Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tail-end Charlie

I was putting off re-reading "Brede" but I issued it from the Library (a first edition! Don't YOU wish you lived in a backwater?) last week and ripped through it, rather more quickly than did justice to Godden's lovely prose.

I read first it when I was twenty-one or so, a year or two before I had children. The only thing I remembered about it was Dame Philippa's story regarding Keith's death, and that was why I was reluctant to open it again.

Now I see that the Keith theme is much less than the whole of the book, not even the reason Philippa enters, but still I skipped fleetingly over Chapter Twelve. I can't help thinking that, since facing the death of a child is the worst thing that could befall me, or any woman, I might excuse myself a fictional dress-rehearsal.

This is cowardice, I know. I pray to be in God's will, and I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God, and that Job's reply to a similar agony was "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" And I confess that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And as a sound Calvinist, I know, at least in theory, how to compute the presence of evil in the world, without in any way imputing wrongdoing to God.

However, I also know that I am and have been a foolish and careless parent, quite often, and the children have had more narrow escapes than I care to think about, and that as the years go by, I have ever more hostages to fortune, not fewer. I haven't been called to bear this sorrow - yet. But I might be, at any time, what with our harum-scarum ways.

So I guess my only option is more trust in God, in His care, and to believe Him when He assures me, "Underneath are the everlasting arms."

OK. Thank you, Mrs Duffy, for a chance to think that through.

Now on to "Ben and the Art of Monastery Maintenance" ;-)

Greetings to you all, dear friends.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Literature and Spiritual Nausea

Kyle Cupp discusses Michael D. O'Brien's Harry Potter-induced "spiritual nausea."

Monday, March 8, 2010

An Executive Decision from the Benevolent Dictator

I move we take a break for March, read the Rule of Saint Benedict if you want, but otherwise have a good Lent, and we'll come back after Easter with something glorious.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Few More Bits on Brede

Well, I think I was the last to finish Brede. Took my time with it, and loved it. I thought it was interesting to think about the foundation of a Japanese monastery after having read Silence. I kept thinking about that question of whether or not an Eastern culture can ever be decidedly at home in a Religion with mostly Western traditions. It was easier to see how a few Japanese nuns could acclimate to a monastery in England, but I wanted to see what would happen when the monastery is transplanted to Japan. Probably too difficult a sequel for Godden to write. But that's not really the point of the book, I know, just an aside I kept thinking about.

We haven't talked much about Dame Veronica, who was interesting to me. I was sort of surprised that Godden would create a character who is so universally unlikeable. I was also surprised that she would allow her nuns to speak so openly and with such disdain towards her. I couldn't decide how much of their talk was necessary for the good of the order. Finding the right position in the house for her required honesty about her shortcomings, but they crossed the line rather often.

Was reading something recently, can't remember the exact quote, but to the effect of being able to overcome almost any sin except being a dreamer. Dame Veronica might be the poster child for this sort of soul. She does seem quite hopeless.

I agree with MRs. Darwin on the emotion issue. I'm not even preggers, and was crying almost every other page. Sometimes I think Godden did go for the easy emotional tug: the two birds flying in the Sanctuary before the deaths of Dame Emily and Dame Colette, the shaft of light through the window singling Philippa out, for example--and yet, everyone does probably have an experience of Supernatural coincidence. I just happened to wake up in the night at the exact time that I later discovered my Grandfather had died. In any case, I'm ok with easy emotionalism.

I have to say that if there was a character I liked the least, it was Philippa, and I did not dislike her, so much as I found her sort of a fifties Hollywood characature. I pictured her as the icy blonde from a Hitchcock movie--chiseled to perfection in every way. I wanted her to behave badly, just once.

I thought the relationship between Dame Maura and Cecily was interesting. And I couldn't tell if Godden was being discrete and that there was something more erotic in Dame Maura's feelings, or if it was just a preferential frienship.

Overall, the great joy of this book for me was all the one-liners I got to write down in my journal.

"the goal of the discipline is not victory but submission" for example and so many more (But my journal is in the other room and I want to wrap this up).

It really was a sort of spiritual reading, a little homily on almost every page--but I never felt like I was receiving a homily, if that makes sense.

For our next read, I think we will go ahead with the RUle of Saint Benedict. If I can find another short story online, I might slap it up here, but no promises.

I think this link to the RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT broken into daily readings might be the way to go, if you want to read it online. If someone knows of a good translation worth buying, feel free to offer that information.

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?