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.
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