Friday, December 29, 2006

Books [2006]

Since last January or so I've been keeping a running list of books just read on my sidebar. Back when my template went haywire, though, I lost about half the list. I salvaged the missing pieces from memory and saved them in a Word document, updating the file as I slowly rebuilt and carried on with the sidebar list. Today I plugged in the last few books for the year (I'm still reading two, but I doubt they'll be finished by midnight Sunday, so I'll add them to next year's list).

The total is 84.

I include in this number six books, classics and philosophy mostly, that I only read parts of for classes. (Is this cheating? I hope not. Besides, I put a lot of work into reading them--not to mention writing about them--and so I feel that they ought to receive at least credit in the scope of this year's reading life.) The thought of linking 84 books at once is too petrifying to even consider. I leave you to find them for yourself. Save for being assigned to categories, the books are in no particular order. Notes on the books are included at my own discretion (just because a book doesn't have a note attached doesn't mean I disliked it). And for the sake of decisions deferred, I combined the fiction/classics category.

  • A Severe Mercy
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • The Man Who Was Thursday
  • Till We Have Faces
  • The Secret Garden
Children's Books. All of these save the last were morning read-alouds from those not-so-long-ago pre-college days.
  • The Penderwicks
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
  • Flame over Tara. Madeleine Polland is a charming children's author who can tell corking good Irish stories.
  • Perloo the Bold
  • Jacob Have I Loved. It made me cry. I loved every minute of it. I especially loved the ending.
Shakespeare. It was a remarkable year for Shakespeare and I at four plays. Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet were read aloud: in the kitchen, in the living room, with siblings and a cousin.
  • Macbeth
  • Twelfth Night
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • As You Like It

  • Summa Theologiae, Questions on God (in part). I found Aquinas hard and slightly intimidating. But I didn't sell the book back at the end of the term. He's probably still in my future somehow.
  • Republic (in part). I liked Plato's occasional riffs on happiness. Book VII (his famous Line and Sun analogies) was a turning point for my interest in philosophy. I had never had to work so hard at understanding something. I hated it. And, in the end, I loved it.
  • Nicomachean Ethics (in part). This was my favorite of our books for the term. Aristotle and I get along well, which was good, since I spent the month of November rereading and memorizing the same page of Irwin's translation and close reading other pages.
  • Confessions (in part)
  • The Dialogues of Plato. My first foray into philosophy this year and a pretty unpleasant one at that. It really does help to go through this stuff in a classroom.
Fiction/Classics. This is a lengthy section, but I truly didn't want to have to go into the classics vs. potboilers debate. Hence, the category includes Greek drama, Roman epics, Victorian novels, current fiction, comedy and loads of other good stuff. Think of it as the backbone of my reading life.
  • The Thirteenth Tale. I like it so much that I started reading it aloud to my sister the same day I turned the last page. Now we just need to finish it before I go back to school.
  • Uncle Fred in the Springtime
  • The Children of Men. A Semicolon recommendation, and well worth the read.
  • My Sister's Keeper. My cousin mentioned it to me this summer. I started reading it during a trip to Borders and couldn't put it down. It was a hard book to read, but fascinating.
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Ex-Libris
  • The Best Man
  • A Separate Peace. This was in someone's lit. curriculum last spring and I picked it up on a whim. It was well worth my time.
  • The Giver
  • The Outsiders
  • The Chosen
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • The Crucible
  • What Hearts?
  • Options
  • The Grapes of Wrath. Contrary to all expectations, I enjoyed this one. I actually like Steinbeck.
  • 4:50 From Paddington
  • North and South. I read this one aloud to my sister after we watched the movie last November and December. We both enjoyed it (and we enjoyed watching the movie again this past week).
  • Tickets for a Prayer Wheel
  • The Fountainhead. Maybe I should put this one under the "philosophy" heading. Rand interests me; her book was, well, disturbing in the extreme, occasionally revolting. But there was something about the tome that I did like. It made me think and it challenged me. And maybe one of these days I'll get up the courage to read more of her works.
  • Jill the Reckless
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This one was one of my favorites this year. Smith writes well and with vigor.
  • Jesus: A Novel. Another favorite, and one of the pre-college morning read-alouds. Wangerin is one of my favorite authors. He writes descriptive, poetic-prose that captivates me.
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  • The Dry Divide
  • The Jungle
  • I Capture the Castle. Loved it. Love it. Will probably read it again and again.
  • Our Town
  • Moby Dick
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Persuasion. This one ranks pretty near the top of the Austen list. Actually, it might be at the top, although I do like S&S as well.
  • Fahrenheight 451. Captivated me. For a book randomly pulled off of my brother's stack, I couldn't believe how interesting it was.
  • The Note
  • Heather and Snow
  • Meet Mr. Mulliner
  • Metamorphoses (in part). One of my favorite lit. books this term. The Humphries translation is excellent. I enjoy mythology. In particular, I like Ovid's mythologizing. We were a good match.
  • The Aeneid of Virgil (in part). We read very little of this in class, sadly: just the famous bits about Dido and Aeneas. But I liked it too, though not as much as Metamorphoses.
  • The Brothers Menaechmus. Greek farce and, well, amusing. A girl from our class read it aloud on our way to the Portland opera, entailing much laughter.
  • Lysistrata. I like this one only in retrospect. Class discussion helped make it a little more understandable.
  • Medea. My favorite of the Greek drama unit. Deep and fascinating.
  • The Odyssey (in part). We read the Fagles translation. I think he's a great translator (I've read his Iliad too). He has a new translation of the Aeneid out that I plan to buy.
  • Evangeline. A surprise graduation present from one of my cousins. He found my copy in a little bookstore in Moscow, ID: a tiny green volume with letters and cover details in gilt. A pleasure to read; a delight to hold.
  • Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse
  • Canterbury Quintet
  • Sophocles I
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Oresteian Trilogy
  • Cyrano de Bergerac
  • Return to Laughter. An anthropology book and a joy to read; a fictionalized account of Laura Bohanan's anthropological work among the Tiv of Nigeria. The paper I wrote on it was, to put it mildly, very well received. So it has good memories attached now. Needless to say, I didn't sell the book back.
  • Feeding Desire. Another anthropology text, this one an actual ethnography. I liked it very much.
  • Looking for Class. A Severe Mercy made me want to to Oxford more than anything else in the world. This book convinced me that another school would do just as well. Disillusioning is a good descriptor for the book.
  • Blue Like Jazz. A treat to read. Miller has a way with words.
  • Girl Meets God. Another Semicolon recommendation. Its style reminded me of Blue Like Jazz.
  • Time Out for Happiness
  • Basic American Government
  • Dating with Integrity. Coming out of this book, I loved it. Months away, I'm not so sure: paradigms are in my blood; I like courtship. It's not easy to toss that out the window.
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. The best book I've ever read on the Civil War. Ever. Really truly. Scholarly, fascinating, well-written. I actually didn't read all the sections (it was a school assignment last year) but someday I will. And I can't wait to return to it.
  • Black Like Me
  • An American Childhood. Annie Dillard is a new favorite author. I'm going to look for more of her books come Monday and our trip to Powell's.
  • Wodehouse: A Life. Delightful. I learned a lot about Wodehouse and enjoyed the experience.
  • The Godless Constitution
  • Thistle Soup
  • Reflections on the Psalms. Not Lewis's most getatable book, but enjoyable. It took me a long time to read.
  • The Writing Life. Another Annie Dillard book, my first this year in fact. I'm not sure if it counts as nonfiction, but it does strike me as such: a collection of essays on the exuberance and terror of the writing life.
It was a good year for reading. My bookshelves attest to it. My quote book doesn't. I'm going to have to work on writing things down.

I am sorry to admit that, unlike other bloggers, I won't be making a 2007 book list. Of course, I didn't do this last year either, but that was because I didn't even think about it. This year I think my professors will be making my book choices for me. Guess it's a good thing I trust them.

Happy New Year! And good reading to you!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Look what the wind blew in

Thoughtful, much-appreciated gifts from the family:

A little Wodehouse to make my last week-and-a-half off school merry: A Damsel in Distress, Something Fresh.

John Donne: The Complete English Poems

And, yes, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Kate Rusby and Faith Hill have been my soundtracks this week.

There really is no more space on my bookshelf. Or on the top of the dresser. Or on the hat box. Or on the end table that we're "borrowing" (long term, I guess) from the living room. Today I was able to view the book lists for next term's classes: at least twelve new titles to add to . . . the floor? On Monday we're headed to Portland for a long-awaited trip to Powell's. I have one of those "most perfect gifts ever" to spend (it's burning a hole in my wallet). And I have no more space. None. At all.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Overheard. . .

Standing in line at Burger King we may look like ordinary, respectable engineers and programmers, but on the inside we're standing guard--looking out for the Shire.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Carnival of Beauty: Salvation

***Update*** Blame it on the travelling. But I woke up this morning certain that before anything else needed to be done, I had to post the Carnival. Except that today is only Tuesday, and tomorrow, Wednesday, is when the Carnival usually goes up. So, if any of you still have posts to submit, I'm happy to take them. Just send me an email with the requisite links via the link on your right.

I was originally slated to hostess the Christmas music Carnival of Beauty last Tuesday, something I signed up for without knowing that I would be gone that week. I offered to do it this week, not knowing that my trip would be a little longer than expected. But here I am, and here is the Carnival. I apologize for not mentioning this on The Autumn Rain earlier.

Keziah shares a story of salvation from her own family that is particularly precious to them at Christmas.

Susanna writes about The Gift of God.

Chel at Chasing Contentment is thankful that Her Foundation is strong as she faces life's challenges.

Sarah writes about the beauty of salvation she finds in being with friends and family, old and new, in Heaven for all eternity.

Ann shares A Little Yeast.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Of spelling bees, German dramatists, and battered books

The dictionary was the pastime of choice during my week at the farm. Already tattered and missing its end boards, the volume lost another ten pages or so as we toted it around the house playing rousing games of Fictionary and conducting dare-devil spelling bees. (The Fictionary link goes to a page that explains the rules of the game quite nicely. If you don't already know how to play, you need to learn! It's easy to get the hang of, absorbing, and addictive.)

It amused us to challenge each other to come up with plausible definitions for words like stammel*, kaph*, and shillelagh* (you can find the real definitions of these unusual words below). It amused some of us to challenge C. and I to spell words like mylophagous, mixolydian, pharmacopoeia, Leninskkuznetski, rufescent, saehrimnir, and oopherectomize.

Out of the spelling bee emerged an extraordinary question. One which I was supposed to pose to the person sitting next to me on the plane, should conversation lag:
Do you agree that Feuchtwanger's dissertation is merely supercilious sesquipedalian pontification, or does he effectively intercalate postmodern eschatology with traditional antebellum dispensationalist supralapsarianism?
Feuchtwanger, by the way, probably never wrote about postmodern eschatology or supralapsarianism. After trying unsuccessfully to spell the word, C. and I looked up the "German dramatist and novelist" online. According to the Wikipedia article, Lion Feuchtwanger was raised in a home that was "both observantly Jewish and patriotically German." By WWII, he was a well-known literary figure. Hitler considered Lion a personal enemy and the Nazis designated him "Enemy of the state number one." Not a particularly comforting title to wear around one's neck. In 1940 he "was captured and imprisoned in an internment camp," and later escaped with the help of his wife Marta and an American journalist. In 1941, the United States extended asylum to him and he spent the rest of his life in California, still writing (d. 1958). His works include The Ugly Duchess, Jephthah and His Daughter, and The Devil in France (these are, of course, English translations of the original German titles).

The USC library has a Feuchtwanger Memorial Library including a page of photographs. Above: "Lion Feuchtwanger enjoying a pleasant moment with one of his cats." Doesn't he look like a nice gentleman?

*Stammel: the red color of a coarse woolen cloth sometimes used for undergarments.

*Kaph: the 11th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

*Shillelagh: a cudgel, traditionally of blackthorn or oak.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

See you t'later

Finals are over. (But grades don't come out until the distant future, i.e. the end of next week.) I had a few days to catch my breath, and catch up on my sleep. Sort of. I went to a ballet on Friday evening, worked all day yesterday, and went to a Christmas program at church this afternoon (my Ladybird had a solo and she sang just beautifully). I squeezed the last of this term's books into my bookshelf and cringed, thinking of the books I'll have to add to the overburdened shelves next term (not that I mind the books, of course, but space is of the essence here and I don't like stacking books on the floor or double shelving them). I made my bed, stacked clothes away in drawers and pulled others out. I filled my leather satchel, newly emptied of school texts and laptop computer, with more books and my journal. And then I set the alarm for four o' clock because tomorrow I'm leaving. Yes, at last. I'll be gone for a week, a merry week, before coming home to celebrate Christmas and order texts for next term and to generally realize just how large a part school has become of my life.

I'm glad for a break, of course. The past three weeks have been frenetic and downright unpleasant at times. But four weeks is a long time to go without discussing Aristotle or Aquinas with anyone, or to live without classroom and library life, or, really, to live without a deadline breathing down my neck. (I don't actually like deadlines, but I do like what they accomplish: that extra shove to make me get. things. done.) So, suddenly, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. Except to read and drift and maybe write on the days when I'm feeling like it, because my journal has been very neglected and because I find, now that the term is over, that I have a good deal to say and the time in which to say it.

But first a plane flight, an early plane flight. And then five days of family time, playing and working hard. I'll see some of you very soon!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rereading "A Severe Mercy"

I've mentioned this book before, though only in passing, here and here. I first read it two or three years ago for my Brit. Lit. program (I thought it was a funny choice for Brit. Lit., since the novel is actually written by American Sheldon Vanauken), and I haven't ever forgotten it. Way back when this term started, I picked up the book again and have been slowly--ever so slowly--making my way through it for the second time. I love it just as much I did in that first reading: it still possesses the same breathless beauty, and the same intellectual and spiritual challenges that I found in it when I read it so many springs ago.

This isn't the place for a review of the book. I have internalized too much of the novel to really be able to look at it objectively any more. But Wittingshire has a nice review of it from early this year. Last year in October Semicolon mentioned the book in her post "Great Books; Old Friends," she suggests that reading it concurrently with Lewis's A Grief Observed might work well (I have to admit, though, that I read A Severe Mercy more to experience its joy than to understand grief).

Vanauken derived the title of the book from a letter C.S. Lewis wrote him some time after his (Vanauken's) wife's death; a letter in which Lewis said that "You have been treated with a severe mercy" (p. 210). I had thought that the phrase itself, "a severe mercy," originated with Lewis, but in reading Augustine's Confessions a few weeks ago I came across a passage that seems to indicate otherwise:
I was twisting and turning in my chain until it would break completely: I was now only a little bit held by it, but I was still held. You, Lord, put pressure on me in my hidden depths with a severe mercy wielding the double whip of fear and shame, lest I should again succumb, and lest that tiny and tenuous bond which still remained should not be broken, but once more regain strenth and bind me even more firmly. (p. 150, emphasis mine)
Perhaps the phrasing here is the translator's innovation. But its use in the Augustine passage, combined with the context in which the phrase is placed in Vanauken's book has me wondering. The allusion, if it exists, is a worthy one.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Soundtrack for a morning at home

Point of Grace: Winter Wonderland

It's been a long time since I've been home for a school morning. But today I am. The English essay is finished, and due at five o' clock this afternoon (unfortunate, since I had hoped to go one day out of ten without making the drive to school. . .not happening). That take-home final of 4-6 essay pages is beckoning. Later this evening I'll buckle down to finish reviewing philosophy (I was pleased to discover that I remember more about Augustine than I had supposed I would).

So while the temperature drops outside, and I don a sweater and brew more tea, I'll type away. . .and listen. It's really almost Christmas, folks.

Guess who needs to do some shopping?

Me. And soon. Like, before anything ordered online won't get here in time.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Exactly a year

The day was almost like this, as I recall. Bright blue California skies (only today it's slightly overcast but sunny Oregon skies), cold clear air. The day before we had finished polishing windows and tidying up the odds and ends of the rubble left-over from packing boxes at the brown house on the top of the hill, the house with a view of the Sierra Nevadas, and Cameron Park Lake, and the incongruous palm trees waving fronds here and there above the oak trees. We had held one last impromptu dance down the now empty great room.

(Picture HT to this post over at A Circle of Quiet)

And then we spent one last night in California in an unfamiliar hotel room before heading off for what would be another two months of life in an unfamiliar state, city, and hotel.

So the morning broke, just like this one did today: blue and beautiful. A year ago, we were standing out in the cold exchanging hugs, and wiping away tears, and lofting prayers heavenward. And we were hoping, somehow, that something extraordinary might happen: that the car would break down, or the roads would close, or maybe that the state of Oregon would be found to be nonexistent, and so we wouldn't have to go after all. But we did, you know. We went.

And so this morning I'm writing another blog post, a quite different one than I could ever have written if we had stayed. The family is away at church, and I am sitting in a quiet living room . . . procrastinating with a blog post again (I'm supposed to be reviewing philosophy notes for my final on Tuesday). We go to a different church, shop at different stores, delight in oh-so-different scenery, and we are building a new home on the top of a different hill. We're still in a rental house, unfortunately, but I go to the bestest school in the world (because, really, the difference between a school of 30,000 and only 5,000+ is phenomenal). I am happy here.

But sometimes I still miss Northern California. I miss the afternoon sun streaming in through the kitchen window, warming the scarred surface of the oak table in the nook, warming me as I read Paradise Lost or Wuthering Heights or E.M. Forster's A Passage to India. I miss the oaks parading across the hilltops, lost in a confusion of twisted, stately branches, caught in the golden glow of dry fields and sunshine. I miss watching thunder storms roll in across our valley, or watching rainbows arch across the mountains. I miss, sometimes, our frequent trips to Broadstone and Borders and Ross--because somehow Folsom seemed closer than Salem does.

I miss our friends: dancing barefooted on the back lawn through summer evenings, singing hymns around the piano, playing cards or climbing mountains. I miss debating science and the classics and theology (and being friends even when we disagreed most vehemently); I miss discussing courtship and homeschooling and the works of George MacDonald or C.S. Lewis while hiking or sipping cups of Earl Grey. I cherish the memories of long talks on "Northernness," the is-ness of "London Fog," the intricacies of "Afternoon," watching Wodehouse or Gaskell or Austen together, and knowing, through it all, just how unique and lovely our friendship really is.

I miss all of you. Know that today, just a year now since we drove away from Cameron Park, down through El Dorado Hills, and Folsom, and Sacramento, and up into the "wilds" of Oregon, you are, each of you, in my thoughts--even though letters to some of you are long overdue. I love you all. And, of course, I hope to see you soon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fine Art Friday

The past week has been a blur. But the philosophy paper is written (with an English, and possibly a music paper left to revise, an anthropology take-home final left to write, and much studying left to do), finals are almost here, I got some sleep yesterday (some, but still not enough), and in a little over a week I'll be headed in this direction.

For today's Fine Art Friday, I'm posting a picture I've been thinking a lot about this week: Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." Icarus is in the bottom right corner; you can see him, dimly, sinking into the bay, just two thin white legs. W.H. Auden has a poem based on the painting which I've pasted below. I like his interpretation of the art, although my own interpretation takes off in a slightly different direction.

A book, Theories of Judgment, has also been recommended to me this past week--it has a great chapter based on some art analysis, similar to the sort of thing I find myself doing with the "Fall of Icarus." I think I'll likely read it over Christmas break, if I can order it through the library.

Musee des Beaux Arts
W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.