Friday, April 28, 2006

A couple of juicy Davies quotes since I can't resist.

"Celtic civilization was tribal, but by no means savage or uncultivated. People who regarded the theft of a harp from a bard as a crime second only to an attack on the tribal chieftain cannot be regarded as wanting in cultivated feeling."

"I was reading Dorothy Dix this afternoon; she says that it is permissible for a young man to tell a girl he knows fairly well that she has pretty ankles; from this I assume that the better he knows her the higher he may praise her."

"I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves."
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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Three things:

One, I'm still alive, but just haven't felt like blogging much lately.

Two, I have a short report on another contest book. Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner pretty much fits the mold of an Oprah club book. Main character overcomes experience of brutalization in youth (observed rather than experienced in this case), yet continues to deal with the effects of the ordeal throughout life. Toss in an exotic locale (Afganistan) and off you go. It wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't especially good either. We'll call it a (generous) 5 out of 10. THE book to read about the impact of a single incidence of violence is Robertson Davies' Salterton Trilogy. I can get away with calling it A book since it is published in one volume these days.

Currently working on the next contest book, but won't say anything til I'm done with it. It's quite good so far though.

Three, I'm not sure what to make of this. Perhaps there's some kind of translation problem???

Friday, April 07, 2006

May as well balance things with some thoughts on womanliness.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Thoughts on manliness.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Three of the four of us are sick and a bit down this weekend (Isaac the exception so far) and I don't feel like writing a long post today, but I'll try to cover a couple of things.

First off, Thomas' book contest entry was superb. Po Bronson has a terrific way of collecting interesting stories from people and them writing them up in such a way as to make them come alive and give plenty of food for thought. This was true in What Should I Do With My Life, and remains the case in his latest, Why Do I Love These People. The latter volume examines stories about family dynamics. Some of the stories are told in such a way that I would challenge anyone to read them without crying. My only criticism of the book was that the last couple of stories weren't as good as the rest, so there was a a bit of a sense of let-down. Still, a fine book all around.

Other item for today was a thought from Sunday School. We talked about the story of Mary breaking the bottle of perfume to annount Jesus. During the discussion I kept asking myself what purpose the story had within the gospel accounts. In both Mark and John it takes place just before Jesus's betrayal framed by comments about peope wanting to put Jesus to death. The only conclusion I could draw was the that bottle was meant by the gospel writers to serve as a symbol of Jesus life and body. The story is followed by the Last Supper where Jesus draws attention to the sacrificial nature of his body himself, but the story of the bottle of perfume seems to draw attention to the wastefulness of the sacrifice. Judas (and other disciples in the one account) mention how the bottle could have benefitted the poor. Earlier in his ministry, this is what Jesus used his power for--to benefit the poor, the hungry and the sick. But now is the time when the full sacrifice is to be made.

Thinking about this made me think immediately about how unpragmatic christian doctrine often can be. While we are often called to minister to the poor when we can, that is only done in service to the gospel. We do not completely devote ourselves to the good of other people, but to the service of God, following in Jesus example. Often this will mean sqandering resources which could have been used better. I can think of no more poignant example than that of Endo's priest in Silence who must choose between saving the lives of Japanese converts and honoring Jesus through refusing to spit and trample on an image. The temptation to think that we have the power to do great good in the world is a very strong one.