As part of an assignment in a course on Criticism I read an essay called “The Intentional Fallacy” (The Verbal Icon, W.K. Wimsatt). The author claims that studying the intentions of the poet or any other biographical details is totally irrelevant when judging his work. I like Wimsatt’s effort towards an objective criticism: a critic should not value a poem by Sylvia Plath or Owen because he pities their tragic personal stories…that’s a temptation to be avoided. However, the ideal of the new critics to leave aside everything that is not in the text seems to me a well-intentioned chimera: some of the very tools the poet uses –images, metaphors, etc– do not come from his text, they come from somewhere else. Continue reading
I love sad and dark stories where you can actually see good and evil engaged in battle… I don’t really know why, but ‘beautiful’ stories usually do not catch my attention. The same runs true for films, “Dancer in the Dark” would be a good example -though I still think that Von Trier is totally nuts-. But from time to time it’s very healthy to leave the Brodies, Sutpens, Stavrogins and the like and take a deep breath of pure clean air. So to forget the aftertaste of Miss Brodie I spent some days with the Tristan of Gottfried von Strassburg. Continue reading
Following the advise of a good friend −and very well read one− I took advantage of a brief stay in Madrid to get The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie of Muriel Spark. Thanks to Google I found a bookshop specialized in foreign languages. That’s a polite way of putting it; a more accurate one would be: I found the bookshop where all non-Spanish readers living in Madrid are systematically ripped off… In any case, every euro I paid was worth it. The book is one of those you just can’t leave aside, and that created no little difficulties as I was attending a course in Spain where I was supposed to study Latin besides other topics, which did not include reading novels, of course. After some very brief negotiations I arranged a truce with my conscience: I would finish the book quickly and then move on to the Latin with no further distraction. Thanks God I have a very un-Kantian conscience that is easily persuaded. Continue reading
I was not happy with having read two books on Saint Thomas and not being able to fully recommend one. So I kept searching… and luckily found one I consider to be a true jewel: Guide to Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper.
It has everything it can be asked for:
- Explains the thought of Saint Thomas in its historical context way much better, and in a more profound way, than the one of Chesterton.
- Emphasizes the role of Scripture in his works, something that if you read the Summa is apparent, but that somehow Chesterton manages to overlook.
- Talks about the cultural atmosphere Saint Thomas lived in: the birth of universities, the diputatio as a common form of exposition, the birth of the Mendicant Orders, etc.
- Gives a very clear exposition of the philosophical merits of Aquinas and explains his realism as a revolt against the excessive symbolism that reigned in his time.
I have a serious problem with Mr. William Faulkner. He’s probably the fiction writer I admire the most, but, at the same time, I would never recommend to anybody trying to imitate him. I guess we all can -and should!- learn how to write short stories in the Chekhov school or ask Henri James about novels… but Faulkner looks more as an icon than a teacher: someone to be respectfully admired from a distance: imitating him would be extremely hard -if not a vane effort!- and I guess the consequences would be disastrous if not properly done.
Yesterday I made use of two hours on a bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth to read a couple of stories by Eudora Welty. The stories are sorted in chronological order and I have not gone very far, so I guess my overall judgement is very incomplete yet. Probably the shortcomings I found, are a product of lack of experience by Welty… if that is the case, I hereby promise to make amends in the future.
The first time those words appear in Brideshead Revisited they are used by Cordelia in a conversation with Charles. She quotes the beginning of the book of Jeremiah in order to express her thoughts after the chapel in Brideshead was left empty. The phrase quomodo sedet sola civitas -how lonely the city stands- is taken from the beginning of book of Lamentations, when the prophet cries over the destroyed Jerusalem; they are also used by the Liturgy of the Church in the office of Tenebrae to lament over the death of Christ. Continue reading
Between Purgatorio and Paradiso (I’m referring to the books) I found some time to read the small work Chesterton wrote on Aquinas. I thought it would be a nice idea to compare it with a novel by Louis de Wohl based on the life of Saint Thomas. However, these two works are so different, it seems impossible to find some common ground to build a comparison: true!, they both have Saint Thomas as its “topic”, but that is not enough: heterogenea non comparari possunt -different things are not subject to comparison- said somebody, so I’ll avoid comparisons altogether. (I’ve noticed that if you say something in Latin people take it more seriously, so I’ll be using this technique more frequently from now on). Continue reading
I’ve been for a couple of months already systematically reading the Comedy. Even though it has been hard work, I only regret not to have done it before. As an Eliot fan, reading Dante and discovering the references in their context and not as isolated quotes has been very enriching. It makes a lot of difference! Continue reading
Some years ago a priest who was worried about my formation and the dubious orthodoxy of the books in my reading list, recommended me to mix my peculiar novels and poems with something good -good meaning here instructive, solid and doctrinally sound-. So I took a couple of novels about the first Christians hoping to have a good time while being edified by their example. The start was promising: I read Quo Vadis and I liked it a lot, then I went for Fabiola of Nicholas Card. Wiseman and… my love affair with the novels about the first Christians came to a sudden end. Continue reading