As this week is coming to its end, finals week prep and grading, a project I’ve submitted (and am waiting to hear results on), the child-like giddiness of waiting for a (just ordered!) new camera and lens, and the aftermath of too much coffee too late in the day yesterday all amount to very little contemplative space in my mind.
Instead, let me introduce to some recent companions…books, actually. Truth be told, I’m a bit ADD when it comes to books. When I hear about a new book, I have a hard time not rushing to our library’s website and ordering it (yay for OhioLink–a book-lending agreement between libraries across Ohio). That’s why I’m currently reading bits and pieces out of four books–well, five, if you count the audiobook I listen to make household chores less of an annoyance.
Refractions, Makoto Fujimura. This book is a collection of essays that painter Makoto Fujimura wrote on the topics of faith, art, and culture, and they show him to be an artist with words as well as paint. It’s truly an encouragement to read reflections on art and role of the artist coming from a man who sees his art as an expression of Christian worship and service. The blog post preceding this one gave a taste of Fujimura’s writing. Here’s another one:
The power of art is to convey powerful personal experiences in distilled language and memorialize them in a cogent manner. Such communication will resonate in the context of larger culture. The church needs to be involved in the arts and even advocate for those outside of faith, precisely because God has poured his grace in all of creation, and every artist, consciously or not, taps into the ‘groaning’ of the Spirit.
[from the essay, “The Disintegration Loops: September 11th Issue]
The Poems of Sir John Davies, edited by Robert Krueger. I first discovered Davies in Malcolm Guite’s phenomenal book, Faith, Hope and Poetry. Although Davies is often overlooked (or, as is apparent should you read the introduction to this anthology, even looked down upon in some literary circles), his poem Nosce Teipsum brings up intriguing and thought-provoking insights on the nature of the soul, the senses, and the interaction between those two elements of our being when it comes to perceiving and comprehending the world around us. The main discourse of Nosce Teipsum is divided into two parts, the second of which, “Of the Soule of Man, and the Immortalitie thereof,” begins with an address to God, the source of the soul, as the one who can best illumine its nature,
O Light, which mak’st the Light, which makes the Day,
Which setst the Eye without, and Mind within,
Lighten my spirit with one cleare heavenly ray,
Which now to view it selfe doth first begin. (201-204)
But thou which didst Man’s soul of nothing make,
And when to nothing it was fallen agen,
‘To make it new, the form of man didst take,
And, God with God, becam’st a Man with men
Thou that hast fashioned twice this Soule of ours,
So that she is by double title thine,
Thou only knowest her nature and her powers,
Her subtle form thou only canst define. (241-48)
The Philosophy of Tolkien, Peter Kreeft. “Oh, no! Not another book on Tolkien! Why should you read this one?” So begins Kreeft’s introduction to this book. I’ve just started this book (full disclosure: I’m still in the introduction), but what I’ve read so far (and his talk on “Christian Themes in The Lord of the Rings,” which I’ve seen via youtube) indicates that Kreeft is a careful reader of The Lord of the Rings, one who appreciates the value of story along with the truth it contains, and who does not try to flatten a multidimensional work into flat allegory. I’m excited to journey further into this book.
The Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman. Enter the audio-book–a wonderful way to make the monotony of laundry folding and dish-scrubbing bearable! To anyone who knows me at just about any level, a book about the events leading up to WWI probably appears as a bit of a surprise. War is not my usual go-to topic (especially a war that inspired such poems as Dulce et Decorum Est), but while I was languishing in the between-audio-books-doldrums, my husband suggested it, and I decided to try it out. Tuchman does an excellent job of describing how the social and political climate of the time led to the mess that was WWI; however, it’s her particular attention to the personalities involved–the leaders of Germany, France, Belgium,England, Russia and Turkey–that has kept me listening to a tale of military and political strategy gone mad.
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Andrew Peterson. In preparation for the forthcoming release of The Warden and the Wolf King (the last book in the Wingfeather Saga), I’m rereading the first three books in the series. When I first discovered that Peterson, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, was writing a young adult fiction series, I was almost afraid to start reading them. What if they were weak Tolkien/Lewis imitations? That fear was (gladly) not realized. These books follow in Lewis and Tolkien’s tradition only in so far that they are fine examples of fantasy writing’s ability to awaken the imagination and to touch the head and the heart together with the beauty of truth.
So…these are my most recent book friends. Are there any stand-out books that you’ve been enjoying?