On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Book to Savour

There are books that I race through lickety split to get to the end. There are books that I read through diligently to absorb information. There are books that I skim. Then there are the books that I savour, slowly. Right now I'm savouring a collection of essays by Thomas Howard selected by Vivian W. Dudro. The book is entitled The Night is Far Spent and it is worth every penny I paid for it, and a lot of pennies that I didn't.

I love Howard's style. He so obviously loves the English language and always chooses just the right word to convey his meaning. One of the essays in the book even talks about love of language and authors who choose just the right word ("Let Us Purify the Dialect of the Tribe"). His love of authors as diverse as Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, Anthony Trollope, and John Bunyan comes through loud and clear.

One of the things I love most about Tom Howard's writing is his irenic style. He can take a subject, such as liturgy, that has been surrounded by controversy and help one see in a gentle fashion a side of things that those with a more polemical style fail to illustrate. Howard's Evangelical Is Not Enough was one of the books that helped me understand the value of liturgy in the first place, although it was not the first of his books that I read. The first book of his I read was then entitled An Antique Drum, it's since been republished as Chance or the Dance. I'm going to pull it off the shelf today because some of what he says in it is applicable to the current lit class and our study of Dante. Howard's book On Being Catholic is one of the most beautiful descriptions of the Catholic faith that I've ever read. It invites the reader to come and see rather than engaging in tough debate, yet the arguments that are gently offered are also, I think, very compelling.

The Night is Far Spent is a collection that includes essays Howard wrote while still a Protestant ans well as more recent ones. I haven't even finished reading them all yet (as I said, I'm savouring them), but I wish the collection were even larger. I truly hope there will be yet another volume. However, the present collection has much to offer. So if you are interested in literature:Beowulf, Tolkien, Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot et.al, or art: the Whitney Museum, Vermeer, Picasso, or music: gospel hymns and Handel's Coronation Anthems among others, or liturgy and sacrament there's something here for you. I can't recommend this one highly enough to Christians of any stripe and to all who love the arts.

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