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books

I’ve read a few books so far this summer. I’ve deviated from my normal diet of English Literature to incorporate some different titles.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire: I am still trying to get the point behind this one. I was very confused about it all. Basically it is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West and how she came to be known as such. I am pretty sure Frank L. Baum would not approve. It took a lot of effort for me to finish it and I don’t recommend the book. However, I have heard that the musical is much better and nothing like the book. (Please don’t give this book to your teenager, it is for mature audiences only.)

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern: I was hoping this would at least be funny and sweet. It wasn’t. It was like eating cardboard. However, it convinced me that I could write chic lit. I am already 2000 words into writing my first badly written novel folks! Just 78,000 more to go!

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano: This was refreshingly well written. Granted it was nothing I haven’t heard before from my own mother, but it was still good to hear. Warning: by the time you are finished you will be convinced that you need to drink a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne every day – in theory not a bad idea, just not feasible for most pocketbooks.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser: Very informative, scary, and inspiring at the same time! How is it inspiring? Did you know that the founders of Carl’s Junior (Hardee’s to all you East Coast folks), McDonald’s, and Disneyland (Walt Disney), all dropped out of high school? Amazing!

Easter Vigil & Other Poems by Karol Wojtyla: A great little book of great poetry by Pope John Paul II!

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I found a book of poems by Karol Wojtyla (soon to be St. Pope John Paul II!) at a yard sale a few weeks ago. I finally had a chance to crack it open a few days ago, and I really like it!

I will admit that I find a great similarity between Karol Wojtyla’s poetry and Pope John Paul II’s prose (yes they are both the same person). It can be confusing. I had an “ah ha” moment when someone explained to me that you read his work as if you were taking a trip up a spiral staircase: you go in circles, but each time you come to a higher understanding of the subject matter. When you finally come to the top of the staircase, you can look down and see that you were not just going in circles, you climbed five stories and your point of view is completely different now.

So for your reading pleasure I present to you:

Thought’s Resistance to Words by Karol Wojtyla

Sometimes it happens in conversation: we stand
facing truth and lack the words,
have no gesture, no sign;
and yet – we feel – no word, no gesture
or sign would convey the whole image
that we must enter alone and face like Jacob.

This isn’t mere wrestling with images
carried in our thoughts;
we fight with the likeness of all things
that inwardly constitute man.
But when we act, can our deeds surrender
the ultimate truths we presume to ponder?

midsummer

The longest day of the year deserves a quote from Shakespeare:

The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:
Lovers, to bed; ’tis almost fairy time.
I fear we shall out-sleep the coming morn
As much as we this night have overwatch’d.
This palpable-gross play hath well beguiled
The heavy gait of night. Sweet friends, to bed.
A fortnight hold we this solemnity,
In nightly revels and new jollity.

Theseus – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

dorothy l sayers

Today Dorothy L. Sayers would have been 120.

If you don’t know who Dorothy L. Sayers is I want you to drop everything your doing right now and 1) pick up any one of her mystery novels (my favorite is Gaudy Night, but please don’t start with that one, it would be unjust, start with Whoose Body or The Nine Tailors. Guady Night needs to be surrounded by a sense of anticipation in my opinion.), 2) get both volumes of her letters and start reading. And when you’ve read those pick up Creed or Chaos.

This woman was phenomenally brilliant. To say she was just a good mystery writer would be unfair. She wrote everything! Plays, prose, poetry, novels, philosophy. You name it. She even completed a translation of the Divine Comedy.

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I haven’t been able to read a whole lot lately, but I have finished a few good books! I’ve also bought a ton of books too. I am currently on a self imposed book-buying probation until all my current un-read books have been read, or in the event the library that has taken up residence in my bedroom (for really, it is a library) spontaneously combusted, and I am, somehow, left bookless.

First on the list . . .

An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis De Sales. I’ve been reading this one page by page for at least a year now. It is so good. I read it slow on purpose just to make sure that I was giving it the attention it deserved instead gorging on text. It’s a very good guide for living a virtuous every day life.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. This one was first recommended to me in college my dear roommate. I’ve been meaning to read it ever since she told me about it and I finally did! It is the love/conversion story of a couple. Both knew C.S. Lewis and the books has a lot of his letters to them (which was a treat by itself). Word to the wise – read it with a box of tissues. The image above comes from their description of how they guarded their love. They built via various habits, practices and virtues what they called the “shining barrier.” I really liked the concept.

Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene. I am not the world’s biggest Graham Greene fan, he is just too dark for me. However, Travels with My Aunt was a great read, it hardly felt like Graham Greene! It was full of dry, English humour, wit, and a happy ending! What?! Not to mention that the Aunt character is a total riot.

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Okay, now that I have typed the phrase busy bee, all I can think of is that scene in Gladiator where Commodus has reached a-place-that-is-beyond-creepy and he calls Lucillia a busy bee. I always want to scream at Lucillia to just grab her kid and leave the palace.

But I wanted to pop in for a minute to once again apologize for not posting and to assure you that I am still alive and well! I’ve been in over my head in events, planning and projects. The picture above shows the sewing project I’ve been working on – 20+ Shakespearean shirts for a middle school production of Taming of the Shrew. Ooo, ooo, that Shakespearean rag. . .

And to add to the randomness of this post, here is a poem for you:

MORNING AT THE WINDOW

by: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

THEY are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,

And along the trampled edges of the street

I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids

Sprouting despondently at area gates.

The brown waves of fog toss up to me

Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,

And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts

An aimless smile that hovers in the air

And vanishes along the level of the roofs.

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Here are a few books I’ve recently finished:

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger: Loved it! It’s a really quick read. My favorite line being “there isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s fat lady.” Read it and find out why!

West With the Night by Beryl Markham: An autobiographical piece about a young woman who is a bush pilot in Africa during 1920’s + 30’s. It’s really interesting, well written, and enjoyable! I would love to teach a class that compares West With the Night with Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The book being Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s experiences as a pilot. I think they are both around the same time period.

Bridge to Terabithia by Thomas Crowell: Granted this one is a juvenile fiction, but I wanted to read it. It was so depressing. It’s about two friends and the imaginary kingdom they create. I won’t spoil the end, but it is really sad.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: I loved this one, but also found it bittersweet at the same time. This is another piece of juvenile fiction – it’s about a family that never ages and a little girl who discovers their secret.

The Glory of Hera by Caroline Gordon: This book was awesome. It’s the story of Hercules retold.

The Mystery of Joseph by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP: This is a phenomenal look at St. Joseph and the role he plays in life of Jesus and Mary, and the Church. Very well thought out, very well written. If you can only read one of these books, read this one.

Another great feast day! Happy feast of St. John of the Cross – his poetry is so beautiful! Enjoy! (Plus with a poem about the night like this, doesn’t it seem appropriate that there is a meteor shower sheduled on St. John’s feast?)

On A Dark Night by St. John of the Cross 

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide,
save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he
(well I knew who!) was awaiting me
— A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined
Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping,
and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand
He wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Dearest Charles–
I found a box of this paper at the back of a bureau so I must write to you as I am mourning for my lost innocence. It never looked like living. The doctors despaired of it from the start…
I am never quite alone. Members of my family keep turning up and collecting luggage and going away again, but the white raspberries are ripe.
I have a good mind not to take Aloysius to Venice. I don’t want him to meet a lot of horrid Italian bears and pick up bad habits.
Love or what you will.
S.
Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh

I haven’t been reading anything new for a while, a combination of excuses – to busy to find something, all the somethings I did find were boring and depressing, John Muir’s Wilderness Essays have been sitting on my nightstand and feel like I should finish them before I pick something else up but they are just so dull.

But while I was in Poland I read two books, one on a train and one on a plane.

Lancelot by Walker Percy, I read on a train. Like most of Percy’s stuff it was Southern, dark, and disturbing, but it was fascinating. (As a rule I don’t read Southern literature in the winter months, I just can’t handle it, but I made an exception for this.) It is about a man, Lancelot, who discovered the infidelity of his wife and subsequently goes crazy. But then again the main character may be the Percy, the man who Lancelot tells his story too. Read it and find out. CAUTION: this book is for mature audiences only, don’t hand it to your teenager.

The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse, I read on a plane. A lovely bit of silly, witty fluff involving Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves. If you’ve never read anything by Wodehouse I suggest you find anything by him and read it. All his work makes me laugh out loud – which can be embarrassing when you are on the Metro surrounded by other people.

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