Books

4. A Classic In Translation: Fragments of Sappho

For the Classics in Translation I read Anne Carson’s If Not Winter a Translation of Sappho’s Poems and I highly recommend it.  The Greek is On the left page, in startling red ink while Carson’s translation is on the right page in a calmer black ink. Brackets note the missing lines.  It is a beautiful way to read these fragmented poems; the blank spaces fill you with wonder- what was the complete poem like? There was such intensity in the fragments!

spangled is
the earth with her crowns

Her poems have a sense of pagan piety and duty and yet others were soft, lyrical, feminine with striking imagery:

“Evening you gather back
all that dazzling dawn has put asunder:
you gather a lamb, gather a kid,
gather a child to its mother.” 

To read The Classics is to cross the chasm of time and even language, to experience the permanence of the written word; even an ancient author like Sappho feels close to us when we read. Thousands of years, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution cannot change the human condition: love, hatred, pain, joy, suffering will always be a part of our lives.

Someone will remember us
I say
even in another time.

-Mrs Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

 

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2. 20th Century Classic: The End Of The Affair

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A book that leaves you  wanting to read more by and about the author is a success, and when I returned this book to my shelves, I was gladdened to find a few other unread Greene novels. (I love how a library evolves, whenever you read a book and put it away, you see the collection anew. ) I was also  happy to discover that Greene was a catholic and even happier to find that he disliked being called a Catholic novelist; He preferred to be known as a writer who happened to be Catholic.

When I picked out this book for the back to the Classics Challenge, I didn’t know what to expect.  When I started it, I was immediately pulled in. Mid-way through, I became rather comfortable with my projected outcome. But when Greene failed to tie up loose ends, I began to see that the focus and the trajectory of the novel was not at all what I expected. Greene took a sharp and surprisingly mystical turn, a turn that gave me goose-bumps.

The story begins with Bendrix, a writer by profession, recounting the end of his affair with Sarah Miles, the wife of a civil servant Henry Miles. Bendrix is tormented by its end. He describes how, driven with jealousy, he hires a detective to find out if another man was to blame. But instead of uncovering another affair,  Bendrix, a self proclaimed atheist, discovers a beautiful story of a soul.

As the novel moves on, Greene is able to broaden the narrow scope of  first person narration and keep the tone intimate by incorporating letters and Sarah’s diary. The act of writing itself is a reappearing theme in the novel. In fact, there are several stirring scenes that involve the written word. I particularly loved the one where Bendrix discovers Sarah’s childhood books and begins to read her inscriptions inside. And near the end, it is both the detective’s simple letter and Sarah’s juvenile inscriptions that take on spine chilling, mystical and mysterious meanings.

In an age of atheism and rationalism Greene reminds us that religion is still relevant- Catholicism still alive and those who practice it may not find the path easy, most likely they find it to be a constant internal battle with oneself.

The novel ends with Bendrix’s weary prayer,

“O God, you’ve done enough, You’ve robbed me of enough, I’m too tired and old to learn to love, leave me alone forever”

and that is enough, God can work with that, His heart yearns for souls and His grace is sufficient.

Next on my list Rumer Godden.

Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

1. 19th Century Classic: The Bostonians

The Bostonians

“I wish to write a very American tale, a tale very characteristics of our social conditions, and I asked myself what was the most salient and peculiar point in our social life, The answer was: the situation of women, the decline of the sentiment of sex, the agitation on their behalf.” –  from the Notebooks of Henry James

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“Do you really take the ground that your sex has been without influence? Influence? Why you have led us all by the nose to where we are now! Wherever we are, it’s all you. You are at the bottom of everything . . . She is the universal cause”

“ [Olive] would reform the solar system if she could get a hold of it”

“Oh, the position of women!” Basil Ransom exclaimed [to Olive]. “The position of women, is to make fools of men. I would change my position for yours any day,”

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I finished reading The Bostonians, the first book on my back to the Classics list, and love Henry James all the more for it. This book has been described as a satire and I agree it is funny filled with a good-natured irony, but it is more than a satire. It has a tragic touch and yet at its core it is a love story, the stuff of fairy tales.

It also deals with many themes I have struggled with and have been preoccupied with for years: the postbellum era, feminism, traditionalism, women in the domestic and political spheres, revolutions, reforms, reforms of the reforms, sympathy, true charity, and Mr. James addresses them all with a fierce and comic pen.

I read a few scathing reviews  and a few thoughtful ones that had me wondering if  we even read the same book! It appears that feminism is  controversial and this I think is what made me reread  it (I had abandoned this book once before) – I wanted His take on the movement.

Perhaps we have forgotten, so used to the movement, the advancement, the emancipation of women, that women were powerful and have always been powerful in a feminine way (have we forgotten Helen of Troy?)  Mr. James reminds us of this, that the domestic sphere has a power of its own,  (have we forgotten Penelope?)  There is something “divinely different” from the public life and that is the private life, hidden away for love of the other. The cloistered nun has great power, so does the housewife, both are a Joan of Arc in spirit setting the world on fire in little ways. A flame is just as bright in the home as it is outdoors, perhaps even brighter to those closest to it. What do we have if we sacrifice the private life? If we proclaim equality the absolute?

I found the book strikingly prophetic but not despairing. The characters themselves were believable and I loved reading about them even if I despised their views. I found them all to be well developed and the dialogue brilliant. Mr. James has a genius for it. Its juxtaposition to the characters actions, their surroundings, at moments  reminded me of Flaubert. The last three chapters were my favorite as Mr. James tied up the loose ends and set his fairy tale alive with a quietly dramatic and satisfying ending.

A brilliant novel but not an easy read, and of course, Mr. James leaves room for dispute as I have yet to find a review I completely agree with, which I suppose is part of the intrigue. As, Horace Elisha Scudder points out in his own review, “It is when we stop and take the book as a whole that we forget how fine the web is spun, and remember only the strong conception which underlies the book; the freshness of the material used; the amazing cleverness of separate passages;” We want to pin Mr. James down, and his book but it is too fine drawn for that, you dear reader, must read it for yourself.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

 

 

 

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2. 20th Century Classic: The Leopard

It had been around ten years since I last read this.  I remembered it was good but remembered hardly anything about it.  I’d been craving a re-read for awhile.

Like Henry Esmond, The Leopard is historical fiction, set well before the time it was written.  Giuseppe di Lampedusa based this, his only novel, on the life of his great-grandfather.  The author’s biography at the end of the book says that he contemplated writing such a book for twenty-five years and only started writing when he was sixty.  He did not live to see it published.  His novel is the fruit of a lifetime lived with books and in conversation about books: a single fruit — round, mellow, perfect, exquisite, and complex.  And, in the end, surprisingly bitter.  It is at once a first novel, charged with beginner’s energy and luck, and the work of a mature talent writing at the height of his powers.
It was as good as, and better than, I remembered.  It evoked Italy so powerfully, and even Sicily, which I’ve never visited, with its glaring sun and slow-moving but dangerous people.  It exposes a heart of darkness in a fiercely traditional society, in which true religion has been eaten away, leaving only its vulnerable outer forms.  It reveals the mean and cowardly spirit that animates the flashy revolution.  In the end, it is full of unbearable regret for something ineffable that might have been.
It is lyrical, sumptuous, and subtle, with a persistent edge of humor and bathos.  I defy anyone to read the chapter where lovers play hide and seek in the labyrinth of a decaying summer palace without at least a moment’s shiver of delight.
– Mrs. Aldertree
Mrs. Aldertree’s full “back to the Classics” challenge list can be found here 

How I Read 50+ Books in a Year

 

I am not a speed reader, and I’m busy  if I can read over 50 books in a year, so can you!

  1. I Use A Reading Log.
    I keep track of the books I read on a Pinterest Board, this motivates me to fill up the pinterest board. At the end of the year I like seeing all the different books I’ve read in one place.
  2.  I Have a Reading List.
     I  have a pinterest board where I pin interesting books I might want to read.
  3. I Always Bring a Book.  I always have a book (or two or three) in my purse, don’t you?
  4. I Set attainable goals: I set specific goals. Instead of saying “I’ll read more this year” Say “I’ll read a chapter a day” or “I’ll read ten minutes daily.”
  5. I Work it into my schedule:  If you have time to browse facebook, pinterest, netflixs, Then you have time to read! Simply commit to reading 10 minutes before screentime. You’ll find that reading is more relaxing.
  6.  I Keep a Commonplace Book: A commonplace book is a journal where you write down poems, passages, quotes you like. Keeping a book where you write down these passages can be motivating. You begin to want to find more things for your commonplace book, you also remember more of what you read.
  7. I Read With my Family: Reading with my family builds up our home culture, strengthens our bonds and let’s us discuss all sorts of topics (more) organically. When I see these good fruits I want to read more.
  8. I Read More than one Book at a time : I read a book of poetry, fiction, children’s fiction and a spiritual book. This keeps me interested as I begin to connect all sorts of ideas from the different genres.
  9. I Don’t always finish books:  It’s okay to stop reading a book. If I dislike a book I give it a few chapters then move on to another one. Maybe it will speak to me in a year, maybe in ten years, maybe never.
  10. I Joined a Book Club: It’s good to have accountability and discussions. It doesn’t have to be a formal book club maybe just a few friends. The book club I’m in is just me and my sister-in-laws but it keeps me reading.
  11. I listen to Books on Audio: We always have a audiobook in the car, my kids love it and I get to revisit so many classics!
  12. I have a library card: This gives me freedom to read books I’m not sure I want to invest in. I also get all the audiobooks from the library.
  13. I Buy books cheap: I buy books used from all over locally and online.
  14. I read Book reviews: Reading reviews from goodreads or other book blogs  can be helpful when I don’t know what to read next.
  15. I’m not try not to be a Book Snob: It doesn’t always have to be a Classic. I read fun pseudoscience books, personality books, interior design coffee table books, children books  . . .
  16. I “Unplug” for 2 hours: For two hours straight everyday I turn off my laptop and put away my phone. Scheduling in no screentime is just easier to manage than scheduling in limited screentime.  I usually end up staying offline for more than 2 hours and I usually end up reading a book to avoid the housework.
  17. I READ.  I Commit to reading at least 10 mins a day just like I commit to praying or exercising.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

Traditional Latin Mass Missals: Review #1

“The Mass is The most beautiful thing in the Church” St. Alphonsus Liguori

 

 

Here is my Collection of Traditional Latin Missals. They are all wonderful resources and I can readily recommend them all but for different reasons.  Some may be a better fit for you and your family  depending on how familiar you are with the Traditional Latin Mass, how often you go or would like to go and if you have any children, how old they are.

I will begin this book review series with the “Latin-English Booklet Missal” the best “beginner” Missal for adults, older children and mothers of wiggly babies :

 

 

This Latin-English Booklet Missal for Praying the Traditional Latin Mass (of 1962) is the best one to start with, It has the English on one side and the Latin on the other making it easy to follow along with the priest and servers.  In the margins it explains the actions of the priest and even tells you when to sit and stand. There is no need to flip around to find one’s place. However, it does not have The Propers, the prayers that change with each Mass. This can be confusing at first when you are trying to find a gospel reading or Introit that just isn’t there. It does have a wonderful collection of Prayers in the back, helps for confession, thanksgiving after Mass, prayers to prepare for Mass.

I also think this Missal is a good guide for older children with strong reading skills (it’s still a bit advanced for my 8 year old but I think a 10 year old  would do just fine.) The font is a good size and easy to see. Children want to know what’s going on. I often here from the younger ones, Where are we? are we here?  and they get frustrated if their missal is not word for word. It is best to give them the “real” thing as soon as possible.

I would also like to note that this Missal is great for parents of young children. I actually prefer it to my Daily Missal (these days) because its easier to put down and pick up quickly, an advantageous feature when wrestling caring for a one year old.

A great Booklet to invest in if you’re new to the Traditional Latin Mass, have eager children or just find it tedious to handle large (albeit beautiful) daily Missals. It is an inexpensive, clear guide to help you become more familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass and ultimately deepen your prayer life.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

Stack of Old Books

The other day I visited Karen’s Books and Chocolate for the details of the Back to the Classics challenge she is hosting this year.  Unfortunately, I had just missed the deadline to officially join the challenge.  But I couldn’t resist choosing books for each of her categories. It gave me a fresh perspective on my bookshelves (I already own eight of the 12 titles I selected) and lent a sense of adventure and direction to the reading months ahead.

Here is the stack of old books I’ll be rambling among during the rest of 2018:
1.  A 19th century classic.
Charlotte Bronte dedicated Jane Eyre to Thackeray. Thackeray considered Henry Esmond his true masterpiece.
2.  A 20th century classic.
All I can recall from the first time I read it is the family rosary scene at the beginning and a “wretched meal” of spaghetti dumped from the window of a decaying palace.
3.  A classic by a woman author.
Never read but it’s been on my shelf for ages.  An online review inspires me to dust it off.
4.  A classic in translation.
Investigating agrarianism, I think of this poem again.  A pity that the best translation I know of is not currently available.
5. A children’s classic.
Avoided this one as a child because I didn’t like the movie.  Always loved the title!
6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Knickerbocker Classics)
Or something Sherlocky by Conan Doyle.  These stories were beloved by my grandfather and he recommended them to us.
7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction.
Two Years Before The Mast
Read an abridged version as a kid.  The real thing will surely be worth the time.
8. A classic with a single-word title.
A “cold war classic” my dad recommends.
9. A classic with a color in the title.
Has been on my list.
10. A classic by an author that’s new to you.
As a Driven Leaf (Paperback) - Common
Picked up at a thrift store.
11. A classic that scares you.
Scares me so much I’m not sure I want to read it. But the other book that comes to mind is scarier still. . .!
12. Re-read a favorite classic.
It would be my fourth time through this one.
I will try to update with reviews as I finish these titles.  In the meantime, if these categories inspire you, please share which classics you’d like to read in the coming months.  I can’t offer any prizes but I’m sure it won’t be too hard to think of bookish rewards with which to spur yourself on!
-Mrs. Aldertree

Spot A Dog

Spot A Dog by Lucy Micklethwait is one of my favorite early readers. It’s an amazing book because it combines: early reading skills, famous art, the classic game of  I spy, and dogs! The text itself is simple but it is elevated by diverse pieces of art by various famous painters, the juxtaposition is perfect. Another interest is added by the hunt for man’s best friend. My children love looking for the dogs hidden in plain view, the search gives them a chance to rest from the labors of reading and it deepens their appreciation for art.  Little details and depth are slowly realized as they  search the paintings: a bee on a flower, a fly,  a sleeping cat, a dappled dog!  The domestic touch can be surprising.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

 

Best of 2017

I reached my personal reading goal of 52 books for 2017!  Here’s the Best of 2017:

The Best Nonfiction: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser with Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Ina May Gaskin’s guide to Childbirth a close second and third. dscn6455

 

Best Fiction (adult): Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. Guided by Virgil, Lavinia tells her story. Le Guin beautifully blends history, tradition, myth, and poetry into an elegant work of fiction. 

Best Children’s Story Book: The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Graham Pictures by Ernest Shepherd.  Whilst trying to fulfill my children’s desire for more dragon stories, (My Father’s Dragon was a hit) we stumbled upon this wonderful book at our local library. It is a classic, a new favorite of ours. Runner ups: Snowflake Bentley and The Mousewife by Rumer Godden

Best Children’s Chapter-book Fiction: We read a lot of Chapter-books this year and so it’s hard to choose but  The Secret Garden was the best. We also Loved: A Little Princess, The Princess and The GoblinBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Best Spiritual Reading: Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Phillippe. This book is an excellent Spiritual guide to Peace and easy to read. I read it in a few days but it would be a good slow read or daily devotional.

Best Book of Poetry: One of my all time favorites, Christina Rossetti’s Sing-Song.  

What were some of  your favorites from 2017? Have any reading goals for 2018?

My Complete Reading List is here