May 24th, 2008

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 16

    Collapse )
  1. Clarke, Arthur C. — Rendezvous With Rama (245 pages)
  2. Clarke, Arthur C. — The City and the Stars (246 pages)
  3. Chesterton, G.K. — The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (205 pages)
  4. Tepper, Sheri S. — Beauty (468 pages)
  5. Slawson, Douglas J. — Ambition and Arrogance: Cardinal William O'Connell of Boston and the American Catholic Church (186 pages)
  6. Belloc, Hilaire — The Great Heresies (166 pages)

Page count: 3596.

I've been curious about Hilaire Belloc for a while. (C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton both raved about him.) And a discussion several months ago with my father about heresy made me particularly interested in learning more. Thus was I led to Belloc's The Great Heresies.

One thing became immediately apparent: This is the product of an extremely intelligent mind. The preciseness of his terms, the clarity and vividness of his explanations, the logic of his structures, and more, all point to a piercing intellect.

Another thing became more gradually apparent: This is not a religious treatise but a history book. Granted, a very broadly painted history written for laypeople, but it wasn't, as I expected, a dogmatic treatise on the main heretical movements in Catholic history.

That's not to say he doesn't discuss the heresies in their religious context. He does explain what a heresy is in the first two chapters, and when introducing what he considers the five great heresies he explains what makes them heresies.

The main thrust of the book, though, is to demonstrate how each of these major conflicts with generally accepted orthodox teaching shaped history. His thesis, essentially, is that the history of the Church is the history of Europe and, by extension, of Western civilization, from Rome until the present day.

It was a fascinating, engaging, and instructive read. I certainly didn't agree with everything Belloc wrote, but then I'm no expert and am not nearly as conservatively orthodox as he apparently was. One doesn't need to agree with him ideologically, though, to see how sensible and accurate most of his conclusions on the ebb and flow of history are. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a broad historical overview of Europe, and I look forward to his next work.

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 17

    Collapse )
  1. Clarke, Arthur C. — Rendezvous With Rama (245 pages)
  2. Clarke, Arthur C. — The City and the Stars (246 pages)
  3. Chesterton, G.K. — The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (205 pages)
  4. Tepper, Sheri S. — Beauty (468 pages)
  5. Slawson, Douglas J. — Ambition and Arrogance: Cardinal William O'Connell of Boston and the American Catholic Church (186 pages)
  6. Belloc, Hilaire — The Great Heresies (166 pages)
  7. Waugh, Evelyn — Brideshead Revisited (326 pages)

Page count: 3922.

Continuing a recent trend of reading books by Catholics, I was recently drawn to Brideshead Revisited. Never before has my reading material solicited so much attention from all sorts of random people, who apparently couldn't seem to resist commenting on it. I finally asked a couple of these people if this was required school reading in the UK. One suggested that while it wasn't, many did read it at school, but she attributed its popularity to a miniseries starring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder. I'd never heard of it before but have since downloaded it and am looking forward to watching it.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuously written book that drew me in from the very beginning. It is essentially the reminiscences of a British captain during wartime looking back on his life spanning the two world wars starting with his youth at Oxford. Or is it really the history of the great house at Brideshead, a metaphor for something much bigger?

Waugh paints (no other word quite captures it—how fitting that the protagonist was a painter by trade) the characters who drive his story carefully, brushstroke by brushstroke, as we watch them take form and evolve before our eyes. There are moving moments of sublimity throughout. I never wanted to take a break and had to force myself to put the book down for sleep or work. Like the protagonist, I am sad it is over but glad to have experienced it.