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Posts Tagged ‘bookishness’

Because it is high time I return The Habit of Being to the Oratory’s library, I am removing all the little markers that still linger between the pages. So you are in for another dose of wisdom from Flannery today.

I’m a full believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound. You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. […] Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place. This doesn’t mean I produce much out of the two hours. Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I don’t think any of that was time wasted. Something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don’t sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won’t be sitting there.

She is writing to a teacher, and goes on to say that your “set time” needs to come when you have a fresh mind, before all your creative energy has gone to your students.

And this is why I imagine I won’t be writing much this week while I grade the second batch of nineteen essays. This depresses me, but it’s also encouraging to know now that I won’t get any writing done, because my priorities must be elsewhere.

And now the book returns to its shelf in the Oratory. I shall miss it, this specific, material, concrete book. I fully intend to buy a copy of my own someday, but I feel that this is the copy I should own: the one I have fallen asleep with and cried over and stuck full of little bits of paper, now all gone.

~~~

Bonus quote! On the use of fiction for “propaganda”:

The novel is an art form and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it. […] art is wholly concerned with the good of that which is made; it has no utilitarian end. If you do manage to use it successfully for social, religious, or other purposes, it is because you make it art first.

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I appreciate books that make my cry. As long as they’re not playing with my emotions in a cheap way; but while I will sometimes cry for cheesy movies, I don’t often cry for cheesy books.

Or for good books, for that matter. I will get an ache inside, I imagine my face scrunches up in weird ways, but tears aren’t often involved.

I cried when I finished The Habit of Being. In fact, I cried when I read the introduction to the last section, which contained the letters written by Flannery O’Connor during the last year of her life.

Flannery has been dead for 47 years, but I felt a deep sense of loss nonetheless. As I neared the end of the book (which is nearly 600 pages), I found the pull to read it stronger and stronger (at the expense of Things I Should Be Doing, like grading essays and homework). And yet the more I read, the closer I came to the end. Dread of reaching the end, yet not wanting to spend time away from the book–a tough tension to navigate.

I’ve been meaning to blog about Flannery for some time, because she has put so much into words and has touched me in a real way. But this post was just to say I cried, because now she is gone.

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Books!

I’ve never been good at keeping track of the books I’ve read, so I thought I might compile a list finished this year. But instead of Jan 1-Jan 1, I think I’ll go Christmas to Christmas. So!

Finished since Christmas:

-Waking Rose by Regina Doman
-The Midnight Dancers by Regina Doman
-The Ball and the Cross by GK Chesterton
-Monkeys by Susan Minot

The reason this list is not longer is because I am in the middle of a lot of books. Some of which I am reading more steadily than others. (I’m almost finished with Flannery O’Connor’s letters. They are a joy to me.) If you look a the sidebar, you will notice that a lot of them are nonfiction. The thing is, I can only take so much nonfiction at once, so much brainfood. Then I need to have my fiction.

Speaking of fiction. I am in the middle of The Sea Wolf by Jack London and have been for some time. I enjoy it, but since the semester started I keep forgetting about it, and it gets buried beneath other books beside my bed. I got a book called Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint from the library yesterday, and ordered one called Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout because it was on sale for 5.50 on Amazon.

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I hope you don’t mind if I share more of the insight of Flannery O’Connor. There’s no doubt she was an opinionated woman. I happen to love many of her opinions. 😉 And I believe she was given the wisdom to understand her gifts.

I even dislike the concept artist when it sets you above, all it is is working in a certain kind of medium to make something right. The material is no more exalted than any other kind of material and the idea of making it right is what should be applied to all making.

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“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

What is the definition of a good book?

I was poking around a Catholic forum today, and perused a thread where people were sharing “Good, Catholic novels.” But the conversation caught on a snag that led to many disagreements: what do you mean by “good”? A good beach read? A vision of profound depth and beauty? Something that keeps you turning the pages or something that makes you think?

I don’t think the people in the thread realized that this difference was actually at the heart of their disagreements–for example, over whether Flannery O’Connor was “good reading.”

I suppose the question is far to subjective to be neatly resolved; but to me at least, a “good book” is more than a “good read.” The latter satisfies, the former stays with you.

But I know that good books do one of two things to me, after I read them (voraciously). They leave me feeling still, like a river of water has suddenly broadened out into a deep pool; or they excite me, and I run around the house full of restless energy making exaggerated gestures.

And good books, almost always, make me want to write.

It is the union of content and craft that affects me; the story as an experienced truth. Something that makes you say: “Yes. Yes, like that.”

The quote about books comes from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I finished reading yesterday. I came across this book on a reading list my professor, Fiona, put together for our workshop. It was originally written in Spanish, so my edition is a translation; but it is a beautiful translation. I could practically taste the Spanish breathing in it. The English itself is very poetic, and so is the story; language and content are united.

I have always been partial to books where the lives of characters intertwine and affect each other in subtle ways, and this is book that satisfies that taste. It’s also written almost like a mystery, although I wouldn’t classify it as one. The setting is rich; the city of Barcelona is like another character.

And it is a book about books. So how can you go wrong?

I can’t say that I was entirely satisfied with the ending; but the writing was excellent. I don’t speak much Spanish, but I think it would be neat to read the original.

It is the poetry of this book I admire most: how it is expressed in the setting, the relationships among characters, and the pace at which the plot unfolds. How all these things speak to you as a reader.

And if I could speak back, I would say … Yes. Like that.

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Finals week begins tomorrow. I have a 16-20 page paper to write, and sixteen portfolios to grade. Not so bad, really. I have almost survived my first semester of grad school!

I’ve been reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and it is wonderful.

My mom has this horrible habit of reading the ends of books once the tension gets to be too much. I am a lot like my mom in many ways; luckily this is NOT one of them. However, I do have a habit of counting things while I read. Chapters left to go; pages left in a chapter. And I’m afraid, in counting the number of chapters left in this book (22), I stumbled across hints I wish I didn’t have.

But, still enjoying the book immensely.

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

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I need to get around to finishing this story. And writing my final reflection. And come up with a workshop for my students to do in class tomorrow. But I’ve finally done something with this wordpress account that’s been sitting around for ages, and I’d like to try it out. I won’t get around to making it look nice until sometime after Christmas, I imagine; but I’d like to share these things with you.

I just started reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.I’m pretty sure it was originally written in Spanish? In any case, it is quite spanishy. Magical realism etc. Have only read the prologue, but I am already in love with it.

Here is part of the last paragraph of the prologue:

Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later–no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget–we will return.

***

I am also reading The Habit of Being, which is a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters. The really awesome thing is how she knows about Simone Weil (though she said she’d never read her) and read stuff by Marcel. Gabriel Marcel! So cool!

I am reading M. Gabriel Marcel that the jacket says is a Christian Existentialist. I certainly like it but oncet the book is shut I have no idea what it’s all about.

I love reading letters like this, seeing the person behind the words, and feeling a level of communion. Communion–the communion of saints. I think of all the ways relationships work, this complex tapestry that is woven horizontally and vertically and every which direction. So I have this relationship with Tolkien and O’Connor, for instance, which is very real, though it naturally goes one direction (temporally speaking). And then I read about the connections between Marcel and O’Connor.

And I wonder about my own contemporary connections. There is no doubt that I’ve been/am influenced my my close friends who are/have been writers. Especially Genevieve, and Keesa, and Lyn. There are also professors. There are also Amazing People like Joseph Pearce and Gregory Wolfe, who I don’t know personally at all, but who are alive and writing today. And less religious people like Raymond Carver (whose short story “Cathedral” was VERY influential in terms of how *I* write short stories, though I didn’t realize it until recently).

And what I wonder is, who else? What other contemporaries will I know, or brush against, and later on someone will look back and it will all be so obvious?

(Er, yes, I’m talking as though I will be like Tolkien or Flannery O’Connor after I’m dead. Hey, you never know!)

And while I am writing about O’Connor, this is for Lyn, continuing/adding/referring back to a conversation we had over the summer (I think?):

Let me assure you that no one but a Catholic could have written Wise Blood even though it is a book about a kind of Protestant saint. It reduces Protestantism to the twin ultimate absurdities of The Church Without Christ or The Holy Church of Christ Without Christ, which no pious Protestant would do. And of course no unbeliever or agnostic could have written it because it is entirely Redemption-centered in thought. Not too many people are willing to see this, and perhaps it is hard to see because H. Motes is such an admirable nihilist. His nihilism leads him back to the fact of his Redemption, however, which is what he would have liked so much to get away from.

(emphasis mine, although all of it is worth close thought, I think)

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