Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Hi all. It appears that it's my turn to choose a book, so, for November, I would like to invite you all to read Aplogia pro Vita Sua, by John Henry Cardinal Newman, with me (soon to be Blessed; he's to be beatified in 2010). As everyone here probably knows, Newman was an Anglican priest and a prominent English public intellectual who converted to Catholicism in the 1840s, and his Apologia is his spiritual autobiography, undertaken in response to public criticisms made of him by the Protestant minister, novelist, and promoter of the Victorian concept of "muscular Christianity," the Rev. Charles Kingsley.

Let me know if you're game.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Peace or Prosperity?

Just finished reading the part where Ulf advises Kristin to tame Erlend on the squandering of his property. He's just sold off a portion of his land (which was promised to her at her betrothal) in order to purchase another ship. Kristin refuses to do anything, because she and the children have just recovered from sickness (when Orm was lost), and Erlend had spent so much time by her bedside proving to her that he still loves her. There's peace in their marriage for the first time in years, and she doesn't want to sully it by scolding him over his poor decision-making. She's become aware that her husband is not respected by his peers, but she has made a bargain with herself: For the moment, she's chosen peace in her marriage over prosperity.

For conversation's sake, do you think this is a fair bargain? Should she be more concerned at this point about the futures of her children, and say, what they should eat next winter, or about keeping peace in her marriage?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Obligatory Wife Post

Well, it's almost November and we've been pretty quiet on the Kristin front, so I'm going to jump in. It's not fresh in my mind anymore, but here are my jumbled thoughts.

I didn't like Kristin until The Wife. All through The Wreath she made one bad decision after another, and she was really getting on my nerves (to be honest). Then in The Wife she really started to try and reclaim her dignity and do things right. I loved the way she started setting Erlend's manor to rights and how she wouldn't let the servant girl talk about the obvious pregnancy. I really thought I was going to find my Kristin groove.

And then Erlend finds out about the pregnancy, and we're back to square one with these characters. Perhaps Kristin thought that marriage, far from her family, would be a fresh start with a clean slate, but the reality is that choices have far reaching consequences. Some consequences, however, can be extended by long memories. Kristen's ability to carry paper over years was impressive, and more than once I wondered how this marriage could last, given her unwillingness to forgive. And I do say "forgive", regardless of her pilgrimages or prayers, because her constant need to throw her wrongs in Erlend's face (and I didn't even like the guy!) shows that she is still bitter. I believe it was in this book and not in The Cross in which once again she slaps him with accusations in a fight and he says, "Jesus, Kristin, have you been thinking about this for fifteen years?" And that's the fight that provokes him to go off with the other woman, which leads to Erlend's downfall, and the fateful turn in the family fortunes for the worse.

(Ragnfrid held onto her sin for years and years, but I suppose the difference there was that Lavrans wasn't involved in her wrong (or in any wrong, ever?). She can't cast it up to him, though of course her initial attitude toward him later influences his attitude toward her. It was not mutual, and therefore not marriage-breaking.)

I know there are so many themes in The Wife, and so many episodes (the beautiful pilgrimage, anyone? The childbirth scene?) that cry out to be discussed and savored, but what I'm left with after a month or two is the corrosive effects of unforgiven sin -- mutual unforgiven sin -- and how that sin eats away at the foundation of a marriage and, acid-like, weakens and disfigures all it touches.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I STILL haven't received my copy of Kristin Lavransdatter and now wonder if I should pursue a refund from Adoremus books or let them keep my $15 as a donation to their worthwhile service.  The book may yet show up on my doorstep after making stops at our 2 forwarding addresses, if the post office is still keeping up with that. In the meantime, I thought I'd interrupt the "discussion" with a plug for 2 books I've been reading: Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding - not Catholic, but an absorbing story of a big family preserving its identity while opening up to newcomers, through birth and marriage. Only read anthologized Welty in college and thoroughly enjoyed this reconnection with her work, despite its slow beginning. Anyone have any thoughts on Welty?

The other book I picked up in a free bin somewhere: an old edition of The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Maria von Trapp's autobiography is similar to the movie but strikingly different in some ways - for instance, their escape from Nazi Austria was not quite so dramatic.  Interesting to note that the Calvinist home school catalog Vision Forum carries this book and a number of von Trapp family recordings and even a Maria von Trapp doll, even though the book is full of descriptions of Catholic traditions and beliefs. This wouldn't be notable, except for the fact that the catalog has a large line of Reformation celebration books. Makes me wonder if somewhere down the line, some of the Trapps left the Catholic church. At any rate, I brought up the book here because it reminded me of the discussion of classical music on Pentimento's and Betty's  blogs.  Here was a family who began their career singing for small home concerts and parties. Their career became professional after the family fortune was lost in the bank crash during WWII.  So perhaps the loss of independent, hereditary wealth also added to the loss of the intimacy with classical music once enjoyed by a greater percentage of the population.