Books and Book Reviews: December 2003 Archives

Time to regale you once again with my extensive reading list. I thought I'd feature just two selections that I am presently reading and enjoying. One of them by a St. Blogger (I think).

Meet Dorothy Day by Woodene Koenig-Bricker (I'm certain I've seen this name in one of my less-frequented places (H.M.S?) is one of those biographies that seems "just enough." By that I mean that it is a relatively short, nicely written introduction to Ms. Day's life and work. It is not fawning and even seems to hold Ms. Day a a respectable distance as it discusses aspects of her thought and life work that may be less-than-appealing to some. The text is liberally sprinkled with quotation from Ms. Day's writings. The overall effect is to shine a new light on Ms. Day--a light that is not overly flattering, but which is a greater help in understanding this remarkably complex and faith-driven woman than many of the premature hagiographies I've happened upon. I've never known quite what to make of Ms. Day. Ms Koenig-Bricker's book has helped me to begin to get a grip on this.

I have only just started the second book, Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling. Initial impressions suggest that Julius II is one of those popes who, along with Alexander VI, forced the hand of the reformationists (or if you preferred, lit a fire underneath them.) Protestantism may have been a greivous blow to the body of Christ, but simony, and the sale of indulgences to furnish luxury for the Pope are greivous blows themselves. Now, I haven't done the research to find out if these accusations are accurate, so I shouldn't be talking out of Church. It is evident that Mr. King is, if partisan to anything, partisan to Michelangelo.

Whatever the case may be, the book is well written, entertaining, and highly interesting. The research seems impressive if not necessarily impeccable . (On this I have no grounding to comment, I would have to do my own work, and even then, I would be somewhat dubious as to my own conclusions based on so little investigation.) If you have an interest in renaissance art and politics, this may be the book for you.

(A snippet from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia entry might shine a somewhat better light on many of the issues:

In addition he was commendatory Abbot of Nonantola, Grottaferrata, and Gorze, and drew the revenues of various other ecclesiastical benefices. These large incomes, however, he did not spend in vain pomp and dissipation, as was the custom of many ecclesiastics of those times. Giuliano was a patron of the fine arts, and spent most of his superfluous money in the erection of magnificent palaces and fortresses. Still his early private life was far from stainless, as is sufficiently testified by the fact that before he became pope he was the father of three daughters, the best known of whom, Felice, he gave in marriage to Giovanni Giordano Orsini in 1506.

A third book, I have not yet started, but it looked interesting. Called The Aquinas Prescription by Gerald Vann O.P., it looks like a nice short biography and appreciation of thought. I have two different comments, unrelated to the text. One is a question to those who may know. Why do I hear so little of Gerald Vann amongst the O.P. circles? Is it that his works appealed primarily to a lay audience (and I mean that both in intellectual and religious terms)? Or is there perhaps some greater flaw?

Second, why does Sophia Press insist on tampering with the great books of the past? Almost everything I get from them has been in some way altered--the index has been dropped, the text has been abridged, the copy had been manhandled. If these texts were not worthy in the first place, why present them. Why take a monumental work and present it without an index. I beleive this disservice was done to Dave Armstrong's work on Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. It is presented without an index which cripples it for apologetics purposes. What are these editors thinking? What could possibly be the reason for such treatment?

My only comment to Sophia--leave the texts alone. If something embarasses you or seems archaic to modern ears trust the readers of your texts to discern. TAN books certainly does and as an editorial policy, it is commendable. When you edit, you might consider explanatory notes and, if anything, expanding the index. Yes, I know it is tedious and terrible work, but a little SGML or even XML and you'll be able to handle without any trouble at all.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Books and Book Reviews category from December 2003.

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