Books and Book Reviews: June 2004 Archives

Recommendation: Every person in St. Blogsland, without exception, and each and every member of your family should have and read this book over and over and over again. It is undoubtedly one of the most persuasive, moving, interesting, well-considered, accurate, and helpful books I have ever read on the subject of using the Bible as subject matter for prayer. (And considering how many such I have read, this is quite an accolade.)

Stinissen's book is one of the very finest on the subject I have read. Every line is a gem. There are surprises and sudden revelations at nearly every turn. The writing is gloriously succinct (the entire book is only 120 pages long), and yet filled with helpful insights.

The last chapter of the book alone should be reprinted in a handy pocket size and carried in the shirt pocket or purse of every Catholic who is at all serious about the Christian vocation and the desire to see God and do God's will. This chapter--"On Regular Bible Reading"--is not only the same old same old--trying to make you feel guilty about how infrequently you actually peruse the divine word, but it is practical guidebook about how to pray using Bible passages.

I have taken a long time to read the entire book. I dwelt on sentences and passages that spoke volumes. When I finished the last chapter, I picked up my Bible and with resolution turned to the shorter Pauline Epistles. And then something spoke to me and said, "No, turn back." So I did--to the letter of Romans. The understanding of that readins I shall try to share later in the day.

In six short chapters, Stinissen teaches the importance of Bible reading, the history, the history of interpretation, ways of understanding the bible, ways of studying the Bible, and finally, ways of using the Bible to really speak to God. Each chapter is a model of clarity and solid teaching and most give abundant examples of the theoretical issues (few in number) introduced in the text.

As this was a Liguori text, and I have in the past been "burned" by some books from the press, I kept waiting for the moment when I would say, "Ah, so that is the agenda." If there is an agenda other than that of the Church herself, I failed to detect it.

I was, in short, blessed by reading this book, as you will be as well. For further references, comments, and excerpts from this magnificent book, take a look here and enjoy. But above all else, buy, read, and use the book to improve your prayer life and your contact and understanding of the Bible.

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Reading List

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All Hallow's Eve Charles Williams--Second or third venture through--by far and away the best of Williams's works and very highly recommended.

The Crucible of Creation Simon Conway Morris--Toss aside your Wonderful Life and idiosyncratic glance at the Burgess shale by the scientist best known for his agenda and step into the world of one of the people who was instrumental in the study of and understanding of the Burgess Shale fauna. It also helps that he is a Christian so you don't feel the grate of the Marxist contingency system pressing down upon you. If you're interested in the Burgess Shale, this is the (piopular) book to read about it.

St. Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way Dwight Longnenecker--The author is, I believe, on one of the team blogs, though I don't remember which one. The book is splendid. It's one of those I am reading very slowly.

The Time Traveler's Wife Forget the author, but this is for a book group.

Seeking Spiritual Growth through the Bible Wilfrid J. Harrington, O.P. This is one I may excerpt in the next couple of days.


Christian Perfection and Contemplation Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.

Science of the Cross St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Utopia Lincoln Child

The Dust of Eden Thomas Sullivan

And a series of mysteries by Bruce Alexander.

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Here is one of the more entertaining books I've chanced across in a couple of years. Uncategorizable--one might refer to it as science fiction, as there are elements of its narractive technique and sense of the world. But perhaps the closest one can come to descirbing it is to refer to the work as dissonant metanarrative in which disparate elements combine to produce a rather surrealist and yet oddly coherent and compelling narrative.

Welcome to the world of Thursday Next, veteran of the 130 some-odd year Crimean war and Litertec Special Operative. This is a world in which forging a Byronic lyric is a major offense; in which the entire audience for a Shakespearian drama is filled with actor who hop up on stage or from the audience willy-nilly and act their parts; in which hundreds of John Milton's gather to celebrate his poetry; in which some people can enter the world of novels and some characters from novels can emerge into the real world and affect events. This is the world in which the completely amoral Acheron Hades operates. Using the Prose Portal invented by Thursday's uncle Mycroft Acheron spends a bit of time kidnapping and ransoming minor characters from a Dickens Novel, and finally makes an assualt on Jane Eyre herself.

There's no way to adequately describe the wonders you are likely to find in this marvelous work. The prose is sprightly and sinuous. The author appears to have had a great deal of enjoyment in the composition of the work and he shares that enthusiasm with the reader. It is fill with puns and allusions and all sorts of gimmicks that make the novel just thrum along. You will encounter the People's Republic of Wales, time travel, chronological storms that can be harnessed with a basketball, and all manner of interesting metanarrative and "breaking the frame."

A very, very fine and entertaining beach book, or a work for serious consideration. Either way, an overall entertaining romp through a highly interesting, inventive, and imaginative universe. If you are up for a challenging read, consider this work--it will be worth your time.

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On Modern Thought


From G. K. Chesterton--the Essay on Pope in Twelve Types--

"Have we really learnt to think more broadly? Or have we only learnt to spread our thoughts thinner? I have a dark suspicion that a modern poet might manufacture an admirable lyric out of almost every line of Pope."

From G.K. Chesterton on Walter Scott, "It would perhaps be unkind to inquire whether the level of the modern man of letters, as compared with Scott, is due to the absence of valleys or the absence of mountains. But in any case, we have learnt in our day to arrange our literary effects carefully, and the only point in which we fall short of Scott is in the incidental misfortune that we have nothing particular to arrange."

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Declline and Fall Evelyn Waugh


Evelyn Waugh's first novel--what can one say?

It is both humorous and in some ways biting. Peter Pennyfeather is a prototypical anti-hero who not only is not in control of his life, but who doesn't even show the slightest inclination toward wanting control of it. Tossed out of Oxford because of a prank played one him during one of the house rivalry nights, he assumes the position of every fallen School Man and wastrel--Public School teacher. Eventually he meets and desires to marry an aristocratic woman who runs a rather dubious operation in South America as the source of her income. In a turn of events, he takes the fall for her and winds up in prison. The first four weeks he spends in a highly regimented solitray confinement during which he is told when to eat, drink, bathe, sleep, work, and read. Needless to say, he finds this style of life wonderfully comforting and requests that solitary continue indefinitely.

This, in broad strokes, is the main line of the novel, which, like all of Waughs work, is rally about the most serious things in life. Waugh seems to have little sympathy for, but a genuine liking of, his main character. The others in the book, he cares for even less. With the satiric bite we was to become famous for he skewers each one of them.

The book was amusing through and through, while throwing some very sharp darts at all and sundry. I'm told by the essay referenced below that this book was written before Waugh was a member of the Catholic Church, and the attitudes toward matters devotional and the fate of the one clergyman of the novel both tend to support this notion.

If you want something on the lighter side that still has sufficient depth to be ruminated over for some days with great profit to the reader, this is a recommended work. Some may not care for the sharpness of the satire, I was, at first put off by it. (The first Waugh I ever read was The Loved One.) But gradually one gets into the spirit of it and understands Waugh's point, however exaggerately it may be made.

For an essay about Waugh and his works by the questionable, but occasionally entertaining Christopher Hitchens, see here.

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Evan Help Us--Rhys Bowen


England, and in this case Wales, are undoubtedly the most dangerous places on Earth for those dwelling in small idyllic villages with impeccably laid out gardens. Murders abound and there is a murderer around every corner ready to set to rights some ancient wrong or to cover up some other dastardly deed.

In a sense, this is a more accurate lens through which to image human nature. On the surgace everything seems calm and placid. Underneath everything is roiling and seething--a mire of sin and evil.

Evan Evans is a constable in this duplicitous world. Also know as Evans-the-Law to distinguish him from Evans-the-Meat and Evans-the-Dairy. Not one, but two murders of recently arrived foreigners (men from London) occur within a very short period of time and it is up to Evans to keep the calm and clear the name of innocent and beleaguered villagers.

A very pleasant mystery in the Golden Age tradition. Well-plotted with a few unexpected twists (again revelatory of the dark side of human nature), the story is a leisurely tour of the village of Llanfair the lesser. (Llanfair the greater has title to the town with the longest name in the world.)

If you're interested in light mysteries, or in Wales, or just in a pleasant read, this book will serve you well.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Books and Book Reviews category from June 2004.

Books and Book Reviews: May 2004 is the previous archive.

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