Present Reading

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My present reading list is quite short, although the "add-ons" tends to grow.

Presently I am reading

Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt, which is a kind of lliterary biography of Shakespeare's "cryptic" life. Using a variety of evidences, Greenblatt teases out what can be known of the Bard's enigmatic existence. Not prominent enough in his time to have had a lot of serious literary attention, most of the great biographies written many years after his death and the death of those whom knew him intimately, Greenblatt relies on documentary evidence and traces and suggestions in the plays to suggestion the shape of a Shakespearian life. Very fine reading.

Great Expectation Charles Dickens. I last read this book in 8th grade and recall only the merest outlines of its events and the ending not at all. So I thought it was a good time to reread this, considered one of Dicken's finest, and certainly spare by comparison to The Pickwick Papers or Nicholas NIckelby or even the great autobiographical David Copperfield.

Msgr. Ronald Knox Evelyn Waugh I shall probably give this up as a lost cause. For some reason Waugh's biographies leave me absolutely cold. They seem to be a narrated chain of events with little real feeling for their subject. I don't feel as though I am growing to know Knox through this biography so much as I am growing to know how little Evelyn Waugh wanted to do with the world of people. Disjointed and unclear, the only other work by Waugh that I found so completely unreadable was the biography of St. Edmund Campion, about whom I remember nothing from the book.

Speaking of St. Edmund Campion, and interesting passage in Will in the World suggests that it was possible that the path of this Saint and that of Shakespeare himself crossed at one point in Lancashire.

from Will in the World
Stephen Greenblatt

The Heskeths and the Hoghtons: it is altogether possible, then, that in the guarded spaces of one or the other of these houses Will would have seen the brilliant, hunted missionary for himself. Campion's visits were clandestine, to be sure, but they were not narrowly private affairs; they brought together dozens, even hundreds of believers, many of whom slept in nearby barns and outbuildings to hear Campion preach in the early morning and to receive communion from his hands. The priest--who would have changed out of his servant's clothes into clerical vestments--would sit up half the night hearing confessions, trying to resolve moral dilemmas, dispensing advice. Was one of those with whom he exchanged whispered words the young man from Stratford-upon-Avon?

. . . For his part, whether he actually met Campion in person or only heard about him from the flood of rumor circulating all through 1589 and 1581, Will may have registered a powerful inner resistance as well as admiration. Campion was brave, charismatic, persuasive, and appealing; everyone who encountered him recognized these qualities, which even now shine out from his words. But he was also filled with a sense that he knew the one eternal truth, the thing worth living and dying for, the cause to which he was willing cheerfully to sacrifice others as well as himself. To be sure, he did not seek out martyrdom. It was not his wish to return to England; he was doing valuable work for the church, he told Cardinal William Allen, in his teaching post at Prague. But he was a committed soldier in a religious order organized for battle, and when his general commanded him to throw his body into the fight, against wildly uneven odds, he marched off serenely. He would have taken with him young Shakespeare or anyone else worth the taking. He was a fanatic or, more accurately, a saint. And saints, Shakespeare understood all his life, were dangerous people.

Or perhaps, rather, it would be better to say that Shakespeare did not entirely understand saints, and that what he did understand he did not entirely like. In the huge panoply of characters in his plays, there are striking few who would remotely qualify. . . .

As well, I continue with Sr. Ruth Burrows's Ascent to Love and I have about five other Carmelite source lined up behind that one. Also looking to Brookhiser's brief biography of Washington and Joseph Ellis's Founding Brothers. Finally, Anna Karenina continues in a languorous way in the background.

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Great Expectations is my favorite Dickens novel.

Appreciate the heads up on the Knox bio; that was always on my tentative list, but your de-recommendation is enough to move it off.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 3, 2005 7:50 AM.

The Ten Commandments Controversy was the previous entry in this blog.

For Those Interested in St. Edmund Campion is the next entry in this blog.

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