Thursday, August 24, 2006

Obligatory Responsive Posting

Or, Father Jake Stops the World, and I want to get off.

(Did I mention I hate these things? I did? Good. And no, I don't know why I feel obligated to answer these things. Something to do with my vestigial orthodox theology, I'm sure.)

1. Two books that changed your life.

Fear and Trembling, by Johannes de Silentio (I’m a stickler for Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms; I have my reasons)

I’m prompted to this by Father Jakes’ entry, which I modify slightly for my own purposes. “I read this as a young man” in high school. Growing up in Southern Baptist dominated East Texas, “It was a relief to find someone else grappling with some of the paradoxes of life. It reassured me that I might not be insane after all!”

I should mention Kathleen Norris’ books, especially The Cloister Walk and Dakota, as well as the Psalms. But since I’m limited to only one more:

Carmina Gadelica, by Alexander Carmichael

2. Two books that you have read more than once.

The Gift of Death, by Jacques Derrida. A study of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, it is one of the single best modern texts on philosophy of religion that I know. Certainly my favorite.

Dune, by Frank Herbert.

This is a confession of my geek side. But I have read and re-read this book, and find it endlessly fascinating. Herbert understands better than most modern writers the richness, fullness, and therefore importance, of religion in human existence. His is modeled almost exclusively on Islam, an interesting historical choice as the book was written 40 years ago. But Islam has that one great advantage over Christianity: it doesn’t presume a religious culture, it requires one. Herbert allows us to understand why faith is part of the human condition.

Alright, three: A Day with Wilbur Robinson, by William Joyce. I love William Joyce. I've read a lot of his books twice. This one is far and away my favorite.

3. Two books you'd want on a desert island.

A prayer book. I can’t say that I’m yet familiar enough with the BCP to want it as constant companion (going from Presbyterian to UCC to TEC will do that to you). But since I’m on a desert island, I’ll want the BCP to keep me company. And a Bible. If I’m going to live like a desert father, I’m going to read like one.

4. Two books that made you laugh.

Anything by P.G. Wodehouse

Any of the Rumpole books by John Mortimer.

5. Two books that made me cry.

Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman

Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. The ending simply broke my heart.

6. Two books that you wish had been written.

Living Backward: a new perspective on spirituality
Christian Hospitality: the real struggle with God

I’m going to get to both of these, eventually.

7. Two books that you wish had not been written.

Most of the books on any bookshelf in any bookstore in the world, if I was going to be honest. There are really very few books worth reading once, and even those are probably 1% of the books available at any one time. It’s depressing to consider how many books get published each year, and how few of them are worth the paper they are printed on, much less worth noticing 6 months after they are released. Without them, however, how would all the worthwhile books ever get published? Books are part of a very complex conversation, a sort of midrash, if you will. I have a vague memory of Walt Whitman saying something about finding seeds for something good in the most overlooked and neglected texts, and I’ve always thought he was right. A long way of saying I don’t know of a book I wish had not been written. Who knows what good thing it might have prompted?

8. Two books that you're currently reading.

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, by Marcel Proust. I am determined to work my way through A la recherche du temps perdu, and the new Penguin translations are making that task enormously easier.

In Search of Paul, by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed.

9. One book you've been meaning to read.

An Eccelesiastical History of the English Speaking People, by Bede

And (I’ll cheat again), the new Grove Centenary edition of the Complete Works of Samuel Beckett. 4 vols. Beach reading for next summer, perhaps.

And no, I won't pass it on. I can't afford to make any more enemies in left blogistan! Anyone else feels prompted to answer these questions: you can't blame me!

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