Thursday, February 19, 2009

Graham Greene

I finished The End of the Affair and find it terribly fascinating in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the wild freedom that Graham Greene, who was Catholic, enjoys. There is sex here. Adultery. Hate. Prostitution. (Woo-hoo?) It's the stuff of life that has always seemed too hush-hush, and yet Greene, out of such despair and joy and love and lust and spent humanity creates something beautiful that is difficult to describe other than with the book itself. This book is a triumph of God's mercy - a very un-Victorian look at the Victorian Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven." Of the Catholic authors I've read, this book is perhaps the most evangelical, if I can use the word, the most stripped-down, bared-bones call to God and Catholicism without completely crossing the line into a novelized tract (as some miserable Christian fictions cannot seem to rise above, who perhaps lack the freedom to rise above) - and while the narrator resists God's call entirely, you sense that even he knows that he is resisting Something rather than nothing. It's terribly, terribly fascinating to me.

This novel is my first introduction to Graham Greene and he's now on my list of authors with whom I must better familiarize myself with - and the thought of the Waughs and Greenes out there, undiscovered and unread, excite me. When I was younger, I remember hearing of Greene's being a Christian and then hearing that his novels weren't very Christian at all, and so, in my shining purity, I never neared one of his books - what a shame. Although, to be entirely frank, at the time I surely would not have been ready for such a story as this.

What is exciting for me, as well, I suppose, as a man who wants at some point in his life to write a novel, who contemplates such a feat more than works toward it, is the beauty that Waugh and Greene find in life, and the mercy imbedded within it. And how God redeems, woos us, is faithful - best of lovers.

Btw, the novel also corresponded in some odd ways to this past Monday's episode of House, which I'd recommend heartily. "So very many coincidences," indeed.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I watched Brideshead Revisited last weekend and then checked out the book from the library. I rarely do this - watch the movie first, read the novel second. Laura had seen the previews, however, and was interested, so I put it in our Netflix queue. I had heard vague charges of anti-Catholicism about the movie, but knew little of Waugh and less of his faith. I knew the book was supposed to have been borne out of his Catholicism, his being a convert, and after watching the movie, I knew that the film could not be a fair representation of his book. The movie is quite anti-Catholic, which is fine, if you don't mind the story saying the opposite thing the author meant for the story. One thing is sure, the book is profoundly Catholic, with an agnostic narrator, without feeling at all pushy or tract-like. It simply is the story of a family. It's not a story about being Catholic so much as it is a story of grace (which for some of us are the same thing). The movie, just as the book, is gorgeous, and received four stars from me for its luxuriousness. And what the movie could not do, and what a movie cannot do unless written to do so, is strip the mercy and grace intrinsic within characters simply because they are played by actors, by persons. There is sympathy or compassion there yet - an angel stirring the waters even though the angel was not welcome.

The novel is more glorious than the movie. I still found the film quite moving, however, though in a tragic sense rather than in the hope and grace that is impressed upon one while reading the novel. I would love to hear from those of you who have both read the book and seen the movie. What are your impressions? If you're not Catholic, what are your impressions of the novel? If you're unsympathetic to Catholicism, the movie will undoubtedly confirm your worser suspicions of our faith, as there are plenty of cliched Catholics present. Similar characters are also present in the book, but the difference in the book is that the book also has the real thing, and not just the cliche. But I need to re-read it to draw any better conclusions.

I also picked up The End of the Affair by Graham Greene from the library and am enjoying it now. I may say a word or two about it when I finish.


I'm having some difficulty writing lately, which is disconcerting. I want to say things and then find it better they remain unsaid, not because they are unkind or controversial, but because they are just words: cold thoughts, too sterile for paper. Just words. Text. The metaphor of language where silence serves better. There is nothing for me to say straight. Writing must be all slant. I cannot describe a flower as a naturalist, only as a painter - even if I must paint in water colors.

I wonder whether my muse is bemused by my pauses, my faltering. So here I am again, caressing, speaking tenderly to her; I miss her. Gentle mistress, quiet, who demands that I be me - perhaps no more than a novice, but certainly no less. Who is patient with my anger and ranting and silliness. Patient with my airs. Who waits. Who simply wants to calm a shaking hand. Who remains silent when I elbow her aside and push my own words forward. For when she speaks, she speaks beauty. Her words tumble down like soft black curls on alabaster cheeks. She is patient, saintly toward her awkward, shy lover.

She deserves better than me, but will not hear of it. It is the only time she is insulted by me, when I tell her so.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On Headaches

I am not a great sufferer, by any means. For me the greatest physical suffering is the migraine. In comparison to what many people suffer, that is, perhaps, something at which one might chuckle. Yet most of the pain I experience, a fractured foot, a bad laceration, or a hurt back can be set aside while I read a book or pray or write. But a terrible headache obscures all of that, it cuts me off from how I naturally function. It torments me because no matter what I desire to do, the pressure is too great to focus, to be faithful. I can't think. I don't know how to find peace there. In the greatest of such pain, I would be a haggler, willing to give most anything for relief. I recall a fever of 105°, while alone in my house - it might compare in its totality of bodily misery. Though in a fever I can find respite in sleep. Often, a headache isn't so gracious.

I wonder at times if the Good Lord sent me headaches for this reason: Too thorny for me to untangle, for me to ignore. Absolutely interruptive.

I don't know what it is to suffer great physical pain, such as that which accompanies serious diseases and the treatments of such. Honestly, I don't want to. But for me, now, anything is better than a headache. Break my arm, bust my nose, kick me in the shin - just don't send a low pressure front my way.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Long Time Coming

What a busy month it has been. Of course, our sixth child, this side of paradise, was born on January 1. You can see pictures in the sidebar. Her name is Catherine Claire and she's a beautiful addition to our family. She's very precious, though I think she would like me better if I had mammaries. She's a month old today. And I need to begin writing again.

We're shooting for a Valentine's Day baptism, but I'll keep you posted.

We also, rather impulsively and foolishly, have added a dog to our family. Clearly our lives needed more activity in them. The puppy is a husky mix named Charlie. He's quite calm and sociable, while remaining all puppy. We're busy house training and he's busy convincing us that things are better not left on the floor. "There will be consequences," he says, one eye ice blue, the other brown. Our cat hasn't a good thing to say about him yet, though he ignores her. I'm hoping she will one day come downstairs again. Sorry, Tula.

Physically it has been a terrible month for me: Ear problems. Constant headaches. I need to begin exercising again and do a better job eating better foods. I'm writing in the wee hours because my ear hurts too badly to sleep. But I've been able to catch up on my fellow writers and update my own blog - so, there at least, it's a good.

Couple of movies I've enjoyed this month: (1) Kung Fu Panda - my kids wouldn't let me send this movie back for 2 1/2 weeks and we laughed all the way through it even on the twentieth viewing. I suppose we'll need to buy it someday when the price comes down. (2) Henry Poole Is Here - a quiet, but good movie for a man (me) who needs to be occasionally reminded of life's hope.

I've actually finished a couple of books this past month as well. The first, Finding Darwin's God by Ken Miller, is an interesting book on evolution and faith and the celebration of freedom. I really am at a loss for words on this one, though I recommend it highly. Some people will be greatly offended by it, due to Dr. Miller's unapologetic belief in evolution. I found it instructive and inspiring. The second book I finished was The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, which I've been reading for a year now. What a terrific novel! I can't say enough about this book. This is one I will re-read again and again. It is not only a fascinating story but is also a beautiful picture of our life in Christ. It isn't didactic, by any means, buy simply springs up out of its nineteenth-century Russian milieu and the beauty of Russian Orthodoxy.

Anyway, just a few items to get me re-accustomed to the water. Thank you for your prayers concerning the new baby and her mother. We ask that you continue praying for and with us.