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Book 10

  1. Pohl, Frederik — Gateway (278 pages)
  2. Clement, Hal — Mission of Gravity (193 pages)
  3. Benford, Gregory — Timescape (499 pages)
  4. O'Hare, Mick (editor) — Why Don't Penguins Feet Freeze? and 114 Other Questions (232 pages)
  5. Dos Passos, John — Number One (218 pages)
  6. Heller, Joseph — Catch-22 (457 pages)
  7. St. John of the Cross — Dark Night of the Soul (119 pages)
  8. Day, Dorothy — The Long Loneliness (286 pages)
  9. Allen, Ted, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley, and Jai Rodriguez — Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab 5's Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better, and Living Better (250 pages)
  10. Whittemore, Carroll E., ed. (William Duncan, illus.) — Symbols of the Church (59 pages)

Page count: 2,591 of targeted 12,500.

I can't say I took a break from Jude the Obscure to read through this pamphlet. This was simply situational reading. Jude I'd read on commutes, rare though they may be now that I walk everywhere, and at bedtime, for the few minutes I could keep my eyes open; Symbols I read exclusively in the john, where I didn't want to get sucked into anything time-consuming. That about sums up the quality of the latter as well.

I realized about two-thirds of the way through that the editor has a strong Anglican/Episcopalian bias. That in no way informs my criticism of his work but rather exposes my own bias: I simply assumed, with no further thought, that "the Church" referred to in the title is the Roman Church. Silly me, to subconsciously deny the validity of other churches (a view, I trust you know, I don't hold). In truth, this is a fairly ecumenical work, given the different high churches (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, et al.) share much the same symbolism. Where symbolism varied, the editor usually took care to distinguish between rites; and in the section on Saints, I believe all the examples were pre-Reformation, thus avoiding needless controversy. There just seemed to be an awful lot of English and Irish Saints listed, plus an Episcopal Church shield and a Luther Emblem with no Vatican- or Orthodox-specific symbols.

That said, this work is far too shoddy and unimportant to inspire controversy, irrespective of any aforementioned bias. The illustrations are second-rate. Many of the choices seem arbitrary. For example, there is a section devoted to the various crosses and their meanings or origins. Twenty or so are described, and then thirty are merely listed by name with no further information, when only four additional pages would have been required to give them equal treatment as the first twenty. Sometimes the editor gives an enlightening explanation of the symbols, even when bleedingly obvious, yet at other times he simply states that x and y objects represent z, leaving the reader wanting an explanation of who or what z is and why x and y are representative.

To me, the most useful sections were (1) the glossary, where many of those obscure churchy words like "chasuble" and "narthex" are defined, and (2) the section on liturgical colors, which makes the effort not only to explain the significance of the colors but also the distinction between historical and modern practice and between Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic practice. Had the preceding sections of the book been this thorough and evenhanded, it might have been a useful resource instead of merely a curiosity.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
chrishansenhome
Jun. 2nd, 2007 09:55 am (UTC)
I've left a book, "Outward Signs", by Canon Edward West, at your door. I think you will find it much more interesting than this one. I knew West when I was attending St. John the Divine in New York, and aside from the occasional lapse into Eastern Orthodox vestments at a Western Eucharist, he is thought to have been one of the best authorities on Christian symbolism around.
spwebdesign
Jun. 2nd, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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