LET man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
-So, I hope you finished Yankee for today’s class.
-I did, but I must admit I read the last 50 pages in diagonal… everybody ends up dead, right?
-You didn’t like it.
-Well… no. For a travel book it’s all right, I guess.
-What do you mean?
-I mean it’s a travel book: Hank goes through his imaginary Middle Ages. No character -development, no plot. Broken scenes with no unity whatsoever…
-You are being too hard on it.
-Maybe. I don’t like people who mock Lancelot either.
-So it’s kind of personal… Continue reading
For a long time I had the idea of writing a post titled “Flannery and the Flashbacks”, or something like that, as a token of my admiration for the way Flannery O’Connor uses –what is technically called analepsis– so naturally and smoothly. However, reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I discovered Muriel Spark has also a great time-management ability, but this time with flash-forwards which are more rare, probably because they are more difficult to use.
The most simple flash forward is to give some information about the future, for example the famous opening lines of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez:
On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar woke up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on. Continue reading
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.