I am a big fan of Jean Vanier and I work in a L'Arche community, so my 3-star rating here is a surprise, especially to me. While this little booklet eI am a big fan of Jean Vanier and I work in a L'Arche community, so my 3-star rating here is a surprise, especially to me. While this little booklet explains a bit about depression and how we might see it anew, it is so thin that it is overpriced at $8.95. Furthermore, it is 100 percent abstraction. In Vanier's best work, he offers many anecdotes and insights from his 50 years of working with people with intellectual disabilities. There is not a single L'Arche story here. ...more
Final text for a course in church history I'm taking, this is a brilliant, fascinating summary of one of the great religious events in modern times, wFinal text for a course in church history I'm taking, this is a brilliant, fascinating summary of one of the great religious events in modern times, written at the moment by one on the Council's "progressive" advisors. Hard to believe that 40 years later, as Pope Benedict, he was derided by so many as a right-winger! If you want to know what happened at the time, this is the book. If you want to know what we all made of the Council in the aftermath, well that's a different book....more
No matter how exquisitely written, a literary novel like this will only engage me when its characters do. Here the engagement came only in the home stNo matter how exquisitely written, a literary novel like this will only engage me when its characters do. Here the engagement came only in the home stretch, by which time my patience was worn paper thin. Only in the last quarter of the book do the only two characters I even cared about have a final, meaningful reckoning with one another. Then for a short spell "The Last Painting" becomes compelling—before it spins out its pretentious, super-literary denouement, wanting to wow but ending in a whimper.
Sara de Vos, the title character, never grabbed me ever. She is a 17th-century Dutch woman painter whose best-known work, passed down into the 20th century, gets stolen, forged, and then— (Well, no spoilers here.) Somewhat like "The Hours," this novel bounces between centuries (the 17th, 20th, and 21st) and continents (North America, Europe, Australia), connecting multiple dots. Unlike "The Hours," which I loved, the completed picture here doesn't satisfy.
The writing is never less than painterly, and perhaps that's the problem: Smith's effects are all visual, or sensory, leaving me little sense of caring about the people behind and around the paintings with which the plot is concerned. I didn't care about Sara de Vos. I cared slightly more about Martyn de Groot, whose de Vos is stolen in 1958. I cared most, but still not quite enough, about Ellie Shipley, the art historian-turned-forger who makes the central theft possible.
None of the above spoils anything because the theft and forgery are all revealed in the first quarter of the race. By the home stretch, as I say, you hopefully will care more about the jockeys and their mounts than I did. ...more
Having worked my way through the novels of Dickens and having heard for years that Trollope might be a similar treat, I was finally steered toward "ThHaving worked my way through the novels of Dickens and having heard for years that Trollope might be a similar treat, I was finally steered toward "The Way We Live Now" by a NYT Book column in which Rufus Wainwright opined that it was one of the ten books he would want on a desert island. I don't customarily turn to Mr. Wainwright for advice, but somehow this word was just enough to tip my balance and send me tumbling into an 800-page masterpiece.
Imagine "The Big Short" written with three or even six surrounding love triangles, sort of like a complex organic molecule with all its rings, and you'll have something like "The Way We Live Now." There is a financial deal—ok, it's hardly a spoiler, a financial swindle—at the heart of the plot but once that is resolved (around page 650) at least 20 percent of the book is left to sort out all the love tangles.
I'm left thinking on the differences between Trollope and Dickens. They are distinct, but I am still sorting them out. Dickens is a theatrical performance artist, each of his characters a memorable grotesque prancing before his or her vivid scenery. Trollope is more the dispassionate dissector of human minds and hearts, with no less humor, though a dryer sort, and what a lot there is to dissect here!
My next projects are (1) to draw up a character diagram of "The Way We Live Now," with the scheming Lady Carbury and her two children at the epicenter; then (2) to begin the six-volume "Barchester Chronicles" with "The Warden." I've decided to read the "Barchester" books as books in my lap, not as buds in my ears or as screens burning my eyeballs. There is a distinctly old-timey joy to reading Anthony Trollope, and I'm going to settle down for some real enjoyment this spring. ...more
A good, balanced summary of the religious tsunami that hit Europe in the 16th century, including both the anti-Catholic reform movements (Lutheran, CaA good, balanced summary of the religious tsunami that hit Europe in the 16th century, including both the anti-Catholic reform movements (Lutheran, Calvinist, anabaptist, et al) and the efforts at reform within Catholicism itself (the so-called Counter-Reformation). Good bios of key figures from Luther to Ignatius of Loyola. ...more