"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Reads, Update #2

We have now passed the second quarter of the year, meaning that half the year is over.  How time flies.  My update from last quarter is here and the initial plan at the beginning of the year can be found here  

I guess I’m behind on my reading, though it’s hard to say since I’m in the middle of a number of works.  The big thing that has altered my schedule is that I started a new project at work, which has really sucked up my time and energy.  There’s a lot to do at the beginning of a project.  Once I get things in an orderly and rhythmic mode, I should have more time.  Plus I’ve been captivated by the baseball season, and since I decided this year to purchase Major League Baseball’s all games access, I can finally watch all the Baltimore Orioles games.  That’s usually what I do at night now, watch my beloved Orioles play.

I read two full length books this quarter.  One was a non-fiction book, The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times by a Benedictine abbot, Dom Jean-Charles Nault.  As I mentioned in my last update, this was an unplanned read decided by the Catholic Thought book club at Goodreads where I participate.  Acedia is curtly defined as sloth or laziness, but really it’s a richer term.  Wikipedia gets at the definition as a “listlessness” that prevents one from performing one’s duties, or as with the Desert Fathers, where the term originated, prevents one from praying or performing one’s devotions.  Wikipedia notes that Aldous Huxley identifies acedia as one of “the main diseases of the modern age.”  Abbott Nault agrees, and his argument was convincing to me.  With all the free time we have in contemporary life, and this need for constant stimulation, acedia overcomes the soul to where one’s devotions and responsibilities become stale.  Failed marriages and subsequent divorce is a product of acedia.  This was a fascinating read.

The other full length work I read was Jack London’s novel, White Fang.  When I selected this work, I was under the impression it was a novella, like its complementary work, The Call of the Wild.   White Fang turned out to be around 250 pages, definitely a full scale work.  The reason these two works are considered complementary is because The Call of the Wild has a dog, Buck, go from domestication to wild while White Fang takes a wild wolfdog, White Fang, to domestication.  It was a real fun read to be inside the mind and point of view of a wolfdog—and London captures it well—and parts of the story were brutal and hard to take, but ultimately the story turns on the love of a man for the dog. The brutality shows how brutal nature can be, and the love shows how positive a civilizing effect can be, and how much love is at the heart of civilization.

What’s interesting is that I read nine short stories this quarter.  I do have posts on a good portion of them on my blog.  I’ve been reading my poetry read for the year (Some Desperate Glory) and have posted a couple of poems.  I read the middle fifty psalms (51-100) in two translations.  I have not made much headway on left over works from last year, the Julius Caesar biography and annual book on writing, Artful Sentences

The major read I’m undergoing right now is Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a family, which I am finding to be a great novel.  I’m somewhere over a third of the way through.  I also posted my initial thoughts on this novel, here.  

I’ve also added a couple of unplanned reads.  They are both non-fiction works.  One is a biography, Saint Dominic by Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P. and the other a devotional book, Learning the Virtues that Lead You to God by Romano Guardini. 

2016 is the 800th anniversary of the Dominican Order, otherwise known as the Order of Preachers, and I needed to do something to commemorate the event.  The Dominicans mean a lot to me.  St. Catherine of Siena, the patron of this blog, was a Third Order Dominican, and of all the religious orders—and there are a lot of them, each with their own charism—the Dominican Order fits my nature best.  I’ll have to put out a blog to fully explain why.

RomanoGuardini was an Italian born priest who grew up in Germany and remained there.  He is a noted author of many spiritual works.  I believe I saw that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was his student at one time, but I am sure the Holy Father was a great admirer of Guardini’s work.  So this work fits the overall theme of this year’s reads of German authors.  Learning the Virtues was a book I had on my “to-read” list but when it became the Book Club read at Catholic Thoughts group at Goodreads this month, I had to make room in my reading schedule to fit it in. 

As you might imagine, I have now screwed up my annual reading plans.  Still I hope to get to the third volume of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, “Marius.”  I will certainly finish the psalms this quarter, and either I will finish the Julius Caesar biography or move to Dante’s Paradisio.  I’ll decide when I get to it.

Here’s what I have read so far this year and upcoming plans.

Completed 2nd Quarter:

“A House of Gentlefolks,” a short story by Evelyn Waugh. 
The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times, a non-fiction book by Jean-Charles Nault, O.S.B.
White Fang, a novella by Jack London.
The Book of Psalms, (Psalms 51-100) KJV and Ignatius RSV Translations.
“Hallelujah, Family,” a short story by Ludmilla Petrushevkaya, translated by Anna Summers.
“Wingstroke,: a short story by Vladimir Nabokov. 
“A House of Gentlefolks,” a short story by Evelyn Waugh.
“Miles City, Montana,” a short story by Alice Munro. 
“The Cabuliwallah,” a short story by Rabindranath Tagore. 
“1933,” a short story by Mavis Gallant.
“The Man Born Blind,” a short story by C. S. Lewis. 
“After the Storm,” a short story by Earnest Hemingway.

Currently Reading:

Julius Caesar: Life of a Colossus, a biography by Adrian Goldsworthy.
The Book of Psalms, a book of the Old Testament, KJV and Ignatius RSV Translations.
Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, a non-fiction book on writing by Virginia Tufte.
“A House of Gentlefolks,” a short story by Evelyn
Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew, a book of history and collected poetry by Max Egremont.
Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, a novel by Thomas Mann.
Saint Dominic, a biography by Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P.
Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God, a non-fiction book of Christian devotion by Romano Guardini.
The Book of Psalms, (Psalms 101-150) KJV and Ignatius RSV Translations.

Upcoming Plans:

 “Gods,” a short story by Vladimir Nabokov.
 “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
“The Light of the World,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
“Marius,” Volume III of Les Misérables, a novel by Victor Hugo.

Completed: First Quarter

“Master and Man,” a short story by Leo Tolstoy.
Interior Castle, a non-fiction book on spirituality by St. Theresa of Avila.
“A Cup of Cold Water,” a short story by Edith Wharton.
“In the Garden of the North American Martyrs,” a short story by Tobias Wolff.
To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee.
Prayer for Beginners, a non-fiction book of devotion by Peter Kreeft.

“Saint Dymphna,” a short story by Mary O’Connell.

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