Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reading.  Fiction.  Dan Simmons, The Hollow Man.  Bantam, 1992.

A couple of decades ago, a friend gave me for Christmas a science fiction novel by Dan Simmons.  It was long, about 700 pages, and I hesitated to start it before the opening of school after Christmas holidays.  I began in the airport before boarding the plane to go home to Denver, I continued reading on the three hour flight and that evening when I arrived home.  I continued reading during the school week after Christmas, disappointed, as I knew I would be, in having to put it aside for school work.  I read a couple of novels by Simmons, and this past week, browsing in the bookstore, I found The Hollow Man, read the synopsis and reviews on the cover, and took it home to read.

The sciences involved in this thriller are quantum mechanics, telepathy, mathematics, and their interplay into philosophic concepts such as reality, consciousness, and immortality.  I did not understand some of the discussion, but I did enjoy reading it, and I understood enough to know what was going on as it related to the narrative.

It’s dark.  The protagonist is able to reader others’  thoughts through telepathy.  Following his wife’s death, he burned his house, left all he knew, and wet out on an odyssey in which he became involved with or witnessed all kinds of evil:  organized crime and its violence; discouraged, fearful, and value-lacking people seeking safe places; gang violence; incest and other child abuse; homelessness; a monstrously dangerous psychopathic killer.  It’s a thought-provoking, if challenging, book, though it’s my least favorite of those I’ve read by Simmons.

Reading.  Scripture.  Romans (56-58 CE)  The Catholic Prayer Bible, Lectio Divina Edition, New Revised Standard Version, Paulist Press, 1993.

According to study materials in The Catholic Bible, Personal Study Edition (New American Bible, Oxford University Press), Romans is the longest letter of Paul, and it has been influential in the formation and development of Christian theology  The arguments concerning these things are often complicated; in fact in the Lection Divina Edition, the editors suggest, “Pick out a chapter in Romans that you had trouble understanding.  Re-read it and write down your thoughts.”  I worked through the arguments carefully, using study guides, and feel that I have a good grasp of them.  I had heard them many times in sermons and in classes.  What most impressed me, though, was Chapter 12, ideas in verses 9-21.  There are traits and actions of Christians, and there are ten of them.  I wrote them down, and I look upon them as New Testament guidelines, in conjunction with the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament.  I typed the on a sheet for meditation, prefaced by this quotation from the Simmons novel (above): “. . . the hopeful voices of men and women of goodwill who–while far from being perfect human beings–spend each day trying to be a better person than nature and nurture my have designed them to be.” 

Listening and Considering.  Beethoven, Piano Sonatas, Op. 27.  (1800-1801).  Opus 27 is a pair of piano sonatas, both subtitled “Sonata quasi una Fantasia.”  The first movement of the second sonata has often been extracted and given the name, though not by Beethoven, “Moonlight,.”  In fact, some think that the movement is the “Moonlight Sonata.”  As a separate piece I’ve never like it.  It is often play by amateurs, though I’ve never played it, and the interpretation is often overly dramatic, over-romanticized for the date of the publication.  And as such, it doesn’t fit the context of the other two movements of the piece. 

In the program notes of the CD I own, “The Maurizio Pollini edition/ Deutche Grammophon,” critic Richard Osborne says that pianist always paired the two sonatas in programming.  I listened to the two together several times, and grew to like the “Moonlight’ movement.  Instead of listening as a separate work, I heard in in context of part of two sonatas, as the fourth movement of Op. 27, the fourth movement of a double-sonata.

The result was satisfying.  Pollini plays the movement in Classical, not Romantic, style, and the effect is that of a fantasia, not as a Romantic nocturne.  It was a good insight for me to gain.

Now perhaps I’ll listen to the great French nocturne, “Moonlight” [“Clair de lune”] by Debussy in context in the Suite in which it was written, “Suite Bergamasque.” 

The last third of summer has its beauties.  I’ve enjoyed watching the sun slowly change in position and the particular light this time of year and the slow but sure shortening of the days.

Thank you for reading.  I hope things are going well for you and yours.



About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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