Category: Of Books and Beer

Effect of the great books

May 1st, 2012 — 3:48pm

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

(John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” October 1816)

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

A grave danger, indeed

April 26th, 2012 — 9:53am

“Few parents grasp the danger of children playing outside. The most enlightened educators do grasp it, and have taken steps to ensure that children will be left to their own devices, outdoors, as little as possible. They have shortened the summer vacation, parceling out free days here and there through the school year. The effect is to keep children from developing the habit of learning things outside of school . . . . After all, it takes children a week or so just to get used to the summer, and a week or two at the end of August to prepare for the new school year. Then, too, schools have heaped books upon the children to tote around during the summer, much as you would heave sacks of grain and skins of wine atop a camel before crossing a desert. The idea is not to instill a love of reading excellent literature. Recall that so-called great works of art are dangerous, as they rouse the imagination. No, summer reading ensures that no mental break occurs between June and September, no respite from the sedative.” (Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, p. 31)

I am loving this book.

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

Resurrection and action

December 28th, 2011 — 8:08pm

An emerging new year’s conviction: I have not read nearly enough of Oliver O’Donovan. Witness this:

“When we think quite specifically about Christian action we have to single out the resurrection moment which vindicates the creation into which our actions can be ventured with intelligibility. In action the integrity of the world order is supposed, and that integrity is answered for by the empty tomb, where God has stood by the life he made and has not allowed it to be brought to nothing.” (O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order, prologue to the second edition)

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

Of boys and books

September 28th, 2010 — 11:14am

In the “so obvious I can’t believe it got published” department, parents of boys should read this piece from The Wall Street Journal.

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

Of books, especially Tolkien

September 16th, 2010 — 6:10am

In response to kindly complaints that my blog exhibits a degree of “attention deficit disorder,” that it rambles in a most desultory manner from thing to thing without a hint of what might be coming next, I should perhaps explain something about my reading habits.

I read twenty or more books at a time. The amount of stuff I have to keep up on won’t permit me to do less, and anyway, it suits me. When I get tired of one book, I put it down and go read a different book for awhile. When I’m tired of the second book, I go pick up a third, and when that no longer holds my attention, I return to book one. It so happens God gave me a brain that can keep track of what’s going on in all the books at once, so the “system” works for me, and it keeps me fresh. When I finish a book, I add a new one to the mix; or sometimes I add a new one just for the fun of it.

So much for apologia. Now to the latest addition.

I recently began reading Ralph C. Wood’s The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth. I’m tempted to drop everything and blog through it, I’m enjoying it so much. Let me give just a couple snippets from his chapter on creation to whet appetites all round.

On the goodness of food:

“The hobbits are unabashed lovers of food, enjoying six meals a day. Not for them our late-modern and quasi-gnostic obsession with slimness. Tolkien would have agreed with the novelist Tom Wolfe’s lament that America is the country where no one can ever be too rich or too slender. The feast laid on at the Inn of Bree is a celebration of a homely and humble cuisine that features the gift of simple food rather than fastidious gourmandizing: ‘There was hot soup, cold meats, a blackberry tart, new loaves, slabs of butter, and half a ripe cheese: good plain food, as good as the Shire could show’ (1.166). Even Barliman Butterbur’s name suggests the hops that he brews and the fat that seasons his cooking. Yet food is far more than physical sustenance for the Company; their shared meals also renew their spirits. Nowhere is their communal existence more fully realized than in their feasting.” (Wood, p. 24)

On the goodness of doing things slowly:

“Most of the free creatures in Tolkien’s world reverence the good creation with their craftsmanship. A craft requires lifelong discipline and laborious effort, unlike the instantaneous results of magic. Gandalf’s fireworks, by contrast, are matters of skill and labor rather than sorcery – even if his wand seems to be a supernatural gift. Once Gandalf suspects that Bilbo has come into possession of the magical Ruling Ring, he spends many decades in his quest to confirm his hunch. Repeatedly Tolkien stresses the importance of patience, the willingness to avoid the shortcut and the easy way, recommending instead the slow and arduous path that leads to every excellence. Anything worth doing well is worth doing slowly.” (Wood, p. 26)

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

On reading

July 5th, 2010 — 11:49am

“I am old-fashioned and romantic enough to believe that many children, given the right circumstances, are natural readers until this instinct is destroyed by the media. The tyranny of the screen threatens any order in which literary value or human wisdom can be preferred to the steady flow of information. It may be an illusion to believe that the magical connection of solitary children to the best books can endure, but such a relationship does go so long a way back that it will not easily expire. The romance of reading, like all experiential romance, depends upon enchantment, and enchantment relies upon the potential of power rather than upon complete knowledge. You are unlikely to fall in love with someone, however charming such a person may be, if you have known one another all your lives. What you can know fully will not induce you to fall in love, so that falling in love with a book is not wholly unlike falling in love with a person.” (Harold Bloom, introduction to Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages)

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

Must read

April 23rd, 2010 — 4:56pm

Okay, I know this will raise some hackles, but I’m going to put it out there anyway:

If you want to understand your Bible, read Geerhardus Vos. If you want to understand your New Testament, read Herman Ridderbos. If you want to understand the theology of your Bible, read Herman Bavinck. If you want to understand the philosophy of your Bible, read Cornelius Van Til.

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

A battle is joined

March 8th, 2010 — 8:43pm

“Faster, faster. All swords out now, all shields up to the nose, all prayers said, all teeth clenched. Shasta was dreadfully frightened. But it suddenly came into his head, ‘If you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life. Now or never.’ ” (C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy)

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

The lamppost

February 25th, 2010 — 8:43am

This from Heretics is one of my favorite Chesterton quotes of all time; I wonder if Nancy Pelosi has ever read it: 

“Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, ‘Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good—’ At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.”

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

Back to top