Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March is a long month,

but somehow I didn't actually finish many books. And three of the books I did finish were re-reads. I did that on purpose, at the end of February and beginning of March I breezed through three novels that I really enjoyed, one after the other. I felt like I'd swallowed without chewing, so I slowed down to reflect on them some and a couple of other books I'd read last fall. So here's the list, short and sweet:

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. I loved this book and have thought about the ending for the whole month. There was a lesson there for me. It would be hard to explain the lesson without giving away the ending and I do so want you to read this yourself. Here is part of the blurb off the back of the book: "In this universal drama of family love and misunderstandings, of resentments harbored and driven underground, Lawson ratchets up the tension with heartbreaking humor and consummate control, continually overturning one's expectations right to the very end." Ok, I think I can share the lesson without spoiling the story for you: It's about what is and what isn't a tragedy. As you read your heart will break with one tragedy after another, but the thing is- those things are lived through and although they are a shame, they are not necessarily tragedies. The tragedy lies in what one can't let go of. Because I love quotes here is one from near the end that addresses this:
"I suppose the real question is not why I saw it then, but why I didn't seee it years ago. Great-Grandmother Morrison, I accept the fault is largely mine, but I do hold you partly to blame. It is you, with your love of learning, who set the standard against which I have judged everyone around me, all of my life. I have pursued your dream single-mindedly; I have become familiar with books and ideas you never even imagined, and somehow, in the process of acquiring all that knowledge, I have managed to learn nothing at all."

Sacred Pathways was a re-read from last month. I read it through once in Febraury and have since then made my way through it again, for a book-club meeting and for weekly Sunday School discussions. I scored pretty high in three areas: Ascetic: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity; Contemplative:Loving God Through Adoration and Intellectual:Loving God with the Mind. I scored middle of the road in three more categories and quite low in three...

girl meets God- by Lauren Winner. I came across this book last fall at Borders, it's about a young woman who becomes a Christian on her way to becoming an Orthodox Jew. I was interested, but I also thought I might hate the book, if it turns out she wrote it to let all the Christians know that she met God and He isn't who they think He is. It isn't that way at all, her encounter with God is quite orthodox. I read the book from the library first and then went out and bought it. It's sections follow the church year and she grows through it. The growth became more obvious to me the second time I read it because I started with the section on Lent and read the book through to the end and then went back to the beginning and read up to Lent.

One of my favorite stories is about the reading fast(as in a fast from reading not reading fast!) she did for Lent one year. She shares: "I also found myself praying more because I don't have my usual distractions. When I am stuck in a puddle of sadness and mistakes, I cannot take them to Mitford. I have to take them to God."

So here is something to think about- it's quoted in this book-
"To read, when one does so of one's own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one's life or one's orientation toward it."

The last book, Mudhouse Sabbath is also by Lauren Winner. In it she takes 11 Jewish spiritual practices and shares ideas about how these practices can enhance Christian spiritual disciplines. I know, that sounds boring. But it's not really- to me anyway. She writes in an easy conversational way, it's a quick, easy and inspiring read.


Janet said...

I've heard of that Lauren Winner book and have been curious about it, with some of the same reservations you express. It's good to hear that she isn't writing to slam all the Christians. :-)

I disagree with the quote though. I like C.S. Lewis's better: "Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become." I don't leave my life to read; I invite the books in to "enrich" it.

mrsbeaver said...

That is a great Lewis quote and I admit to feeling a sting from the Sven Birkerts(??) quote at first reading. But as I was arguing with it a bit and defending myself I realized that he could mean nearly the same thing as Lewis. Perhaps he doesn't, but think about it-whether you say "insufficiency" or "incompleteness" or if you say reading/literature "adds to reality" or "enriches..daily life" could you not be meaning the same thing? In the book she is talking about using reading to numb feelings, to escape- but reading as way to understand and grapple with reality is in it's own way an admission that you or your orientation to life is insufficient as it stands, incomplete, not without flaws. What do you think? BTW, I think you would enjoy the book.

Janet said...

I think they agree that our isolated experience and perception are not enough to experience life fully, and reading -- and fellowship with others -- and prayer and inspiration -- are all things that can enrich and supplement. But that's not the same as saying that to open a book is "to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it."

I think there are different ways of responding to that insufficiency and incompleteness. I don't think it's true that reading always constitutes a "setting off" to an "elsewhere."

That's one of the things I love about reading, in fact. I stay in one place, in one life, in one set of circumstances. But whatever I happen to read at any given time throws its coloring over my experience and helps me see IN it -- not "elsewhere" -- dimensions I wouldn't otherwise have seen.

That's my two cents. :-)

mrsbeaver said...

I like the image of *positing an elsewhere and setting of for it*- reminds me of a journey- assuming an elsewhere and going in quest of it. The part that held a sting to me at first was the idea that your desire to go in quest of an elsewhere was a comment on the place you left, and by association the people. I'm not necessarily making that jump.
Thanks, for chatting with me about this, I always love to read your thoughts.

Janet said...

Yes... I think that's the part that held a sting for me too!