I've been looking for some time for an accessible book covering Dickens's books that didn't require me to read a massive biography of Dickens. I am soI've been looking for some time for an accessible book covering Dickens's books that didn't require me to read a massive biography of Dickens. I am somewhat interested in his life, but really just as it applies to his novels. This looked as if it would do the trick.
I wound up with a love-hate relationship with this book. There is so much interesting information, entertainingly relayed, that it was a pleasure to read.
On the other hand, it clearly shows the modern idée fixe of seeing sex everywhere, whether Dickens intended it or not. Epstein also has a problem with slipping from the speculative to the absolute. For example, she slides from mentioning that some have thought Fagin was a pederast into using that supposition as a fact when she wonders why Fagin was named after a boyhood friend and mentor of Dickens. Anyone who has read Oliver Twist knows there are many possibilities when one considers the fiction and Dickens' friendship, but to spend several long paragraphs delicately sidling up to the idea that Bob Fagin's mentorship might have been something else (ick) is irresponsible. And that's not the only slide she goes down.
It became tiring and annoying to continually have to be alert for Epstein's lapses this way. Not that I had to be too alert because most of them were forced on me at unexpected moments. However, it wasn't enough to make me ignore the rest of the book's value. So I kept reading.
Unfortunately I discovered that the desire to continually inject sex into the conversation wasn't the Epstein's only problem. Writing about Bleak House and the revelation of Miss Flite's birds' names at the end, she showed a startling lack of knowledge.
... Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon and Spinach.
With accumulating intensity, Miss Flite's roll call corresponds to the forces that blight Hope, Joy, Youth, and Beauty—it is a litany of the evils of Chancery itself. The final name "Spinach," is the surprise; its very unexpectedness evokes the absurdity of existence in the Bleak House world.
Except that "Gammon and Spinach" is a phrase that I know from reading many books by authors of that time and later. It means nonsense or humbug. I was stunned that the author didn't seem to recognize the phrase at all.
This was when another large portion of credibility went out the door.
Again, the book does have value. But one must read it very carefully. For the time being I will stick with GeorgeGissing'sworks on the master. I have read and enjoyed G.K. Chesterton's writing about Dickens but, as with other nonfiction studies, one often must know the basics on the topic before one can delve into his commentary....more
I'm now so hooked on the series that I can't wait until my next Audible credit comes up in two weeks. I had to go get the print version. It will be PaI'm now so hooked on the series that I can't wait until my next Audible credit comes up in two weeks. I had to go get the print version. It will be Patrick Tull's voice sounding in my mind's ear while I read though....more
I read part of this last night, thanks to Project Gutenberg and my Kindle. It is good for bedtime reading though I'm not far enough into it to see howI read part of this last night, thanks to Project Gutenberg and my Kindle. It is good for bedtime reading though I'm not far enough into it to see how I really feel. The Warden is just now beginning to worry that perhaps the terms of the will are not being met ... and he's sounding out people about it. I do like his good heart which is not worried about whether other people feel the terms are met but whether they are actually being met, regardless of the result to himself.
Thus far it makes me feel like rereading Middlemarch which had a similar simple-seeming style but was more complex from the get-go. Kind of a middle ground (haha) between this book so far and Dickens.
We'll see how it goes ...
Going to put this back on the shelf right now. Just not the right book for me at the moment....more
I've tried several times to read this book and don't know why this time it is working for me. I wanted something to listen to with Mark Nelson's narraI've tried several times to read this book and don't know why this time it is working for me. I wanted something to listen to with Mark Nelson's narration and this is filling the bill. It's pulpy, romance-filled, and a flashback to older adventure stories. Yes, it is awkwardly written but there's something wonderful about the old fashioned romantic attitudes at the same time.
Finished. It will never be a favorite but I'm not sorry that I read it....more
Good grief. When I jokingly said 2016 would be my "year of Dante" I didn't have this in mind: a third reading of the Divine Comedy begun in May of thiGood grief. When I jokingly said 2016 would be my "year of Dante" I didn't have this in mind: a third reading of the Divine Comedy begun in May of this year.
I read it at the beginning of the year in Anthony Esolen's translation. I listened to it afterward in Benedict Flynn's translation (only 12 hours long unabridged and wonderfully narrated).
Then it was chosen as a three-month project for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. And so I begin again with Mark Musa's translation for our common discussion. (So far I really like his notes. No wonder it is used by many college classes as a basic text.)
And just for grins, my Catholic women's book club wants to read it soon. I think someone up there's trying to tell me something. One thing I do know — this is truly my Year of Dante!
I have come to believe it is not so much about the translation as long as you understand it and find it readable, as it is about the notes and reading it as you would a novel. The Comedy is much more accessible than one would expect. I know that non-Christians read and love it though I am not sure how I'd have fared under similar circumstances. I will say that reading it with Catholic sensibilities it is inspiring and leaves me filled with hope and a desire to be a more worthy person....more
An entertaining collection of short reviews, one per day. I was able to add some movies to my "to watch" list and fondly recall others I hadn't thoughAn entertaining collection of short reviews, one per day. I was able to add some movies to my "to watch" list and fondly recall others I hadn't thought of for a while. And also to wonder what movie that author saw when he recommended a movie I hated. So, all in all, the usual reactions to a book of movie reviews....more
I have long been aware of Rodney Stark's excellent work using facts and statistics to set the historical record straight.
I see Amazon has a Kindle samI have long been aware of Rodney Stark's excellent work using facts and statistics to set the historical record straight.
I see Amazon has a Kindle sample and this might be the best part of the book, at the end of the introduction:
Finally, I am not a Roman Catholic, and I did not write this book in defense of the Church. I wrote it in defense of history.
And we thank you.
UPDATE Super exciting! A kind blog reader just gave me this for my birthday. HUZZAH! Reading as fast as I can to get done with Church of Spies (too good to put down) and get started on this one....more
So Jesus, the pope, and a Protestant walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "What will it be today?" As the pope reaches for his wallet, Jesus winks at
So Jesus, the pope, and a Protestant walk into a bar. The bartender asks, "What will it be today?" As the pope reaches for his wallet, Jesus winks at his companions and say to the bartender, "Just three glasses—and keep the pitchers of water coming."
This author's heart is in the right place but that isn't enough to make this book appeal across denominational lines. Paul Rock is a Pope Francis fanboy and consistently uses examples of papal humility, poverty, and Christlike love as a springboard for promoting Christian dialogue.
These chapters were originally a sermon series … and it shows both in good and bad ways. The author's enthusiasm and ability to promote religious harmony is evident. It can be very inspiring.
However, Rock's drive to make a point is so rapid that it often only skims the surface, occasionally in a way that may leave various Christians (and certainly this Catholic) confused or indignant. In some cases this is a good opportunity to strive to ignore what divides us, but surely a better way would have been to educate both sides about each other's reasons.
Paul Rock's drive to unity feels forced precisely because he overlooks the many valid reasons people may have for not agreeing with another denomination's teachings. It is fine to promote ecumenism and, indeed, praiseworthy. This effort feels somewhat slapdash and is as likely to raise hackles as to smooth them.
This was a NetGalley review copy which obviously didn't influence my opinion....more
This book satisfyingly finished a trilogy contained within the mammoth 20-book series about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. An Amazon reviewer observThis book satisfyingly finished a trilogy contained within the mammoth 20-book series about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. An Amazon reviewer observed, these books are a "delicate balance between tension and joy." I'd say that especially applies to this one.
Although it was action-packed, the personal moments were what most gripped me. Jack's worry when Stephen was in danger several times, Stephen and Diana's teetering relationship (to which I'd finally reconciled myself ... if they wound up together I would just grit my teeth and endure Diana), the reminder of the womanizing man Jack was when we first met him 7 books ago — all these moments and more reminded us of the original men we met, their enduring friendship, and of their foibles and faults. That is the core that pulls me back to these books.
Woven around all this, of course, are the naval maneuvers, the politics, and the vivid details of early 19th century life. It is a rich and satisfying experience. Sometimes this is plainly put, but often O'Brian can make you laugh at the most unexpected times. The seamen's reasons for not wanting to wear Danish fisherman's lice-filled clothing come to mind. As does Jack's reaction to seeing Hamlet's grave through a telescope.
So there he lies,’ said Jack, his telescope leveled. ‘Well, well: we must all come to it. But it was a capital piece, capital. I never laughed so much in my life.’
I also found endless entertainment in Jack's mystification about why young maidens flocked to the Swedish calvary captain Jagiello who, to his credit, was likewise mystified by their delicate attentions to his meals and laundry though he received them gratefully.
There was also a moment which will stay in my mind for the sheer beauty and otherworldliness expressed:
‘There,’ cried Stephen when Jack appeared in the frail topgallant-shrouds, ‘are you not amazed?’ He pointed cautiously with one finger and Jack looked out to the south-west. At this height they were above the low blanket of fog that covered the sea: clear sky above, no water below; no deck even, but a smooth layer of white mist, sharply cut off from the clean air; and ahead, on the starboard bow and on the starboard beam the surface of the soft, opaque whiteness was pierced by an infinity of masts, all striking up from this unearthly ground into a sky without a cloud, a sky that might have belonged to an entirely different world. ‘Are you not amazed?’ he said again.
Obviously I'm hooked on the series. My addiction is complete because I've begun following up my audio "reads" by buying the printed books — thank you Patrick Tull for bringing Patrick O'Brian's writing to life....more
I have suddenly found myself hosting many more meetings than I have for some time. As they're all in the evening and, presumably, after dinner time, II have suddenly found myself hosting many more meetings than I have for some time. As they're all in the evening and, presumably, after dinner time, I'd contented myself in the past with making a desert and setting out cheese and crackers. And then someone brought a layered Mexican dip last month and the crowd descended like a horde of locusts.
I've got a fair number of cookbooks with appetizers sections but nothing where I could simply look for hearty but simple appetizers. And I wondered what newer trends might be out there. This book really filled the bill. Savory biscotti — great idea! Layered Greek Dip — brilliant!
So I am looking forward to trying a lot of these out....more
For my chronological reading of the Bible. I read Genesis in the single book which I own. This one's from the library. I've read all of these books, tFor my chronological reading of the Bible. I read Genesis in the single book which I own. This one's from the library. I've read all of these books, though not in order and not with Alter's translation or commentary. ...more
When the pope arose the next morning, he had made up his mind. He would engage the German military resistance and encourage a conservative counterrevo
When the pope arose the next morning, he had made up his mind. He would engage the German military resistance and encourage a conservative counterrevolution. He would serve as secret foreign agent for the resistance—presenting and guaranteeing its plans to the British. He would partner with the generals not just to stop the war, but to eliminate Nazism by removing Hitler.
Right after WWII, the Soviets began a misinformation campaign claiming Pope Pius XXII supported the Nazi regime. Jewish praise and testimony squashed that early effort, but it has been popping up ever since, from various anti-Catholic sources. Many historians have defended the pope but somehow what grabs the headlines is always the sensational anti-Catholicism which keeps rearing its head.
Church of Spies ably defends Pope Pius with an action-packed story and over 100 pages of footnotes and sources from recently uncovered documents. Let's say right up front that author Mark Riebling is not a Catholic, in fact is a fallen-away Catholic, so he's speaking from a purely historical standpoint which I appreciate. He's got no axe to grind other than reporting history properly.
We learn that Pope Pius provided an incomparable network for passing information from deep within the German government to Britain and America. Simultaneously, the information gatherers became conspirators who vowed to take action themselves. With the pope's approval.
As a reader, the best part is that this reads like a spy thriller, from the beginning where the pope has the Papal Library wired with the best surveillance technology of the time to the end where we see conspirators stage a daring prison break in the Alps. In between, there were Jesuits with guns, double agents, incriminating notes swallowed, escapes across rooftops, notes passed through prison laundries, and much more. This is all intercut with Hitler's real time actions which lends context and immediacy to the story.
I also found it very uplifting. Whether Catholic or not (Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among their number), these men were willing to sacrifice themselves to save others and stop evil. Some of the examples in the personal stories have inspired me since I read them. Church of Spies is a story that resonates in our own time as well as providing us with heroes for WWII.
They had found many compromising documents in the army safe at Zossen. Müller might as well consider himself a dead man.
Müller said evenly that he could accept that. Death meant "just a passage from this life to the next," Sonderegger later quoted him as saying. Sonderegger asked Müller whether he prayed. Müller said he did. Did he pray for the SS, too? Sonderegger asked. Müller said yes, he prayed for his enemies most of all.
Sonderegger fell quiet for a moment. Then, saying he would return "in three minutes," he put a sheet of paper on the table. ...
This book should lay to rest any questions of Pius XXII being "Hitler's Pope." Hitler knew to fear the Church's opposition. Now the story has been thoroughly and thrillingly told. The record is finally set straight.
It would make an exhilarating mini-series! C'mon Amazon ... Netflix ... HBO ... even regular network TV!...more
Somehow after chapter two I lost interest. For one thing I was pretty sure I already knew who did the murder. And, skipping ahead after deciding to abSomehow after chapter two I lost interest. For one thing I was pretty sure I already knew who did the murder. And, skipping ahead after deciding to abandon this, I did....more
After the heroics of Desolation Island I just had to keep going for the next Aubrey-Maturin adventure ... Patrick Tull narrating as always.
I'm especiAfter the heroics of Desolation Island I just had to keep going for the next Aubrey-Maturin adventure ... Patrick Tull narrating as always.
I'm especially interested in this one since the Americans are going to war with the British. There's a nice set up bridging from Desolation Island to this book where you find out that neither Lucky Jack nor Doctor Maturin approve of war with America, for varying reasons. So that leaves us free to watch as the inevitable war looms nearer and nearer.
I'm in the early chapters and really wish that O'Brian (or his publisher?) hadn't felt the need to recap the entire series up to this point. You've either been reading or you haven't. However, one hopes that things will pick up after this tedious info dump.
UPDATE - MILD SPOILER I am really loving this book and especially enjoying Stephen and Jack in Boston as prisoners waiting to be exchanged. I was dreading Stephen meeting Diana again because I despise Diana with the red hot heat of a thousand suns - to the point that I was willing to let Stephen deal with heartache by dosing himself with laudanum for the rest of his life rather than have to hear any more about her.
But NOW! Oh my goodness. He's fallen out of love with her and that pain might be worse than any pain he'd felt in his life? AAARGH! These sensitive Irish souls can be a real pain in MY life! Even Jack's angst over his lost battle is better than this.
And the lunatic asylum where Jack is staying is a source of true amusement.
FINAL A thoroughly entertaining book except for that unnecessary recap at the beginning. As others have mentioned I actually did feel conflicted during the battles between British and Americans. I naturally would like Jack to win. And yet ... and yet, I found some patriotic pride flickering when the Americans would do so. So I was mightily invested in the conflicts in a way I hadn't been before....more
I'd give this 2-1/2 stars if the system allowed it.
I had high hopes for this book, written by an editor with an inside look at the publishing industryI'd give this 2-1/2 stars if the system allowed it.
I had high hopes for this book, written by an editor with an inside look at the publishing industry, whose protagonist is likewise an editor. The first third was interesting and surprisingly funny.
Anything to do with publishing remained humorous and interesting. Unfortunately, the mystery was less successful. The middle of the book sagged alarmingly under the weight of a lot of characters who were confusingly alike, financial details which likewise were confusing, and the protagonist succeeding in most of her difficulties by letting her anger help her come alive. Also, her romantic situation was, I believe, supposed to be refreshingly modern but felt completely unrealistic to me. I never cared about it at all. In fact, for some time it was so unrealistic that I suspected her lover as the murderer.
It was disappointing overall because I enjoyed the beginning so much. ...more
For those who feel this is too long to face, take heart. I didn't actually read the 264 page book formatted by the Vatican and released as a pdf. I waFor those who feel this is too long to face, take heart. I didn't actually read the 264 page book formatted by the Vatican and released as a pdf. I was able to copy and paste it into my own document which came down to 50 pages. The pdf's tiny pages, large type, and big margins are what made it so long in published form.
I read it a little each day, finding it a complex, thoughtful, and rich work. It was especially interesting to consider that the Pope kept mentioning the other contributing bishops from the synods on the family. This is not just one person's vision. It is that of many of those who serve families around the world.
I especially liked, as John Allen remarked, that we are seeing some of the inner workings of pastoral care recommended in it.
For Mediterranean cultures, which still shape the thought-world of the Vatican to a significant degree, law is instead more akin to an ideal. It describes a moral aspiration, but realistically it’s understood that many people much of the time will fall short. (If you don’t believe it, come to Italy sometime and watch how the locals approach traffic laws!)
A frustration I’ve long experienced as an American journalist covering the Vatican is that when the pope or some Vatican department issues a new law, it often comes off as terribly draconian and harsh in media coverage and public discussion. It’s difficult to explain that always encoded into the legislation is the common-sense expectation that bishops and pastors will use good judgment in applying it in ways that reflect their local circumstances.
It’s difficult, that is, primarily because the Vatican never says that second part explicitly – perhaps out of fear that it will come off as encouraging hypocrisy, rather than presuming a good-faith effort to live up to the value the law expresses.
They don’t usually say it, that is, until now.
One striking point about Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ sweeping new apostolic exhortation on the family, which was released in a Vatican news conference on Friday, is that it lifts up this long-standing Catholic capacity for flexibility and nuance in pastoral practice, and sets it squarely alongside the law in full public view.
Allen's whole piece is well worth reading but you get the important points.
It is that, perhaps, which makes Amoris Laetitia feel so timeless and also so relevant. It weaves high spiritual points with the basics of real human families. In fact, I was surprised to see that, in preparation for discussion love in marriage, Pope Francis discusses each line of St. Paul's famous "love is patient, love is kind" passage (1 Cor 13:4-7). I was delighted with Pope Francis's thoughtful and down-to-earth reflections.
Hell's Marshal was an engaging riff on a popular theme, using Dante's Inferno as a launching pad for other adventures. Although Dante isn't mentionedHell's Marshal was an engaging riff on a popular theme, using Dante's Inferno as a launching pad for other adventures. Although Dante isn't mentioned specifically here, I'd just finished rereading the Divine Comedy and some of the hellish inhabitants seemed striking familiar.
I found Frank Butcher to be an interesting character since he made the unusual choice to stay in Hell even though he could be sent on to ... well, I'm not sure whether to Purgatory or Heaven. Theological questions aside, Frank's dogged pursuit of the escaped Jesse James makes for generally entertaining adventure. Ultimately, I found the focus on adventure and battles was the main emphasis, at the expense of a deeper story development. Problems were solved too easily and the human story was ignored in order to move the action along.
This book was provided by Net Galley. Obviously, my opinions were unswayed by that fact....more
This book makes me think of To Kill a Mockingbird. Or maybe I'm thinking of Tom Sawyer. Although these are vignettes of Appalachian life instead of aThis book makes me think of To Kill a Mockingbird. Or maybe I'm thinking of Tom Sawyer. Although these are vignettes of Appalachian life instead of a novel, the reader is carried into 1940s West Virginia through a mischievous child's vivid memories of what was then "everyday" life. Drema's stories pull us into her world with turns of humor, poignancy, love and discovery.
Above all, I came away loving her Grandma and Grandpa. Their common sense, resilience, ingenuity, and steadfast faith were the anchors of the Drema's life. They provide the anchors for the book too, and the underlying themes which make the book much more than simply the sum of its parts. One of my favorite chapters was when the gypsies came to town and Grandpa caught two of their children who'd been raiding the vegetable garden and henhouse.
The big boy said he was ten but his brother was only seven and wasn't allowed to be out at night. Grandpa took both boys by the hand and walked through the garden, the little one dragging a burlap bag behind.
"You tell me what you want, and I'll show you how to harvest so it won't damage the crop," Grandpa said.
Soon the boys filled the bag with potatoes and onions and carrots and ears of corn. Grandpa showed them how to tie their sack in the middle of a long pole so they could share the heavy load on the way home.
"A load is always lighter if it's shared. I want you to remember that. You want more, you knock and I'll give you what can be spared. I want to show you something else before you leave," he said, leading the boys over to where Queenie was tied.
He unhooked the leash, and Queenie, grateful for freedom, ran to the boys and started jumping up. Grandpa gave a hand signal and the dog sat down, watching Grandpa and waiting.
"This dog is part of our family, and I won't stand for her being tormented. She wants to be your friend. Go on over there now and get acquainted with her." ...
Every week or so after, always just before dawn, we heard a tapping at the front door, getting a little louder if Grandpa didn't hurry down. He pulled pants and suspenders over his long johns and went out to help his new friends fill their bag. Grandma followed him downstairs and put a pot of coffee on the stove. Sometimes she gave the boys a sack of oatmeal cookies or a pint of damson preserves, and a time or two she gave them a basket of eggs.
We never had another chicken disappear.
Running on Red Dog Road shows us a slice of life that doesn't exist any more, while reminding us that such a life is still right here to be grasped — in our families, friends, and the things we share along the way.
I received a Kindle version of this book from NetGalley. My opinion is my own. I'll be buying this in print for myself and as gifts. I know I'll be rereading this one....more