What have you found enjoyable this month? Here are a few of my favorites:
Grandma sent the little girls dresses for Easter. Who doesn’t love Easter dresses? Of course they won’t be able to wear them to Mass for a few weeks, but here are two of them trying them on:
2. Favorite March book? Antonio Socci’s,The Fourth Secret of Fatima. It’s been awhile since I haven’t been able to put a book down. If you’re interested in the doings of the popes in the 20th century, as concerns Sr. Lucia and Fatima, then you won’t be disappointed. Socci, an Italian journalist and author, gives a thorough and fascinating and horrifying account of that mysterious 3rd Secret. Warning: he assumes you are already familiar with Fatima. (This is not a book for those reading about Fatima for the first time.)
3. Kids’ favorite book? Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family. My children–all of them–greatly enjoyed listening to this book on Audible. I, too, not only enjoyed it, but learned a bit about Jewish families living in New York City in the early 1900s. Very sweet.
4. Favorite fruit? While my children will eat any fruit, I’ve been finding those cheap pineapples very convenient. I’ve been buying them for $2.98. I’ve been restricting myself to one pineapple a week, because I don’t want the children to get sick of them. But really, I should up it to at least 2, as we eat the whole thing in one sitting.
5. Favorite Bread? Hands down, Renaissance Bread from Galesville, WI. Fortunately for us, this little bakery, owned and operated by 2 sisters, is not only organic, but delivers once a week to a grocery store in La Crosse. As I was buying them out every week, I decided to call them and ask if they’d put together a standing, weekly order of 6 loaves for me? Oh yes, of course! God bless those sisters!
6. And…what about wine? We’ve been enjoying J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon. It was on sale this month at Sam’s Club for $9.71, so I bought 6 bottles.
7. Lastly, Favorite YouTube Video? Aw, you knew it was going to be Dr. Taylor Marshall. He’s got some great ones this month. My kids really enjoyed watching this one on communion rails. Me? I found his interview with Timothy Flanders on Corona Virus very interesting.
8. My Husband’s Favorite Thing About March? His birthday. He turns 38 on the 16th.
I recently finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and I was asked by someone if I thought this was a good book?
The short answer is no. I don’t think it’s a good book.
And here’s why: Hurston sends conflicting messages about the meaning of love, marriage, and sacrifice. She gets it all wrong, and I’ll do my best to briefly explain it below.
It might be helpful to begin with a simple definition of love, for love is not an emotion, as Hurston would have one believe. Emotional “love” is flitting; it is changeable and passing. Oh the agony one will find in marriage if one doesn’t understand this! Rather, to love is to will the good of another. It is to die to oneself. It is selflessness. Likely, most of you readers already know this.
Janie Crawford, the main character in Hurston’s 1937 novel, does not think of love in this way. Rather, she wants to feel love, which is why her first marriage fails. In fact, she simply walks away from that marriage, literally with another man, whom she then marries a day later.
In other words, Janie has become a polygamist, and not a word is said about it. Apparently this doesn’t bother her as she steadily marches onward with this new man. The interesting thing is, however, that she also begins to detest this new husband very quickly. A good portion of the novel details her reluctance to help him and her lamenting the fact that he doesn’t understand her. She doesn’t want to help him; she wants to do her own thing, and fortunately for her, he dies after a few years, leaving her with a lot of money.
What to do then? All the men in the town are eager to marry her, as she’s beautiful and rich, but Janie senses the shallowness of this. Within a year of her husband’s death, however, she runs off with another man, whom she marries. This man, she claims to love deeply, even though he steals money from her, lies to her, beats her, and cheats on her.
Now, I get that Hurston may simply want to paint an accurate picture of this time period–this culture. In fact, that would be the merit of this book. For those who are looking to understand the conflict, thoughts, and feelings of turn-of-the-century black Americans, perhaps this would indeed be a good book.
But I can’t recommend it because there’s a blending of good and bad. Sometimes good things are seen as bad. For example, it would be good to help one’s spouse out regardless of one’s feelings, but Janies does not think so. Furthermore, sometimes bad things are seen as good, such as when Janie breaks her marriage covenant.
Any book that celebrates bad things as good or good things as bad, without any redemption in the end, I can’t recommend.
Language and Beauty
Lastly, I want to address the issue of language. This novel is written almost exclusively in a rough dialect coming from the south, which can be difficult to read. Indeed, writing in such a manner can be a risky thing for an author, as you may limit your audience to only those who are willing to slog through it. (If I hadn’t wanted to read this novel for a local book club, I never would have forced myself to finish it. It wasn’t worth it.)
Then secondly, poor language becomes dangerous to those readers who may be immersed in such a culture. It drags one down, and after hours of reading in such a way, one finds oneself thinking in these words–even speaking aloud in that language, and that language is not beautiful. It is far from uplifting. And there’s something to be said for beautiful, uplifting, and intelligent language. Truly an author who has mastered the English language is a pleasure to read. I’m thinking of Charlotte Bronte. Each time I read something of hers, I can’t help but to marvel at her vocabulary and her ability to express so well the human heart.
Let me illustrate this with an example of a different nature. Many modern churches are built in a “low” way, lacking what St. Thomas Aquinas requires for beauty–namely, clarity, proportion, and integrity. Without getting into details and going directly to my point, there is a difference between worshipping in a pole barn and worshipping in a magnificent gothic cathedral. Any child could tell you so. One is inspiring, and one is not.
Books can be the same way. This is why I would be very wary of a novel done completely in the style of a pole barn–rough, ugly, and utilitarian. What message are you conveying? It had better be clear. Truth had better be Truth. If one wants to show a picture of something ugly, it had better have a clear purpose. There had better be redemption in the end. Indeed, there are authors who have mastered writing in slang or local dialects–I’m thinking of Charles Dickens–so I know it can be done well. But given Hurston’s confused manner of addressing such things as love, marriage, and sacrifice, I think she fails in her endeavor.
I recently finished Tobit’s Dog by Michael Nicholas Richard. I had great hopes for this historical fiction, as one always sees it pasted in the Ignatius Press catalogue near the likes of Sigrid Unset and Michael O’Brien–both both excellent authors.
Essentially this novel is a retelling of the biblical book of Tobit, but with an American, racial spin, being set in North Carolina during the Depression. Now, I love the biblical book of Tobit, so as I said, I had great hopes for this modern twist.
Alas, I was disappointed–not disappointed enough to quit reading it, mind you, but just disappointed. It’s like getting all psyched up for a run in the wintertime. You know, when you commence putting on layer upon layer of clothing, pull that face mask on, and then realize the wind’s whipping at 30mph with the thermometer hovering at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. What to do? Suck it up and get going, of course. Realizing that you’re in for a doozy and that things might not end well.
So as I say, I was disappointed in Tobit’s Dog, and here’s why.
Firstly, the characters were all limp and toneless. I mean, there was no real depth to Tobit, Tobias, Anna, Sarah, Gaston Walker, Judge Oliver, Mason Newberry, Del Gaines, Ben Cobb, Crafy Forgeron, Doc Mack…well, all of them. There were too many characters in this book. It was distracting. Like on page 9, not kidding, I had to start writing them down. When I got to 20 names, by the first third of the book, I just quit with it. And let me tell you, there were many more to come.
Secondly, I was dissatisfied with the plot. I didn’t mind it when Richard downplayed the great fish miracle or lowered the number of husbands killed by the demon, or used blessed water from Lourdes to cure Tobit’s blindness, but throwing in that disturbing suicide scene and adding the sodomy bit was…too much. Not too much as in I can’t handle grotesque situations, no. Too much, as in it was too hasty, barely scratching the surface of human nature, and corny and hackneyed. In fact, the whole book had a deplorable element of triteness.
That said, would I recommend it? Maybe, if you’re desperate for a read that won’t assault your Christian morals. Richard does get that right, and I commend him for it. You know, the good is good, and the bad is bad. And good wins. Thanks be to God.
A Note on Moving
Lastly, we’re in the final stages of packing a household of 9 and about to sail across 600 miles of prairie to disembark in a forest. It’s rather exciting around here, and I’m a bit distracted.
In other words, it’ll probably be a few weeks before I can offer another post.
Here are some of my favorite things lately. Is there anything you’ve been enjoying? I’d love to hear about it.
Favorite Children’s Book on Audible:Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Brink. Since we’re moving to Wisconsin, we thought this book pertinent, which it is. But, seriously, it’s very entertaining too.
Favorite Read Aloud: Rebecca Caudill’s Tree of Freedom, which we’re in the middle of. The children groan every time I put it down. “Ah, Mom! Can’t you just read one more page?” But a girl’s gotta have Quiet Time; I can’t read aloud all day long.
My Favorite Read: Hands down, Hilaire Belloc’sPath to Rome. Every time I read it, I just chuckle and laugh to myself. He’s so witty! Everything I’ve ever read by him is a gem, including this travelogue.
Best Amazon Purchase: Besides my new dress with pockets? The board game Catan. We can’t stop playing it; our whole family is addicted. In fact, we should really consider purchasing the 5-6 player Expansion. And Sea-Farers. Or Cities and Knights…
Favorite YouTube Video: Yes, I just made this a category. But if you haven’t been watching Dr. Taylor Marshall, you’re missing out. We especially enjoyed THIS one.
Best Movie Seen in an Actual Movie Theater: Yeah, I know, right?! I actually saw a movie in the movie theater. It’s the first time that’s happened in about ten years, and it was worth it, even if there were jabs at marriage and the plight of women in the 1800s. The ironic thing is, is that in this movie (and the book) all the women end up married. Go figure. In any case, go see Little Women. You’ll sob. (And thank you to my mother-in-law for inviting me!)
Favorite Drink: A Gibraltar. This is a double-shot of espresso with an ounce or so of steamed milk served in a tiny tumbler. You gotta try it. If you live in Bismarck, North Dakota, go to Anima Cucina and order one. Jason makes the best drinks there.
Best Idea Ever: Pay your children a dollar for every lesson in the Baltimore Catechism that they memorize. Our children are on a learning frenzy, thanks to my husband. I guess money can be a good motivator…
I recently started reading Cardinal Sarah’s latest book The Day is Now Spent, but I had to quit, for I’m spent. Why, oh why will he insist on everlastingly quoting Pope Francis? I got to page 97 and was about to swallow another Francis quotation, but I couldn’t. I chucked the book across the room instead.*
It’s not that what Sarah is quoting is controversial or bad. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Sarah goes out of his way to find decent quotations out of Francis’s mouth. (That had to take some time.) Then Sarah will go on pretending that he and Francis are on the same page, which just isn’t true.
For example, Sarah is arguing and calling for the reform of corrupt clergy. Just what has that to do with Francis? Nothing. In fact, Francis has only intentionally surrounded himself with very controversial and corrupt clergy. Let’s remember that Francis knew about Pope Benedict’s censure on Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, but that didn’t stop Francis from hobnobbing with McCarrick and sending him on a public mission to China.
Let me repeat, it’s misleading to quote a conspicuously subversive man and pretend your minds are one. I don’t think these two men could be more different from each other. I’ll grant that Sarah probably has the sincerest of intentions, perhaps hoping that Francis is only naive or stupid or something, but I’m weary and done with it all. Why not quote someone with a clear track record of ousting corrupt clergy? Why not quote the Council of Trent on that?
Apparently I’m not the only one thinking these things either. If you want more, check out this article from Dr. Jeff Mirus at the CatholicCulture.org. I especially appreciate the second half of his article.
Parting Note on Sarah
Please note that I still would recommend Sarah’s God or Nothing and The Power of Silence. He’s got some pertinent and profound things to say, especially about the primacy of prayer and silence. (Not silence in the face of corruption, but rather silence as regards to the interior life.) Sarah also has a miraculous and astounding personal story of growing up in Africa.
Truly, you should read his first two books. I’ll warn you, though, he does quote Francis in both books, but it’s more forgivable, if you will, because these books were written earlier in Francis’s pontificate.
As it is, my book club is currently reading The Day Is Now Spent for November. I can’t wait to hear what these other ladies are going to say.
What Else Am I Reading?
Books in Brief
Recently I finished Gertrud Von Le Fort’s The Song of the Scaffold. This fictional novella is based on the real-life tragedy of the death of 16 Carmelites during the French Revolution. If you want a short, but moving read, I strongly recommend it.
The end, wherein the Carmelites are brought before the guillotine singing Veni Creator Spiritus, is very dramatic to say the least and inspired me to teach our children that ancient chant.
I also just finished a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien written by Humphrey Carpenter. This was a very enjoyable read, and I also recommend it, especially for you Lord of the Rings fans.
And lastly, I’m currently reading The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty. (No, I’m not suffering from depression.) I’m only a half of the way through, and I appreciate Dr. Kheriaty’s insights thus far. Perhaps I’ll post more on this book later.
Really, though, I can’t wait to read some more James Herriot. He’s light; he’s funny; he’s pre-Amazon Synod…
*Ok, fine. I didn’t actually chuck it across the room. If I would have, the children would have looked askance at me, for we have a rule about throwing books: No Throwing Books. It obviously damages them and anything else they might happen to hit, like their sisters.
I have a tomato problem. I didn’t think it would come to this, but it has. There are just too many tomatoes in my garden. Every day the children are bringing in buckets of them.
I thought that having six tomatoes plants would be manageable because I treated them so poorly. In fact they’re just lying all over the ground in a tangled mess.
But I guess one can mistreat tomato plants, and they’ll still produce.
This is a problem because I don’t “can.” I don’t know how to can, nor do I have any desire to can, but I do hate wasting good produce, so lately I’ve been making fresh salsa every day.
But that still didn’t get rid of all these tomatoes.
So I sallied forth and made my very first pot of homemade tomato soup. I did this by roasting a bunch of tomatoes, onions, and garlic first.
Then I blended them all in batches with basil from the garden.
My husband loved this soup, but the children thought it needed a little cream cheese. Me? I don’t care, I’m just trying to decide what I’m going to do with these:
In the meantime, what have I been listening to while chopping tomatoes? The Patrick Coffin Show. Have you heard his September interview with Joseph Pearce? It’s soooo entertaining! He and Pearce talk books for an hour and a half. It’s delightful, especially because they’re mentioning such great books like Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Belloc’s The Path To Rome.
Speaking of good books…if you’ve never read Joseph Pearce’s autobiography Race With the Devil, you should. I have a tremendous respect for that man. He went from being the leader of white supremacist group to writing Catholic biographies and editing a series of literature books for Ignatius Press.
Incidentally, my local Saturday Morning Book Club will be reading Pearce’s book Unmasking of Oscar Wildein a few months. I can’t wait for it.
I can’t wait to get at it. Fr. Z has pulled some tantalizing quotations HERE. When I get a chance to read it, I’ll be sure to let you know my thoughts. I have no doubt that this will be an excellent read. His other two books were.
I did notice that Sarah’s new book begins with a Part 1 titled “Spiritual and Religious Collapse.” He quotes Luke 18:8, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Indeed, will he?
Paul is Recovering
We are now home again after two more surgeries and a week-long stay at the hospital in Rochester. Paul’s doctors are now experimenting with two shunts. He’s got one that sits in the arachnoid cyst on his brain, and the other is in his spine. The hope is that these two shunts will better regulate the fluid in his brain.
We hope this works, as it’s a difficult strain on our family to be separated so much–to say nothing of watching Paul tremble in pain during periods of incredibly high levels of pressure. I really cannot describe the agony one experiences just watching him. I have a new respect for Mary at the foot of the Cross.
In any case, thank you all for the prayers. Truly, we are grateful.
I will be taking a break from this blog for about 3 weeks. Firstly because we’ll be doing some traveling in the tropics of South Dakota, and secondly because I have a few books that I’d like to get through.
Firstly: A Wedding
My brother is getting married on the Feast of St. Martha, July 29th. He and his fiancé have a devotion to this great saint, hence a Monday wedding. We are very excited for them both and will be traveling down a few days prior to and then staying a few days later. I am looking forward to toasting glasses of wine and visiting with my family.
After the wedding, we’ll be driving to my parent’s lake house to watch the children splash around, and then after they go to bed, we’ll play endless card games. It promises to be a lovely few days of no internet.
Anyway, All Things Bright and Beautiful was such a charming and entertaining read for summer that I decided to check out every book I could find at our library. I can’t wait to get at them. If you need something light and bright, then definitely read some Herriot.
Lastly, A New Book Club
Lastly, I’ve started a new book club for moms in my area. I had been thinking about doing this for awhile now, but I just never did for the logical reason that I already belong to a book club–a good one, too. My current book club follows the reading suggestions of the Well-Read Mom website. They’re generally great reads, but even better are the women in the actual group. But the meeting time is very difficult for me, and so I’ve done it.
Saturday Morning Book Club
Yep, you guessed it, we’re meeting on Saturday mornings, once a month. I chose Saturday mornings because this is when I happen to have free time. In fact every Saturday morning, once I finish my cleaning chores, I leave for the day, and so I thought, why not see if other mothers would like to join me to discuss books?
I didn’t think there would be much interest, as many families tend to be busy. In fact, I really thought I’d only have one to two other moms interested. But I was wrong. I’ve got 12 moms on the email list.
For those of you who might be curious, I’ll list this year’s selection of books below. I chose these books for the simple reason that I wanted to read them, or reread them in some cases. I’ll try to post a word or two about the books, when we get to them. Maybe you’ll want to read along with us?
August: Michael O’Brien, Father Elijah
September: Taylor Marshall, Infiltration
October: Gertrud von Le Fort, Song of the Scaffold
November: Cardinal Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent
December: Sigrid Undset, Ida Elizabeth
January: Joseph Pearce, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde