Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Immediate Book Meme

This is October, the two-conference month. I always think that I'm going to get a lot of writing done while Darwin is gone, but I don't. At the end of the day I'm exhausted and find myself falling asleep over my computer, the kitchen a wreck and the rest of the house not much better. God bless all single mothers, and please never let Darwin die so that I have to do this by myself, forever.

In lieu of real writing, I offer you the Immediate Book Meme.

photo by Evan Laurence Bench

There are plenty of memes that want to know all about your book history and your all-time greats and your grand ambitions, but let's focus on something more revealing: the books you're actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read. Let's call it The Immediate Book Meme.

1. What book are you reading now?


The Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy, by Roger Scruton.
Scruton is so close -- he's reaching in the right direction, but perhaps he lacks the gift of faith. He senses the transcendent everywhere, but can't seem to pull them together into one Being. His analysis of sex is as good as I've seen from a secular source, but his description of Christian charity is sorely lacking. He turns it into a form of utilitarianism: "Charity hopes to maximize joy and minimize suffering in general, just as each person spontaneously acts to maximize joy and minimize suffering in himself." That's a description of charity I've never seen, though perhaps that's because I've always heard charity analyzed from Christian sources as agape.  Also, he discusses Kant's personalist principle without going beyond to Wojtyla's positive formulation: A person is not simply an end, not a means, but one to whom the only appropriate response is love.

The Best of Myles, by Flann O'Brien
This collection of newspaper writings by Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O'Brien) [Brian O'Nolan] is laugh-out-loud funny. I'm only a bit in, but so far his account of the anarchic ventriloquists terrorizing the theaters of Ireland, and the fee structure for distressing a rich person's unread library of newly purchased books, have been the purest comic gold.

Hallowe'en Party, by Agatha Christie
The big girls are on a Poirot kick, so I'm just picking up what's laying around.

2. What book did you just finish?


Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hémon
I finished this several weeks ago, but for the purposes of writing a post about it, I only just finished it. A beautiful little book which ought to be widely considered a classic, set in remote Canada in the early 20th century. Maria is offered the chance to escape the harsh life of a Canadian pioneer and start an easier life in America, but the decision isn't as easy or as clear-cut as it sounds.

The Clocks, Agatha Christie

The Third Policeman, Flann O'Brien
This is a fascinating book which I was simply not in the right mood to read, and I had to return it to the library partially read. I feel the fault lies with me, but there it is.

3. What do you plan to read next?

more Deuteronomy

La Force Du Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah, when it is available on Kindle on Nov. 9th. Good thing I brushed up on my French with Maria Chapdelaine. Here is an excellent interview with Cardinal Sarah on the book, and on the essential importance of silence.
“God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this beautiful, rich insight of Saint John of the Cross, Thomas Keating, in his work Invitation to Love, writes: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.”  
It is time to rediscover the true order of priorities. It is time to put God back at the center of our concerns, at the center of our actions and of our life: the only place that He should occupy. Thus, our Christian journey will be able to gravitate around this Rock, take shape in the light of the faith and be nourished in prayer, which is a moment of silent, intimate encounter in which a human being stands face to face with God to adore Him and to express his filial love for Him.  
Let us not fool ourselves. This is the truly urgent thing: to rediscover the sense of God. Now the Father allows Himself to be approached only in silence. What the Church needs most today is not an administrative reform, another pastoral program, a structural change. The program already exists: it is the one we have always had, drawn from the Gospel and from living Tradition. It is centered on Christ Himself, whom we must know, love and imitate in order to live in Him and through Him, to transform our world which is being degraded because human beings live as though God did not exist. As a priest, as a pastor, as a Prefect, as a Cardinal, my priority is to say that God alone can satisfy the human heart.  
I think that we are the victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism. We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power. For the sake of titles, professional or ecclesiastical duties, we accept vile compromises. But all that passes away like smoke. In my new book I wanted to invite Christians and people of good will to enter into silence; without it, we are in illusion. The only reality that deserves our attention is God Himself, and God is silent. He waits for our silence to reveal Himself.  
Regaining the sense of silence is therefore a priority, an urgent necessity.  
Silence is more important than any other human work. Because it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and toward others so that we can place ourselves humbly at their service. 
Perhaps more Roger Scruton.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk. I have a deadline on this -- a November book club that my sister-in-law's family hosts. And I like it a lot. It reads quickly and has a lot of fascinating detail. The book simply got put down in the shuffle and ended up on the wrong dresser, and so I haven't picked it up when I'm looking for reading.

John Adams, David McCollough.
I'm about to bring the troops home on this one and return it to the Little Free Library in the neighborhood. I just can't get around to finishing it. Sorry, John Adams.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar by Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass
A friend lent me this collection of essays on courtship and marriage (actually, I saw it on her shelf and said, "Hey, can I borrow this?") and it's been sitting on top of a bookshelf where I don't see it for months. I need to put in on my recently cleared bedside table to it's right to hand.

6. What is your current reading trend?

I don't know that there is one right now.


Brandon said...

I very much like Flann O'Brien. The Third Policeman is my favorite work of his, but At-Swim-Two-Birds -- in which an author has difficulty with his characters not doing what they are supposed to do -- is also quite good.

I got slightly stalled reading Maria Chapdelaine (although not for anything to do with the book itself), so I still have to finish it; hopefully this week at some point.

I can't remember if you've read Scruton's *The Face of God*, but it's good if you haven't. I haven't read *Understanding Music* yet, but philosophy of music is a field in which Scruton really does excel. Some of his works on architecture are also very good.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

It's always interesting to see what people have been reading.

I very much enjoyed Maria Chapdelaine, though I'm not sure I have anything useful to say about it yet. (I read it in English.) I am much obliged for your earlier post mentioning it.

mrsdarwin said...

It took me a while to read Maria Chapdelaine, not because the French was particularly hard, but because I needed to be fairly mentally alert to translate it as I went, and that I had to have a good block of undisturbed time. I feel like if I read it in English I would have sped through it.

I'm reading Flann O'Brien bit by bit, as I have to get them all through interlibrary loan. At Swim-Two-Birds has been taking a long time to come in, though it was the first one I requested. That's probably the one I've heard praised the most.

The Face of God was the Scruton I wanted to read, but The Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy was what was on the library shelf. I'm glad I've read it (I have about ten pages left to go), but I would like to see him delve a bit more into why he doesn't believe in God. He seems so very attracted to the idea of God.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Ooh the Flann O'Brien sounds like fun. I read At Swim Two Birds in grad school for my tradition of Irish epic course, which was fabulous. I should look for more of his work.

Unknown said...

I just pulled "Wing to Wing Oar to Oar" off of my shelf and was reading it to my husband. Great prep for our class at the parish (engaged couples).

Since its an anthology, just open it randomly and read the piece you land on. Lots of good stuff here to chew on.

Also... its romantic bedtime reading.

GretchenJoanna said...

I have Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar and can't figure out what to do with it. I listened to the Kasses tell why they compiled it, to prepare modern young people to be able to fall in love. As college professors they were dismayed at the impoverished hearts and minds of their students in that regard. My own children I think were prepared, and did fall in love and marry :-)... It seems like the kind of book that won't be read by the people who need it the most.

That is a powerful quote from the interview with the author you plan to read next. The silence of God I find to be a very exciting concept philosophically, or theologically, but that statement, "Silence is more important than any other human work," is stunning. It brings me back to the fact that it's the practice, not the idea, that I need to embrace, with all the ruthlessness and labor that is required.