— 1 —
Well, that’s done. Another book in the bag, manuscript sent in on deadline.
What’s next? With this book, the editors are looking at it and within the next couple of months will return the manuscript to me with suggested edits. Then I’ll return it to them, the publisher will produce galleys for me to take one more pass at, and then it will go to press. The goal was a pub date in the fall. It is an illustrated book, and I have no idea how that’s coming along. Once I get a cover and definite pub date, I will let you all know.
I have taken it easy the past couple days except for a flurry of cooking last night, which I recorded on Instagram Stories. I haven’t cooked much since Christmas, but am back in the groove. Made minestrone, bread and my roasted tomatoes last night.
Work-wise, I have a little pamphlet due in a couple of weeks, and then an essay due on March 1.
— 2 —
Lent is coming! Here’s a post from yesterday with links to all my Lent-related material.
I noted a spike this morning for clicks on this post – and I’m glad to see it, although I would have expected the spike next week and not this.
It’s a 2015 post on one of the most inexplicable post-Vatican II liturgical changes (and..there’s a lot of competition on that score) – the total obliteration of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays – the three Sundays preceding the First Sunday of Lent. So for those who celebrate the Extraordinary Form and some Anglicans, I understand, February 12 is Septuagesima Sunday. From a Dappled Things article I cite in the post:
In the chapter titled “The History of Septuagesima,” Dom Guéranger added, “The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.”
Despite the work load, I did do some reading over the past month. I can’t focus on work in the evening anymore, so I might as well read.
First up was Christmas Holiday by Maugham. I read it via one of the Gutenburg sites, violating my determination to Set A Good Example by sitting in the living room in the evening, Bartok softly playing, Reading Real Books Oh, well.
Anyway, this was a very, very interesting book. A little too long, I think, and a bit clunky in tone and format, but cutting. It is a bit of a satire on between-the-wars Britons of a certain class, but more discursive and not as sharp as, say, Waugh. It reminded me a bit of Percy’s Lancelot, simply because a big chunk of it involves someone telling their life story to someone else, and also that the last sentence of the book defines the book and perhaps even redefines your experience of reading it.
It’s not a book I finish and say, “I wish I’d written this book,” but it is a book I finished and thought, “Hmmm…I wish I could write something with that effect.”
— 5 —.
Then was Submission by Houellebecq. A friend had been after me for a while to read it – it was sitting on a display at the library, so there was my sign.
If you’re not familiar with the book, it made quite a stir when it was published in France in 2015 (the day, by the way, of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine) , it’s about, essentially, how Islam could take over France. The central character is a scholar, drifting, unconnected to family, non-religious, mostly unprincipled, still sexually active, but mostly in contexts where he has to pay for it. He is a scholar of the writer J.K. Huysmans, who is very important to Houellebecq – here’s a good article outlining the relationship.
François’s fictional life trajectory mirrors Huysmans’s actual life: dismal living conditions, a tedious job situation, a serviceable imagination, a modicum of success, a proclivity for prostitutes, and, finally, a resigned acceptance of faith. And just as Huysmans put himself into des Esseintes, François is a self-caricature by Houellebecq—with a twist, or, rather, two: François is Houellebecq’s version of himself if he lived Huysmans’s life, in the year 2022.
Houellebecq and Huysmans have much in common, beginning with their ability to infuriate readers. “There’s a general furore!” Huysmans wrote when “À Rebours” was released. “I’ve trodden on everyone’s corns.” Houellebecq, for his part, has enraged, among others, feminists, Muslims, and the Prime Minister of France. There is more to these two writers than mere provocations, however. Huysmans wrote during the rise of laïcité (French secularism), in the Third Republic, when religion was excised from public life. Houellebecq says he is chronicling religion’s return to European politics today. They each have a twisted outlook on the sacred.
I found Submission an interesting and accurate read on social psychology and the current landscape. Yes, this is what so many of us are like now, this is the vacuum that’s been created, and yes, this is how, in some parts of Europe at least, Islam could fill that vacuum, and how post-post-Christians could give into it.
— 6 —
Now, I’m back to the Kindle (in my defense, I looked for this book yesterday at the library, but they didn’t have a copy) reading some Trollope: Miss McKenzie. I’m liking it very much. It’s the usually thinking 19th century treatment of the bind that women found themselves in in relationship to property and independence during the period. This time, we have a woman in her mid-30’s who has spent her adult life so far caring, first for an invalid father, then an invalid brother. After their deaths, she’s inherited a comfortable income. So what should she do? And who will now be interested in this previously invisible woman?
It’s got some great social satire and spot-on skewering of the dynamic in religious groups, especially between charismatic leaders and their followers. I’ll write more when I’m finished with it.
— 7 —
As someone once famously said, and is oft repeated by me, “What a stupid time to be alive.” It’s pretty crazy, and social media doesn’t do anything but make it stupider. If you follow news, you know the daily pattern: 8AM-2PM FREAKOUT OVER THE LATEST followed by 2PM-Midnight – (much quieter) walkback/fact-checking/ – but with the walkbacks getting a fraction of the retweets and reposts than the Freakouts get.
There is not enough time in the day. Really, there isn’t. Add HumblePope to the mix, and Good Lord, what’s a wannabe political and religious commenter to do but make soup and read Trollope?
Well, here’s one contribution to non-stupidity – I first read this as a FB post put up by Professor George, and now it’s been turned into a First Things article on the immigration EO. Helpful. Take a look.
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