I wanted to share with you some of my recent reading and offer some reviews and recommendations thereby.
- Michael Connelly, The Black Echo. This is the first novel in his Hieronymus Bosch series, and it is, in the end, quite good (I shared just on facebook an early objection to it, which was unfounded). I like Connelly's treatment of PTSD from the Vietnam conflict, his research in the tunnel rats of that era (my stepfather was a river rat), and the fact that many family members also experienced versions of PTSD from that ungodly conflict. This novel is a bit too hard-boiled for my taste, but the lead character is fascinating and the surprise at the end quite compelling.
- Will Derkse, The Rule of Benedict for Beginners: A Spirituality for Daily Life and A Blessed Life: Benedictine Guidelines for Those Who Long for Good Days. This Dutch author is quite astute and approachable, especially for those with little familiarity with the Rule of St. Benedict and the Benedictine life. He explains the terms well, and goes deeply. I felt his analogies in the business world diluted the spiritual nature of the rule somewhat too much and also blurred the lines between the three Benedictine vows (stability, conversion, and obedience) in the first of these books, but again, a goodly introduction. (As a side note, I am not sure about his reading of obedience; it is too deferential when applied to the business world and the world-at-large and could be dangerous; in a religious or monastic context, it has a somewhat different resonance than Derkse allows.)
- Garry Wills, Verdi's Shakespeare: Men of the Theatre and What the Qur'an Meant and Why it Matters. Wills is a good example of a public intellectual, like Susan Sontag, who does not water down but explains complex topics. I am assigning the first of these volumes in my Shakespeare and Verdi course this fall. The second should be required reading for all Americans because of the ways that the right have politicized a peaceful religion (Islam) and made them the scapegoat for the evil we have often been a direct or indirect cause. Wills, along with the excellent Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations and Tarif Khalidi's translation of the Qur'an are must-reads in these dire times of misunderstanding and misconstruing.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Leaf Storm and Other Stories, is a good read of Marquez's early works. I very much like the title story, "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" (a favorite to teach) and the little-known gem "Monologue of Isabel Watching It Rain in Macondo." The others are rather forgettable if not downright horrid (particularly "Blacaman the Good, Vender of Miracles").
- Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle: A Memoir. Set in part in West Virginia, this is a moving memoir of the life of the truly poor. I find her fascinating, particularly in the bonus materials on the dvd of the movie made from the book. However, the book is an excellent argument for why government needs to intervene and take some children away from parents--even ones that the child themselves find charming.
- Stephen King, Dreamcatcher. By far not his best. Shows the crisis in contemporary masculinity that does not or will not accept the valid critique of second (and third) wave feminism. Useful for analysis, but so much in the tone of little boy that it wears out its charm very quickly.
Well, happy reading, friends!
Pax, Dr. Mark K. Fulk