December 14, 2009

Various & Sundry

I'm getting scads of emails from folks wanting a 2010 edition of Babes of the Blogosphere: Catlick Edition. (Okay, only one person, but she's an avid reader of this blog which ought count for something.) It's a tempting offer, given how much fun last year's was, but I loathe the idea of leaving anyone off. Good writing is sexy and so there are a lot of sexy blogosphere babes. You know who you are.

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Announcement: Effective Janurary 1st, this blog will limit Tiger Woods' role in its marketing.

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There was an interesting article in the paper Sunday about how Charles Dickens life has become something of a fascination:
Of the making of books by or about Charles Dickens, there apparently is no end. He wrote constantly, published promiscuously, lived intensely, dreamed extravagantly.

Dickens influenced, inspired and challenged others to produce amazing things, too. The thriving field of what we might call Contingent Dickens — works based on Dickens’ works, or on his life or on the Victorian era that his vivid word portraits made famous — is a significant literary genre in its own right.

Consider A Christmas Carol, one of his best-known tales, being performed on stages nationwide. Consider the new film version of the same tale, with Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean old miser who gets his holiday comeuppance. Consider Drood (2009), the brooding, brilliant Dan Simmons novel that features a distastefully conniving Dickens. Consider The Last Dickens (2009), Matthew Pearl’s fictional picture of Dickens’ American lecture tour. Consider Mr. Timothy (2003), Louis Bayard’s strikingly atmospheric novel that imagines the adult Tiny Tim, the cheerful sickly lad in Carol.

Wrapping one’s arms around Dickens is no easy task. He was too big, too restless, too productive, too accomplished, too complicated, too mysterious.
That mysterious streak is part of the reason for the fascination. The article prompted me to read some of Chesterton's remarkable biography of Charles Dickens and it feels as timely as if it could be written yesterday. On the lack of heroes:
[Thomas] Carlyle killed the heroes; there have been none since his time. He killed the heroic (which he sincerely loved) by forcing upon each man this question: "Am I strong or weak?" To which the answer from any honest man whatever (yes, from C├Žsar or Bismarck) would "weak." He asked for candidates for a definite aristocracy, for men who should hold themselves consciously above their fellows. He advertised for them, so to speak; he promised them glory; he promised them omnipotence. They have not appeared yet. They never will. For the real heroes of whom he wrote had appeared out of an ecstacy of the ordinary. [Carlyle] was disappointed with Equality; but Equality was not disappointed with him. Equality is justified of all her children. But we, in the post-Carlylean period, have be come fastidious about great men. Every man examines himself, every man examines his neighbours, to see whether they or he quite come up to the exact line of greatness. The answer is, naturally, "No." And many a man calls himself contentedly "a minor poet" who would then have been inspired to be a major prophet.

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"The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it." - St. John of the Cross
Also o'er the weekend read a lot about my new favorite book of the Bible - “the book of Consolation” as it is sometimes called - that of Isaiah, specifically chapters 54 & 55. Sure it feels like cherry-picking, as if attempting to procure promises without conspicuous effort on my part. Sure it was written to those in deep exile, pre-Christ. But hey it's part of the Bible too!

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