Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A couple questions

Is the March book going to be the Rule of Benedict or something else?

Can I ask a couple questions about the end of Brede without spoiling it for others? If someone reading this, doesn't want to know the ending, stop reading now...

If this book were written today, I wonder if Godden would've written a sequel, picking up with the sisters in Japan... Was anyone else surprised by Philippa's reluctance to lead the Japanese sisters?  I understand her desire to remain where she feels anonymous, where she can continue to grow in humility, where it is so beautiful and peaceful, but she is so suited for the position, it seems so providential, that it is surprising that she hesitates to accept the call.

Also, I keep thinking about Cecily's statement, "What price ecstasy when you can have love?" Are they exclusive? Or just for Cecily?


mrsdarwin said...

I dunno. It's pretty clear to us, the readers, that Phillipa is ideal for the position of Abbess for the Japanese community (and she knows right away that that's what Abbess Catherine intends) but to be uprooted from the ordered, peaceful existence she's known for 14 years... I can't blame her for being unwilling. It's not easy to "cast into the deep". I think that by the end Phillipa has cast off the desire to be recognized for her acumen and has sunk deeply into the comforting anonymity of a sister of Brede. At the end she's basically being asked to resume the position she held in the world (with a promotion, natch).

I do think her reluctance to go is to her credit. Remember that Dame Veronica was eager to volunteer for the Japanese expedition!

As to Cecily, I think that she can't fully understand love until she's put aside the ideas of spiritual ecstasy that seem to have formed her main idea of religious life until the end. It's not that she's been unwilling to serve, but perhaps the ecstasy has come too easily to her -- unlike someone like Phillipa, who (having been plenty used to earthly pleasures) early on discovers the grind and reality of religious life. (Phillipa also knows already that marriage and a baby are not guarantees of earthly happiness.) The first time I read Brede, I really thought that Cecily was going to give into Mrs. Bannerman's urgings and come out and marry Larry. I let out a breath I didn't realize I'd been holding when she made her decision, and -- having chosen the opposite path myself -- didn't know whether to be relieved or sad. Or both. Each vocation represents a renunciation of the other path.

BettyDuffy said...

Feeling a little fickle here. Not sure THE RUle is going to keep me in the game this month. Could maybe do it with a short story, but if we were to put up a novel instead, what sounds good?

A Brede Quibble:
Is Philippa a little dramatic with her aversion to Sister Polycarp? I have a couple chapters to go, and they've already had the chicken pox--is that it? She can't stand to see the woman, then she just gets over it?

I have trouble understanding the blame Philippa places on Polly and her mother. Could have been more accurately directed on herself. But maybe that is in there, and it went over my head.

Some thoughts on a new read:
--The Rule plus a John Cheever short story
--The Dorothy Sayers book Mrs. D mentions periodically
--Anyone read Mary Gordon?
--Cry, the Beloved COuntry is sitting here on my desk.

Emily J. said...

Cecily's decision had a similar effect on me, Mrs. D. Although on his first visit, Larry seems boarish, Cecily's reflections make it seem like she is in love with him, and like you said, we all chose marriage. To Godden's credit, the renunciation of marriage is really a tough sacrifice for Cecily. She has to learn to love in order to fully enter into her vocation. But when I read that line about "what price ecstasy," I thought that the suggestion is that that ecstasy, or emotionalism, is an immature love, like a first crush, more about feeling than about sacrifice. But on the other hand, are they exclusive? Can't Cecily's singing still cause a kind of ecstatic love, even though her effervescence has dimmed?

BD, Fair enough quibble - I also thought P was a harsh on Polycarp, but more because she resurrected those memories rather than because Philippa blamed her, although she did blame the nurse. But what mom hasn't sat talking while her kid courts danger? I didn't have a problem with the chicken pox being the vehicle for P's forgiveness of Polycarp because I thought it had more to do with telling the story and facing the memories that Polly resurrects than Polly herself.

I'd vote for a reading a selection from the Rule like this http://www.osb.org/rb/text/daily.html#daily and then reading something else short - but Cheever I don't know about. Is there something that follows this?

BettyDuffy said...

We had talked before about the Kitchen Madonna too. Very short. Could also accompany the Rule. I like the idea of doing the online segment, so we don't have to purchase a translation--being into March already.

The Cheever story I was thinking of is called "Goodbye my Brother"-- was looking for it online and didn't find it. Cheever has some Christian themes, not necessarily Lenten ones--but this story I read awhile ago, and thought it had some discussion-worthy topics.