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

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Immediate Book Meme

It's book check time, my friends. 

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?
My nightstand is stacked with books I'm working through:

This book demands careful attention, and even so I often need Scruton's practical examples before I understand his abstract claims, but both aesthetics and architecture are subjects I find engaging.

This is my second read of this lovely book about the villas, the private homes, designed by Palladio.

I preordered Bishop Varden's book because I will now read anything he writes. He is clear, erudite, scholarly, and joyfully orthodox.

which has lead me to read:

The Moment of Christian Witness, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar
My purse book, which I read page by page in waiting rooms.

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd
My first fiction this year. I'd just read a chapter in our history book about Eliza Lucas Pinckney, and behold, the algorithms uncannily showed me ads for this novel, which is several years old. I'm a few chapters in and putting up with it. It's (over)written in the present tense, and betrays modern sensibilities, and dollars to beignets there's going to be a sex scene in it. This is why I don't read much recent fiction.

1a. What is your current readaloud?

Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie

This boffo book by XKCD cartoonist Monroe is my nighttime reading with my ten-year-old, who is learning more science this way than he did in school (and so am I).

2. What book did you just finish?
I'm directing The Music Man this summer, so much of my reading has to do with the show.

The Music Man, a novelization by Meredith Willson
I thought I was buying the script, but it turns out Willson also novelized The Music Man. It's fun to read his prose, but the book won't replace the show.

Willson is a delightful writer, with his Iowa turns of phrase, and I liked hearing the story of the creation of The Music Man in his own voice.

Informative, but not as much fun to read as Willson himself.

3. What do you plan to read next?
All Christmas presents.

Jane Austen's Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye
Jane Austen's actual letters!, in an elegant volume, a treasured present from Darwin.

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin

A Chain of Hands, by Carol Ryrie Brink
An autobiography by the author of Caddie Woodlawn.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Onward and Upward in the Garden, by Katharine S. White
A collection of reviews of gardening catalogs by E. B. White's wife. Delightful even to a non-gardener like myself.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?
I've been meaning to read Works of Mercy by Sally Thomas ever since it was published. 

6. What is your current reading trend?

The Music Man, and architecture, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

It has been a time of dreams for me lately -- long, involving, pleasant dreams, full of plot and incident and characters both real and imagined. If I drift to the edge of consciousness, I can fall back into the same plot, such as it is. And yet, I can't tell you about them. As soon as I try to make concrete in words the visions of my subconscious, the images slip away, like that small bit of eggshell in the bowl you keep trying to nab. (You can pin the eggshell if you dip your finger in water first, but that doesn't seem to help with describing dreams.)

I might try to tell you about last night's dream, which (I think) involved me awarding a gift basket to a seminarian, while we were all (but who was "all" of us?) in the finished basement, or the paneled subterranean corridors, of a vast elegant hotel. But that was only the most minor and final part of the dream. What happened in the rest of it? I can't tell you. Words are first nonsense, and then simply inaccessible.

The other morning I set myself to finding words for the dream I'd just come out of, still so vivid, but all I could articulate was "Russia" and... no, now I can't even find any language for the swirl of images still drifting around my head. All I know is that Russia is not the right descriptor, and that my dream didn't involve Russia. It's simply the only word I could grab. 

Great theologians have insisted that we can not describe what God is, only what he is not. My dreams seem that way, ineffable. I can only hold onto them for as long as I resist trying to describe them. When I try to describe them, I only have the wrong words. But it is comforting to know that there is this pleasant... what? Realm? Domain? (Reality doesn't seem the right word)... that is accessible to me, even if it's indescribable and unshareable through any normal medium of communication. 

Monday, January 08, 2024

One Week

We're about a week into 2024, and I don't have anything more intelligent to offer you than this inessential bit of textual analysis I've been low-key working on since before Christmas: is the one week in the Barenaked Ladies song One week actually one week (and two days 'til they say they're sorry)?

There are three verses in this hit from 1998, which I listened to on the radio (the radio!) when it was still in top-40 territory. Each one covers nine days of a relationship quarrel, from initial conflagration to the still-deferred apology. I'd always thought of the verses as being a sequence of sorts, with Day 1 of verse two being Day 3 of verse one, and so forth, but now I'm inclined to read the lyrics as being three different Rashomon-style perspectives on the same fight, albeit from one source, the increasingly penitent (if still irreverent) Steven Page. 

Since this is an analysis of no interest to anyone except 90s kids, I'm not going to quote the whole song here; you can refresh on the lyrics at Genius (along with a lot of rather obvious annotations). Here, completed in a burst of procrastination before some kind of obligatory Christmas event, is a breakdown of the fight. I wrote it out trying to figure out how the sequence of the verses fit together, but, as I say, I now think it's all the same week. Anyone needing to procrastinate may feel free to offer further insight.


Day 1: She looks at him, cocks her head to the side and says, "I'm angry."

Day 3: She laughs at him and says, "Get back together, come back and see me."

Day 5: The living room, where he realizes it's all his fault, but couldn't tell her.

Day 6: She forgave him, but didn't say so.

Day 9: He will say he's sorry.

Day 1: She throws her arms in the air and says, "You're crazy."

Day 3: She tackles him and give him rug burn on both his knees.

Day 5: She realizes, in the afternoon, that it's not his fault.

Day 6: She forgave him, but didn't say so.

Day 7: He's sitting back and waiting until she says she's sorry.

Day 1: She looks at him, drops her arms to the side, and says she's sorry.

Day 3: He laughs at her and says she just did just what he thought she was going to do.

Day 5: In the living room, they both realize that they are both to blame, but what can they do?

Day 6: She smiles at him.

Day 9: They both say they're sorry.


AND now that I've put all this work into writing this out, I discover that someone has already put this into calendar form.