April 14, 2011

Of Books & Weather

Summer visited us with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government this past weekend - 80 degrees and “sunburn-capax” - and I spent some of it biking and later half-dozing while reading the dense prose of Donald Hall's Seasons at Eagle Pond.

With Hall’s gorgeous prose I suspect poetic license; did he really see the New Hampsire summer people, the renters, packing up their vodka on Labor Day or did he merely summon that image for alliterative purposes? Either way, he ends the book with a bang and it is superbly written, seemingly without a word out of place. A true craftsman. Thoreau without the baggage.

Otherwise been absorbing great amounts of Maier’s historical novel titled “Pontius Pilate”. It’s a two-fer given that Pilate is a figure of interest to me as is early Rome. It’s highly readable and yet not cloying or desultory as many historical novels seem to be.

Also picked up a couple new books, both encyclopedic in nature, wide in scope. Both can double as reference work and pick-and-choose reading. Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s history of Christian devotions is compelling though possibly familiar in places. And Fukuyama’s touted work on political order is a sort of grand theory book that I couldn’t seem to pass up, if only to see how medieval Catholicism, he claims, led us towards individualism (I thought that was the result of Luther & the Reformation).

I barely avoided buying Jay Bakker’s “Fall to Grace”, a book mentioned by the blogger at “A Part-time Monk”. Have requested it from the library. Bakker is the son of Tammy Faye & Jim Bakker. I’ll be really interested to hear what he has to say since I find Bakker’s rise and fall compelling. Jim is back in ministry again which doesn’t seem like the best idea but then where is the forgiveness in that?

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But oh the sweet solace of swaggeringly sunny weather in Central Ohio yesterday. It felt of San Juan and indeed I put a Latin radio station on the iPod jukebox. It felt also of Florida and that little island called Sanibel.

The day is mint-julep beautiful. White blossoms grace the trees out front. Ye olde footpath has survived the winter - is there not something in us that loves a bench beside a fountain? Meantime the sun capers along the the brick wall of the porch after having frolicked past the mulch bed. When the wind dies down it’s close enough to perfect, a perfection that reminds me of God’s perfection and thus his plan for my own. Let his fire be purifying, not condemnatory!

I look at the still spare trees, still mostly bark and twig, and think about the monks of New Skete and their book cover featuring bare trees. An odd choice? Or not...any worldly person would cherish leaves in full beauty but the spiritual person sees that life comes via death. Perhaps it’s a momento mori thing.

There’s a startling brightness to the air, a startling lightness to everything. All is made new. And yet already we see the seeds of the coming noise, of all manner of suburban factory noise in the form of lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed wackers. The outdoors becomes public again instead of a place to get out of, as it is in quiet winter. And who can blame us? Sensory-starved eyes can feast on the spring delights, on the crystalline sunlight and the ravishing flowers. I take in a panorama, from the bench and fountain to the clumps of green plantings, to the angel statue, to the maples (Japanese and silver).

A slight cool breeze is compensated by a shaft of warm sun and I feel hungry for the book that lies in wait at the library. I long again for the physical book as object, having spent too much time in the world of Kindle.

My fingers leap to the last page to see what sort of type font is proffered. It cracks me up how every book seems to have a unique font face such that they seem almost made up: “This font is the famous Ingot Ceour of Richard the Lionheart’s personal press.” I’m sure they could just make something up and 99.9% of people would believe them. Still I like knowing what the type face is, especially when the book’s as inviting as many of mine are.

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A fine tribute to an ol’ warhorse in my high school alumni magazine today. He taught English composition classes back in my day and now he’s set to retire after 41 years. Says he’ll stay busy by getting his train set out and enjoying his baseball memorabilia. And traveling. He likes Salinger (he teaches “Nine Stories”). Also still has everyone read “In Cold Blood” after all these years. And his penchant for things African-American continues with his teaching African-American poetry. I wonder how many football coaches love J. D. Salinger?

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And now the sun riots in the bookroom! How I love it when that late day sun slants and slashes into the sanctums of the library, a dash of regal sash!

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A Note About the Typeface

This post is set in the typeface Nederlandischer Renneker, invented in 1637 by the drunken monk Placidus von Leeuwenhosen. [Courtesy Xerxes Riffraff.]

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