The research continues and who better to guide me than Lionel Casson whose books on Rome and Ancient Travel were fascinating, accessible, and informatThe research continues and who better to guide me than Lionel Casson whose books on Rome and Ancient Travel were fascinating, accessible, and informative?...more
As I continue my discovery of Charles Dickens I thought it would be interesting to go to the book that brought him original acclaim. This was combinedAs I continue my discovery of Charles Dickens I thought it would be interesting to go to the book that brought him original acclaim. This was combined with a desire for light reading, which every commenter agrees is what one gets from The Pickwick Papers. I also read G.K. Chesterton's commentary on the novel which points out that, for a comic novel, it has a great deal of truth about people especially after Sam Weller's character is introduced. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that monthly publication sales really picked up after that point in the story as well.
I traded off between the print and audio versions, as needs dictated. I listened to David Timson's narration which was simply outstanding. I used the Wordsworth print edition because, not only is it inexpensive, it includes the original illustrations, has a good type size, and the book stays open when I leave it on the counter. My needs are few but important.
I was simply astounded at how many seeds of future novels and themes were contained in the Pickwickian adventures. Since I've only read a few of Dickens' novels, I can only imagine how many of these will continue to "echo forward" as I read more of his books.
I was also surprised at how steadily the story line picked up as he went along and at how compelling I found it. I was simply unable to put it down, to the point of reading 3/4 of the book in a week (admittedly I'm a fast reader and it was been Thanksgiving weekend so there was a lot of spare time for obsessive reading).
I wouldn't recommend it as the first Dickens book to try but I can definitely say it is worth reading for those times when a lighter book is desired....more
The story itself is fascinating. The writing is less impressive with everything strung together so fast that it can be hard to keep track of events. TThe story itself is fascinating. The writing is less impressive with everything strung together so fast that it can be hard to keep track of events. The book could have done with just a touch of breathing space.
That said, this is still very worth reading. One realizes that although the Vatican's official neutrality had to be maintained (as did that of others highlighted in the book), there was a lot of frantic activity below the surface to save lives in Rome right under the Gestapo's nose....more
This is set in an earlier period than Heyer generally wrote about and it a bit more stiff language as a result. However, it carries the trademark HeyeThis is set in an earlier period than Heyer generally wrote about and it a bit more stiff language as a result. However, it carries the trademark Heyer humor, mystery, and enjoyable romance. It isn't one of my favorites but I like it well enough and when Audible had it on sale recently I snapped it up....more
This is not as indepth as Casson's Travel in the Ancient World which I greatly enjoyed, but it is a wonderful overview nonetheless. Add to that that iThis is not as indepth as Casson's Travel in the Ancient World which I greatly enjoyed, but it is a wonderful overview nonetheless. Add to that that it is the book which Isaac Asimov was so engrossed in that he completely forgot to fret over his daughter being very late when he was waiting to pick her up one day ... and you can see just how engrossing it is....more
This is not the exact same material as his book that bears the same title. Rather it is from a series of radio broadcasts prior to the publication ofThis is not the exact same material as his book that bears the same title. Rather it is from a series of radio broadcasts prior to the publication of the book.
That said, I am enjoying hearing Lewis's own voice. I keep thinking of J.R.R. Tolkien's supposed basing of the Ents and their way of talking on his friend C.S. Lewis ... and it kind of works.
Also the material is great and is a wonderful precis (probably) of the book which I know contains more material. And which I will be reading in the future. This is great stuff, especially the section about friendship....more
For some people, the chaste life can raise a daunting question — a question a friend and fellow blogger brought up once in an interview: “Do you ever
For some people, the chaste life can raise a daunting question — a question a friend and fellow blogger brought up once in an interview: “Do you ever worry that one day you’ll wake up and discover you are forty-five, still single, and past your sexual prime?”
I don’t. In order to worry about that, I would need to believe the purpose of sex is pleasure and that we all better get some while the gettin’ is good. I don’t believe either of those things. I believe that whether a person ever has sex isn’t that important. What’s more important is why a person has sex, and in what context. But because I don’t worry about passing my sexual prime doesn’t mean I don’t worry at all. I do worry sometimes, but what I worry about is whether I write about this stuff with enough clarity. If I don’t, and a couple of decades from now I’m still a virgin, I’d guess many people who’ve read what I’ve written will call my single life “proof” that the chaste lifestyle doesn’t work. But the goal of saving sex isn’t marriage. The goal of saving sex is saving sex (not putting it off, but redeeming it). Some people who save sex get married and some don’t.
I'm not the target market for this book but I know lots of young women who are. That's what made me flip through the book. I kept coming across sections that caught my attention and made me want to know the rest of the story. I finally realized that I was going to have to read this book even if it wasn't aimed at me. Which says a lot about how personable this author is. And, let's face it, if I knew people in the target market then I needed to know what this author's saying because it could come up in conversation. Such are the times in which we live.
This point was underlined just a week later when I was at a big party. A friend and I began talking about our daughters, which led naturally to discussing their dating and marriage prospects. A Catholic mother, she confided that one of her daughter's biggest struggles was that she was a 29-year-old who continually was being embarrassed or annoyed by having to defend her decision to remain a virgin until marriage.
"Say no more," I told her. "I will bring you a book that she's going to love."
That made me move from flipping through to reading with interest before I passed the book on. It was just as good as I'd thought. It was funny, interesting, sensible, and written with clarity and grace. I'd also say that you don't have to be Catholic to like it. Most of it is going to be something that any Christian interested in chastity is going to relate to.
To be honest, I'm not going to actually read this whole book. However, I loved the Popcak's Just Married book and that gave me the impetus to flip thrTo be honest, I'm not going to actually read this whole book. However, I loved the Popcak's Just Married book and that gave me the impetus to flip through this one. I saw so much common sense displayed, combined with sensible Catholic grounding, that I resolved to buy two more copies to give to some young mothers I know....more
I borrowed this to read for the Kindle via my Amazon Prime account. I've now read enough pilgrimage tales to see that they all fall into a familiar paI borrowed this to read for the Kindle via my Amazon Prime account. I've now read enough pilgrimage tales to see that they all fall into a familiar pattern of getting used to the reality of walking so much and finding one's way, meeting and remeeting people on the way, internal reflections and realizations. And I enjoy them every time. In this case, I was interested to get to the end of the book to see if Koontz's relationship with his girlfriend would turn out the way he wanted. That question preoccupied me almost as much as the author....more
There was once a fourth famous Virgin of Chartres; a silver image crafted in the thirteenth century. She no longer exists, though a depiction ofher ma
There was once a fourth famous Virgin of Chartres; a silver image crafted in the thirteenth century. She no longer exists, though a depiction ofher may still be seen in one of the windows, where a pilgrim is shown praying to her. Her story proves that vandalism is not exclusively the province of revolutionaries.
This Virgin was greatly venerated in the Middle Ages; indeed, she held the place of honor above that altar. Yet at some point her popularity went into decline ...
For the next two centuries she forged on, doing her best despite reduced conditions. But then came the debt crunch of the 1760s. The canons of the cathedral went casting about for any little scrap of gold or silver. In a note signed April 6, 1769, Germain Blonnie, a goldsmith of Chartres, acknowledged receipt of twenty-four livres for "melting down the Christ and the Virgin of the old altar." The little silver Virgin had been turned into ingots to pay for Carrara marble ...
It is horrifying to think that an image that had received so many prayers over the centuries could be so blithely destroyed. Then again, the Church could reply that works of religious art are intended to be not receptacles for prayer, but windows to a higher reality; that one prays through, not to, an image. A statue of Mary is not Mary, and maybe it's better to melt down the images from time to time before they turn into idols.
An avowed atheist, Ward indulged his long held desire to walk on pilgrimage in going to various Marian shrines throughout Europe. In doing so he presents one of the clearest and most even handed views of pilgrimage and these shrines that I have ever read. He gives the history for each place, which includes Lourdes, Chartres, and Fatima. We then share his experiences in current day surroundings and see the many types of pilgrims that also are at these shrines. Atheist or not, Ward has an excellent understanding of the Catholic Church's view and is more open minded in many cases than some Catholics I know. Highly recommended....more
These days it seems almost commonplace to encounter stories about walking a pilgrimage on The Way of St. James – El Camino Pilgrimage in Spain. I've rThese days it seems almost commonplace to encounter stories about walking a pilgrimage on The Way of St. James – El Camino Pilgrimage in Spain. I've read a number of these and lately have been wondering if The Way is really crowded. Certainly a large number of people's experiences have made it into print.
Therefore I was interested to see this book by Harry Bucknall about his pilgrimage walking the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome. I'm not the only one who's never heard of this ancient pilgrim trail considering how few pilgrims the author encounters on his way. Bucknall does a nice job of relating his walking adventures and tying in the history of the places on the route. As a straight forward travelogue it is enjoyable.
However, it falls short when it comes to a significant part of a pilgrim's experience. Bucknall very rarely lets us see his inner self. There are about four times in this 272 page book where we get any hint of what he hopes for, is surprised by, or learns about himself. Any of these experiences would have given the most average person reason for reflection which one might reasonably expect to be shared in a book like this. I don't demand one be a believer, which this author is not, or religious fervor from such a book. In fact, one of my favorite pilgrimage books is Virgin Trails by an atheist. I don't even have to agree with the person's personal conclusions, as witness my feelings about Grandma's on the Camino, another book I can recommend.
However, there is a special blend of tour guide, introspection, and the author as friend that the best books convey about such journeys. One need only look at H.V. Morton's travel books, most of which are not religious at all, to get a sense of that special blend. I'm not sure if this was an editorial or authorial decision, but Bucknall seems to hold himself aloof from opening up. This leaves one with the sense that we are just skimming the surface.
I can recommend it on the basis of simply seeing what it is like to undertake walking a pilgrimage in modern times while holding to medieval paths. The history, landscape, and journey itself are interesting. Just don't expect to find out what internal changes one might experience.
NOTE This was a free review copy. I think we can all see that didn't influence my review....more
Another anthology of tales Lovecraft highlighted in his Supernatural Horror in Literature essay. This is enough of a different selection that it is deAnother anthology of tales Lovecraft highlighted in his Supernatural Horror in Literature essay. This is enough of a different selection that it is definitely worth owning also, if that's what you're into. And I am.
A bonus is that it has Lovecraft's entire essay as the first item in the book so you can read the whole thing for yourself before you begin the stories....more
I come to this book via two influences. The first is that of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast which, when they finished discussing all of LovecraftI come to this book via two influences. The first is that of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast which, when they finished discussing all of Lovecraft's writing, then proceeded to read the authors and stories mentioned in his influential essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature. Hence, I've heard many of these stories discussed even though I haven't read them.
Secondly, this was a logical progression after reading Douglas A. Anderson's Tales Before Narnia and Tales Before Tolkien, both of which I greatly enjoyed.
This collection earns an additional star than Anderson's other anthologies simply because I am enjoying every single story in it. That speaks more to my enjoyment of weird tales than to Anderson's selection but it is a fact that this is the collection I'll be buying and rereading in the future....more
"Night in Whitechapel" -Guy de Maupassant When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and mayb
"Night in Whitechapel" - Guy de Maupassant When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well.
"Was It a Dream?" - Guy de Maupassant A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share.
"Caterpillars" - E.F. Benson A man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way.
"John Mortonson’s Funeral" - Ambrose Bierce The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.
This collection is well named. All of these tales have a certain creepiness factor that will leave your skin crawling if you think about them too much. They also have the virtue of not being the usual "classic" horror tales included in most anthologies, although they are by authors acknowledged as master storytellers.
What enhances the subtlety and creeping horror is Victor Garber's soft spoken narration. As any good actor would, he reads each tale differently to reflect its own character, but never with obvious technique that draws the listener away from the story itself. My favorite was "Was It a Dream?" in which the protagonist's lovelorn state gradually gives way to shuddering fear in the graveyard. The transition was so seamless that I couldn't tell you when it happened and by the end of the tale I myself was horror stricken.
The collection is short, clocking in at slightly more than an hour, but it is choice. Definitely recommended.
NOTE I received this audio as a review copy for SFFaudio. My love for Victor Garber and these tales is my uninfluenced own opinion (if you can count loving the first two seasons of Alias as no sort of influence at all)....more
If there is a God, then why is there so much suffering and pain in the world?
This is a common problem brought up by atheists and C. S. Lewis says it wIf there is a God, then why is there so much suffering and pain in the world?
This is a common problem brought up by atheists and C. S. Lewis says it was a problem for him before he became Christian. Somehow it's not a question that ever bothered me whether I believed or didn't. So I welcomed the premise of the book since that's a question that always stops me in my tracks. I also was happy to see my library had it available on audio.
This is one of those books that pulls no punches. In his trademark style, Lewis applies logic, common sense, and his considerable breadth of knowledge to the question. Whether he convinces any unbelievers or not, I don't know. But he includes so much that I either agreed with or found to be "mooreeffoc" thinking that I now want to get the print version for leisurely rereading....more
What can I say? It was $6.95 on sale at Audible for Halloween. I'm not made of stone, people!
These stories were chosen from Lovecraft's scholarly essaWhat can I say? It was $6.95 on sale at Audible for Halloween. I'm not made of stone, people!
These stories were chosen from Lovecraft's scholarly essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" where he discusses a number of authors and works that were influential horror literature. Each is prefaced by a bit of Lovecraft's comments about the work.
There is only one narrator I don't like and, thankfully, she only reads a couple of the stories. There is also not a bad story. I know most of them, believe it or not, but there is something about listening to an excellent narration that doesn't allow you to skim over anything that really enhances enjoyment of what the author put into it....more
As with this editor's Tales Before Tolkien, this collection presents not only tales Lewis read but those which would have been in the current story enAs with this editor's Tales Before Tolkien, this collection presents not only tales Lewis read but those which would have been in the current story environment when he was growing up. A really wonderful collection and one which I enjoyed thoroughly, all the moreso for the inclusion of short stories by some of Lewis's fellow Inklings who are lesser known.
I didn't feel I had to painstakingly read every story if one wasn't the sort I like. A quick skimming was perfectly adequate to give me the gist. If one approaches it that way then you will probably like it just as much as I did....more
This is a fun, old mystery read by one of my favorite LibriVox readers.
Frances Baird is a detective with the Watkins Agency of New York City. She and
This is a fun, old mystery read by one of my favorite LibriVox readers.
Frances Baird is a detective with the Watkins Agency of New York City. She and a colleague are sent undercover to "The Maples" to guard a valuable set of diamonds during the festivities leading up to the marriage of Mr. Deneen's eldest son, James Jr. Within a few hours of their arrival, however, this seemingly simple task turns into something much more sinister, and it is ultimately left to Frances to unravel the truth of the matter.
I guessed practically every person except the one who was the actual murderer. Figures. I'm terrible at solving mysteries. All in all this was enjoyable because of the "girl detective" angle and the fact that she occasionally would mention "that was before I became good at lying so I blushed." It doesn't look as if Kauffman wrote any more about Miss Frances Baird but I wish he had....more
I picked this up super-cheap for my Kindle after reading a really delightful story from the Book of Wonder in Tales Before Tolkien. The stories rangedI picked this up super-cheap for my Kindle after reading a really delightful story from the Book of Wonder in Tales Before Tolkien. The stories ranged from weird and creepy to humorous. I really loved the exotic story telling style although not all of the stories impressed me equally. I'm definitely going to be reading a few on Forgotten Classics sometime....more
I really like this book. It is the sort where I don't feel I have to painstakingly read every story if one isn't the sort I like. A quick skimming isI really like this book. It is the sort where I don't feel I have to painstakingly read every story if one isn't the sort I like. A quick skimming is perfectly adequate to give me the gist.
I've been surprised at how many of the stories I have enjoyed and how many have a fresh, modern feel considering how old they are (most from 1919 and earlier).
I also enjoy the author's story introductions and the fact that he doesn't try to force the idea that Tolkien read each of these or that each influenced him. It is enough that this is the fantasy atmosphere which was floating around during his formative and reading years before he began writing....more
Satoko Kitahara was a young Japanese woman born to a wealthy family with a prestigious heritage. In 1947 she, like so many of her contemporaries, hadSatoko Kitahara was a young Japanese woman born to a wealthy family with a prestigious heritage. In 1947 she, like so many of her contemporaries, had a feeling that life contained nothing but pointless emptiness after her country was defeated. Then one day she wandered into a Catholic church for the first time in her life and was drawn to a plain plaster statue of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes.
This was the very first time I had seen a statue of the Blessed Mother. Drawn, I know not why, to enter that church, I gazed on the statue, sensing the presence of a very attractive force that I could not explain. I had always experienced a vague but strong yearning for the Pure. It was not something I could describe in words but it was definitely with me from childhood. ...
That encounter led to investigating Catholicism and conversion, which made her a definite oddity in post-war Japan.
Fr. Glynn tells us how Satoko lived her faith so completely that she remains a well known heroine for Japanese of all religious persuasions. As Satoko strove to follow Christ to the fullest extent she wound up becoming the "Mary of Ants Town," living with with the destitute in a shanty town in a public park where subsistence living came from ragpicking. One might call Satoko Kitahara the "Mother Teresa" of Tokyo to get an idea of the depth of her Christian example.
Father Glynn does an excellent job of bringing the reader into Japanese sensibilities and mind set so that we understand Satoko's life. In a broad sense, it is like a sequel to his more famous novel A Song for Nagasaki about Takashi Nagai. In that book we got a history of Catholicism in Japan along with Nagai's life story. The Smile of a Ragpicker brings us a deeper view of Japanese spirituality and the spirit of the country after losing World War II. I thought I knew a lot about such things already but Glynn's lyrical descriptions gave me a much deeper understanding.
She stood there for some time, both repelled and attracted by this ugly place that was home for one hundred people. The dingy huts were built from odds and ends, the bare earth was a festering mess of mud, puddles and rubbish. Some roughly dressed men and women had emptied a big cart full of rubbish collected from city bins and were now sorting it, indifferent to her presence. Suddenly she found herself doing something so typically Japanese. She lifted her eyes from the squalor, focusing them on the serenely flowing Sumida, and then on across the river to Mukojima, where cherry trees flung up bare limbs in silent prayer for spring to come quickly. Silhouettes of rooftops and chimneys stood out sharply against the opaque winter sky. "It was like a Sesshu sumie painting," she writes. "I was moved by the beauty of the setting.
This is a rich story on many levels. I especially appreciated the way gruff, rough anti-religious Mitsui was just as influential in Satoko's spiritual growth as she was on his. That was a surprise but one that was only possible because Satoko was so open to following God in every way she could.
Among the other surprises I encountered were:
- A Polish history lesson also, all wrapped around Brother Zeno and (wait for it) Maximilian Kolbe. In all the stories I've read of this saint somehow the fact that he went to Japan and founded a ministry there (before returning to Poland and his well known eventual martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis) completely escaped me. Fascinating.
- There was a special Japanese - Polish connection after World War I due to an effort to return orphans to Poland.
- The Japanese people's famous sense of wonder and appreciation of beauty allows them to appreciate grandeur even in the midst of disaster such as an air raid.
On a personal level I cannot stress enough the effect this gentle saintly girl's story continues to have on me. I won't go into details here but her honesty in her spiritual journey, her complete faith and dedication, and her love of Mary affected me deeply.
This is a simply wonderful book that I will read many times in the future. I can't recommend it highly enough....more
This is a superbly written book which gives you excellent insight into what it would have been like to live back in the 1300s, by the simple method ofThis is a superbly written book which gives you excellent insight into what it would have been like to live back in the 1300s, by the simple method of acting as a travel book for your trip through time. I had several stereotypes upset (they did like to bath and noticed people who smelled bad), was made to think of things which never occurred to me (such as how bad a pothole really can get), and most of all was able to relate to the human beings who lived in those days. As is often the case, what we find is that human beings are still the same now as then, in our loves, hobbies, fears, and ambitions. Most of all I appreciated the author taking the trouble to remind us that these were real people who felt as we do. He didn't dwell on it excessively or bring it up often, but when he did it was just what was needed to jolt me out of my modern "superiority."
I'll be reading a few excerpts on Forgotten Classics soon....more
“War is what happens when language fails.”— Margaret Atwood
That is today's GoodReads quote of the day. It sounds nice. And I think that sometimes it i
“War is what happens when language fails.”— Margaret Atwood
That is today's GoodReads quote of the day. It sounds nice. And I think that sometimes it is actually true. Occasionally
When reading Dietrich von Hildebrand's memoirs one realizes that war is also what happens when evil men are determined to take what they want. And the cost to others isn't something that bothers them overmuch.
If anyone could've talked evil men around it would have been von Hildebrand who was a trained philosopher who eschewed nationalism because as he said, "I am a Catholic, a Catholic, and a Catholic."
I'm in the early pages of this book but already have realized that he is a wonderful example of how to stay clear about what is true and what is being just slightly twisted into a lie. That's a hard thing to do in our secular world and it was equally hard to do in Germany in the days when the Third Reich was being formed and becoming reality. I really admire von Hildebrand's ability for clear vision and hope to emulate it myself.
FINAL This is a case where the book is too much "pure history" for me. Much of the memoir section becomes accounts of meeting many people whose significance I don't understand as it pertains to the big stream of history. On the other hand, it does reflect what it means to "never give up, never surrender" if I may apply Galaxy Quest to such a serious and noble cause.
The essays at the end of the book are much more focused. It is interesting to see where they intersect with our own lives and holding the line on what is true versus what is the miasma of popular culture and thought.
More (possibly) after I've digested this somewhat....more