Showing posts with label posts by Betty Duffy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label posts by Betty Duffy. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Moviegoer

If anyone still wants to post on "Till We Have Faces," please do. And if anyone wants to post on something else entirely, please do. I'm going to go ahead with Percy.

In re-reading this, I keep thinking about my old La Leche League friends, a group of beautiful, creative, nice, generous, caring, self-styled sexy mamas who are also completely wack-a-doodle. Some of them would self-identify as Buddhist, a couple are Christian, but hip Christian, if you know what I mean, and the rest are completely anti-religion, but pro-love, and have hearts and stars surrounded by swirly marks tattooed on their forearms and lower backs.

In the past year, after extended breast-feeding, attachment parenting, home-schooling co-op style and eating about ten tons of scones, half dozen of them left their husbands and became lesbians. I'm not making this up.

And what does any of this have to do with the Moviegoer?

These are the kinds of doobies of disfunction that people roll when their personal definition of niceness and goodness are the only parameters they have for how to live.

I love the scene where Binx listens to "This I Believe" on the radio. (p108)

"I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual--

Everyone on This I Believe believes in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual. I have noticed, however, that the believers are far from unique themselves, are in fact alike as peas in a pod.

I believe in music, in a child's smile. I believe in love. I also believe in hate.

This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt's house. On This I Believe they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed that they usually hate his guts.

…I believe in believing. This--I believe."

What does it mean to believe in believing? To value one's own opinion above any other-- to consider oneself beyond question, without flaw. "Belief" takes on its own authority, even if the object or subject of belief is ridiculous. How many times have you heard someone say, "Isn't it enough that I try to be a good person? I may not go to church every Sunday, but I care about others, yadda yadda…" So fine, it's good to be good. It's nice to be nice. Congratulations.

"Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical panBrahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian." (108)

Everyone Binx encounters is either good, nice, dead or Presbyterian, and not one of them cares what he has to say. He asks them questions, they ask him questions, but about one hundred percent of the time, Percy mentions that so and so wasn't listening for the response to his question.

"One hundred percent of people are humanists and ninety-eight percent believe in God, and men are dead, dead, dead…" (228) There's no questioning or informed decision making. The self IS the decision.

Binx won't pick a side between liberal and conservative, but in acknowledging the humanism that most people espouse, he has tacitly chosen to be "other."

"Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upside-down: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive."

Binx has chosen to let his own opinions remain open to scrutiny. The sign of life is opposition, either to oneself or to others. Is he still selfish? yes. Is he still flawed? Yes. But he's not guilty of the kind of hubris that causes one to declare their life's work: "To make a contribution, however small, and leave the world just a little better off." (101) A life's "value" similar to those inspiring quotes by Rumi that my La Leche League friends love to put on their Facebook status--to change the world with a smile, to write love on their arms, to be the change you want to see. So self-satisfied. And so vague.

While Percy never makes a plug for Catholicism in The Moviegoer--for someone even marginally acquainted with the faith, he gives no choice. It's a question I ask myself sometimes, when I encounter people who seem to know exactly what they're going to do in life. They don't question or doubt their decisions, and I wonder, "How can you be so certain you are right? Why don't you question yourself--that it's the right thing to get a job, or get your tubes tied, or leave your husband?"

The cost of being so self-certain, of never doubting or learning from or listening to others, is death. You become immovable, uninterested. Or you become Kate, discovering that what she's been told all her life--that she's the authority on herself--is false. When she realizes she's not actually the authority--then what? She wants either to A) Die or B) be told what to do.

Hello Magisterium.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

jane's ideas on marriage

warning: Spoilers ahead

Can I say how much I enjoyed reading Jane Eyre? How little I wanted it to end--and yet, I also didn't want to stop reading. This is the dilemma I always hope for in a book, and it's so hard to come by on the NYT notable book list. Why do I keep looking there when the best books are sitting on my shelf unread? I won't make the mistake again soon.

Anyway, I've been thinking about the ending of Jane E. and how it could easily have ended with Jane's discovery of Rochester's secret--a tragedy. I wonder what editorial decisions went into to turning the narrative around, giving Jane a new life, giving her a family and money. I wonder if Bronte always knew that that was where she would take her heroine.

That image of the tree, struck by lightening, two separate trunks cleaving to one another until they both decay--I couldn't decide if this was a beautiful metaphor or a depressing one. On one hand, we all decay--as Mrs. D so beautifully noted in her last post. Isn't it better to meet the inevitable with another self at our side?

On the other hand--with all of Jane's comments on not wanting to lose her independence, and of not being Rochester's equal, at this stage in the narrative the decay aspect of the metaphor looks like a condemnation of marriage.

I know I'm drifting dangerously close to a feminist reading of JE, but what does it say that a marriage did not take place between Jane and Rochester until she had acquired a fortune and been wooed by another man, while Rochester lost half of his fortune, was physically maimed, and shunned by society? Is this really a marriage of equals? And if so--why is the cost of equality so high for Rochester? I realize that his loss of looks, sight, fortune and esteem all serve to bring down his pride, and give him a taste of the suffering that Jane has experienced for her entire life. But the book gives me enough faith in Jane to assume she could be his equal even without all his loss (perhaps even an equal in pride--which is perhaps what Bronte wanted to avoid).

Found myself a bit jealous of the later descriptions of their marriage--spending all day reading to one another and describing the scenery. I suppose, as with everything else, there can be too much of a good thing--but I don't see it happening soon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Heather King's "Parched"--First Impressions

I’m about halfway through the book, and should finish with one more night of good reading, but I wanted to get something up here for those who are ready to begin the discussion.

I’m enjoying the non-linear story-telling, sort of weaving the different elements of her life into a full portrait of the addict, but that leaves me with a non-linear approach to discussing her work. The following are a few pulled quotes that spoke to me, and a couple reasons why they did.


“When I wasn’t drinking in crappy bars, I was home by myself reading: a life that was achingly lonely, and yet perversely designed to prevent anybody from ever getting close enough to really know me.” (p 12)

Comparing this detail with other addiction stories, “Lit” and “The Edge of Sadness” it seems a recurring attribute of addiction is self isolation. I think it’s interesting how most addictive behaviors (internet use comes to mind) at first appear to be a remedy for isolation, but eventually become a reason to self-isolate.


“When it came to sibling dynamics, this meant we had one basic mode of communication—ridicule; and one base mode of interaction—violence.” (p 35)

For some reason this makes me want to have more kids. It gives me the sense that a lot of what happened in my childhood, and is currently taking place between my children, might not be as out of the ordinary as I thought it was. Sure it’s painful for everyone—but so’s life. And it does sort of confirm my suspicions that these modes of interaction among siblings can help build character.


“And it occurs to me now, as I write, that those two things I did at Nana’s—daydream and snoop—are pretty much what I do today for work.”(47)

This whole scene with her Nana was so touching to me, and also very similar to my own experiences with my Grandmother. I loved every minute of it. And again, it gives the idea that child-rearing is rarely as complicated as we want to make it. Give a girl a drawer to go through and she’ll be happy for a loooong time.


One of the most enjoyable elements of this book for me is the freedom with which she writes about the darker episodes of her life. I know that sounds oxy moronic, but it gives me hope for the kinds of books that can be written, read and accepted into the Redemption Narrative. We’ve discussed here before how glossing over details, like Merton’s illegitimate child, and Dorothy Day’s abortion, causes us to underestimate the immense power of God’s mercy. To me, all these details, though they detail a life of incredible suffering, help to affirm the life of faith.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Damn Good Writing

Starting a new thread, since the comments are stretching out on the last one.

I just want to say how much I'm enjoying the narration in Po-on. Mrs. Darwin mentioned that it was written in English; I originally thought it was a translation. But I think the ESL quality of it is what appeals to me so much--the simplicity and straightforwardness of the language (almost, but not quite, monosyllabic), and yet the most expressive arrangement.

Mayang doesn't just get mad. "It was her time to be angry."

And Istak calming himself, "Let me not think ill of my father, for he has suffered."

The dialogue has each character sounding like an oracle, which should be annoying, but it's not.

"Will you pray the nine-day novena by yourself and keep the year of mourning?" he asked.

"Everything else that must be done I will do."

That's getting pretty close to iambic pentameter, and I've had to stop reading several times to dwell on a line of dialogue here and there, or some descriptive detail, like the rays that "impaled the mists upon the kapok trees."

I love being in competent hands. Thanks, E, for a fun read.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Getting to the Good Stuff

Grandfather said it was the only time he ever knew him to say anything quiet and simple: ‘On this night I am speaking of (and until my first marriage, I might add) I was still a virgin. You will probably not believe that, and if I were to try to explain it you would disbelieve me more than ever. So I will only say that that too was a part of the design which I had in my mind’ and Grandfather said, ‘Why shouldn’t I believe it?’ and he looking at Grandfather still with that quiet bright expression about the eyes, saying, ‘But do you? Surely you don’t hold me in such small contempt as to believe that at twenty I could neither have suffered temptation nor offered it?’ (p 248—Modern Library)

--A hilarious exchange between Sutpen and 'Grandfather,' drinking whisky and talking about their lives with such an economy of words. Just, ‘you wouldn’t believe me if I told you I were a virgin.’ You might think they were out fishing or on some quaint masculine bonding trip if you didn’t know that they were on a living, breathing man-hunt for the escaped architect.

I’m sorry to say that my own Grandfather, prior to his conversion, made a similar comment to my cousin when she dated a thirty-year-old man who gave chastity talks and spoke openly about his virginity. "What the hell is wrong with him?" I believe is how he put it.

Yet Sutpen offers this piece of information as evidence of how thoroughly he considered his long-term design. He had to win his wife honorably, by laying down his life, in a sense, going out to protect her and her family from besiegement. I love the image of her, loading the muskets with her hair falling over her face—the only physical description we have of her, until she lets herself go after Sutpen leaves.

It was part of his design, to win a wife by honor. But how quickly he put honor aside, along with wife and child, when he discovered her secret. Certain facts trump honor—a speck of black blood would suggest she hadn’t deserved such honorifics.

I think this story illustrates the effects of having only “codes” of honor, rather than, as Mrs. Darwin points out, a Christian perspective of honor.

I also think it validates Miss Rosa’s condemnation of Sutpen as the devil himself. Throughout his story, he uses the appearance of ‘good’ to manipulate others. He sets traps for people and holds them in slavery until they have served his ends, his design, and then, once he has used them, he puts them aside.

It’s been an interesting thought evolution for me to read this book, because there are so many details that at first just seem funny, like the quote above, then I think about it a little more and start to feel warmly towards Sutpen, “Oh look, he did have a shred of honor; he wasn’t evil incarnate,” but then I think about it more, and it becomes clear how he used even goodness, the appearance of honor, for his own subversive designs.

“You cannot know yet whether what you see is what you are looking at or what you are believing.”
(p 314) Wow—pretty much sums up the whole book for me.

I have to consider S Riddle my marriage counselor with Faulkner. His post made me slow down a bit, be less concerned with romance and plot, more content with the little details along the way, the humor, the mystery, then rest assured that Faulkner saves the best for last; the reward is in sticking it out.

Still thinking though--will be back.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Characterization in Absalom, Absalom!

I have a wandering eye with Faulkner. Any time I put the book down for a day or two I start to lust after more interesting covers, more involving plots, more exuberant characters. The man takes a lot of discipline for me, and I'm trying to figure out why.

Here's what I've come up with so far (I have about a hundred pages to go): After reading Brede and having so many characters that I felt like I understood completely, Faulkner's characters are all kept at a distance. He uses a short-hand to describe them, for instance, Sutpen is the "devil himself" and always drawn from Rosa's point of view, which I'm not certain is a reliable point of view. Sutpen had a friend in Quentin's grandfather, which would suggest otherwise, as Q's grandfather seemed like a decent man. Of course there are such scant details about any of them. What we know if Judith, is that she has a calm unmoving face--that's it. Always calm. Well so what?

MOst of what I believe I know about the characters, I have learned from the time line and geneology at the back of my book. I think I cheated though by looking at it.

S. Riddle, has much to say on Absalom and I think he's right in suggesting one might need to work up to it by reading some of Faulkner's other works.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Interrupting Brede for a Moment...

To discuss syllabus selection (and I'm going to continue to call it a 'syllabus' even though we are more or less a book club, because I like the way it sounds).

Question: Now that we have made it through one cycle of everyone choosing a book, do you want to continue choosing books under that model?

Another option is to hash out the upcoming year's reads in one fell swoop (i.e. Now).

Yet another option would be to take turns being a "Benevolent Dictator" whereby the group can discuss monthly some potential reads, and the BD can choose from the books on the table based on what she thinks the group could most benefit from reading. This model has the advantage of not putting too much pressure on the book chooser for the month (not wanting to displease the group with a selection out of left field), and also of creating a reading list with some continuity while, at the same time, giving us the time to let the list evolve.

If we go with the Benevolent Dictator model for instance, I would consider the Rule of Saint Benedict for next month's read because it goes with our current discussion. If the group tabled a couple other books that make a good follow up to Brede, I would choose from those tabled.

What do you think?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Off to a good start...

The motto was 'Pax,' but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Pax: peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort, seldom with a seen result; subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at night, little comfort, sometimes scant food; beset with disappointments and usually misunderstood; yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love. "It is my own peace I give unto you." Not, notice, the world's peace.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Anyone Reading "Cloud, Castle, Lake" as an Allegory?

Vasily is identified only as "my representative" and a refugee. Seems likely Vasily and narrator are the same person, or perhaps a symbol for the artist or writer, the seeker of beauty and freedom, Nobokov himself. Seems all the more likely considering narrator does not remember Vasily's name in the beginning, but does know the names of everyone else in the party, who are, oddly, almost all named Schultz or Greta. Narrator is perhaps using the device of speaking about oneself under the guise of "a friend of mine."

Narrator has detailed knowlege of intricate sightings on the tour, details so intimate it seems unlikely that VI would have related them to anyone else: "But still his precious, experienced eyes noted what was necessary. Against the background of fir-tree gloom a dry needle was hanging vertically on an invisible thread."

And finally, there are the weird changes between first person and third person narrator: "Vasiliy Ivanovich, as the least burdened, was given an enormous round loaf of bread to carry under his arm. How I hate you, our daily!" [and allegorically speaking, wouldn't the artist (who, when at work, often "appears" to be doing nothing) have contempt for the quotidian burdens when beauty is just out of his reach?]

Their journey to the place of beauty takes around three days, first by train, then by car, then on foot (each a step closer to nature). And yet the person in charge at the end of the story says they are to return in one day. Implies there is some dreamlike quality to this excursion, because they could not possibly make a three day trip home in one day. (It's difficult to reach a place of enlightenment, but it is not difficult to fall from it).

The beauty is always more desirable to VI when it is viewed through windows. He loves it on the train, and in the car, viewed from a distance. When the beauty is inaccessible he calls it, "My love! My obedient one!" But when they are on foot, VI becomes hot and exhausted and falls asleep. He could almost access the beauty on foot, and yet somehow, he fails to make contact. The artistic quest, perhaps? We just want the final product, the cloud, the castle, the lake in perfect array, but we don’t want to work to get there.

The artist’s final product should contain all the anticipation of the journey and all the nostalgia of the past, in perfect harmony with the present: “there are plenty of such views in Central Europe, but just this one -in the inexpressible and unique harmoniousness of its three principal parts, in its smile, in some mysterious innocence it had, my love! my obedient one!-was something so unique, and so familiar, and so long-promised, and it so understood the beholder that Vasiliy Ivanovich even pressed his hand to his heart, as if to see whether his heart was there in order to give it away.”

But the vision is fleeting, maybe even unattainable. When the mind wants to stay there, in some place of enlightenment, it’s the carnal nature of the person, or perhaps the religious nature, (those dirty mean Germans according to Nobokov), that drags it back to reality, scourging it and crucifying it with corkscrews (“It occurred to them, among other things, to use a corkscrew on his palms; then on his feet. The post-office clerk, who had been to Russia, fashioned a knout out of a stick and a belt, and began to use it with devilish dexterity. Atta boy!”).

And after this terrible journey, glimpsing enlightenment, and not being able to remain there, the artist is unfit for humanity: “After returning to Berlin, he called on me, was much changed, sat down quietly, putting his hands on his knees, told his story; kept on repeating that he must resign his position, begged me to let him go, insisted that he could not continue, that he had not the strength to belong to mankind any longer. Of course, I let him go.”

Not sure if I'm interpreting this correctly. Thoughts?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Working on it

Ashamed to admit that I'm only about thirty pages into "What, Then, Does Dr Newman Mean?" Kingsly is putting it to Dr Newman for promoting such absurd acts of Popery as promoting the miraculous doings of St Walburga. Kingsly seems very angry by this point in the exchange, and I can't figure out exactly what's causing his rancor, as I thought Dr. Newman's side of the exchange very gentlemanly. I'm curious, Pentimento, about your observations on Victorian manners.

Looking forward to Newman's response.

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?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wanna talk about Lavrans?

I love Lavrans, but does he seem a little too perfect? Is he really surprised that his wife wasn't a maiden when she married him? Can he really NOT be the way she wants him to be towards her in the bedroom? If our understanding of God is represented in our understanding of fatherhood what is Undset's view of God?

Sexless and naive. Yet hard-working, virtuous, kind to the weak, skeptical of frivolity. Though he does get drunk a lot.

In any case, I think it's interesting that all the sex in the book is hidden from Lavrans, but no one else.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rationalizing Sexual Sin

"You musn't grieve over this sin. It's not a great one. God's law is not the same as the law of the land in this matter. Gunnulv, my brother once explained it all to me. If two people agree to stand by each other for all eternity and then lie with each other, they are married before God and cannot break their vows without committing a great sin. I would tell you the word in Latin if I could remember it--I knew it once."

So says Erlend, comforting Kristin for giving up her maidenhood. The first line of defense when one commits a mortal sin, is to find some way to rationalize and downplay the gravity. We have committed to each other for all eternity. Yet Kristin has the sneaking suspicion that Erlend has used this rationalization before with someone else.

I love how Undset nails this argument, which is so typical as a specifically Christian line of defense. Reminds me of the John Donne poem, The Flea: "Where we almost, yea, more than married are." We are in a committed relationship, we're more in love than most married people, heck, we ARE married....Except we're not.

I'd love to point you all in the direction of this blog post at Halfway to Normal and see what you think, particularly about this quote from an ex-Catholic in the comments:

"I don’t see a need for abstinence from premarital sex–-unfortunately, many Christians seem to take the idea that an unmarried union cannot be fully committed. I think this may relate to the fact that they believe the ceremony itself instills the couple with a special “grace” or “blessing” that no unmarried couple can get from God. I highly disagree with that, but then again, I don’t consider myself a Christian anymore. I think if you really think something fundamentally changes about your relationship when you have a Church ceremony, then you’ll be pro-abstinence. If you don’t, you won’t see the difference. But it’s extremely dangerous to think that the ceremony can fix or increase a commitment that’s broken or lacking before marriage. Please think about the message THAT sends to your children. Please think about the potential heartache when they find out it’s not true."---Genevieve Charet

As a parent, I feel like I tread a fine line in helping my kids avoid the painful fallout of sexual sin, while at the same time, preserving them from feelings of oppressive sexual shame--the kind of shame that causes disconnect between body and soul--where the right hand no longer sees what the left hand is doing.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shoeblogging Anyone?

I love the scene were Kristin and Ingebjorn go into town dressed in their convent garb and end up buying shoes. I think this is the scene where I first started relating to Kristin. When I lived with the Consecrated RC women, my fellow co-workers and I would run errands for them. TJ Maxx was on the way to the post office, so we'd frequently stop in to replace our nylons, but more than once, I'd find myself lagging in the shoe department. On impulse one day, I bought a pair of high heels. Loved them, but knew, as soon as I walked out of the store, I'd made a mistake. They were too expensive. The heels were too high. But I went back to the house and put them on. Within minutes, the balls of my feet were so sore, I could barely walk. For the rest of the year, they were known as my penance shoes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Redeeming the first 100 pages of Kristin

The first time I read Kristin Lavransdatter, I almost put it down. The plot felt so, so slow. My sister said, "Just keep going until she gets to the convent. Then things get interesting." So I held on until the convent, maybe even skipping every other word until I got there. But I was glad I did, and didn't stop reading Sigrid Undset until I'd made it through all three volumes of Kristin, The Master of Hestviken series, Jenny, Gunnar's Daughter, and several history books on Medieval Norway (beating a good thing to a pulp).

It's interesting though, having been through all of that, to revisit these first 100pages. I think I get what Undset is trying to do with all of these childhood scenes. On one hand, the book is an epic, following the span of Kristin's life, from age seven through death. But the scenes Undset chose to reveal in her childhood, set up the big themes of the novel.

First, we know how much she loves and respects her Father, and how much everyone else respects her father. She grows up in this confident manhood that sets up the foil to her prospective husband, but that's sort of the "duh" aspect of these pages.

There's a scene that I've always glossed over, the one where she and Arne and the neighbor kids play priest, and they dress a piglet in a Christening dress. They are in the middle of mocking the young bride (Kristin) for conceiving her piglet during Lent when the actual priest comes along and punishes them (quite harshly in my opinion). For days after that, Kristin is unable to look her friend, Arne, in the eye. Kristin has this childhood piety, now wounded with her first inkling of sexual shame.

It flows so naturally into her first experiences of darkness and evil, when she goes up in the hills with her father, hearing stories about all the wild people that live in the woods, and then she sees the vision of the lady. I've always wondered who the woman was... Fru Aashild? A vision of her future self? A hallucination? Everyone else takes it so seriously.

Then there's the beautiful scene with Brother Edvin, when she begins to understand God's mercy: "There is no one, Kristin, who does not love and fear God. But it's because our hearts are divided between love for God and fear of the Devil, and love for this world and the flesh, that we are miserable in life and death....It was because of God's mercy towards us that He saw how our hearts were split, and he came down to live among us, in order to taste, in fleshly form, the temptations of the Devil..."

Brother Edvin seems to sum up Undset's philosophy and the gist of the whole book in those two paragraphs. Kristin has a heart divided, beginning from the age of accountability, and on to her death. But she always loves God.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why do Classicists insist on wire rim glasses?

I have never met a Classicist who did not dress in the tweeds and glasses. And I wonder, why is it not a toga? They seem more interested in emulating the characters of Brideshead Revisted than Homer.

My book arrived...I'm reading with anticipation.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chomping at the bit

I really have a lot to say about Silence now that I've finished it. I LOVED it. Maybe it wasn't the most well-written novel in the world, felt translated, which it was, so I guess I can't fault it, but I thought it had a lot of juicy nuggets on the faith, and what exactly missionary work is and should be. I can't wait to talk about it--which I can't say about Aeneid. If no one minds, I'm not going to post again on Aeneid, because I think everyone's done with it, and frankly, I don't have time at the moment, hence the hurried nature of this post.

Anyone finished reading Silence?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Next Book!

Any day now, I'm going to post my parting thoughts on the Aeneid...any day now. And if anyone else has parting shots, I mean thoughts, to make, please do.

Until then, Emily, who does not have regular access to a computer asked if I'd let everyone in on the next book. So here it is:


Just kidding.

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo

I'm really looking forward to this one, though I would also have enjoyed Merton or Greene. But Greene says of Silence: "In my opinion one of the finest novels of our time." Not a bad blurb, that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

General Business

I was thinking that we should go ahead and choose another book. Emily is next alphabetically. And actually if you all have ideas in mind for your selections, why don't we go ahead and lay out the upcoming reads, so if people need to sit out a book, they can go on to the next one when they get a chance.

I'm thinking we should wrap up the Aeneid within the next two weeks--if we even need that long.

I didn't find much that grabbed me in Books IV and V. They did some olympics and burned their boats and set out again yadda yadda.

I was in Texas visiting with Ruedebac and my brother, and we laughed a bit about how after all Aeneas has been through when he arrives in Carthage, and he's so tired, and his friends are all dead, his feasting and story telling still goes on for something like 200 pages. And everything he does is everything that Odysseus did on the way home from the Trojan war as well. Is Virgil just trying to prove that Trojans do it better? (sounds like a condom ad).

Anyway, someone pick a juicy book for our next read.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The far...Books I and II.

My reading is definitely slower going than I thought it would be. In fact, not since I was taking ambien in my late pregnancy has anything had such a soporific effect on me--not because it's boring, but because it's hard. I read a page or two, and think, wait a minute, "I think someone's life just came and went in those two lines back there."

So I was having a little trouble putting this into context at first. Is it to be read as a history, as myth, as politics, or as poetry? I finally decided I needed some help, and looked it up in my Reader's Encyclopedia, which says it was commissioned by Octavius Caesar in order to justify the lineage of the Roman people back to Iulus (Aeneas's son), and glorify their Trojan heritage. Not to undervalue the poetic aspect of the writing, while a lot of it reads like, "and then I did this, then this, then this," there were a few lines here and there that rang out as beautifully significant to me.

So Book I finds Aeneas fleeing Troy with a group of followers. With the help of his mother, Venus, he finds his way to Carthage where Queen Dido welcomes him and falls in love with him. We find out in Book II all that came before his arriving in Carthage, how they fall prey to the Trojan horse and Troy burns, how he carries his father and his young son out of the burning city, and how his wife mysteriously died as they were fleeing. I found it useful to read the Wiki article on The Aeneid to make sure I was following the plot. Because I think what's most challenging in the reading is the jumping back and forth between the mortal dramas and the divine dramas.

There are almost two plots going at once. The plot of the gods has Juno upset that Aeneas will eventually overthrow her cherished minions, and Venus appealing to Jupiter to make Juno leave off her dear son. I loved the familial drama of the gods: a mother's love for her son, a father's (Jupiter) love for his daughter (Venus). When Jupiter calms his daughter he lets her know that Aeneas will be fine, "Unfolding secret fated things to come--" (ll. 260). I couldn't help comparing: "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- ... "

Aeneas does seem to pre-figure Christ somehow, to at least be a manifestation of the longing for a Messiah, a child of the gods, intent on his mission, a man apart, who will save the good lineage, and set the foundation for a victorious people. All that said, Aeneas is a little flat. He shows familial loyalty to his father and family, and he is dedicated to carrying on his race, which I suppose is necessary for the poem to do what it was commissioned to do. But as a hero, I'm not really feeling the love for Aeneas.

The one I love is Juno with her "eternal inward wound," her frustration of having to deal with these people over and over again, ("Give up what I began? Am I defeated?" ll. 36-37), and her feeling unappreciated, ("Who adores the power of Juno after this or lays an offering with prayer upon her altar?" --ll. 49-51). Hits a little too close to home.

So actually, this is mostly book I for tonight, but I've got to go to bed. So what do you think? Of course, for me to enjoy reading this book, I have to put it into the context of Christianity and motherhood. I find it encouraging, at least, that humanity has felt these emotions since the beginning of time.

Also of note: Aeneas's frustration with his mother for appearing to him under a disguise, making sense of the actions of a hidden god.