On Giants' Shoulders

Friday, April 07, 2006

Going to the Library

One of the greatest pleasures in my life in recent years has been trips to the library of my alma mater. I know that I spent a good deal of time in the library when I was in college (generally reading things that had nothing to do with the courses I was actually taking at the time), but for years it was a closed and locked out place to me. This was actually unnecessary. I hadn't realized that for the paltry sum of $5 I could purchase an alumni card which would unlock the place to me once again. I made this marvelous discovery during the years my daughter was a student there and have regularly availed myself of its treasures ever since then.

The library not only saves me money every year (in books I want to read, but hesitate to purchase), it has also introduced me to books I should never have found otherwise. Despite its purely secular stance, it has a plethora of books by and about Lewis, Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, Charles Peguy, Dorothy Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc., etc. You get the picture. You won't find much from Ignatius Press and you will have to weed through the debunkers and hostile critics, but there's gold in those stacks as well.

Yesterday I made the trek to Burlington (a 3 hour round trip drive). I was returning a book on Phillip Sydney and a biography of St. Robert Southwell (one of the forty Martyrs of England and Wales). I went intending to pick up one critical study of Flannery O'Connor, one book by Charles Peguy and intending to see what I could find interesting in the Chesterton field (always an interesting place for me to roam). I came home with two critical studies of O'Connor (leaving several others for another time), one book by Peguy, a new book on the history of the Swiss Guard, and 6 books that discussed either Chesterton in some fashion or other. I'm only allowed to take out 10 books at a time and quite frankly since I had to walk clear across campus to get to visitor parking there's a limit to how much weight I wanted to carry. Besides I can go back again next month!

This morning I've been reading the first of those Chesterton related books and I simply had to recommend it to Chesterton and Lewis lovers. The title of the book is G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, The Riddle of Joy. The pieces by Christopher Derrick and Walter Hooper alone make the book well worth reading, but so far I've been interested in every single essay. These are actually papers presented at the 1987 Conference to Celebrate the Achievement of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis at Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University. If you didn't have the opportunity to attend the conference, if you never even heard about the conference, now you have the opportunity to read what those who attended actually heard. Perhaps you aren't the sort of person to attend conferences of this sort. Don't think that means you won't enjoy the essays. They shed light on both authors and debunk a lot of myths (for example that Lewis lost his faith in a good God after the death of his wife Joy). Richard Purtill's description of his experiences with the Catholic Evidences Guild and his analysis of where some Catholics went wrong from the Civil Rights Movement on is fascinating. It also makes one cautious about where we might easily go wrong as well.

As I was flipping through the book before actually setting down to truly read it, I spotted a paragraph that looked interesting. As I read it, I thought, this sounds very familiar. I glanced to the top of the page and saw the name of the author, one of my favorites: Thomas Howard. It's truly eerie how after awhile you've read so much by someone that you can recognize their writing even without knowing that they were the author. I couldn't do that with every author I'm familiar with, but there are a handful that I certainly seem to be able to do this with. Chesterton is one of those, of course, but so is Howard, probably Father Groeschel, almost certainly Scott Hahn amd C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, and Agatha Christie.

Speaking of literary conferences, I'm planning on attending one this month. The Rochester Chesterton Society is holding a one day conference on Shakepeare as Catholic. Joseph Pearce and Dale Alquist are among the scheduled speakers. Rochester is a 6 hour drive away from here (that's one way), but I'm planning on going anyway. I'm taking one of my favorite former homeschooled students with me. Anna and I will go the day before and stay overnight then return home late at night after the conference. Since I'm currently "doing" Shakespeare with my this year's class of homeschooled lit students it seemed a real opportunity I needed to seize. I would love to take this year's students with me, but unfortunately they are tied up with important family stuff that weekend. I'll report back after the conference to tell you how it went.

Oh, I didn't mention that Abby went with me. We spent our time in the car talking about Romanticism, Classicism (I read her Joseph Pearce's essay on Romanticism in the latest issue of St. Austin Review while she was driving), various current expressions of Catholicism, why you don't have to be a rigid traditionalist to appreciate Latiin Mass Magazine, what's wrong with capitalism, whether distributist ideas are practical, and the fact that reading people you think you won't agree with sometimes surprises you (i.e. I've had to totally change my thoughts on Dorothy Day in the past year). Then on the way home we ended up talking about John Dominic Crossnan (because Jim gave Abby a book of his to read - he had to read it for a class) and how you can't treat scripture as JUST metaphor without destroying the meaning. Well, do you sort of get the picture. Do you understand why I love to spend three hours in the car with my daughter? Oh I forgot the discussion about different sorts of intelligences and the ways in which some of us appear to be sports like Calvin O'Keefe. Don't you envy me! Well, if you are homeschooling your own kids and they are getting to the point of discussing things you are probably having similarly interesting conversations. I simply never recall having anything like this sort of conversation with my parents. I did have this type of conversation with my mother-in-law when I first got married, but there haven't been too many people around that I can talk with like this. I thin that perhaps the reason it's so much fun with Abby is that we love a lot of the same authors and that we come at things from similar (although not identical) vantage points.

Anyway a fun afternoon was had by all. Now I want to get back to actually reading The Riddle of Joy. If you can find it at a library somewhere, won't you join me.


At 5:53 AM, Blogger Karen E. said...

Yes, I do understand why you love those three hours in the car!


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