anywhere. These hymns are not pious sentiments (or, worse, self-celebrating sentiments or social propaganda) set to a catchy tune. They are works of art. They are, at their best, profound meditations upon the meaning of Scripture, their artistry serving to help us to see truths we may have missed or to hear in our hearts, not only in our ears, the implications of the Word of God for our lives. they are verbal and melodic icons of Jesus Christ.
I'm lucky enough to be part of a parish which offers a rich variety of music and our choice is the 11:00 Mass, where we often sing same great hymns that Anthony Esolen writes about in this stellar book.
Esolen's translation of Dante and his commentary on the missal, The Beauty of the Word, are favorites of mine. His adroit connecting of poetry and prayer with underlying meanings have often opened my eyes and inspired me. Naturally I was eager to see what he would show me in some of my favorite hymns. (Without the music, it's had to have a complete experience so a CD of 18 beautifully sung hymns is included with the book, though that is far from the complete number that Esolen examines.)
He begins with the psalms and how many classic hymns have come from them. Then he looks at how the English poet would focus on a particular aspect of a psalm and develop it as a bit of theology for us to sing.
I've loved these hymns for their rich imagery and meaning but never made the sorts of connections that Esolen points out. That is why it is so good to have Anthony Esolen for a guide. He clearly loves the theology, poetry, and meaning of each hymn.
Here's an example, from the chapter "Who is Christ?"
The glory of these forty days We celebrate with songs of praise; For Christ, by Whom all things were made, Himself has fasted and has prayed.
The poetry is so straightforward that we might miss the artistry. Notice the word glory. That should surprise us. When Jesus went forth into the desert, what glory accompanied Him? No train of disciples, no fanfare, no parade, no earthquake. The glory, then, must subsist in the very absence of the manifestations of glory. It susbsists in loving humility—a glory the world misses.
Thus we can understand the first part of the stanza only in the context of the last part. This is what's glorious: Christ by Whom the world was brought into being (cf. Jn 1:3), Himself has fasted and has prayed. He Himself has done so. The pronoun is emphatic. The richness of the world's being—all things—is placed in contrast with Jesus' depriving Himself of food, and His attitude of complete openness, complete self-emptying, in prayer before the Father.
We sing These Forty Days all the time during Lent but until I read Esolen's explanation, the hymn never came fully alive.
Chapters range from The Psalms to the Nativity, the Cross and the Resurrection to Our Love for Jesus to The Glory of God, and, of course, much more. Not only does this book help us to enter into each song, it gives us spiritual food in helping us understand and grow closer to God.
I can't recommend Real Music highly enough. Read it and then go ask your music director to slip some of these classics into his regular repertoire. They're good for the soul....more
A 1917 female detective who is so good that when the book opens she is being asked to merge with the other big detective agency in town. We soon learnA 1917 female detective who is so good that when the book opens she is being asked to merge with the other big detective agency in town. We soon learn that this lady has her own unique, independent thoughts about criminal justice. And, of course, a mystery soon comes along!
This is an unusual and winning story, the likes of which I haven't encountered before in a book of this sort. In some ways it is almost poetic. In Millie's approach to crime solving it is unique. The use of knitting is like a reversal of Madame DeFarge. Certainly in her insistence on the chance to rehabilitate criminals it is original to the period.
I listened to the audiobook read by one of my favorites from LibriVox, J. M. Smallheer. It is practically impossible to find the two sequels but I'm going to keep my eyes open for them....more
It is no wonder this book won the Edgar for best first mystery novel. When Ed Hunter is 18 his father is murdered so he goes to his Uncle Am, a carny,It is no wonder this book won the Edgar for best first mystery novel. When Ed Hunter is 18 his father is murdered so he goes to his Uncle Am, a carny, for help. As Am tells Ed, "We're Hunters," playing on the double entendre with full meaning, and they set off to track down the killer.
This is a rich story about coming of age, looking below the surface for people you thought you knew well, and learning to walk those mean streets while maintaining integrity. In short it is about where a hard boiled detective gets his formational training.
There were seven Ed and Am mysteries and I look forward to tracking the remaining six down for future enjoyment....more
Doc Stoeger is the newspaperman in a tiny town. He's a big fan of Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll's other writing, as well as the theory that CaDoc Stoeger is the newspaperman in a tiny town. He's a big fan of Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll's other writing, as well as the theory that Carroll was simply reporting on a visit to some very odd places. One Thursday evening, he's trying to put the paper to bed, despite the fact that there's a hole in the front page that he just can't fill. Every time a juicy piece of news arises, there is a compelling reason not to print it. From here the story of Doc's "Night of the Jabberwock" becomes an inspired tapestry woven of murder mystery, small town life, and a sort of modern day Alice in Wonderland adventure which is, I hasten to add, wholly unique.
Doc is an endearing protagonist who gives hard-drinking a new definition. Mostly I was fascinated with how he was going to fill those 9 inches on the front page, though the rest of the mystery was also interesting. Chalk that up to my advertising experience, I guess.
The biggest discovery for me was Fredric Brown, who I've heard praised before but never encountered. I will be looking for more of his inspired mysteries because this was a lot of fun.
This book was provided by NetGalley — the review is my own....more
As much as I love Abraham Heschel's writing I probably wouldn't have picked this up if my Catholic women's book club hadn't selected it. We read bookAs much as I love Abraham Heschel's writing I probably wouldn't have picked this up if my Catholic women's book club hadn't selected it. We read book 1 (the first half) and it was simply superb.
It is common to characterize the prophet as a messenger of God, thus to differentiate him from the tellers of fortune, givers of oracles, seers, and ecstatics. Such a characterization expresses only one aspect of his consciousness. The prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who stands in the presence of God (Jer. 15:19), who stands "in the council of the Lord" (Jer. 23:18), who is a participant, as it were, in the council of God, not a bearer of dispatches whose function is limited to being sent on errands. He is a counselor as well as a messenger. ...
The words the prophet utters are not offered as souvenirs. His speech to the people is not a reminiscence, a report, hearsay. The prophet not only conveys; he reveals. He almost does unto others what God does unto him. In speaking, the prophet reveals God. This is the marvel of a prophet's work: in his words, the invisible God becomes audible. He does not prove or argue. The thought he has to convey is more than language can contain. Divine power bursts in the words. The authority of the prophet is in the Presence his words reveal.
Heschel digs deep into selected prophets and shows how they were not just God's messengers but God's witnesses, interpreters, and friends. As well as being on the people's side also. It ain't easy being a prophet. It was inspirational and thought provoking.
I especially appreciated the inclusion of scriptural excerpts because I'd never have gone to look up referenced quotes. And I liked that he took the time to set each prophet firmly in his own historical context. Every single prophet isn't covered but there are various lesser prophets like Amos, Habakkuk, and Hosea to go along with the expected biggies (Isaiah and Jeremiah).
Heschel also takes side trips to discuss bigger issues like history, chastisement, and justice so that we get an overview from the prophets' point of view.
The second book goes into more depth on such topics as inspiration, wrath, and comparisons to prophets in other faiths. I will be reading that part in the future. Heschel is too good not to get the whole story from....more
In a lot of ways Nathan Lowell's books hearken back to the Golden Age of science fiction when authors just wanted to tell a good yarn. I find anotherIn a lot of ways Nathan Lowell's books hearken back to the Golden Age of science fiction when authors just wanted to tell a good yarn. I find another fascination in how he always manages to have some element of business always be a key plot element. In this one, it turns out to be the importance of good inventory stock. Twist! Betcha didn't see that coming! Granted it is in smugglers' space, on the run from murder charges, with a surly crew of misfits - and that's where the fun comes in.
This book has a couple of unanswered plot holes, young leads who shoot to a bit too much importance with too few real impediments, and seems possibly a bit rushed to the finish. But all in all, it was good fun, just like so many of the Golden Age adventures we remember so fondly....more
Never has a tale of post-apocalyptic America been so gently told. It was surprising and unusual and I'm surprised I never heard of Pat Murphy before mNever has a tale of post-apocalyptic America been so gently told. It was surprising and unusual and I'm surprised I never heard of Pat Murphy before my mother urged me to try this book.
After The Plague decimates the country, the cities are all cut off from each other. San Francisco is populated largely by artists whose whims are transforming the city into something otherworldly. When they get word that they are the next target for a military cult, they decide they will fight the war their way — with art.
This had a dreamy, fantastic quality that I really liked. I especially liked Murphy's imaginings of how artists would shape the raw material of an abandoned city to show their vision. And it is an unusual book which made me delight in the way the war was fought. Some of the attacks which repelled the conventional soldiers actually made me laugh out loud. Creative and diabolical, while still somehow remaining essentially peaceful....more
Though traditionally considered a meditation on suffering, the Stations of the Cross is more than a simple, ancient act of piety. It is a portrait of
Though traditionally considered a meditation on suffering, the Stations of the Cross is more than a simple, ancient act of piety. It is a portrait of grace under pressure, a collection of specific reactions from Jesus during times of crisis. In our current age of global terrorism, economic uncertainty, widespread and severe depression and anxiety, and environmental devastation, the Stations offer us an opportunity to strengthen our souls and grow the mystical muscles of our hearts. Using the basics of Ignatian prayer, in particular imaginative prayer, we can hop aboard a time machine that takes us back to the final moments in Christ's life. Here, we can not only meditate on sorrow, but also ask two essential questions: how did Jesus respond to suffering, and how do we?
If Catholics think about the Stations of the Cross, it is most likely associated with Lent and the familiar stations in every Catholic church.
Gary Jansen breaks out of that mold by meditating on the stations against the backdrop of our own everyday lives. Using imaginative prayer, the stations can become the stepping stones of a path to spiritual awakening. To do this Jansen first gives a brief history of the stations of the cross, discusses imaginative (Ignatian prayer) and tells how praying the stations changed his life.
The second half of the book takes us through each of the stations one by one. Jansen is using the scriptural stations introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1991. I discovered these when poking around the Vatican website one day and was immediately captured by them. So I was delighted to see that the author was using them as the focal point for prayer.
Each station gives us the appropriate scripture, Jesus's response, a way to encounter Jesus, a bit of scripture as a prayer guide, and a guide to reviewing and imagining the station. These, of course, are flavored with Jansen's own experiences and realizations which help to see the ways that God uses the meditations to speak to your own life. I was struck, for example, by Jansen's own reflection on Judas's betrayal that we are not emptied when we are betrayed but rather bloated with paralyzing inner talk about it.
This would be a great Lenten book, of course — hey, it's the stations! More importantly it is a book to use daily so that the stations become not a "special occasion" prayer but one that enriches us always....more
Let's be honest, I'd never have picked up a book about such a specific topic if not chosen by our special guest for an upcoming Good Story is Hard toLet's be honest, I'd never have picked up a book about such a specific topic if not chosen by our special guest for an upcoming Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Having figured out the requisite number of pages to read daily (12) in order to finish in time, I viewed it mostly as an assignment.
Now I can say that this book should simply be considered fascinating, never as an "assignment." The author somehow manages to invest the story with the immediacy that makes me interested in Julian's next steps, understand the military campaigns from both the soldierly and strategic points of view, and always read more than my allotted 12 pages.
It's really interesting to read about someone who sounds as if he had Augustine's intelligence but went from Christian to pagan (albeit about 100 years before Augustine took the reverse course). Of course, being intelligent is far from being an honest truth-seeker, so there is that.
Having finished the book I can say that Julian is the sort of enemy one could admire. His strategy to defeat Christians was really clever and had he lived he might have been able to organize the pagans to put up a good fight. I can see why he is still considered interesting despite his short reign....more
Informative and interesting introduction to the resurgence of shrubs, a colonial drink that can best be described as a fruit syrup which is a fairly sInformative and interesting introduction to the resurgence of shrubs, a colonial drink that can best be described as a fruit syrup which is a fairly simple combination of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Think of something like a lemonade concentrate to get an idea of what these are going for taste-wise. These can be used to flavor sparkling water or actual cocktails.
This book has the basics and then the updated, edgier versions which include things like tomatoes and peppers. I generally liked it except that the cocktail section gave recipes for using specific shrubs but not a more generalized guide to using the shrubs. Of course, one can use the cocktail recipes as a more general template for experimenting on one's own. ...more