Still alive, just not blogging much, as you well know. Gotten a little bit of reading done lately, though not much else. I want to give full praise to Mark Horne who several years ago recommended to me Kenneth Bailey's fine book, Jacob and the Prodigal. Bailey's breadth and intensity of knowledge regarding his subject (Luke 15) are not to be matched anywhere. He spent most of his adult life living and studying in the middle east and brings to his subject some quite extrordinary resources, such as medeival Egyptian and Arabic christian scholarship. Bailey's thesis is that in the story of the prdigal son, Jesus was self-consciously adapting the saga of Jacob. He points to quite a number of elements which are in common in the two stories (the two sons, one of whom goes away to a foreign country and is later welcomed back, etc.) as well as a few phrases which occur ONLY in those two stories within the biblical corpus, such as the use of kid meat as a meal and the combination of the terms run, fall on the neck and kiss. Caertainly a must read for those seeking a better understanding of this sentral parable.
On the book contest front, another one is completed, namely Kirk's entry of William Pitt the Younger, by William Hague. Hague, as some of you may recall, was the leader of the conservative party in English parliament not too long ago. He apparently felt some kinship with the younger Pitt, both of whom showed a genius for politics at an early age. Hague (according to the fount of all wisdom these days: wikipedia) made a memorable speech at the conservative party national conference in 1977 at the age of 16. Pitt, on the other hand, was at his third year at Cambridge at that age, though he did have the advantage of a well educated, connected and famous father.
Anyhow, the book is probably about as good as political biographies get. Hague neither talks down to his readers nor does he assume detailed knowledge of English government institutions and history, explaining all the necessary details as he goes. Unfortunately for me I don't like political history nearly as much as Kirk does, much to my shame, so I found it hard to keep up my own interest all the way through. This is certainly not Mr Hague's fault, but there you have it. The last hundred pages were a struggle for me as I realized that even though the writing was good, I just wasn't interested enough for 400 pages.
Also, making my way through the posthumous keavings of Robertson Davies, I just finished For Your Eye Only, a collection of Davies letters edited by his biograper, Judith Skelton Grant. I already had a fairly full idea od Davies personality and this idea was only confirmed by the letters. Lots of good comments and humor scattered throughout. He had a few comments about translations of Russian novels which confirmed ny own experience in many ways, namely that if you pick up a translation by Constance Garnett you should immediately put it down again since it will be unreadable.