Category Archives: Books

Words that need a vacation…

Here’s a short list of words and phrases that I believe need a vacation.  Or we need the vacation and the words/phrases can hang around with each other:

  1. Vibrant – particularly in connection with parishes, arts centers, or community get-togethers
  2. Nurturing – any use whatsosever
  3. Ironic, irony – high-toned expression of superiority
  4. Transformative – huh?
  5. Our youth – whatever happened to “boys and girls” or “young men and women”
  6. Joining the conversation – I have no idea what this really means, but I believe it has to do with agreeing with your intellectual and/or ethical adversaries to your disadvantage (their idea of a conversation) or having a self-affirmation festival with people who think just like you do
  7. Anything that I find myself saying and realize I’ve turned into an unpaid commercial for a product or ideology

Are there other words and phrases that should join the planned round-the-world cruise?  Your additions are welcome.

The Last Divine Office – A Great Read

The Last Divine Office:  Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Geoffrey Moorhouse takes on the dissolution of the monasteries of England through the prism of Durham Abbey.  (This just happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.)  If you were ever inclined to a moment’s sympathy for Henry VIII or Thomas Cromwell, you’ll be cured by the time you finish the book.  Rapacious, cruel, and thuggish are three words that come to mind.

Moorhouse also paints a fascinating picture of late medieval English religion, both the good and the bad points.  So it’s a nice book to put on your shelf with Eamon Duffy.  Not too long and hard to put down.  Highly recommended.

(Can you guess that I used to write library book reviews in another life?)

Intonarium Toletanum Digitized

Well, this might not make your day, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise for me!

Thanks to the Library of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, I can happily paw around in this 1515 chant manuscript in the comfort of my own home and without having to wear those little white gloves so beloved of archivists!  And there are lots of treasures to enjoy!

What a happy marriage of the past and present!

(Apologies for the inelegant logo – but my image-scaling skills are at a low ebb this morning.) 


Eat Like a Hermit! Yum!

Hermit cookbookThis new book will help you on the way. The Hermit's Cookbook complete with recipes for bread soup and hermit stew – and still a scholarly work.  I've always wondered about their diets – dates, roots, locusts, etc.

Read this and get the low-down.  Sounds like more fun than my current research project, but then I digress….

Compline Resource from Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB

Compline2 The tireless Fr. Weber has produced a very nice volume for those wishing to sing Compline (or Night Prayer, as it is often called) in the revised Liturgy of the Hours.  Ignatius Press is the publisher.  And thanks are due to both the author and the publisher.

Compline is easy, lovely, and not very long (for those allergic to long prayers).  We sing it several times a year in our Cathedral after major civic events, the cathedral being located right on St. Augustine's Plaza.  The changing texts are easy to handle and it is a beautiful way to shift from evening to night.

And no, you don't have to wait until right before bed to sing it.  Sing it in English or sing it in Latin.  Don't worry – God understands both.

I prefer the traditional structure of Compline because 99% of the material remained unchanging throughout the year, with the only changes happening during the Triduum and the addition of Alleluias during Eastertide.  It meant that the hour could be easily memorized – and everyone who knows me knows I'm mad for memory.

Anyway – check this out.  Buy a copy and encourage the publisher.  Buy several and dragoon your friends into a weekly (or more often) Compline. 

I bet you'll sleep better if you do!

Tired of Fluff? Read This Instead: My Way of Life

My way of life This book, published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood in 1952, is "the Summa Simplified."  The authors, Fathers Farrell and Healey, walk the reader through the splendid landscape of Aquinas' summing up of Catholic theology.  It's readable, enlightening, pocket-sized, and gives you 630 pages of meaty reading for a mere $8.50.

In the introduction, it says:

"While primarily meant for everyman, it is profound enough for the most erudite.  Hence it can be readily recommended to father and mother, sister and brother, to the high-school and college student, to the convert, the study and Newman Club, to the Confraternity class, to the religious and the priest, in a word, it can be recommended to everyone."

Now, you must fall into one of those categories, don't you? 

If you're looking for something beyond the gospel of self-improvement, community improvement, and departed loved ones in the Happy Hunting Ground, you'll love this book.  Read a paragraph every evening or a chapter every morning. You won't become as smart as St. Thomas Aquinas, but you'll certainly wish you were.   

Never Let Me Go – The Film

Never let me go This is not a cheerful movie.  The film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, set somewhere in late 20th-century England, is faithful to the book and beautiful.  It is also extraordinarily sad.  The film score by Rachel Portman is superb, as is the cinematography.

Both the book and the film are worth your time.  And you'll think about them long afterwards.  I won't tell you the plot, but you can certainly find it elsewhere on line. 

I saw this with a friend at a mega-plex in Jacksonville.  There were a grand total of three viewers in the theatre.  Everyone else was watching Jackass in 3D and an array of chick flicks. Consequently, if this does come to a theatre anywhere near you and you're interested, don't wait because it probably won't last long. 

Scholarly Pet Peeve #4,689

Peeved cat I've discovered so many new peeves lately that I'm going to add a wing to the existing menagerie building.  And yes, the peeves will be properly housed, fed, and exercised. 

First to move in will be the practice of academic presses in charging for ancient articles in their journals – and charging exorbitantly – usually around $12 for an article of which I've been allowed to read the first two paragraphs.  I'm not researching high technology or neuroscience; we're talking about odd moments in American history or musicology.

I'm often turning up articles from the 1940s or 50s in the area I'm working on right now.  The authors have probably (hopefully) gone to the big faculty senate meeting in the sky – and remember, they didn't make a dime on the article in the first place.  However, the publisher has discovered (it believes) another profit center.

Of course, if I were college faculty or a student in an institution that paid for a subscription to jstor or one of its ilk, I could see these.  But those of us outside the ivy-covered (or in Florida, stuccoed) walls of academe are expected to pony up, sight unread.

Venting accomplished. 

“Domesticating the Alien Within” and other academic articles

Hedgehog1 In all my years on the fringes of the academy, I have most enjoyed the titles of scholarly books and articles articles.

All these titles came up in the course of a morning's searching in connection with the music of the California missions.   "The Body Acoustic," "The Economy of Authenticity," "Recycling the Other," and of course, the domesticated alien.  (BTW, "Recycling the Other" dealt with cannibalism.)  Heck, I stopped caring about the "Alabado" because there were so many other sub-topics available.

Years ago, Publishers Weekly did a spoof on the titles of academic press books.  You can do the same with the articles.  Just think what you would add after the inevitable colon in the title…

Hours of harmless fun.