Most of my college education took place in the margins of novels. J once commented that reading my undergrad copies of Jane Austen is like following a complicated math problem as I work through the relationships in any white space (J+B = E + D in virtue? C + C =/= Bennets???). As an adult, this penchant has continued, despite me often having to restrain myself in library books, loaners, and ebooks (which you can of course digitally mark up, but which remain a sort of barrier to entry in browsing).Read More »
(NB: This is one I listened to as an audiobook so I couldn’t mark it up or copy down passages quickly enough. So quotations here were either hunted down online or are from excerpts and interviews that jive with the book.)
This fall as I slowly set out on running again after a long pregnancy/physical therapy hiatus, I listened avidly to Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear. I found the book by turns mesmerizing, validating, challenging. In an NPR interview this summer, author Kim Brooks argues:
“We read, in the news or on social media, about children who have been kidnapped, raped and killed, about children forgotten for hours in broiling cars. We do not think about the statistical probabilities or compare the likelihood of such events with far more present dangers, like increasing rates of childhood diabetes or depression. Statistically speaking, according to the writer Warwick Cairns, you would have to leave a child alone in a public place for 750,000 years before he would be snatched by a stranger. Statistically speaking, a child is far more likely to be killed in a car on the way to a store than waiting in one that is parked. But we have decided such reasoning is beside the point.”
So, I’ve mentioned it on Instagram, but this semester I’m running a book club for college students I’d tentatively called the Bad Catholic Book Club. Thing is, it would seem college kids find this term scandalous — that it implies that they, in fact, are bad Catholics. (But we all are, right?!) So Haley suggested the title Christ-Haunted Novelist Book Club, and while some students now suspect we only read spooky stories, we’ve stuck with that less scandalous name.
But let’s talk about scandal, especially in our reading lives.Read More »
Lately I’ve been thinking about Tanya Berry. The thing is, I need more models for her kind of quiet and unfussy intellectual endeavor with only behind-the-scenes contribution to output. I admire, too, that it’s combined with a commitment to place and community, but I guess because it’s by definition a quiet life, there are few publicized examples. I think maybe the Rev John Ames might be one fictional example. And maybe Anne Shirley Blythe in later years? Or Jane Austen in her own lifetime, mostly writing for her family’s amusement?
In January, I vowed to work on reading all the unread books I currently own. Read on to learn how I’ve fared in the first half of the year.
Books I buy myself: I forget and buy The Last Policeman kindle book when it’s featured on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s newsletter of sale kindle books. I unsubscribe to the (excellent) newsletter so I won’t be tempted again.
So, I think one of the perks, if not one of the outright goals, of educating little kids yourself at home is that you get to choose what to stuff into their little brains. Maybe that sounds nefarious, but aren’t the early years mostly just about learning how to learn, and learning to love learning? That’s why I used a saint-based curriculum this year for Police Preschool and it’s why as the school year winds down we are focusing on nature and birds and most of all, flowers.
Because maybe someday Pippin will be a police officer and Scout will be something totally depressing, like a dentist, but they’ll keep these memories of the difference between a dandelion and a daffodil and the way robins dance beside the turned-up garden soil and how grape hyacinth smells like Concord grapes (and maybe a fact or two about St Thérèse, too).
And on our quest, there are plenty of books to light this love of flowers.
Murder mysteries are a strange place to go looking for stories that point out the sacred, but in reading The Last Policeman series I was reminded of the British period drama Foyle’s War we had watched and enjoyed several years ago. Although both stories center around a lone male detective, most similarities end there: one is the story of American Henry Palace in the world’s final days, the other the career of Englishman Christopher Foyle in the shadow of World War II.
Though both men cling to the mores of a dying world, challenged by those who find their allegiance to duty futile under the circumstances, neither detective is simply a bureaucratic ritualist adhering to mindless rules at the cost of his humanity. Instead, both Palace and Foyle highlight a strength of the murder mystery: its affirmation of the vital importance of morality even in the face of dire circumstances. Read More »
Three years and two children ago, I wrote about a Shauna Niequist essay that has stayed with me for years now. In it, she writes,
“And this is what Denise told me: she said it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”
The idea, from an essay excerpted here, and found in her book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way, continues to challenge me. Read More »
So, last month I finished On Pilgrimage, the first book I’ve read by Dorothy Day. If you’ve read it, you know it’s a weird experience — like if I printed out a year’s worth of blog posts, interspersed them with my diary entries, stapled it together, and called it a book. But only if I was as insanely interesting as Day, even at her most scattered.
One page struck me especially. We have a new tradition of mother’s blessings here, where we gather to pray for and encourage a friend as her pregnancy comes to its end, and maybe that’s why this passage struck me particularly.