Saturday, July 30, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Master and Margarita*

I'm so confused!

So I started reading this book and I had no idea where the author was going with it. And then I finished reading this book and still had no idea where the author was going with it. So, despite my chronic laziness, I turned to the commentary and afterword to try and figure out what the heck I had just read.

From the dust jacket I got this description of the book: "Together they succeed in comically befuddling a population which denies the devil's existence, even as it is confronted with the diabolic results of a magic act gone wrong." So far, so good.

However, as soon as you open this book you are confronted with this quote from Goethe's Faust: ". . . and so, who are you, after all? -I am part of the power which forever wills evil and forever works good." This quote is explained in the commentary which states "the epigraph introduces the theme of heresy, one which will be reinforced throughout this novel . . . Goethe believed in the theory of polarities which is essentially a version of Manichean thought. In the Manichean view, there are two cardinal principles in the world, the light and the dark, the good and the evil. In this scheme of things, as stated by Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust, God dwells in eternal light, the devils are consigned in darkness, and human beings have only day and night. This sort of dualistic thinking was unacceptable to the Christian faith, which requires that good be stronger than evil, not equal to it; therefore this kind of worldview was considered heretical." So the reader is supposed to understand right from the beginning what becomes clear as the novel progresses, that this is a heretical, and primarily Manichean, work. It comes down to this: "Yeshua (Jesus) does not appear to be more powerful than Woland (Satan), and it is left quite unclear whether there is a power higher than Woland himself." I'm not okay with that and I would never feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone.

In addition to being heretical the book also deals extensively with witchcraft in a way that I was not at all comfortable with.

Furthermore, one basically has to have a working knowledge of Christology and Goethe's Faust to fully comprehend this book.

The author is a good satirist but that's about all I can say for the book. And I'm still not sure what the point of the book was.

If anyone has insights on the book I'd love to hear them as I'm still rather confused.

Good Quotes:

  • "'Keep in mind that Jesus did exist.' 'You know, Professor,' answered Berlioz with a forced smile, 'we respect your great knowledge, but we happen to have a different point of view regarding that issue.' 'No points of view are necessary,' replied the strange professor. 'He simply existed and that's all there is to it.'"

  • "What is it with you? Whatever comes up you say doesn't exist."

  • "'Why the icon?' 'Well the icon . . .' Ivan turned red, 'The icon was what scared them most of all"

  • "Who ever told you there is no such thing in the world as real, true, everlasting love? May the liar have his despicable tongue cut out!"

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Love Carefully

Every morning on my way to work I have to pass the local Planned Parenthood. A couple weeks ago I saw they had a new banner hanging outside proclaiming the message "Love Carefully."

Love carefully.

I hate to burst your bubble Planned Parenthood but that's not possible.

The nature of love is a complete gift of self. To love is to give yourself entirely to another person, to abandon yourself for the good of another. To love is to forsake your desires in favor of your beloved's. To sacrifice. To make yourself completely vulnerable to another in order to lift them up. That's why the image of love is the cross.

Love is radical. "It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Love is a total abandonment of self, to the point that you would give your life for the beloved. There is nothing careful about love.

Don't love carefully. Love radically.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Human Factor**

"This espionage novel is a fascinating account of human weakness, wisdom and folly. Parsing the moral decisions would take months but the book itself can be read in but a few days. Graham Greene is rich."

This book was just kinda sad. It was cynical, God-less, and rather immoral. The one priest who shows up in the book does a pretty bad job of being a priest. And for an espionage novel it's not very exciting.

Also, it's kind of confusing, especially at the beginning because the author doesn't really tell you the setting or the time period or anything, you just kind of have to figure it out on your own. I'm not totally opposed to this, if the book had been a better book that might have been a really cool writing technique.

One good quote:

"'It's irreplaceable that one.' 'A man's dead,' said Daintry. 'He's irreplaceable too.'"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - Death Comes for the Archbishop***

"Willa Cather has other books that one might think of as more 'womanly.' She does masterfully craft the strong female character, but this book has striking depth and richness and in our opinion ought to be higher on people's lists."

So this book is basically a Catholic western. I love it!

I wouldn't say that it's an amazing book but it's simple and beautiful. It's based on the life of the historical Bishop John Baptist Lamy, the first bishop of Santa Fe who, just like the Archbishop in the book, built a Cathedral for the diocese and brought from Europe a group of religious sisters to found a school for the Indian and Mexican children as well as other priests and religious to assist throughout the diocese.

The book gives a perfectly fair portrayal of the Church and does a good job of depicting missionary life. As a matter of fact, the chapter "The Month of Mary" is lovely! It gives a beautiful depiction of Fr. Vaillant's deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother and of his burning desire to bring souls back to God and the Church. Similarly, the chapter called "December Night" portrays a true childlike and deep faith. Also, the book devotes several pages to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe which I greatly appreciated.

Some good quotes:

  • "Father Joseph said that, as for him, he would rather combat the superstitions of a whole Indian pueblo than the vanity of one white woman.

  • "The nursery tale could not vie with her [the Blessed Mother] in simplicity, the wisest theologians could not match her profundity."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Mill on the Floss**

"This is the story of a young woman's struggle for independence. It doesn't end in a satisfying way but there is so much about youth and love and power here that the book should be re-read many times."

This is, without a doubt, the most depressing book I have ever read in my entire life. The moral of this story is: life stinks and then you die.

First of all, bad families upset me. And Maggie's family is bad. They treat her horribly and it broke my heart from the first page of the book.

This is one of those books that it's hard to say anything about without giving away the whole thing so it looks like this is gonna be a pretty short review. The book is not badly written, I found in it elements reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre, but it is so thouroughly depressing and disatisfying that it's hardly worth reading. It does have a lot of insight into youth and young "love" so that I can understand why it is on this list but I found it so upsetting that I would never want to recommend it to anyone because I would not want to encourage them toward depression.

Some good quotes:

"It was the first sign within the poor child of that new sense which is the gift of sorrow."

"Maggie, with all her keen susceptibility, yet felt as if the sorrow made larger room for her love to flow in."

"'I will not begin any future, even for you,' said Maggie, tremulously, 'with a deliberate consent to what ought not to have been. What I told you at Basset I feel now: I would rather have died than fall into this temptation.'"

"Faithfulness and constancy mean something else besides doing what is easiest and pleasantest to ourselves. They mean renouncing whatever is opposed to the reliance others have in us - whatever would cause misery to those whom the course of our lives has made dependent on us."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Razor's Edge*

"If you want to understand the bad-boy appeal and the drive for independence and adventure this is the book for you."

"A profoundly pathetic object," is an appropriate description of each character by the end of this book.

The book started out ok, it certainly wasn't the best book I've ever read but it wasn't the worst. If I hadn't ended up being disgusted with the book I would've just been indifferent towards it. Frankly, it's just depressing and there's not much more I can say for it. If you'd like to have a raincloud hovering over your day, this is the book for you.

In his conclusion, the author maintains that he has written a "success story" because all of the characters "got what they wanted." However, in the end, it's not whether they got what they wanted that really matters, it's whether they got what they needed, and what each one of them really needed was a good slap in the face. And so at the end we are left, as we began, with a cast of "profoundly pathetic object[s]."

A few quotes:

  • "Marriage is a serious matter on which rest the security of the family and the stability of the state."

  • "nothing is easier than to bear other people's calamities with fortitude"

  • "Though not a Catholic, I can never attend Mass without a sense of tremulous awe when the little tinkle of the servitor's bell informs me of the Elevation of the Host; and now, similarly, I shivered as though a cold wind ran through me, I shivered with fear and wonder."

  • "marriage still remains the most satisfactory profession a woman can adopt"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

100 Books Every Woman Should Read - The Republic***

"So much of Western thought is colored by knowledge of Plato and his forms, it can be frustrating to try and read a philosophy textbook but actually reading Plato is relatively simple and very satisfying."

Everyone should read this book! It definitely stretched my intellectual muscles - after a month out of school it was nice to know my brain still worked.

All of Plato's works are written in the person of Socrates who is a brilliant debater! After talking circles around one of his opponents the man declares that, "For myself . . . I am quite ready to join your side of the quarrel." His discussion of justice and injustice cuts right to the heart of human nature and he goes on to more or less disprove Greek theology and prove Christianity to the best of his ability.

I don't agree with everything in this book but for the most part they are intellectual disagreements. In other words, even when Socrates/Plato is wrong he doesn't annoy me because he's not just some idiot spewing random opinions - he really believes what he's saying and has intelligent reasoning to back it up. He even goes on to discuss the fact that opinions are only as good as the facts that back them up.

However, speaking of my disagreements with Plato, allow me to enumerate some of them. First of all, the entire section on Women and the Family is terribly disturbing. And, apparently, Plato supports abortion and infanticide, which is definitely not just an intellectual disagreement. The root of Plato's problems is his lack of respect for the individual. The good of the individual is constantly sacrificed for the community. But, what Plato fails to realize is that the community is made up of individuals. For example: Plato will sacrifice the happiness of individuals for the happiness of the community. But communities are made up of individuals so if you sacrifice the happiness of the individual you sacrifice the happiness of the community. And soon enough you'll find that you've sacrificed the happiness of every individual in the community and if everyone in the community is unhappy, how can the community be happy? At the end of the day, someone could write a great sci-fi novel about the society that Plato proposes.

That being said, I reiterate that everyone should read this book, if only to get you to think a little.

Some good quotes:

  • "the music and literature of a country cannot be altered without major political and social changes"

  • "it is in education that disorder can most easily creep in unobserved"

  • "and so, because he knows, we can rightly call his state of mind one of knowledge; and that of the other man, who holds opinions only, opinion"

  • "they have no right to be annoyed at the truth"

  • "he's drawn to complete license (which his tempters call complete liberty)"