Saturday, May 29, 2010

Currently reading

For some reason the past few weeks I've been skipping back and forth between several good books:

The Autobiography of Mark Twain
: It's as fun as his fiction. I guess I should have expected as much, but the way he hides hilarity within what at first appears to be a rather plodding paragraph is rather stunning. For instance, near the end of a paragraph which if skimmed one might assume to be a fairly traditional I-remember-as-a-child-doing-such-and-such, Twain writes, "When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it."

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
(Jose Saramago): Seems as different a novel from Blindness as could be, except for the spare paragraph-ization. I'm interested to compare it to Jim Crace's Quarantine, which offers an alternative imagining of Jesus' early years.

I've also started Don DeLillo's
Libra and a book of essays by David Foster Wallace called A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.

I'll blame this bit of literary schizophrenia on the unsettledness of moving across the country these last few weeks, along with the pleasure of having a public library three blocks away now.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

From three women, three cats to one woman, one cat

Dash and I will be leaving our shared space here in Laramie next week to move to our own home, just the two of us, in a lovely part of St. Louis. The studio apartment pictured below is small but clean and reasonable and, I think, just the right size for my feline and me.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Calvin misjudged? Perhaps not

Marilynne Robinson argues in The Death of Adam that John Calvin and his legacy and his followers have been wrongly caricatured in the annals of history. I'm still working through my response to her claims, including the claim that we shouldn't be so hard on Calvin for authorizing the burning of a heretic in Geneva--after all, she writes, other religious leaders were authorizing many more such burnings at the stake in his time.

My gut reaction to her argumentation is a skeptical one, but I've been trying to withhold judgment, even of this giant of the Reformed faith whose TULIP (five points) wreaked a certain havoc on my understanding of God, until I have a more informed view of him, since I have not yet read his seminal work, the Institutes.

But then I run across another Calvin quote, this time oddly placed among a Facebook friend's favorite quotes, and Calvin's words keep speaking for themselves: "God preordained, for his own glory and the display of his attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation."

That such a horrible formulation has managed not only to hold together the whole theological framework of a religious movement for centuries but also become a "favorite quote" of a friend is beyond alarming. I think my hesitation about tackling Calvin in my nonfiction work might be soon coming to an end.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Scary stuff

This and other photos on the National Geographic Web site are really disconcerting. The boat included in this one gives me a sense of just how huge this spill is.