- Alexander, Lloyd — The Black Cauldron
- Anthony, Piers — Letters to Jenny
- Cooper, Susan — Over Sea, Under Stone
- Proulx, Annie — Close Range: Wyoming Stories
- Kincaid, Jamaica — Lucy
- Christie, Agatha — The Unexpected Guest
- Dick, Philip K. — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Cooper, Susan — The Dark Is Rising
- Cooper, Susan — Greenwitch
- Shaffer, Peter — Amadeus
- Anonymous — Go Ask Alice
- Cooper, Susan — The Grey King
- Martin, Steve — Shopgirl
- Cooper, Susan — Silver on the Tree
- Gaiman, Neil — Stardust
- Gaiman, Neil — Coraline
- Le Guin, Ursula — A Wizard of Earthsea
- Le Guin, Ursula — The Tombs of Atuan
- Le Guin, Ursula — The Farthest Shore
- Le Guin, Ursula — Tehanu
- Merton, Thomas — The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith
As you know, if you've been following these book posts, The Seven Storey Mountain can be a little slow going at times. It took me a while to get into it, and I had to take a break to read other stuff. There were other times, though, when I couldn't put the Merton down.
I think I stumbled upon the Merton at the right time, a time when I was lonely, heartbroken, and receptive to a lot of what Merton had to say. So much of what he wrote struck close to home or inspired me. This reading enriched the soul-searching I've been doing the last couple of months.
I had hoped to finish this while I was in Boston, so I wouldn't have to lug it back to London. Instead, I finished it on the plane…and then I almost left it behind because I was so busy chatting with the sexy Indian girl who sat next to me on the flight. For shame! I had to go back to the plane and ask an attendant to retrieve my book for me. That's how close y'all came to being spared the following few passages that caught my attention that I want to share with you:
I sat there in the dark, unhappy room, unable to think, unable to move, with all the innumerable elements of my isolation crowding in upon me from every side: without a home, without a family, without a country, without a father, apparently without any friends, without any interior peace or confidence or light or understanding of my own….
Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.
I would rather spend two years in a hospital than go through that anguish again! That devouring, emotional, passionate love of adolescence that sinks its claws into you and consumes you day and night and eats into the vitals of your soul! All the self-tortures of doubt and anxiety and imagination and hope and despair that you go through when you are a child, trying to break out of your shell, only to find yourself in the middle of a legion of full-armed emotions against which you have no defense! It is like being flayed alive. No one can go through it twice. This kind of love affair can really happen only once in a man's life. After that he is calloused.
While the train was going through the freight yards in Long Island City my head suddenly began to swim. It was not that I was afraid of vomiting, but it was as if some center of balance within me had been unexpectedly removed, and as if I were about to plunge into a blind abyss of emptiness without end. It got up and stood in the gap between the cars to get some air, but my knees were shaking so much that I was afraid I would slip through the chains between the cars and end up under the wheels, so I got back and propped myself against the wall and held on. This strange vertigo came and went, while the train dived into the tunnel under the river, and everything around me went dark and began to roar.
Now my life was dominated by something I had never really known before: fear. Was it really something altogether new? No, for fear is inseparable from pride and lust. They may hide it for a time: but it is the reverse of the coin.
Yet, strangely enough, it was on this big factory of a campus that the Holy Ghost was waiting to show me the light, in His own light. And one of the chief means He used, and through which He operated, was human friendship.
God has willed that we should all depend on one another for our salvation, and all strive together for our own mutual good and our own common salvation. Scripture teaches us that this is especially true in the supernatural order, in the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which flows necessarily from Christian teaching on grace.
"You are the body of Christ and members one of another.…And the eye cannot say to the hand: I need not thy help: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.… And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it; and if one member glory all the others rejoice with it."
All of a sudden, something began to stir within me, something began to push me, to prompt me. It was a movement that spoke like a voice.
"What are you waiting for?" it said. "Why are you sitting here? Why do you still hesitate? You know what you ought to do? Why don't you do it?"
Suddenly, I could bear it no longer. I put down the book, and got into my raincoat, and started down the stairs. I went out into the street. I crossed over, and walked along by the grey wooden fence, towards Broadway, in the light rain.
And then everything inside me began to sing—to sing with peace, to sing with strength, and to sing with conviction.
The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else's imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!
Where would I be in a week from that day? It was in the hands of God. There was nothing I could do but leave myself to His mercy. But surely, by this time, I should have been able to realize that He is much more anxious to take care of us, and capable of doing so, than we could be ourselves. It is only when we refuse His help, resist His will, that we have conflict, trouble, disorder, unhappiness, ruin.