Very pleased with this. I’ll have more about it when it’s released in August, but until then…
I have some books left from a talk I gave today…if you’re interested, you can find and purchase them here, along with some other random stock.
What I have:
On other book-related matters:
I don’t have any copies of the Pope Benedict XVI children’s books, but you can follow the links on the right sidebar. They are really nice, and perfect for First Communion…even now.
Posted in Amy Welborn, Books, Catholicism, Good Friday, Lent, Pinterest, Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Saints, Writing, tagged books, Lent, Pope Benedict XVI, Reading on February 12, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Richard Russo has long been one of my favorite writers. Nobody’s Fool is one of the great 20th century American novels: truthful, funny and redemptive. Straight Man leaves me helpless with laughter. He’s very recently released a digital novella called Nate in Venice - available for Kindle here and Nook here. Read it the other night.
It was pleasant to be back in Venice (the setting of his Bridge of Sighs) with Richard Russo for an hour or so, even though the descriptions were less detailed than those you’d find in any travel guide - narrow streets, campos, bridges, squid-ink pasta, getting lost…disappointing in that respect, then.
Nate is a retired college professor on a Biennale-related tour of the city with a group that includes his estranged brother. The often mysterious Venice is the setting, then, for some other mysteries: what was the incident back at the college that resulted in great trouble for Nate? What’s the problem with his brother?
The mysteries are mostly solved and the novella is, as I said, enjoyable but ultimately unsatisfying – but unsatisfying in a way that would probably please any author – it was unsatisfying because, as a novella, it just wasn’t enough. Once introduced to Nate and the others in the group and in Nate’s family, I wanted to spend more time with them, watch and listen as they plunged more deeply into Venice and then travel to Rome. That’s the case with any good book. But Nate in Venice, gave me just enough time to get to know these characters more than I would in a short story. A short story is also often focused so sharply that the reader is satisfied enough when the specific questions raised by the author are answered = when he shuts the light off and shuts the door, we’re content to leave with him. But here, there was just enough richness and breadth to plant the desire for more.
Which is, depending on how you look at it, either a good thing, or a bad thing, or both.
There’s a vulgar term used pretty prominently in this novella - since it’s a term invented by Nate’s brother, it’s intended to show us something about him. certainly, but it did seem forced to me and might offend some readers. So be warned.
Nate in Venice (I keep wanting to type Nate the Great…) is a digital book, which is kind of ironic, considering Russo’s battles against Amazon last year.
It’s part of a series of shorter fiction and non-fiction available through a site called Byliner. Looks interesting.
I’ve recently accomplished some amazing feats, long out of my grasp: I’ve finished reading several books that I’ve started. Fiction, even.
Wonderful Fool is by Shusaku Endo - the author of the great Silence. It’s in the Odd Christ Figure Confounds and Confuses genre. The translation was pretty flat, but the story – a Frenchman enters into the lives of a pair of Japanese siblings – was interesting enough. It was predictable in some ways (because, of course, you don’t have to think too hard to predict how a plot featuring a Christ figure is going to end), but the Japanese setting and strangeness of Gaston is intriguing, and I have to admit that there is a little twist at the end that really does pack a punch.
The Infinite Tides is a rather lengthy, floridly-written novel about an astronaut whose daughter dies while he is up in space. It’s essentially about how a man who sees reality through the prism of numbers – their patterns, structure, shape and color – is slapped in the face by another, unquantifiable reality.
I do think it was overwritten and just a bit showy – sometimes fiction authors who are incorporating a particular discipline – from, say, beekeeping to, say, mathematics – overdo the technical material, and I’d say that’s the case here. I have to qualify that by saying that of course there’s a purpose to the mental musings, since we’re in the fellow’s head and the author is working hard to help us *see* life through this character’s perspective, framed in questions of mathematical structure and the experience of space, but it about a third too much – if I can resort to numbers to describe it.
Some books begin well and peter out – I experienced the reverse with this one. I was borderline annoyed through much of the first half, but felt it ended very strongly, as Astronaut Keith, in the company of other interesting characters, experiences what I would say is a subtle spiritual epiphany, whether or not that’s what the author intended.
We finished Julius Caesar, but not before watching available clips of the RSC 2012 production , in which the play is set in a modern African nation. I think it looks magnificent. The inflections and accents lend themselves quite well to Elizabethan English, and the setting doesn’t seem forced at all. Seems to fit. I see that the production is coming to the US this spring…to BAM and THE Ohio State University…hmmmm….field trip to Columbus? It could happen….
We’re on The Tempest now. We won’t be reading the whole thing, I don’t think. We watched the BBC animated version, read through the goofy kids’ version, and I’m going to check out the Coville retelling from the library. We’ll read some excerpts and watch the episode of Shakespeare Uncovered - airing here tomorrow night – in which Trevor Nunn discusses the play. They’ll Do Some Art – it lends itself to that. I am curious enough about the Julie Taymor version to probably take a look at it myself, but I don’t think I’ll subject the boys to it. Maybe a scene or two, but probably not the whole thing.
I hope I’ll soon be able to tell you about Ann Engelhart’s and my new book coming out in the late summer – title has been hammered out, at least. Cover should follow within a couple of months.
Now we have to start working on the next one!!
Finally, some more Vintage Catholic for you - a 7th grade textbook published in 1935 by MacMillan, part of The Christ Life Series in Religion. Authors are the famed liturgist Dom Virgil Michel OSB, another Benedictine, and Dominican sisters.
Note the tone. It treats the young reader, not as consumer or client to be served or pandered to, but as a part of the Church with a vital role to play and a spiritual life capable of “courageous penance.” I really love the paragraphs on p. 146 that set the global scene for the season. I’ll post more over the next few days.If you click on the images, full-screen, readable versions should come up.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
Well, I was going to go crazy and scan all sorts of pages from this for your benefit and enjoyment, but then I discovered...it’s still in print! Which is a good thing, because it’s a treasure, but it also means it’s copyrighted, so I can’t scan with abandon.
(Update: See update below before you order…it’s apparently not the exact same)
This was one of my mother’s many cookbooks. I don’t think she ever used it, but it was there, stuffed on the shelf between various very mod 60′s volumes about chafing dishes, fondue pots and gelatin molds and such. It was published by the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in 1945, and while it doesn’t feature those great woodcuts of which I’m such a fan in earlyish and mid-century Catholic lit, it’s an invaluable glimpse into the era, as the first sentence of the Preface indicates:
This book is an extension of the Missal, Breviary and Ritual because the Christian home is an extension of the Mass, choir and sacramentals.
That era being clearly resistant to stereotype and caricatures of an unengaged laity. As the author herself says in the very next paragraph, We need not shed tears over the past; neither should we exalt the present as the zenith of perfection or condemn it as the nadir of depravity.
Anyway – the first Lent page is below. The text is substantial, the recipes – for the most part – still interesting. On the page that follows this one, the difference between now and then is unmistakable as the author encourages the consumption of whole wheat bread during Lent despite the relatively high cost and difficulty finding it!
There may be a health food store in a town of 1000,000 which bakes a whole grain loaf at 23 cents, but that is not for the majority nor for the poor….
(She recommends, of course, baking it yourself – after you find a miller who can grind the flour for you!)
I’m assuming the new edition is identical to the original – the reviews on the site indicate as much – but no promises, of course, since I’ve not seen it.
So ends the year with Christ in the kitchen. What we have cooked we have made for His glory and the spread of His kingdom. This way of living is but one path which leads our minds and hearts to His love. We have not “feasted sumptuously every day,” but we have held both fast and festival in due season. When great occasions arise, as they do so often in the liturgical year, “it is fit to bring hither the fatted calf and kill it and eat and make merry.” For Christianity is a happiness untold, not only to be tasted at the eternal banquet, but also in some small measure at our little festivals in time. So with Christ at our table may He bless us and say:
“Eat thy bread with joy and
Drink thy wine with gladness,
Because thy works please God.”
Apparently the reprint is not…a reprint. From the comments, Jennifer of the blog “Family Food for Feast and Feria”
This is my favorite cookbook of all time! It’s also my favorite liturgical year book. I based my whole history undergrad thesis on this book and the publisher, NCRLC. I’ve written about this book several times,
, this being my sadly neglected food blog.
This book stemmed from the Liturgical Movement, and was the first American Catholic cookbook of its kind. All other liturgical cookbooks that follow never reach the heights of this book. It’s so family oriented, and helps connect the American to her rich Catholic culture. But Florence Berger makes you realize this isn’t a dead culture, not looking back in the past, but it’s a living connection, because we are part of the Mystical Body.
Sadly, the book that is currently being reprinted is not the original. All the recipes are revised, and if that isn’t good enough, the text is edited, chopped up, and lovely bits and pieces are removed. You will get some taste of the beautiful book, but not the fullness of the original. I can’t understand how they can label it a reprint if it’s fully revised. I’ve compared the original with the revised and just cried to see how much was changed.
While this book does not treat only Florence Berger’s books, “Cultivating Soil and Soul: Twentieth-century Catholic Agrarians Embrace the Liturgical Movement” by Michael J. Woods gives some background history “Cooking for Christ” that I find so interesting! The entire book is wonderful as it really gives an understanding of the Liturgical movement and the connections and role of the NCRLC.
I don’t know if it was my subconscious working or not, but I just realized the irony of how, after I finished reading aloud A Wrinkle in Time, I immediately grabbed Five Children and It as a follow-up.
The irony (just realized) is that in both books, children are confronted by a strange creature and in both books, that creature is referred to as “It.”
(Although to be precise, in Nesbit’s book, the creature is not referred to as “It,” since it has a name – but there’s the title, and so there. )
No, that’s not ironic. The irony is that I turned to Nesbit’s novel with great relief after just barely getting through A Wrinkle in Time without screaming once.
I don’t know if I’d read Wrinkle as a child. I probably had, but I don’t remember it. The copy we have on hand belonged to my daughter, who read all of L’Engle’s series, and enjoyed them.
I didn’t. Not this one, not particularly. Er, not at all.
I’ve been thinking about why, because I’m surprised, myself. I thought I would like it more. No, let’s be honest. I thought it would be better than it was. I found the actual writing flat, prosaic, at times didactic, and not at all a pleasure to read aloud. I appreciated the faith-thrust, and the truth of it, but was put off by what struck me as a not-very-organic and almost arbitrary world-construction. This is something that often puts me off from any kind of fiction with even the barest hint of fantasy/sci-fi – the question of the limits of power. It’s something I’m always looking for – in order for such a work to make sense, it seems to me you have be so careful about what is allowed in your world and what is not, and what the limits of the powers of your creatures are, or else your reader will be thinking, “Well, why don’t they just…..?????” I mean, if you have the power to do this extraordinary thing, you need to make it very clear why you are able to do this and not that…or else I’m checking out.
And for me, aside from the uninteresting prose, that was a problem with Wrinkle. The book is intended to spur us to consider our own “powers” to combat evil via love, to open our own weaknesses to grace and thereby be empowered to retrieve the lost who are in the clutches of “IT” – but for me, it just didn’t translate well into a pseudo-magical realm. I was glad to be done with it.
A Wrinkle in Time also seems to me to be The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit for tweens. There’s nothing wrong with that. I endorse that message. However, times have changed. L’Engle’s work hits on the temptation of conformity at the price of the loss of free will. Always timeless, but in the way in which she wrote it – very mid-century. I would suggest that a more contemporary rendering would hit on a double deception. Not only is the idea that one finds true happiness in ceding freedom false – one must also be hypercritical of and on guard against the cultural and social deception of nonconformity. Let’s put it this way: Contemporary culture is rife with subcultures that appeal to the desire to be noncomformist by expecting and even demanding internal conformity.
Moving on to the other “It” – a Psammead.
People – if you haven’t introduced yourself or your children to E. Nesbit, please do so. This book is a fantastic place to begin. I believe this is the fourth time I’ve read it aloud, and it continues to be a blast, and not just because I revel in playing with various British accents in the telling. This book was written over a hundred years ago, but it is unbelievably fresh and funny – telling the story of a bunch of siblings who happen upon a creature that will grant them wishes – wishes that inevitably go haywire because, you know, “you can’t always get what you want” – and with a Psammead and your own bungled self-understanding – you never do.
(Nesbit’s work was the inspiration for the Half Magic series, which is also good, but not as…)
Don’t be put off by the fact that the books have been around so long. As I said, they are fantastically written, very accessible and quite funny. It’s interesting for me to watch my listeners as it slowly dawns on them what will go wrong this time with this set of wishes…and to work out what they would wish in order to get exactly what they want. Yeah. They wish!
So. Two “Its.” Both present the reader with the truth of the challenges they face, day after day, both personified by an “It” : L’Engle’s IT is…what? The force that would tempt us to believe that happiness lies in surrendering free will, a force which can be overcome only with love and giving over our weaknesses to the power of grace. Absolutely true! But…Nesbit’s “It,” in its every-dayness - that is, the constant human challenge to understand our limits and battle against greed and thoughtless desire – appeals to me more, though, especially since the writing is so much more delicious. And…since I can pull out various British accents in the process: Win.
Screenshot of the Kindle app on my IPad:
(And in case you’re wondering…well…why aren’t I giving away a copy? Well, er, I don’t seem to have any yet. Sorry!)