So Many Books

Monday, April 4, AD 2016


I assume that all readers of this blog are probably book lovers.  Here are my answers to a favorite book meme that has been floating around the internet for years:

1. One book that changed your life: A Canticle for Leibowitz. An extended meditation on History and the role of the Church in History disguised as a first rate science fiction novel.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Lord of the Flies.

4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague DeCamp. A hilarious time travel novel where the protagonist seeks to stop the conquest of Italy by Belisarius in the Sixth century.

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8 Responses to So Many Books

  • 1. One book that changed your life: Doors of the Sea

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Lord of the Rings.

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Lord of the Rings.

    4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Going Postal.

    5. One book that made you cry: Doors of the Sea

    6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written: A History of the Outer Banks

    7. One Book You Wish Hadn’t Been Written: No Idea

    8. One Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read: Personal Knowledge, Polanyi

  • FYI: Erasmus wrote In The Praise of Folly, which I was required to read in college.
    Sadly, I don’t have good answers for too many of the questions.
    1. Changed life: The Gospels.
    2. One book repetitively: Too Many. Say, The Odyssey.
    3. Desert island: Heart of Darkness.
    4. Laugh: ?
    5. Cry: a Joyce short story from Dubliners, “Counterparts.”
    6. Wish had been written: True History of the Democrat Party.
    7. Hadn’t been written: None.
    8. Will read whatever catches my eye in the Public Library new book shelf.

  • I am a book lover however the books I’m drawn to are religious in nature. Admittedly, I was a late bloomer to good reading. Here are my picks;

    1.) Life changing book. Will to Love. St. Maximilian Kolbe.

    2.) One book that you’ve read multiple times.
    Death on a Friday Afternoon. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

    3.) Island read. The entire volumes of Maria Valtorta’s The poem of the Man-God.
    This book also counts for question #5. Tears.

    4.) Laugh. Small Miracles / and Small Miracles II. By Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal. ( God gets the last laugh and tear in this marvelous collection of stories. One of my favorites when I’m feeling burned out or in need of a pick-me-up.)

    6.) Wish had been written. The Lambs Supper by Scott Hahn.

    Can’t answer 7 and 8. Yet.

  • Canticle for Leibowitz may yet prove to be prophetic. We seem to be at the end of the stage of Fiat Voluntas Tua, having passed through Fiat Homo and Fiat Lux some time ago. Sadly, however, we have no Quo Peregrinatur aboard which we may escape the coming destruction. But that was 3781 and this is 2016. Sic transit mundus.

  • Hummm. Thanks Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.
    I just read the short Amazon review from Paul Hughes. This fiction could become non-fiction, but I hope it never does.
    Looks like a good read.

  • Book that changed my life: Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
    Book read multiple times: The Screwtape Letters
    Book for a desert island: my college textbook with the complete works of Shakespeare (it was hardbound and weighed about 20 pounds but there’d be no worry about running out of material)
    Book(s) that made me laugh: the “Edge” series of Westerns by George Gilman. They were so riddled with cliches and bad puns that my husband figured he could do better — and that’s how we got into the self-publishing business 🙂
    Book that made me cry: Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
    Book I wish had been written: The Catholic Church, Slavery and the Civil War. (I may have to write it myself)
    Book(s) I wish hadn’t been written: Mein Kampf and Rules for Radicals
    Book(s) I’ve been meaning to read: The later works of the American Winston Churchill, including “The Inside of the Cup”.

  • Canticle for Leibowitz is a book that should be more widely read. It is definitely in the top 10 that I’ve purchased as gifts.
    BTW, the husband of the woman who introduced me to my wife has a first hardback edition, and so I learned that later editions have a typo that has propagated throughout the years. Most editions near the end have a line where the abbot tells a young monk “Take your oaths on this side of the sign”; the first edition reads “Take your baths on this side of the sign”.

  • 1. One book that changed your life: Orthodoxy, by Chesterton.

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Don Quixote, by Cervantes.

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Summa Theologica by Aquinas

    4. One Book that Made You Laugh: Don Quixote.

    5. One book that made you cry: Divine Comedy by Dante

    6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written: The Lord of the World, by father Robert Benson.

    7. One Book You Wish Hadn’t Been Written: Books by Luther or Calvin.

    8. One Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read: The Lord of the Ring.

Book Haul

Sunday, March 22, AD 2015



My bride and I attended the book sale of the Normal Public Library in Normal, Illinois on Friday March 20, 2015 to feed my bibliophilia addiction.  For $50.00 my bride and I picked up quite a few books.  She got several books and magazines on crocheting, she being on a crocheting crusade for the past two years.  (I have to stay on the move in my house, lest I be covered over in afghans.)  I thought there might be some mild interest in the books I picked out, and here they are:

1.  Frontsoldaten by Stephen G. Fritz (1995)-A look at the common frontline soldiers of the Wehrmacht, and a tome that underlines this maxim of the British Army-Those who have not fought the Germans do not know war.

2.  Hard Magic (2011) and Monster Hunter Vendetta (2010) both by Larry Correia.  I have heard good things about science fiction/fantasy author Correia, but these will have been the first of his books I have read.

3.  Hitler’s Renegades by Christopher Ailsby- (2004)-An interesting look at the non-German troops who fought with the Third Reich.  The section on the Spanish Azul (Blue) division was a bit brief for my taste however.

4.  Art in the Third Reich by Berthold Hinz-(1979)-Proof positive that most art produced under the auspices of the Third Reich can be described in two words:  banal kitsch.

5.  The Ancient Near Eastern Tradition by Milton Covensky-(1966)-Part of the Major Traditions of World Civilization, one of those multi-volume looks at world history which were all the rage in the sixties.

6.  The Mughal World by Abraham Eraly-(2007)-A look at life in Mughal India by perhaps the foremost expert on that period.

7.  Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey The River of Doubt by Candice Millard-(2005)-A masterful look at the Amazonian expedition of 1913-14 that almost killed Roosevelt.

8.  History of the Byzantine Empire, vol. II, by AA Vasiliev-(1952)-I have always thought the best Byzantinists have been Russians, and perhaps the greatest of them was Vasiliev who emigrated from Russia in 1925 and who taught in the US for years.

9.  Samuel Pepys Diary by Samuel Pepys-A Random House edition of selections from the diary of Pepys.  Pepys was something of a rotter but he is never dull.  At random on a page I see three passages.  On the first he thanks God that it has been three years since he had a kidney operation to cut out a stone and that he is still free from pain. (I can empathize with his joy.)  In the next passage he listens to a preacher at church who preaches like a fool.  Finally he visits a friend, notes that his servant girl is pretty and searches her out for a kiss.

10. A History of French Literature by L. Cazamian-(1955)-A book that I trust will remedy my bone ignorance on the subject.

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14 Responses to Book Haul

  • Good Haul. Braudel, O’Rourke and Vasiliev especially. Has to make you wonder who beat you to the first volume of the last though.

  • Love library sales, and their modern version available on Amazon. 😀 (My kids have a great selection of used mythology books that were barely touched, but got cycled out of their libraries and into ours….for a tiny fraction of their original price tag.)

  • Arnold has an unpleasant habit, shared with more than a few Victorians, of assuming in his writings that all of prior history existed to labor with great effort to bring forth its pinnacle: people who thought just like him.

    *grin* Isn’t that kind of common in anyone who recognizes that not everyone prior thought just like them?
    Or are you drawing a contrast to those who believe they came to be in spite of all those prior generations who were obviously fools, as they don’t agree with him?

  • The Victorians, probably because of the technological wonders that they saw around them, tended to be pioneers in “presentism”, the idea that they were manifestly superior to all ages prior to them. We still have this, although it is diluted with pessimism that came in during the aftermath of WW I and, among leftists, a heaping helping of “noble savage mania” for third world peoples with which to belabor their own societies, while simultaneously embracing causes completely alien, and usually anathema, to most of the third world peoples they purport to champion. Arnold would have fitted in superbly on most left wing college faculties today.

  • Have fun! I don’t think your numbering is necessarily your reading priority but I would put number 8 at number one and number 17 at last.

  • Also the political and cultural geography of the Holy Land would be very interesting to me.
    I wonder what times in history he spotlights

  • The order of listing was random and I am planning to begin #8 this week.

    # 15 basically looks at the historical geography during Old and New Testament times.

  • Enjoy, Mr. McClarey, I appreciate your scholarship and your generosity in sharing.

  • #s 1, 7, 8 ,15 and 16 are my picks. I’d probably crack #1 first as a follow up to others of my winter readings. I.e. The Yanks Are Coming & When Hell Froze Over.

  • 8, 15, and the crocheting books BUT:
    Foxfier has a post about the history of Harlequin Books, which were ubiquitous and ignored in my experience of the “first” commercial paperbacks. These days? – hmmm – maybe if a box were found at the spring tag sale at church.
    Also a question: the local branch library near my elementary school had a series of dozens of early American history with names as titles ( ex. Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin to almost the Civil War times). These were orange hardcover with title and a black silhouette, about 6″ x 10″ x 1″, had deep background of the life and how things were done (to education, medical care, law, arts, crafts, homemaking, farming, animals, building, and manners of social activity. Publisher forgotten. It would be good to have a set or a few to pass along. In the late 50’s, they were not new.

  • The article is kind of flawed– it correctly points out that not all romances are textual pr0n, but rather brushes over that part at the end. It’s like reading a history of anime that (correctly) points out that no, it’s not a synonym for animated perversion, and much later bringing up the “creative” and “more explicit” stuff. Plus, some “look, I used a big curse word, I’m to be taken seriously!” stuff at the end.
    Still, a very interesting, especially for the way that they basically went “hey, look! There’s demand for this– let’s fill it!”

  • A trick I’ve found for finding books that I saw but can’t identify enough information on is to go into the image search of Bing or Google until I recognize it.

  • I have never – this is not hyperbole – laughed harder than I did when reading P.J. O’Rourke’s essay “So Drunk”. It’s sort of experimental gonzo journalism. The essay “Die, Eco-Weenies” is also a stand-out.

    I know very little about the Byzantine Empire. I’m ok with my ignorance about French literature (you can’t know everything) but I think I’m missing the boat on Byzantium. The Catholic State has rarely been tried. And speaking of the French, I think that the quality of their attempt is probably over-stated. I have a fondness for the Austrians’ efforts. The Byzantines, I should know better.

  • Yes, the old ones when the publisher’s wife was ‘editor’ … sort of old fashioned and cerebral … as in the Nancy Drew series … kind of enjoy gleaning first aid methods as a side hobby.
    For Don: This site has been freezing a lot lately and the comment notifications are sporadic. Since you have this post on Almost Chosen People, Foxfier’s response to a comment here were sent under that site in the email, but not this site.

War Novel Recommendations

Thursday, July 11, AD 2013

I’d like to turn to our TAC readership and ask for book suggestions. Specifically, what would you recommend as some of the best historical novels dealing with war?

Some of the best that I’ve read have been:

War and Peace which although some of Tolstoy’s historical/philosophical digressions drove me nuts does certainly give a sweeping sense of Russia during the war with Napoleon.

The Cypresses Believe in God and One Million Dead — Donald recommended these to me, and although they are very long (not quite War & Peace long, but pretty astoundingly long nonetheless) I found them utterly gripping and they similarly give you a sense not just of individual characters but of the whole nation of Spain at war with itself.

Killer Angels is a much more modest book in scope, but is a compelling and clear account of a single battle more detailed than many history books.

Alan Furst’s espionage novels aren’t, perhaps, technically war novels, but they give a very strong sense of what war and rumors of war do to society.

The Sharpe novels and Aubrey/Maturin are also great historical novels dealing with the Napoleonic era.

What other novels would you recommend and why?

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16 Responses to War Novel Recommendations

  • One of the great shames of my life was conking out halfway through War and Peace. And it’s not like you can step back from the book for a while and pick it up again. No, if I ever get the guts to try again, I’ve got to start on page 1.

    I don’t know if I’d call Slaughterhouse Five a war novel, but it left a lasting impression. It’s got strong sci-fi and philosophical vibes. It’s not for everyone.

  • If you like the Aubrey/Maturin series, you may also enjoy the Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester. They are set in the same historical era, but you get a more up-close view into the main character’s psychology.

    Since you liked Killer Angels, you may like its prequel, Gods and Generals.

    Also, Nigel Tranter wrote a historical novel on William Wallace. Name any era in Scottish history, and there will be a Nigel Tranter novel for you.

  • The Horse Soldiers, a superb fictional account of Grierson’s Raid during the Civil War:

    Sort of a one hit wonder, Sinclair was an unsuccessful writer in Central Illinois. His wife supported their family while he wrote. The high literary quality of The Horse Soldiers and its realism makes me regret that Sinclair did not have a successful follow up.

    Spartacus-Howard Fast-The old commie was good at writing historical pot boilers. Spartacus was his best effort. He gets some of the facts wrong but overall it is a brilliant look at the dying Roman Republic.

    Lest Darkness Fall-L. Sprague DeCamp-One of the earliest alternate history novels, DeCamp has a timetraveler defeat Belisarius’ attempt to conquer Italy in the sixth century. Filled with wit and humor it also displays DeCamp’s complete mastery of the historical background.

    And Quiet Flows the Don-Mikhail Sholokov-This is a superb look at the Russian Revolution told from the perspective of the Don Cossacks. Sholokov was a Stalinist toady and wrote the most dreadful hack work except for this. He has been accused of plagiarizing much of the work from Cossack writer Fyodor Kryukov who died in 1920.

    The court is still out on that charge, but certainly everything else Sholokov wrote is absolute drek.

  • Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield. The Spartans at Thermopylae.

    Knight With Armour by Alfred Duggan. A young knight goes on the First Crusade.

    Count Bohemond by Alfred Duggan. The exploits of the finest military commander among the First Crusaders.

  • (Don’s wife Cathy here) There have been a couple of alternate history or SF treatments of the Napoleonic Wars and the “Age of Fighting Sail;” a couple that come to mind right away are Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series (Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons!) and David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series (think the Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester, with their setting and political situation transposed into the far future, with the Star Kingdom of Manticore standing in for the UK, and Honor Harrington herself as a far-future female Hornblower).

  • “Northwest Passage” by Kenneth Roberts is a forgotten classic of American literature. The novel chronicles a young man from Maine who falls in with Robert Rogers during the French and Indian War and its aftermath. When you’re done with that, Roberts’ novels of the American Revolution, “Arundel” and “Rabble in Arms”, are equally well-written stories of men at war.

  • Hmmm. I have copies of Gates of Fire and Slaughterhouse Five sitting around which I haven’t got to. Maybe I should bump them up a bit.

    I read Lest Darkness Fall when I was in high school and loved it. Indeed, I’d been wanting to re-read it one of these days. I’m glad to see that it’s back in print again. I’ll have to get hold of a copy.

    Also very glad to hear your mention of And Quiet Flows The Don, Donald. I’d found a reference to it and the concept sounded interesting, but I was wondering if a book that won the Stalin Prize would just be boring propaganda. Is there anyone who has read and can provide a review of:

    Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
    Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

  • Another Kenneth Roberts novel that will be of interest is Oliver Wiswell, which tells the story of the (First) War for Independence from the perspective of a British Loyalist.

  • Sorry — my skills with HTML tags evidently need brushing up!

  • Echoing Nathan’s comment above, Nigel Tranter wrote an excellent trilogy on Robert the Bruce and the First Scottish War of Independence.

    One war novel that I think a lot of folks forget about is the first American novel ever written, The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper, which is based on George Washington’s spy network in the Hudson Valley during the American Revolution. I have long enjoyed this book and have read it 2 or 3 times, and am having my oldest son read it later this summer (after he finishes reading Tom Sawyer). And, of course, there’s Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, which includes The Last of the Mohicans.

    Also, while not strictly a “war novel”, William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece Vanity Fair” is set in the Napoleanic Wars.

    For some reading about the Indian wars in Ohio, you might want to read anything by Allan W. Eckert, especially Than Dark and Bloody River, which is an epic that covers the entire period, and A Sorrow in Our Hearts, which is a novel/biography about the life of Tecumseh. Other Eckert books about the war on the early frontier between English, French, and Indians are The Frontiersmen, and Wilderness Empire.

  • For some reason, a couple of my comments on two different threads have not posted. Am I on super-secret “probation”?


  • Just the spam filter being onery, the Good Lord knows why

  • Great books … If not already there, I would add:

    Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters. Not in same class as Killer Angels, but good none the less. Focuses a lot of Meade who Peters very much admires.

    Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich. A WW2 version of all quiet on the western front. Back in the 1970s Sam Peckinpaw butchered the book into a movie that was pretty aweful, so if you have seen the movie don’t use it to judge the book.

  • Connie Willis wrote 3books about WW2 WWwTo Say Nothing of the Dog, Black Out &All Clear. The premise is time travellers caught in GB during the war. Liked the stories but someone w/actual knowledge of the period would need to confirm historical accuracy.

  • I strongly endorse Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy.

    Also, anyone who strongly dislikes Christianity (and Waugh’s kind of Catholicism in particular) will likely enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s books, though they’re pulpier and more sensationalist fare than some of the novels listed here. (Those who don’t revel in anti-Catholic bigotry should instead consider themselves forewarned.) Cornwell has written war novels related to the Arthurian legends, Alfred the Great, the Hundred Years War, and most famously, the Napoleonic era. I very much enjoyed the BBC dramatizations of the latter series, which detail the exploits of the fictional protagonist Richard Sharpe, and I do not recall any anti-Catholicism there, though it has been several years since I viewed them.

    To be fair, I have found some of his other series pretty enjoyable, too, in a selective kind of way, though the ones I’ve finished seem to sag towards the end.

  • Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson is a superb book about the Civil War and though it is nonfiction, it was totally engrossing and I learned so much and came to appreciate that time in our history. I never though I would be so fascinated with not only battles but the politics behind the whole war.

Bad History: Was the Persecution of Christians a Myth?

Thursday, March 14, AD 2013

Donald McClarey has a well deserved barn-burner of a post up at The American Catholic about a new book entitled The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom out from University of Notre Dame theology professor Candida Moss. I’d seen a couple articles on this book before it came out and more or less passed over them as yet another fluffy work of pop scholarship intent on telling us that “everything we know is wrong” in relation to Christianity. However, the book appears to be getting a certain amount of press and is climbing the Amazon sales ranks, so it’s worth giving it a bit of attention as the politically motivated pop-history that it is.

Dr. Moss talks about her motivations for writing the book in an interview at HuffPo:

I initially became interested in this subject because of a homily I heard that compared the situation facing modern Christians in America to the martyrs of the early church. I was surprised by the comparison because modern Americans aren’t living in fear for their lives and the analogy seemed a little hyperbolic and sensational. After this, I began to notice the language of persecution and victimization being bandied about everywhere from politics, to sermons, to the media, but rarely in regard to situations that involve imprisonment and violence.

She goes on to argue that modern Christians have a view that persecution of the early Church was pervasive when it was in fact not:

[A] lot of weight rests on the idea that Christians were persecuted in the early church because, without the idea of near-continuous persecution, it would be difficult to recast, say, disagreements about the role of prayer in schools as persecution. … But intriguingly, the historical evidence for systematic persecution of Christians by Jews and Romans is actually very slim. There were only a few years before the rise of the emperor Constantine that Christians were sought out by the authorities just for being Christians. The stories about early Christian martyrs have been edited, expanded, and sometimes even invented, giving the impression that Christians were under constant attack. This mistaken impression is important because it fosters a sense of Christian victimhood and that victim mentality continues to rear its head in modern politics and society. It’s difficult to imagine that people could make the same claims about persecution today were it not for the idea that Christians have always been persecuted.

Moss also has a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education summarizing her argument and promoting the book:

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26 Responses to Bad History: Was the Persecution of Christians a Myth?

  • As I said the other day, her motivation appears quite clear: If the Church and individual Christians suffer government and/or legal sanction because their beliefs and how they practice those beliefs are at odds with cultural “norms” – be those norms abortion-on-demand, the HHS mandate, or same-sex “marriage” – they are not REALLY being persecuted. In essence, the Church and individual Christians can either get on board with the agenda or not; but if they choose not to, they wouldn’t be able to legitimately cry “persecution” if the legal fallout is not to to their liking.

    Moss’s motivation, as with the motivation of many on the Catholic left and Christian left who are critical of the Church, is actually quite transparent: political ideology trumps religious dogma.

  • They like the smells and bells, and the color and pageantry that we have seen at the Vatican this week, but as for religion actually telling them to repent and change their lives, not for a second. They applaud the outward show of religion and boo the substance.

  • This is an important article for Christians to read and refer to, when they hear the increasing number of followers of Dr. Moss, armed with her half-truths, proclaiming her gospel.

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  • According to Ms. Moss’ definition, Christians aren’t persecuted in China today, because while they may be harassed, imprisoned, tortured, or even killed by the government, the Communist Party’s motives for doing so are ultimately political. I’m sure this must be a great comfort to the victims of this non-persecution.

  • The real message is clear.

    You’re crazy if you think you’re persecuted, but when we actually do persecute you, it will be for good reasons.

    Christianity really IS responsible for the insane idea that a man’s loyalties might lie with a power higher than and distinct from the state. In that sense it is responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today. I don’t even think it is Christianity that Moss has a problem with, but freedom itself, the nerve and the gall it takes to say “no”, for the sake of conscience, to supposedly benevolent rulers who supposedly know what is best for us.

    The irony here is that by denying that Christians were and are persecuted, Moss makes it easier to persecute them. By arguing that the authorities were rational and justified in their views of early Christians, she makes the case that today’s secular state is rational and justified in suppressing freedom expressed as conscientious objection to its policies.

    I have seen this shell game many times. First deny the problem and call people insane who recognize it, then acknowledge the problem and call people insane who complain about it. It is a diabolical game.

  • I saw her piece on the “Chronicle of Higher Ed” online the other day. There were readers who left comments, unimpressed with her for secular reasons.

  • Another member of the Patriotic Association hard at work.

    Thanks for this handy dismantling, Darwin.

  • Actually, (for them) to the extent “it” advances the agenda/narrative, it is GOOD history.

  • “the Romans don’t come off as particularly cuddly in the old toga epics such as Spartacus”

    The depiction of Crassus crucifying the survivors of the slave army of Spartacus is completely historical:

    “Since there was still a very large number of fugitives from the battle in the mountains, Crassus proceeded against them. They formed themselves into four groups and kept up their resistance until there were only 6,000 survivors, who were taken prisoner and crucified all the way along the road from Rome to Capua.”


    Imagine the sight, sound and smell of that. Crassus wanted an object lesson that the slaves of Italy would remember forever and he wanted to establish himself as a frontrunner to be one of the two consuls in the upcoming election. Crassus was hailed for his stern measures, and no one said a word against what he did, at least a word that has come down to us in the source material.

    The Romans were not the cruelest people in the Ancient world but they were brutal in a way that most moderns would find shocking. Pay your taxes and do what you were told in the Roman Empire and you were mostly left alone. Step out of line, and the whole power of the Roman state could land on you, with the best result for you being slavery for yourself and your family and the worst being death on a cross for you and your family. Christians until the time of Constantine always had to worry about a sudden wave of persecution forcing them to choose between abjuring Christ and dying a horrible death. That Ms. Moss does not see that as persecution makes one wonder how much State power she would be content with being used against people who have the temerity to disagree with her before she would deem it to be persecution.

  • I wasted some time plumbing the depths of this MossThing so you won’t have to. Overall conclusion: she is going for it, money, fame, and notoriety all at once.

    This one has clogged up a spot on Notre Dame’s faculty with her idiosyncratic idiocy, and now makes herself available to serve as a liberal non-believing academic consultant for the History Channel TV series “The Bible.” Oh, how utterly! And her alleged “research-based book” informs that Romans did not persecute Christians. Goodness gracious, now that’s special, isn’t it?

    Enough said, and a fortiori, enough heard!

    I wasted some time plumbing the depths of this MossThing so you won’t have to. Now I need a shower and, yes, I will require that scrub brush. I’ll give it back in about 45 minutes.

  • The falsity of her presumptions drives me batty. I have taught religion, studied religion – and done so in Catholic instutions. There is not a textbook out there – and never has been – that has held that the persecutions were empire-wide and constant for 300 years.

    She’s a mess. Notre Dame should be embarrassed. Well, they already should be about other things..but anyway..

  • It is highly likely that possible future kind, gentle, soft Western totalitarisms will not persecute Christians, nor prosecute them. It will judge them to be mentally ill and insure that they are given the best treatments that public monies can provide. And if their minds should be destroyed by said treatments, then compassion will be exercised: pity will move the “care providers” to euthanize them so that they no longer “suffer”. But a persecution? Oh no, it wouldn’t be that at all.

  • I pray episodes like this begin to erode Notre Dame’s “pocket book” through lower demand for their “product.” I know, it may take a while for this to happen. However, when I hear someone mention ND as a graduate or as a parent who is sending their kids to this school, I cringe. A whopping $65k/year is spent by most parents and students to receive revisionist history, progressive theology, social justice awareness. Recall the quote by P.T. Barnum, “there is a sucker born every minute.” Well, at least Barnum was offering a real live show. ND is offering fiction and fantasy. Moss is busy at the practice of undermining truth and the faith of others. Who knew, we have Judas with us still today.

  • Let’s talk about persecution in “modern” times. Wonder what she would say about the persecution of Christians in Mexico less than 100 years ago. Probably that it was their own fault for not jumping into line with the government. If any of you don’t know what I am talking about, here is a good explanation:¡viva-cristo-rey

  • Here is the problem: people run out of things to research, they run out of ideas, and cannot put together a thesis. They become very creative and imagine they found something new, different, or opposite to that which was said before. They get goofy. That’s what happened here. Notre Dame is to blame for hiring and, I suppose giving tenure to someone like this. Despicable!

  • I think you are right about that Barbara. We have had several posts on the Cristeros Movement at The American Catholic:

  • The 800 Martyrs of Otranto:

    “The first of the chroniclers, Giovanni Michele Laggetto, adds, in the “Historia della guerra di Otranto del 1480 [Story of the war of Otranto in 1480],” transcribed from an ancient manuscript and published in 1924:

    “And turning to the Christians, Primaldo spoke these words: ‘My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our homeland, to save our lives, and for our earthly governors; now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for our Lord. And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him, remaining firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we will earn eternal life and the glory of martyrdom.’ At these words, all began to shout with one voice and with great fervor that they wanted to die a thousand times, by any sort of death, rather than renounce Christ.”

    The holocaust within the Spanish Civil War has been denied far too long. Almost no one in America knows that during the 1930’s Spanish “Civil” War the “republicans” massacred of tens of thousands of Roman Catholic religious and lay people. For decades, the MSM, publishers, and the academy have sold the one-sided idea that Franco and his government (World War II neutrals) were merely fascists. The MSM, et al, egregiously deny the mass murders of Spanish Catholic religious and lay persons committed by the Soviet-led Spanish and international brigands such as Hemingway, Robeson and the so-called Abraham Lincoln brigade.

    There was a general massacre of Roman Catholic clergy and laity in the areas under communist control during the 1936 to 1939 Spanish Civil War. Four thousand Roman Catholic bishops, priests, brothers, and nuns, and tens of thousands of lay Catholic people were martyred. The Lord had called the Spanish religious community to a radical witness. When the republicans found them to be religious, they were arrested and executed. For example, the bolshevists murdered 165 of the order of Catholic school teachers, the De La Salle Christian Brothers, whose brothers have, for over 150 years, served their vocations at Manhattan College. On October 10, 1993, Pope John Paul II proclaimed “blessed”, seven Spanish Christian Brothers and three Spanish Marianists (Carlos Erana, Jesus Hita, Fidel Fuidio). The Marianists are dedicated religious priests and brothers who serve Long Island Roman Catholics at Chaminade High School and Bishop Kellenberg Memorial High School.

  • I’m not sure why Moss sees a need to argue against “systematic persecution” or a “sustained three-hundred-year-long effort” of persecution, since no one studying Christianity in the Roman Empire that I know of argues that this is what happened. If there is one thing we do know about Roman persecutions of Christians, it is that they weren’t systematic and they weren’t sustained. I doubt that anyone seriously defends or teaches the idea that there was a constant, universal Roman policy of persecution that never let up, and anyone who does teach such a thing knows virtually nothing about the history of the church or the Roman Empire.

  • You’re clearly misrepresenting her work:

    She wrote two other books (one won a big prize according to her ND bio page). One from Oxford and one from Yale.

    In the chapter available for free she is critical of the left as well.

  • Maddy,

    I’ve quoted directly from the book pretty extensively, so I think it’s hard to make the case that I’m mischaracterizing it. I haven’t read her other books, which as you say are academic works unlike this one which is for popular consumption. However, whatever their merits, a basic reading of this book makes it pretty clear that it’s based on a massive strawman effort and also on some very poor attempts to wave away or explain away very well established primary source material.

  • What leads ND to employ a person who openly espouses positions of this sort? Is it some misplaced inclination to provide a counter-voice to Catholic dogma?

  • It is interesting to read the last paragraph of the review–“A view of history in which dangerously bad bogeymen do horrible things simply because they are bad is a shallow view of history that teaches us nothing”–and then to read many of the comments about Ms. Moss.

    As for moving goalposts, that’s something we all have to beware of. E.g., when she states that the Romans “…were known for being comparatively beneficent rulers…” and then the reviewer says “…Roman society was violent and cruel by modern standards.” I assume that Moss’s “…were known…” meant, in Roman times, not by modern standards. Which goal post should we use?

    A note on your reading of Pliny: You wrote, “The question at hand is not whether Christians were considered to be Enemy Of The State #1 in the Roman mind, but rather whether they were being persecuted. In this case, obviously they were, since Pliny figured that a good minimum was interrogating everyone accused of being a Christian and executing those who would not recant.” But if you read Pliny’s language he was saying that he was treating them thus because they were like others who transgressed: “I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished.” Pliny seems to further contextualize his attitude when he said, ” I had forbidden political associations.”

    So the wrinkle here might be: was Pliny going after the Christians qua Christians, or because they fit the profile of a larger set: political instigators of movements inimical to the empire?

    From an academic perspective, she may well be tilting at a straw man. From a popular perspective, the notion of Christians persecuted by Romans is a commonplace among many who were brought up with a Christian education; the technical distinctions within the concept, not so much. So if she was writing to a more popular audience, maybe the commonplace concept was one worth addressing.

  • Jake Arvey,

    On goal posts: It struck me that Dr. Moss must be referring to modern standards, since she is talking about people judging the Romans particularly harshly for being repressive towards the Christians when they were generally such “nice” guys.

    The Romans were usually so kind, the argument goes, that their treatment of Christians was out of character and cruel. On the other, it is used as evidence of Roman innocence; the Romans were so kind that we must conclude that the Christians deserved it.

    I’m just honestly not sure where that comes from, as I don’t think that the Romans have a particular reputation for being kind in the popular consciousness.

    On your point regarding Pliny: I guess I’m a little unclear as to whether it’s relevant that Pliny was interested in persecuting Christians qua Christians or whether he saw Christians as one of a number of identifiable groups which were considered seditious. Would it really make the Christians less persecuted if follows of the cult of Isis were persecuted too?

    Now, it is true that one can get some good insights by looking at the way in which persecutions of the Christians fit in with Roman persecutions of other groups. For instance, “secret societies” (which tended to be defined pretty broadly) were frequently repressed by the Romans. One of the few areas of association which was pretty consistently allowed was burial societies. This, in turn, is almost certainly why the Christians tended at times to meet and worship in the catacombs around the tombs of the martyrs. It wasn’t exactly that they were “hiding” in the catacombs, but rather that burial societies which met to make offerings at the tombs of the dead were one of the few kinds of organization which were permissible.

    But again: Persecuting Christians because they do the things that Christians do (meet to celebrate the mass, refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods, refuse to take part in certain activities they believed to violate their consciences) is still persecuting Christians even if its these secondary characteristics that one objects to, not the fact that they worship one God and believe that he became man in Jesus Christ.

  • Darwin,

    Your points are well taken. There does seem to be a lot of popular history that describes certain eras and leaders as beneficent; maybe that’s a pop history “meme” that should be dispatched.

    On your first point in reply, I’ll parse it a bit further: it seems as if she was applying a modern perception to classical evaluations of the Romans. I was just thinking about Plutarch’s descriptions of men like Cato, but now I’m wondering how much of that was puffery.

    I have peeked at a few of her other things in the U of Chicago library, and she seems to have some interesting interests. She is still young, as scholars go, and will probably develop more nuanced evaluations of this material as time goes on. If not, my view is, let’s have many voices and then evaluate them, rather than wish they’d go away as some of your commenters seem to feel. She’s probably finding that an attempt to make these ancient studies more contemporary by tying them to current political trends can be very tricky!

  • Fr. Jim Martin is recommending this book for Easter reading. Really. Along with John Freakin’ Dominic Crossan.

    What a joke. Why orthodox Catholics fawn over this man, I’ll never understand.

CatholicTV Interviews Dave Hartline of The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn

Monday, February 4, AD 2013

Our very own Dave Hartline talks to CatholicTV on their ClearVoice™ program concerning his new book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn.

CatholicTV is the oldest Catholic TV network in the United States having been launched on January 1, 1955 by the Archdiocese of Boston.  58 years later they are still in operation, available on cable and via the Internet; in HDTV as well!  They are called America’s Catholic Television Network with their studios and offices located in Watertown, Massachusetts.

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6 Responses to CatholicTV Interviews Dave Hartline of The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn

Patrick Leigh Fermor

Wednesday, June 15, AD 2011

[The topic here is neither American nor Catholic, so I was originally going to relegate it strictly to my personal blog, but in the end I found it too interesting to avoid sharing.]

Some years ago, I wrote here about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, a beautifully written travel book about the first stage of the author’s 1933 walk across Europe from from Holland to Constantinople.

The only customer, I unslung my rucksack in a little Gastof. Standing on chairs, the innkeeper’s pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen, were helping their father decorate a Christmas tree; hanging witch-balls, looping tinsel, fixing candles to the branches, and crowning the tip with a wonderful star. They asked me to help and when it was almost done, their father, a tall, thoughtful-looking man, uncorked a slim bottle from the Rudesheim vineyard just over the river. We drank it together and had nearly finished a second by the time the last touches to the tree were complete. Then the family assembled round it and sang. The candles were the only light and the solemn and charming ceremony was made memorable by the candle-lit faces of the girls — and by their beautiful and clear voices. I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine is mostly Catholic. Two of the carols they sang have stuck in my memory: O Du Heilige and Es ist ein Reis entsprungen: both were entracing and especially the second, which, they told me, was very old. In the end I went to church with them and stayed the night. When all the inhabitants of Bingen were exchanging greetings with each other outside the church in the small hours, a few flakes began falling. Next morning the household embraced each other, shook hands again, and wished everyone a happy Christmas. The smallest of the daughters gave me a tangerine and a packet of cigarettes wrapped beautifully in tinsel and silver paper. I wished I’d had something to hand her, neatly done up in holly-patterned ribbon — I thought later of my aluminum pencil-case containing a new Venus or Royal Sovereign [pencil] wound in tissue paper, but too late. The time of gifts.

I’ve since read what was intended to be the second volume of a three part narrative of the trip, Between the Woods and the Water. It is similarly a joy to read.

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One Response to Patrick Leigh Fermor

  • …I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine is mostly Catholic…

    Why would anyone consider Stille Nacht a Lutheran hymn?

So many books! So little time!

Monday, December 13, AD 2010

So many books! So little time! And, unfortunately, not enough to afford them all. Erasmus’ motto, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” worked during college, but is hard to get away with once you’re married with children and have a spouse to answer to. =)

We’ve heard much lately of Pope Benedict’s interview with Peter Seewald: Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, regarding which Ignatius Press’ Carl Olson has been doing a magnificent job rounding up reviews and discussion across the web; and George Weigel’s “sequel” to his reknowned autobiography of John Paul II: The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, and Patrick W. Carey’s biography Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ: A Model Theologian.

Here are a few more on the horizon that might be of interest to our readers (and which are definitely on my “to read” list from 2010).

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3 Responses to So many books! So little time!

Waiting for Blood

Tuesday, November 23, AD 2010

I’ve been ending day lately with an hour or two of reading Jose Maria Gironella’s, The Cypresses Believe in God, a massive novel set on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Given the novel’s sheer size, and that it starts out spending so much time just giving a sense of early 30s Spain as a place and time, as the civil war itself begins to approach one feels with the characters a certain creeping unreality, as the descent of politics and then society as a whole into factional violence seems to become first imaginable, then possible, and finally inevitable.

Having fallen asleep, as it were, in 1935 Catalonia, it was with an odd sense of unreality that I clicked on a link this morning and found a New York Times columnist declaring it impossible to work with his political opponents peacefully and darkly predicting “there will be blood”.

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13 Responses to Waiting for Blood

  • That is not news.

    In the 1960’s and 1970’s, violence was their (SDS, weathermen, SLA, black panthers, etc.) MO.

    I don’t read the NYT. It’s replete with detritus – class envy, distortions, exaggerations, fabrications, class hatred, omissions, left-wing ideology.

    The totalitarians have been waging class war for over 100 years. Until recently, the liberals’ program was to disarm we the people so they could “peacefully” take away our liberties and property.

    I was a boy scout. Be prepared.

    PS: imagine if Sarah Palin, or any other tea party fanatic, said or wrote such hate-filled nonsense.

  • Gironella’s trilogy is the finest novel I have ever read. It is impossible to claim to understand the Spanish Civil War without reading it. Krugman is a highly educated jackass.

  • I recall reading the memoirs of a nationalist fighter pilot, Combat Over Spain, where he mentions that an anarchist decided to shoot up his sister’s wedding for no appreciable reason, this was before the Spanish Civl War, leaving her blind. The remarkable thing to me is that he mentions it so matter of factly, as one would discuss a relative who had experienced an injury in a car crash. When political violence becomes that endemic in a society, normal life becomes a cold war that inevitably will become a hot one. I think the US will be spared this, in spite of the maunderings of idiots like Krugman.

  • Krugman strikes a properly combative pose to go with his article. Somebody help him before he bursts a blood vessel

  • I think, for the most part, both parties are to blame. Both the democrats and republicans are more interested in grabbing and holding onto as much power as they can, and both sides will use any technique they think they can get away with to do.

    The extension of the Bush Tax cuts is an example of this. The majority of democrats and republicans agree on extending the cuts for all but people making over $250,000. Neither side is willing to compromise on this last little bit, despite the fact that they both agree on 90% of the total.

    Now this is an issue of tax policy. While I am sure one can argue that the taxes on those making $250,000+ a year are too high (or not high enough depending on your perspective), this really can’t be an issue of principal here like it might be for issues like abortion or the wars we are fighting.

    Both sides seem to be letting all of us take a tax hit (since even the those making more than $250,000 will keep the tax cuts for income up to that amount) to score points with their base.

  • The good news is that Krugman isn’t representative of anything other than a small slice of elite opinion. The man immolated his credibility by defending Obama’s annihilating deficit spending after railing for years against Bush’s smaller (but still problematic) deficits.

    Partisan shills aren’t a good barometer of overall public opinion.

  • The irony is that by recklessly impugning other people’s motives and character, Krugman has done more than his share to poison political discourse for nearly ten years now. In so doing, he sacrificed his reputation among the bulk of those of that public which reads topical commentary as well as damaging his reputation among economists. What he got out of it, who knows?

    Argentina endured a violent economic contraction and multiple political crises without much more than some riots, so I would not pay too much attention to this prognostication. Still, if he want’s to bring it on, he ought to remember that the American military likely does not have a network of Grand-Orient lodges to be mobilized on behalf of neo-Jacobins and Marxists and that Manuel Azana died in exile, broke and alone.

  • “What he got out of it, who knows?”

    A Nobel Prize?

  • Phillip stole my answer.

    The last few years has proven that the quickest route to winning some prize or the other is to trash conservatives (see, e.g., Krugman, Gore, Carter, Obama, Katie Couric, Kathleen Parker, Tina Fey, etc.)

  • Actually, he won the John Bates Clark medal about 20 years ago. He was authentically respected for his theoretical work in the economics of trade. As far as I am aware, he has not published applied research in macroeconomics, nor has he published theoretical or applied work in finance. He is channelling other economists when he is writing on the current situation.

    He also wrote topical commentary and general interest books which were not sectarian pieces. They were favorably reviewed in National Review ,among other places. About ten years ago, he did a complete about face and began writing what he writes now. Why is a mystery.

    Sorry to be literal-minded, but Kathleen Parker is about the only person on that list whose career of late has benefitted from trashing Republicans, et al, becuase it makes her a useful mannequin on CNN and op-ed pages.

  • I suppose my point is that each of the people I listed have won major prizes over the last few years, the justification for which can only be explained as their having received either the “Not Named George W. Bush Award” or the “Outstanding Achievment in Anti-Palinism Award”.

  • When elitists like Krugman start whining about how the country is “ungovernable”, watch out.

    It wasn’t too long ago that Thomas Friedman of the same publication lauded the the Chinese government. These people are intoxicated by power, they believe that sufficiently enlightened and educated will can bring order to chaos (much of which government caused in the first place).

    Whereas I believe that if the government would simply protect our natural rights, we would do that all on our own.

  • Gore, Carter, and Obama all won the Nobel Peace Prize, which originates in the Norwegian legislature and is of scant value except for the cash. (Or if it did mean something, awarding it to B.O. promptly debased it thoroughly). I would say you’re right, though. I hadn’t thought of that.

Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere Reaction to Pope’s Condom Comments

Monday, November 22, AD 2010

The Pope’s comments in an unauthorized excerpt release from Peter Seewald’s latest book, “Light of the World, The Pope, The Church and The Signs of the Times”, has caused quite a stir.

Basically he said, as an extreme example, if a male prostitute was to use a condom during sex, it was a step towards a better morality.

Pope Benedict wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra.

Nonetheless, the secular media, like clockwork, has declared that condoms are now allowed by all fornicators (not like dissident Catholics were following the teachings of the Church anyways).

So here is a short roundup of the better informed among us:

Pope Approves Restricted Use of Condoms? – M.J. Andrew, TAC

Understanding Pope’s Dilemma on Condoms – Jimmy Akin, NCRgstr

Condoms, Consistency, (mis)Communication – Thomas Peters, AmP

Pope Changed Church Condoms Teaching? – Q. de la Bedoyere, CH

A Vatican Condom Conversion? – Mollie, Get Religion

Pope: Condoms, Sex Abuse, Resignation & Movie Nights – John Allen

What The Pope Really Said About Condoms in New Book? – Janet Smith

Ginger Factor: Pope Approves of Condoms! – Jeff Miller, The Crt Jstr

The Pope and Condoms – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column

Condoms May Be ‘First Step’ In Moralization of Sexuality – Cth Herald

Pope Did Not Endorse the Use of Condoms – Fr. Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?

Did Pope Change Teaching About Condoms? – Brett Salkeld, Vox Nova

(Hat tips:  The Pulpit & Henry Karlson)

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15 Responses to Roundup of Catholic Blogosphere Reaction to Pope’s Condom Comments

"The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II" — George Weigel's sequel to "Witness to Hope"

Wednesday, September 29, AD 2010

George Weigel’s new book, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, which was published by Doubleday on September 14, is the fulfillment of a promise the author made to Pope John Paul II less than four months before the pope died. In “A Promise To Pope John Paul II” (“The Catholic Difference” 9/17/10), Weigel gives his account of his parting words to the late Pope before his death:

The conversation over dinner was wide-ranging, and at one point, after the usual papal kidding about my having written “a very big book,” John Paul asked about the international reception of Witness to Hope, his biography, which I had published five years earlier. He was particularly happy when I told him that a Chinese edition was in the works, as he knew he would never get to that vast land himself. As that part of the conversation was winding down, I looked across the table and, referring to the fact that Witness to Hope had only taken the John Paul II story up to early 1999, I made the Pope a promise: “Holy Father,” I said, “if you don’t bury me, I want you to know that I’ll finish your story.”

It was the last time we saw each other, this side of the Kingdom of God.

The End and the Beginning covers the last six years of John Paul II’s life, including:

  • Karol Wojtyla’s epic battle with communism through the prism of previously classified and top-secret communist files
  • the Great Jubilee of 2000 and his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • September 11th, and the Pope’s efforts to frustrate Osama bin Laden’s insistence that his war with the West was a religious crusade
  • the Long Lent of 2002, when the Church in America grappled with the twin crises of clerical sexual abuse and episcopal misgovernance;
  • John Paul’s ongoing efforts to build bridges of dialogue and reconciliation with the Churches of the Christian East
  • his struggle with illness, “which brought him into at least one ‘dark night’ spiritually; and his heroic last months, in which his priestly death became, metaphorically, his last encyclical”

(Given that Weigel was personally engaged in the Catholic just war debate over the war in Iraq, it will be interesting to see the extent to which he covers this aspect of John Paul II’s pontificate).


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6 Responses to "The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II" — George Weigel's sequel to "Witness to Hope"

  • Witness to Hope was very well written.

    I never enjoyed a book that long ever since I read the Summa in under a week*.

    *not really.

  • I’m having dinner with him next week. (Weigel, not JPII.) Any questions you’d like me to ask?

  • Patrick,

    Not a question, but a request. =) I think of all the books by Weigel I’ve read, besides Witness to Hope I particularly appreciated Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (1987). Unfortunately, it’s out of print and I’ve often wondered, with the various developments in just war debates since the time of publication, whether he would consider revising, expanding and putting out a new edition?

    Just a thought. =)

  • I ordered the new book on Monday… should arrive next week… can’t wait! As Christopher knows, I’m not always in agreement on Weigel when it comes to the interaction between Catholicism and liberalism (broadly speaking), but Witness to Hope was, all in all, fantastic, and I’m looking forward to this one.

  • I’ve put it at the top of my Amazon wish list!

  • (Given that Weigel was personally engaged in the Catholic just war debate over the war in Iraq, it will be interesting to see the extent to which he covers this aspect of John Paul II’s pontificate).

    That will be interesting to see. Personally, I found the sections of Witness to Hope on the lead-up to the Gulf War particularly interesting, as here to Weigel was clearly grappling with an application (or some would say, development) of just war teaching that he found himself fundamentally at odds with. I think the way he dealt with that controversy in the book was thoughtful and to his credit, and I’ll be interested to see the treatment of the second half of the war in the new book.

Catholic Manga, Saint Paul: From Tarsus To Redemption

Monday, July 12, AD 2010

Rome Reports has a spiffy video report on a Japanese form of comic book entertainment called manga that is utilized to teach the story of Saint Paul:

The manga comic book, a Japanese style, illustrates the story of Saint Paul’s conversion to Christianity.

The book is full of vivid images of Paul’s journey from his violence towards Christians to ultimately his with them.

It is recommended for ages 12 and up.  With Japanese-influenced art and simple, descriptive quotes, readers can learn about Paul in this easy to read comic book.  The creators are releasing a second volume on Saint Paul this summer.

For a prior posting on this comic book genre by Rome Reports click here.

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Elena Kagan Says It Is Fine If The Law Bans Books

Tuesday, June 29, AD 2010

SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan has argued before the Supreme Court that it’s fine if the Law bans books.

Her rationale?

Because the government won’t really enforce it.

I’m no legal scholar but this sounds like a 3rd grade argument.

Aren’t our nominees suppose to have better reasoning skills and a solid grasp of the U.S. Constitution?  As well as a fundamental understanding  of such concepts like Freedom of Speech?

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14 Responses to Elena Kagan Says It Is Fine If The Law Bans Books

  • Bibles banned in China – is that what is coming here?

  • So is Elena Kagan willing to support banning pornography magazines and books?

  • Like all the other “brilliant” liberals, Kagan the pagan is incapable of right reason.

  • Scratch the thin veneer of liberal bu!!$#it and you slam into totalitarianism.

    Peace, justice and human dignity: the slaves will enjoy free health care, free lunch, and free fornication!!!

  • But don’t you know that if you don’t want free health care, free lunch and free fornication you are part of the “let them eat cake” coalition?

  • And what’s with the new symbol thingies?

  • Phillip and all the non-gravatar readers,

    I got tired of looking at the random abstract icons, so I switched the default to MonsterID’s in the faint hope that some of you guys will sign up for free gravatar accounts/icons.


  • And what’s with the new symbol thingies?

    Yeah, Tito. How are we supposed to upload a real picture? I tried registering at WordPress, but it won’t accept any reasonable facsimile of my real name as a user name. Can we upload a pic without registering at WordPress?

  • I kinda like my monster thingie. 🙂

  • I also had the same problem as j. Used multiple variations of my name and said they were all used. Must be a govt. program.

  • Phillip et al.,

    Just so everyone knows, MonsterID links that icon permanently to the email address you provide.

    So if you get tired of it, you have motivation to go over to and sign up for a free account!


  • To be fair I am rather doubtful that Kagen wantts to ban books. I am trying to recall the exact sequence of events here . I actually think what started this all this were the ealier comments of the Deputy Solicter that gave the SUp COurt Justices the heebee jeevees and thus Kagen here is trying somehow to recover.

    That being said the Supreme Court can make the most seasoned lawyers look like idiots and also (and this is the problem the GOP will have in her hearings) she is basically just working for the boss. So when these hypos come out that go to the most alarming degree well there is not exactly a easy answer.

  • jh

    Nail! Head!

    She’s going to rubber stamp Obama. She’s a nothing and will continue to do nothing except vote for whatever the boss wants.

    Phil, I’m paying for the free health and lunch. They’re on their own when it comes to fornicking. I’m of the “let them have the opportunity to pursue happiness” coalition.

    My grav seems appropriate!

3 Responses to The Crucified Rabbi Trailer


    Oh, Bride of Christ, you’re beautiful
    So radiant your face.
    Crowned in love by holy priests
    Your raiment spun of grace.

    Attended to by angel choirs
    That ever sing your praise,
    The mother of the blessed saints
    Who wisely chose your ways.

    Protector of the Eucharist
    Beloved of the Queen,
    The keeper of the flame of faith
    The door to truths unseen.

    Pure flower of the Spring of Life
    The soul’s sweet lullaby,
    Oh, God’s most gracious gift to man
    Through you how blessed am I.

    Kate Watkins Furman

  • Thank you for sharing that Kate.

    A very serene poem in honor of the Bride of Christ.

  • my son does that sometimes but when i put him to eat and watch tv at the same time he seems to enjoy his food more…

Brideshead vs. RCIA

Friday, August 28, AD 2009

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is one of my favorite novels, and unquestionably my favorite Catholic novel. (Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read it — this post has to do with events which take place at the very end.) Not only does Brideshead give powerful and beautiful expression to Catholic themes, but having read it in my late teens, not long before leaving home, it represents one of those crystallizing experiences for me through which Catholicism became not merely something I was brought up in, but something deeply my own and at the root of my understanding of the world.

And yet, there’s a key element of the plot which clashes with the modern experience of joining the Church — as I was reminded tonight when attending the opening RCIA meeting as a member of this year’s team. Near the very end of the novel, Julia (a cradle, though intermittently lapsed, Catholic) tells the man she has been living with for several years (they’re in the process of divorcing their estranged spouses so they can marry):

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9 Responses to Brideshead vs. RCIA

  • As co-director of our RCIA and the so-called “marriage expert” for our parish, I came to the same conclusion as to why so many marriages are declared null – lack of catechesis with no understanding of what a Catholic marriage is. And, I know what it is to be married outside the Church without an annulment – my husband and I both went through the annulment process when he decided to convert after 23 years of “civil” marriage. In fact, nearly every member of our RCIA team has been through the process. It is, indeed, an incredibly rewarding process to walk the journey with the candidates and catechumens.

  • I had a similar thought when read The End of the Affair (not to give too many spoilers, but as in Brideshead, part of the plot turns on the fact that one of the characters was in a voidable marriage and thus was “trapped” according to the Church). My assumption was that whatever the official doctrine, remarriage in the Church in England at that time was just not done (the trouble C.S. Lewis had in marrying Joy Davidman despite her prior marriage being invalid and the fact they were Anglican tended to re-enforce this impression). But the biographical detail about Waugh throws me a bit (I had somehow got the impression that his first wife died after the divorce before he remarried).

  • But the biographical detail about Waugh throws me a bit (I had somehow got the impression that his first wife died after the divorce before he remarried).

    This sent me off into paniced googling, since I had basically assumed that the marriage had been annulled by the Church since I knew his second marriage was Catholic. As it turns out, though, she lived until 1994:

  • Yeah, I’m not quite sure how I got the idea that she had died. Weird.

  • I’ve been interested in a while now on how Brideshead is a lament for the losses of the First World War.

    Anyway, here is a good piece on his early life

  • “My assumption was that whatever the official doctrine, remarriage in the Church of England at the time was not possible.”

    How ironic, given that the Church of England was created more or less for the sole purpose of enabling King Henry VIII to divorce and remarry.

    It has also occurred to me that Jack and Joy Lewis’ dilemma regarding their marriage would have been easily resolved had they been Catholic, even though the Catholic Church at the time was regarded as much stricter about divorce. The Catholic Church would have regarded Joy’s first marriage as null and void on the grounds of “ligamen” or a prior bond on the part of Bill Gresham, who had been married and divorced before he met Joy.

  • Is it is possible that the author was presenting people who were under the mistaken impression of how the church dealt with matters and acted accordingly? (I’ve never read Brideshead)

    It is not uncommon though for authors, even sometimes catholic authors, to present the church in a more rigid or legalistic manner than it actually is… and in some ways it is a stereotype often employed in the popular culture.

    God Bless,

  • Interesting post, Darwin. The same thought had crossed my mind second time I read it. Perhaps Waugh was relying on the readers’ ignorance, his point being that Charles was an occasion of sin for Julia–that Julia’s change of heart has her wanting a purer state of life. I never liked Julia–and Charles always seems so wimpy. I never could believe in their love as a higher love. And yet I like the book. Best is the dying Signum Crucis, and Sebastian’s finally finding peace.

  • And yet something Waugh reveals to us, through Lady Julia, is that sometimes God gives us extravagant grace through which we can do what seems impossible and unbearable. When He speaks to us in such a way, the only possible answer is a resounding, if fright-filled, “Yes!”

Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

Wednesday, August 12, AD 2009

I was thinking of writing a lengthy piece over lunch, when I wrote up my task list and realized that “lunch” needed to be no more than twenty minutes long. So instead, I present a number of pieces that struck me as interesting lately, but which I don’t have a whole post worth of things to say about.

InsideCatholic just reprinted a lengthy piece by medievalist Sandra Miesel discussing the realities of witch burning in the Middle Ages through “Age of Reason”. It’s an article well worth the time to read, avoiding both the slanders of anti-Catholics and the overly rosy rebuttals used by some apologists.

Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill.

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6 Responses to Witches, Essays, Agriculture and More

  • Cross-post of the same comment I left at Darwin’s site.
    Instathoughts provided without the benefit of actually reading linked-to articles.

    Re: essays. I don’t think I could tell you what an essay is or what it should be. I’m not sure what is distinctive about an “essay” compared to lengthy article in the New Yorker or First Things. And I went to a college with good core curriculum. Looking forward to reading the piece.

    Re: “agri-intellectuals”. Really looking forward to this one. I remember explaining this concept to my mother once. She replied simply by saying that her (now long deceased) grandparents who lived in rural Louisiana believed that, and I quote, “farming is a cursed life.” I’m not even sure I believe that “one should eat real food most of the time” given that such a view usually connotates, 1) a rejection of the benefit of pesticides and genetic engineering; and 2) a rejection of the great good that industrialized farming has had on improving worldwide life span by making things like famine far less of a threat.

    Re: vegan and vegetarian school lunches. This brought to mind something I have often thought to myself. Conservatives are at a real disadvantage politically on some issues b/c the real conservative response is that “we can’t help you.” But you can’t say that. So when we look at failing schools we have to talk about “free market” solutions like charter schools and vouchers. I believe these do make a difference, at least in the margins. But what we really should say, indeed what our principles should lead us to conclude, is, “There isn’t any structural change we can make – better curriculum, merit pay, competition – that can change the fact that these kids are coming to school each day from homes where the parent can’t even be bothered to pack a peanut butter sandwich and some carrot sticks. And until that changes, little can be done to improve educational outcomes.”

  • Entrepreneur Paul Graham has an interesting essay on what an essay should be, why people ought to write them, and how high school English classes do a pretty poor job of teaching people this skill. I’m hoping I get the chance to write about some of them later.

    So Darwin is going to write an essay about an essay that itself is essentially an essay in how to write an essay?

    Remarkable. Really.

  • I can’t wait to write an essay about whatever Darwin writes.

  • Well, here, I can’t wait to write an essay about an essay written by S.B. that’s about an essay written by Darwin about an essay written by Graham which subject was about how to write an essay!

  • Thanks for posting some very thought-provoking links, Darwin.

    I’ve just skimmed quickly through the Graham essay on essays and found it pretty compelling, and as a side benefit, it gives lots of historical details about the development of the modern university and legal systems!

    Also read through the entire post by Hurst responding to agri-intellectuals. I own and have read both Pollan’s and Scully’s books, and I found them quite compelling. But the laws of physics also seem to work in literature, and there is an equally valid and opposite “reaction”, provided by Hurst, to the interesting original “actions” of Scully, Pollan and Dreher. It really boggles the mind when we learn about the incredibly intricate and complex systems behind mass-scale farming in the modern world.

    So my concern then turns to something even vastly more complex than large-scale farming: health care reform in one of the largest developed countries in the world! I don’t even want to consider how badly Uncle Sam’s bureaucratic armies could botch up that system in the future–YIKES!

  • *grin* The one from the farmer sounds exactly like my parents. (Dad’s been ranching and farming for roughly 40 years and has an AA; mom has been doing family-sized farming and ranching for about 30, and has a BS in animal husbandry with a minor in education. I sent her the article in hopes that she’ll write something I can blog. ^.^)

Ten Books

Monday, July 13, AD 2009

Weighty Subjects

Judging from our posts, I believe it is safe to say that we at The American Catholic are a bookish lot.  I think this applies also to most of our learned commenters.  I have always loved books, a trait I inherited from my sainted mother who had a deep passion for the printed page.  If I were not married to a fellow bibliophile, and a librarian of course !, I can imagine my love of books perhaps having been a sore point in my marriage.  “Another bookstore?”  “Can’t we go anyplace without you dragging me to a dull bookstore?”  “You paid what for that history of the Peninsular War!?!”  “The books are in the dumpster.  Say a word and you may end up there too!”   Instead, both I and my bride of 27 years view bookstores as homes away from home, to the vast amusement of our kids.

In this post I am going to list ten books I would recommend.  These ten books have all had some impact on my life.  I invite everyone who is interested to also give their book recommendations in the comments.

1.   The Bible-Since my parents gave me my first Bible, at my request, on Christmas Day 1970, I have attempted, and usually succeeded, in reading a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New each day.  The varied type of literature in the Bible I find endlessly fascinating:  novels, court chronicles, proverbs, otherworldly prophecies, military history, gospels, letters, an endless literary and intellectual feast.  Aside from the spiritual benefits of the Bible, which of course is the main reason for reading the Bible, no one in our civilization can be considered to be well-educated if they are bone ignorant of this book. 

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32 Responses to Ten Books

  • Only ten books? I will try. It’s difficult.

    1) The Pillar and Ground of the Truth by Pavel Florensky
    2) The Bride of the Lamb by Sergius Bulgakov
    3) Theo-Drama Volume V by Hans Urs von Balthasar
    4) Reflections of a Russian Statesman by Pobedonstsev
    5) Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
    6) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
    7) The Philokalia, Volume II
    8) On First Principles, Origen
    9) Poetic Diction by Owen Barfield
    10) Dune by Frank Herbert

  • 1. Theo-Drama, volume 4 by Hans Urs von Balthasar
    2. The Idiot by Dostoevsky
    3. Complete Poems, Gerald Manley Hopkins
    4. Phaedrus, Plato
    5. The Clown by Heinrich Bohl
    6. The Symbolism of Evil by Paul Ricoeur
    7. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    8. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
    9. Catholicism by Henri de Lubac
    10.Showings, Julian of Norwich

  • 1. God at the Ritz – Lorenzo Albacete
    2. Lost in the Cosmos – Walker Percy
    3. A Matter of Interpretation – Antonin Scalia
    4. St. Thomas Aquinas – G.K. Chesterton
    5. Radicals for Capitalism – Brian Doherty
    6. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    7. The Ethics – Aristotle
    8. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
    9. 1984 – George Orwell
    10. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

  • Mark,

    I almost put Confederacy of Dunces but eliminated it in favor of Lost in the Cosmos. Good book.

  • Wow, Don. You make me look lame…

    1. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
    2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkein
    3. The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton
    4. Introduction to Christianity -Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
    5. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
    6. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    7. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion – David Hume
    8. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
    9. Crossing the Threshold of Hope – Pope John Paul II
    10. The Revolution: A Manifesto – by Ron Paul (too recent, I know… but it did crystalize my political and economic disposition and refocused my preference for Jeffersonian principles)

    Here’s a few big-fat books that take far too much time to say that I’ve “read”, or that I’m really wanting to read.

    1. The Bible. A book that I don’t think you ever really “read”, you just revisit. I’ve never read it enough, of course… like most, sadly.

    2. Tragedy and Hope – Carroll Quigley. Probably the most sober and gut-punching rendition of history I’ve ever been in the process of reading. Here Quigley just doesn’t list events… he names names for 1300 pages.

    3. The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffen. A very readable history of the Federal Reserve and its shenanigans. This book will make you a cynic over what men will do for money and prestige.

    4. Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard – a book I’ve been desperate to fit in to my reading list a long with the works of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and a host of other free-market economists.

  • I’m sorry to say I don’t read many books these days – most of what I read is online in the form of encyclicals and other documents from the Vatican archives.

    I’ll give it a try nonetheless. I wouldn’t say this is an ‘all time’ best list, but a ‘books I’ve really liked recently’ list.

    1. The New Testament
    2. Life in a Medieval Village – Frances & Joseph Gies
    3. A History of Britannia vol. 2 ‘The Wars of the British’ – Simon Schama
    4. Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments – Randy Alcorn
    5. Chance or Purpose – Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
    6. God is Near Us – Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger)
    7. Aristotle’s Children – Richard E. Rubenstein
    8. America Beyond Capitalism – Gar Alperovitz
    9. Economic Democracy – Robert Dahl
    10. The Outline of Sanity – Chesterton

  • Whatever happened to the notoriety of books that once comprised the Canon of Western Literature?

    Has the deplorably blatant nihilism of the modern age really made extinct the various remarkable works of the great and noble writers of the past?

    And don’t put down the libraries and the bookstores (as well as used bookshops); these happen to be distinguished hollowed grounds for certain autodidacts!

  • Interesting responses! Keep them coming!

  • Only 10?

  • I’m sure I’m leaving out something, but here are my ten, not necessarily in order.

    1. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Burke
    2. The Federalist Papers – Hamilton, Madison and Jay
    3. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoyevsky
    4. That Hideous Strength – C.S. Lewis
    5. Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
    6. The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton
    7. The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis
    8. Brideshead Revisited – Waugh
    9. Time and Again – Jack Finney
    10. Misery – Stephen King

    Okay, the last one might need an explanation. I read it for the first time when I was 13 and it is the book that made me want to be a writer. Yes, the plot is about a writer named Paul who is then imprisoned by his “number one fan,” but that’s not why it made me want to write. So it has a special place in my heart.

  • “Only 10?”


  • Just at the moment concerning non-fiction….I would need a seperate list for fiction and non-fiction.

    .Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    .From Dawn to Decadance – Jacques Barzun
    .The Quest for Community – Robert Nisbet
    .Prejudices and The Social Philosophers (essentially part 1 and 2 of the same things) – Robert Nisbet
    .The Roots of American Order and the Conservative Mind – Russell Kirk (essentially part 1 and 2 of the same things)
    .The Essential Russell Kirk
    .The Portable Conservative Reader
    .The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings
    .Postmodernism Rightly Understood – Peter Lawler
    .Rallying the Really Human Things – Vigen Guroian

  • Wouldn’t it have been better to have the Top 10 parcelled out in categories (e.g., philosophy, religion, literature, etc.)?

    That is, it would have been quite difficult for me to have one book (Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind/The Roots of American Order) of a certain defined category ranked higher above another (De Civitate Dei) when, in fact, within that book’s rightful category, it would have resided amongst the highest echelons.

    In other words, it (at least, to me) becomes a false ranking when not distinguished in their appropriate categories.

  • Crud — cross-posted; jonathanjones02 beat me to it.

  • This is books we recommend, as opposed to the traditional most influential, stuck on a desert island, best ever, etc?


    1) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    2) The Iliad by Homer
    3) The Divine Comedy by Dante
    4) The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    5) Confessions by Augustine
    6) The Great Seige – Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford
    7) The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi
    8 ) The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoyevsky
    9) Fields Without Dreams : Defending the Agrarian Ideal by Victor Davis Hanson
    10) No Exit by Sartre

    I chose to put these together imagining that someone had agreed to read up to ten books recommended by me in order to understand how I believe the world to be. Rank is not necessarily an indicator of quality so much as how indicative I consider the book.

    If I could squeeze one more thing in it would be:

    The Final Dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo) by Plato

    I have no explanations as to why these (clearly more significant works than some I did include) didn’t make they list. It’s just that I would have guided someone to read the others first.

  • In addition to the fiction/non-fiction breakdown, there should also be a seperate category for religious works, which could cover both non-fiction and fiction. My list would begin with Guardini’s The Lord. If graphic novels were allowed, I’d recommend Alphonse: Untimely Ripp’d by Lickona and Gugliotti.

  • The queries about categories are reasonable, but one of the purposes of this post was to cause people to think carefully about their choices. It is difficult, at least I found it so, to be limited to 10 books, and the difficulty is deliberate in the intention behind the post of having people think hard about what their choices would be.

  • Of course, if one has real trouble picking, one can always post one’s whole library:

  • Whose Brendan Hodge?

    Anyway, that’s some impressive catalog — in spite of the fact that Tim Powers, Jane Austin and the fiercely anti-ecclesial Voltaire (although, somewhat understandable given his admittedly inestimable natural talent and biting wit, which even certain hierarchs themselves acknowledged) was included in the list.

  • If those authors trouble you, e, I can’t imagine what my bookshelf would do to you 🙂

  • Joe,

    How does that ole phrase go? De gustibus non est disputandum?

  • It’s my library. Or at least, our library. My wife and I combined when we got married, of course, and now our raising children has added other sections to the collection. Here’s a fun way to view it:

    I really can’t recommend LibraryThing enough. It’s free for the first couple hundred books in your catalog, and a lifetime membership of $25 gets you permanent use of a catalog as large as you need. With modern books, you just have to type in the ISBN and it will pull in the title, author, publication date, etc. Incredibly useful for keeping track of your library.

    Voltaire I only had because he was assigned in college. No great fondness. If you want to go after disreputable authors that I like I guess you could take aim at Camus, Sartre or Lucretius.

    Jane Austen and Tim Powers, however, I will make no apologies for, both are among my favorite authors. 🙂

  • Voltaire did some fairly good historical works on Louis XIV and Charles XII.

  • I’ve read a lot of books but can’t really come up with 10 that signficantly changed my life or my point of view on various issues. I can list some that did:

    1. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Not only did it make a fantastic movie, it shows in a compelling fashion how the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures all interacted in the time of Jesus.

    2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Excellent portrayal of how small choices and habits become big ones.

    3. The Screwtape Letters, also by C.S. Lewis — no explanation necessary

    4. The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. While I’m not a big fan of Rand or of Objectivism in general, this book which explains her ideas about art helped me finally figure out why classic art is so good and modern art so unappealing.

    5. Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel — wonderful portrait of the relationship between Galileo and one of his daughters who became a nun, as well as Galileo’s relationship with the Church

    6. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day — compelling story of Day’s conversion and her founding of the Catholic Worker movement

    7. Called out of Darkness by Anne Rice — just read this recently; one of the best “reversion” stories I’ve read in a while

  • Oh, and I almost forgot to include “Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America” by Steve Kellmeyer (a book I actually proofread prior to publication). Now I don’t agree with EVERYTHING in this book (and most Catholics who read it probably won’t), but the author does make two points I find compelling:

    1. The Church ought to be concentrating more resources on ADULT education and formation, which is far more cost effective than trying to run parish schools or CCD programs;

    2. If adults are properly formed in the faith, the Catholic formation and education of their children will take care of itself.

  • I thought Candide was hilarious.

  • 1. Aspects of Alterity – Brian Treanor
    2. The Brothers Karamozov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
    3. History and Truth – Paul Ricoeur
    4. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
    5. Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor
    6. Politics of Prudence – Russell Kirk
    7. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
    8. Radical Hermeneutics – John D. Caputo
    9. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    10. A Soldier of the Great War – Mark Helprin

  • had The Brothers Karamazov and Reflections on the Revolution in France on my list too, but since Mr. McClarey has limited us to 10 (sob!), I decided to pick books nobody else has yet mentioned.

    1. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts – Clive James (A very hard to characterize book. Cultural Amnesia is a book profiling seminal 20th century writers, artists, statesmen and tyrants. Hitler and Mao make an appearance; so does Louie Armstrong, and, of all people, Tony Curtis. So do a lot of intriguing lesser-known writers; James seems to have read just about everything of worth written in the last century. Read it and you’ll come away with at least a dozen authors you’ll want to become better acquainted with. James is not shy about offering his opinions and many of his profiles highlight the disgraceful record of 20th century writers who provided intellectual cover for Fascists and Communists – his take-down of Jean-Paul Sartre is masterful.)
    2. The Complete Stories – Franz Kafka
    3. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    4. The Deptford Trilogy – Robertson Davies
    5. Animal Farm – George Orwell
    6. The Gormenghast Trilogy – M. Peake (don’t bother with the third book; the first two are superb)
    7. The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
    8. Citizens – Simon Schama
    9. Modern Times – Paul Johnson

    And, because we’ve all listed books that aren’t exactly beach reading, I’m going to end on a light note:

    10. Wodehouse’s Short Stories

  • I’m not trying to break the rules or anything, but I can even think of parts of books I can recommend. For me, James Joyce’s numerous sins (which include, in my opinion, “Finnegan’s Wake”)are erased by the sheer beauty of the last paragraph of “The Dead.” I first read it when I was 16 and I still believe that it is one of the loveliest, most evocative paragraphs ever written in English.

    “The snow was general all over Ireland,…,”

  • I’m late to this, but I want to contribute my top-10:

    1. Holy Bible, RSV-Catholic Edition
    2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
    3. Triumph – The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2000 Year History by H.W. Crocker, III
    4. A History of Christendom Vols. 1, 2, & 4 by Warren H. Carroll
    5. Witness To Hope, The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel
    6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    7. Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington
    8. Uncommon Faith by John F. Coverdale
    9. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Pope Benedict XVI & Marcello Pera; Forward by George Weigel, Translated by Michael F. Moore
    10. God’s Choice by George Weigel

    Honorable Mentioned: The Foundation Trilogy would have been up there as in Donald’s, but I would definitely place it in my number one spot in a separate “Science Fiction” top-10, but strictly just books in general, it didn’t make it, maybe five years ago, but not today.

    Many books by George Weigel would be in the next ten of course.

    I want to read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene some day.

    Also I do want to read The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day. Any good books written by Dorothy Day that anyone would recommend would help.

    I am also open to any good recommendations on the Spanish Civil War and the French Revolution. I’ve read Warren Carroll, which is by far the best I’ve read so far. I’d like similar recommendations. Is Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke one?

    Blackadder’s St. Thomas Aquinas – G.K. Chesterton, is the second time I’ve heard Chesterton mentioned in a reading on St. Thomas Aquinas. That’s enough for me to put it on my Amazon wish list and mark it as a Christmas gift to myself.

  • 1. The Cypresses Believe in God – Jose Maria Gironella
    2. One Million Dead – Jose Maria Gironella
    3. The Jesuits – Malachi Martin
    4. Rich Church, Poor Church – Malachi Martin
    5. Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee
    6. The Cure of Ars Today – George Rutler
    7. Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. 1) – Pope Benedict XVI
    8. Salt of the Earth – Peter Seewald
    9. God and the World – Peter Seewald
    10. The Art of Eating – MFK Fisher

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Simply Filthy

Monday, June 29, AD 2009

With all the discussion of whether British behavior in the Colonies justified the Revolutionary War, I can’t help being reminded of an exchange in one of my favorite books, 84, Charing Cross Road:

August 15, 1959


i write to say i have got work.

i won it. i won a $5,000 Grant-in-Aid off CBS, it’s supposed to support me for a year while I write American History dramatizations. I am starting with a script about New York under seven years of British Occupation and i MARVEL at how i rise above it to address you in friendly and forgiving fashion, your behavior over here from 1776 to 1783 was simply FILTHY.

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2 Responses to Simply Filthy

  • The movie version of “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft as the writer and Anthony Hopkins as the bookseller is one of my all-time favorite movies.

    If the same story were written today, I suppose Hopkins’ character would have to be selling books on eBay or Amazon and he and Bancroft would be e-mailing, blogging, Skype-ing or Tweeting each other… which just wouldn’t be the same at all.

  • I discovered this book by accident years ago and love it! I always cry at the end. I’m going to have to go back and reread it again. Thanks for reminding me about it.