Posts Tagged ‘books’

Discussion: The Gulag Archipelago, by Solzhenitsyn

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I’ve just finished reading The Gulag Archipelago, by Solzenitsyn. Somehow it seems a warning to our own time, as well as a record of past inhumanity in the name of so-called progress.

Because of the content of the book, I’m inviting discussion over here instead of over at Suitable For Mixed Company. I’d especially like to hear from those of you who made it through all three volumes.

If you like historical fiction…

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I’ve just read a pretty good specimen of the genre.

If you have any recommendations, I’m always on the lookout for good historical fiction and nonfiction.

Editing history beyond recognition: Mayflower Compact

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2008 at 1:40 pm

If you have a child of school age, and they have a textbook that takes note of “The Mayflower Compact,” will you please compare the text presented there, to the original text? Leaving off the signatures, the original (courtesy The Avalon Project at Yale) reads:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

The subject comes up because yesterday, at a The Truth Project seminar, I was informed that some current textbooks omit references to God or the promotion of the Christian faith, leaving the colonists to be only people out to “plant the first colony” in that part of the world.

If your child has a textbook more or less making Pilgrims out to be secularists out for their own ends, please fill in the gaps yourself. It is a sad thing when a child is given a false heritage. Besides, whether or not you can understand the motivation of early American settlers, can we agree that to baldly misrepresent them by sneaky omissions from their writings is both silly and unfair?

If you do have a textbook with a Dowdified text (i.e. one that uses ellipsis to change the meaning to better suit the editor’s purposes), please do me the favor of dropping into the comments here the name of the book, and what it puts forth as The Mayflower Compact. I have no reason to doubt my source, but I also haven’t got verification yet. Thanks.

Cross-posted at Suitable For Mixed Company (under a different title).

The Tempest and Advent, plus a book review

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2008 at 2:54 pm

From Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature by Anthony Esolen (ISI Books, 2007):

Critics are fond of citing, as the inspiration for The Tempest, accounts of an English shipwreck off Bermuda, and what was hailed as the providential survival of the crew. No doubt Shakespeare had that shipwreck in mind. But far more important to the play are the allusions to scripture throughout. These allusions form a consistent and ironic pattern. In short, this farewell play is also a play of expectation – a play of Advent…

The Book of Common Prayer shows that among the readings Shakespeare would have heard at the obligatory services during Advent and the octave of Christmas were the entire book of Isaiah, the Letter of Jude, the letters of Peter, the gospel passages from Matthew that refer to the Second Coming, and the account in Acts of the travels and the shipwreck of Saint Paul.  Every single important motif of The Tempest is to be found in these readings (particularly in Isaiah 29); there are no exceptions. All point to ends that are beginnings, and many comment ironically upon sinners who live amidst events and, as if they were sleepwalkers, cannot understand them.

The above is from page 123, in a roughly 400 page book. So far, that’s as far as I’ve read. So far, I am having mixed feelings about the book. Much of it is excellent, and mind-stretching, and eloquent, and makes me yearn to read (or reread) books the author is referencing. But Esolen, whose articles and blogging I have long learned from and enjoyed, occasionally detours in this book into the very sorts of mind games, and academic-speak, and what I see as over-analysis, that make me avoid, like the plague, most academic books about literature – seeing strange (and usually ‘earthy’) symbolism here, and deep significance there, in passages that don’t seem to me to need twisting around like that.

On the other hand, the ‘for crying out loud!’ moments (as I call them), have been few and far between, which puts this book way ahead of the pack in that regard.

And, significantly (oh, oh, now I’m claiming to point to significance – it must be catching, do you suppose?… 🙂 ), Esolen brings an understanding of Christianity to a study of books that are built on Christian foundations. He also notes (page 12):

…In the case of Christianity, it is as Chesterton puts it. You had better be in the faith completely or out of it completely. The worst position, if you want to understand it, is to be partly in and partly out, or to have a passing, culturally based familiarity with its surface. You are neither so familiar with it as to probe its depths, nor is it so strange that you are moved to approach it with care. You take the attitude of Petronius, or of “Tertium Quid.” You’ve seen it all before.

Apply a two-dimensional Christianity to the mature allegories of Spenser and Milton, and at once you will discover discrepancies and incoherence… Many such false dilemmas arise because the critic has failed to understand the subtleties of the Christian faith.

And Christianity is the subtlest of faiths, yet of a wondrous simplicity…

Luckily for those of us who aren’t as well-read, or perhaps don’t have the right sort of memory for it, when Esolen dishes up lines like the above-quoted  ‘You take the attitude of Petronius, or of “Tertium Quid”,’ he provides enough context to let us know what he’s talking about. He might expect us to swim in deep waters, but he’s not out there to watch us poor readers drown in the wake of his brilliance. (I’ve read books like that. Or, to be more clear, I’ve tossed aside books like that. Haven’t you?)

The book, as you may guess from the pull quotes, serves up an education on Christianity as well as on literature. And it is nice to read a prolonged meditation on literature written by a man who likes literature, and isn’t just using it to tear apart into little pieces to impress his colleagues. It is also nice to read a scholarly study by someone who hasn’t sold out to the materialist view. Still, there are passages devoted to strange symbolism, to which the well-mannered lady in me objects…

It’s not a book for everyone, and I can’t say it clearly passes a “suitable for mixed company” test, but C.S. Lewis fans in particular might like to give it a go.

Cross-posted at Suitable For Mixed Company.

Rounded up Nov. 7, 2008

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 at 10:22 am

(Do you ever have days where you can’t get back to a draft to get it posted? With my apologies, this is a several-days-strung-together round-up.)

Massively rich, philanthropist rock star’s skyscraper will be on land seized by the government?

Jim Tonkowich muses on reading Brideshead Revisited through bifocals… (There’s a point. Really.) I’d been led to believe that Brideshead Revisited was a book I should avoid like the plague. Perhaps I was misled?

Michael Novak suggests that now is not the time to rehearse grave doubts about the President-elect. I find myself more or less in agreement. Or, as Mark Steyn puts it, “As for us losers, there’s no point going down the right-wing version of Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

That’s not to say we can’t still wonder if the media isn’t a bit too personally invested in Left-wing politics. I wouldn’t know, personally. I asked myself why I was giving the news-cum-entertainment industry so much of my time, and couldn’t come up with a good answer, so these days I give them far less time to try to mislead me or try to convince me that celebrity watching is for some reason important. (Do you understand their obsession with performers? The fascination eludes me.)

I wish I’d linked to this before this election, but (for future reference) there’s something to remember when you vote in the United States of America – lot of blood was shed to turn us into citizens instead of subjects. And there is, indeed, a difference between citizens and subjects (and nothing that says citizens can’t revert to subjects if they aren’t careful).

And nothing says people can’t cross party lines when the party crosses them. Heh. I wish there had been more of them, of course, but, well… you take what you can get, right? I would also like to steal a quote made in passing in this post, because I also depend on a small business for my livelihood: “Sylvia has worked in small business her entire life so she’s a natural Republican; she knows how government just gets in the way of business and free enterprise.” Oh, my, yes. Our costs and headaches are going up in January, again. Even if McCain had won, we were looking at cutting hours of operation and/or getting rid of an employee so that we’d have enough to pay the others. Needless to say, we hope we can hold the line there, but we doubt the Democrats will help matters.

Changing the subject, but only slightly: A bit of info on ethanol mandates and food prices, and changing food supplies. But here’s a countering view on food prices, based on other criteria.

Patrick over at The Paragraph Farmer has had several good posts lately, but the quote I can’t resist is from a pre-election post (with lots of links I should probably go back and read). Sayeth Patrick:

Christians in my own church and elsewhere have been urged to pray for a pro-life outcome “no matter which candidate wins.” Heartfelt advice like that goes a long way toward preserving tax-exempt status in a litigious society, but let’s not kid ourselves: a pro-life outcome with the Republican ticket is a good bet, while a pro-life outcome in the aftermath of an Obama/Biden victory requires a miracle of the kind that slapped Saul upside the head on the road to Damascus. 

I’d say that cuts to the car chase.

Patrick also has some wisdom from Michael Crichton on science versus consensus.