I intend to keep updating this post as a running list of the books I have completed (though not necessarily started and completed) over the summer. I will include a short blurb and review for each title. Thus far:
1. The Benedict Option. Rod Dreher. 2017. Non-fiction.
An argument for focusing on Christian community-building in the face of an increasingly hostile secular liberal order. And a very flawed argument at that. But the book got me thinking about a better option, so as a provocation to thought and discussion, it works pretty well.
2. A Litany of Mary. Ann Ball. 1987. Non-Fiction.
A lovely exposition of and meditation on various titles of Mary. Would recommend for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Our Lady, her role, and her apparitions in the modern world. Particular highlights are some of the rarer titles such as Our Lady of the Cenacle and Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. If you have (or want) a devotion to Mary under one of her titles, this is the book for you.
3. Free Women, Free Men. Camille Paglia. 2017. Non-fiction.
The dissident feminist’s newest collection of essays. Gives a great taste of her style and scholarly concerns over the course of her long career. Topics range from The Real Housewives, “Southern Women,” BDSM, Puritanism, and all kinds of feminist spats. Her essay “On Abortion” is one of the most idiosyncratic and provocative takes on the issue I have yet read. Paglia never tires of displaying her acid wit and crackling prose. Perhaps her greatest flaw, beyond those points where she is simply wrong, is her irritating autobiographical tendency. I could do without the seventh mention of her childhood Halloween costumes. But all in all, a read well worth the effort.
4. The Leopard. Giuseppe di Lampedusa. 1958. Fiction.
The decline and fall of a Sicilian noble family. There’s romance, history, and a dollop of nostalgia that Lampedusa sprinkles with acerbically cynical observations about his characters. It’s uncommon to find a class commentary that doubles as a sensitive psychological portrait. The Leopard is just such a rare gem. Lampedusa has a knack for evocation. You can feel the heat of the Sicilian sun radiating from the pages; with Lampedusa, you can almost catch a faint whiff of ambergris over the rot. His style is a slow-moving delight, well-suited to his subject. There’s also a Great Dane, which is always a plus.
5. The Black Arts. Richard Cavendish. 1967. Non-fiction.
A helpful, if perhaps somewhat dated, exposition of occult history and practice. Cavendish presents a thorough overview of dark magic. His wry, understated humor makes it a great read (one quote: “[Éliphas Lévi’s] later books are less interesting, including his History of Magic (1860) and The Key of the Mysteries (1861), which he himself translated into when he was reincarnated as Aleister Crowley…The learned English occultist A. E. Waite, who was not a reincarnation of Lévi, but succeeded in translating the secrets of the Doctine and Ritual all the same” pg. 29). Would strongly recommend to anyone with a love of horror fiction, the macabre, Christopher Lee, the Kabbalah, Latin, and batsh*t crazy characters from the Victorian and Edwardian periods (including Montague Summers). It made me want to read Valentin Tomberg’s Meditations on the Tarot and watch Penny Dreadful.
6. Chickamauga. Charles Wright. 1995. Poetry.
Remarkable, luminous poetry by a professor at my alma mater. T.S. Eliot’s spiritual and stylistic successor. Reading him is like reading a mystic in motion—more ornate that Wendell Berry, more apophatic than William Blake. I cannot recommend him highly enough.
4 thoughts on “Books I Have Finished This Summer”
Strangers in a Strange Land, Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World by Archbishop Charles Chaput is a nice balance to Dreher’s book. Chaput is a tow the line Bishop who also is a bit more in line with accomplishing things in a more realistic way, and changing the Church at the same time. Recommended read.
I’ve wanted to read it is a sort of bookend to Dreher (I don’t really have time or patience enough to slog through Esolen, though I suspect he is probably a much better stylist than Dreher). Archbishop Chaput is a wonderful and reliable shepherd of the Church, and I’m glad we have the chance to hear his thoughts on this difficult time.
LikeLiked by 1 person
read it *as* a sort of bookend
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, a much better stylist, and definitely in the realm of writing as a shepherd. Some of Dreher’s writing gets a bit out of hand at times, both online and in his book; I have conversed with him off and on over the years, I think his views and opinions are still ever evolving, he hasn’t really 100% hashed his full thought process out. His references to needing to form intentional communities are right on target, except I think those communities can as easily be well formed and catechized parishes and existing religious bodies that do and teach things correctly. Most of us will have no choice but to live in this culture and learn how to survive in the culture while keeping our beliefs strong for ourselves and our children and families.