Friday, March 06, 2020

Book Review: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western FrontAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This is another where I can't rate it.

It was objectively well done. The writing style, the conveyance of what the author wanted to convey, the evocative nature of the writing - whether despair or sense of futility or angst - created that fog in the readers' mind.

In that way, the author succeeded at what he was trying to do.

Unfortunately, I cannot live in that despairing, dark, lack of hope. Also what he wanted to convey: that man in these situations devolves to beast.

Man devolving to beast in the trenches was hard to read. Also, his incapacity to see his way back to manhood so that death was almost a relief. Despair, futility, no God. Dark dark dark. In many ways I can't believe we give this to high schoolers.

The book emphasizes the change to modern warfare. The inescapability, chance as all. While "war is hell" and war and society had changed, this book fosters the cynicism of the reader with "reality."

I did not like it. It was important to read. Thus: no stars.

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Thursday, March 05, 2020

Book Review: A Timbered Choir by Wendell Berry

A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry

This book has been in my bathroom for years - 5? 10? I don't know, it has been a while. I would read an occasional poem here and there, but have been making a more concerted effort to do so in 2020. No star rating because 1) it has been too long and 2) poetry is not my strong reading suit so it wouldn't be fair. I'm trying to learn, though.

I enjoyed reading many of these. The trees, the birds, the place Berry writes about even the people are real and are pictured for us in wholeness. I'm no agrarian; despite that many things he contemplates ring true. Some I simply didn't understand.

I suspect I should re-read them all - I've folded down pages of particular ones that I'll copy into my poetry collection book.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Book Review: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (again)

That Hideous Strength: (Ransom Trilogy, Book #3)That Hideous Strength: by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this on Kindle.

I really enjoyed this book. There was so much that Lewis had to say and show.

The evil was really evil, and the layers were peeled back slowly, slowly to the final climax. The evil is so evil it doesn't seem possible to defeat.

The good was really good. Waiting, abiding, sojourning, trusting God. That's generally a good plan.

I love, love, love that Lewis solves SciFi problems grounded in history. In Out of the Silent Planet he used Classical Astronomy. Here we see historical characters and a historical train of thought. We see mythological representations of Mars, Venus, and the other planets. We see that God's creation waits the freeing of Tellus.

I was left wanting more tying up of loose ends. (view spoiler)

I'm glad I finally tried out the series this year. It was worth the time investment. I think reading an annotated version of this and some of Lewis' backing ideas and allusions would be fascinating.

2020 Reading on Christian Audio
I finally shared this third book with the kids. We listened mostly on trips to co-op, Bible Study, or other drives where it was just the four of us all together. Sometimes that makes it harder to keep the momentum or to finish and it takes longer. We persist, though.

Still a great story. Three of us loved it, one of us perhaps wasn't quite ready because "nothing happens." That is the beauty of the story, though. The protagonists are doing the work they're called to "planting gardens, marrying, bearing children, etc." They're carrying the "normal" in the face of the evil of the day.

I noticed such a comment on nature this time - the Dennistons "love weather" while Featherstone "hates weather." The very earth and the creatures spit out the evil. The unpredictability of the wind and rain means that life can't be systematic and has to adapt and trust as it goes on. The NICE wants to destroy natural, normal patterns of life and flora/fauna and even out the weather so there is a constant sameness, while the crew at St Anne's relishes the goodness of creation and the very joy of earth life. We aren't living a sanitized systematized life, but a *real* one.

So many philosophical discussions to follow and consider. This is a book to return to yet another time and another.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Book Review: Seeking God by Esther de Waal

Seeking God: The Way of St. BenedictSeeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this off and on over the course of nearly a year. There were many thoughtful ideas and passages about living a Christian life intentionally. I thought the structure was intriguing - after the first two, introductory chapters, it was almost chiasm - listening and prayer, stability and authority, change and people, and balance and material things all work together.

I really loved the chapters stability-change-balance and the progression between them. I contemplated that knowing, not knowing, and pulling together quite a lot. The chapter on prayer was also quite helpful to me in learning about praying continually.

I'm very glad I read this and will likely go back to different places at different times.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review: Paradise Lost by Milton

Paradise LostParadise Lost by John Milton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than a little hubris to "review" Paradise Lost. I am glad I listened to it while I followed along reading it ... that kept me going with forward progress and not get bogged down in the details. It would be so easy to want to follow every allusion, seek out every footnote, but for a first reading, just reading was exactly what I needed. Now I can dip in and out and seek out more and why Milton wrote the things he wrote.

I do have concerns with "fictionalizing" scripture and things hid from or not elaborated in scripture. At times, I was a little put off/taken aback by his portrayal of Eve, it felt ... condescending and patronizing.

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading this. I really liked reading it alongside Lewis' Space Trilogy. I feel like the end of Perelandra took many cues from Paradise Lost. There were so many connections I made as I read.

I enjoyed the Simon Vance audio from Audible. I haven't yet read Paradise Regained as it wasn't on the audiobook.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Review: The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

The Winter's TaleThe Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the audiobook. Even "cold" with no background information or knowledge of the story, I was able to follow the main plot and characters pretty well. I wanted to read this with The Literary Life Podcast and knew that we could read this as our next play after Love's Labour's Lost in our homeschool, so I wasn't trying to find nuance or detail, just follow well enough to know the main story.

There were a number of quotes I'm certain I will mark when I read and listen with the kids. I liked the way it was a princess (not a prince) who is raised by wild people, turning that bit of the story on its head. The jealousies and fears, repentance and forgiveness (but long awaited!), and miracles? The wise woman and man who protected and rebuked as deserved? I enjoyed this quite well.

Plus it was my third Audible book of 2020. [happy dance]

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review (not really): Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott

Beauty in the WordBeauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott

I cannot give this book any stars. Not because I'm upset to have read it in any way. Not because I don't think it's a valuable read for one in my "profession."

But mostly because it was mostly beyond me.

Oh, there were parts that I enthusiastically agreed with, that I understood quite well, but there were also parts where the underpinnings of philosophical and/or theological thought undid me thoroughly.

It took me a long time to read - I was often intimidated by the Roman Catholic-ness of the work. Not being in that faith tradition, it's often foreign and like jumping across slippery rocks to understand the implications that Caldecott was indicating. As a Reformed Protestant, his particular concern that liturgy trump scripture I found difficult to reconcile.

This is a book to come back to, I suppose. I appreciate those who have wrestled with Caldecott's ideas ahead of me (like Cindy Rollins) and translated many of them (particularly Remembrance). I cannot rate it because I struggled with it so much over so long a time - 2+ years? and it's a short book. I'm glad I've read it. I'm almost more glad I've finished it. The deficiencies are all mine and I do recommend wrestling with it. I plan to do so again. Someday.

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