At a restaurant, we were talking over a tape of popular Christmas music.
“There aren’t many sad songs about Christmas,” one of us said, “but they work for me.”
We mentioned “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
I thought of choral music, “Coventry Carol,” about the murder of the innocents; “The Cherry Tree Carol,” expressing Joseph’s realization and remorse; Peter Warlock’s sobering and poignant “Bethlehem Down,” contrasting the peace of the nativity with the violence to follow; and his startling “Burning Child,” interpreted by Sting, who writes, “. . .a macabre vision on a winter’s night of the infant Jesus suspended in the darkness and burning in agony for the sins of man.” (Notes for CD, “If On a Winter’s Night…” (UMG Recordings, 2009).
Such songs confront us with the sober reality of Christmas and dispel sentimentality.
Notes on Reading. Anthology. Herbert W. Warden, III, editor and compiler, In Parise of Sailors: A NAutical Anthology of Art, Poetry, and Prose. Abradale, 1978.
Warden, in this coffee-table-sized book, gives the reader many arm-chair sea adventures. Each two-page spread presents us a reproduction of art by such artists as Frederick Church, WInslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and James McNeill Whistler, paired with poems and prose by such writers as Robert Crawe, Joseph Conrad, Richard Henry Dana, Washington Irving, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield, and Herman Melville.
Topics include ship building, the lure of the sea, beginning the voyage, life at sea, perils of Cape Horn, surviving storms, the exotic East, and homecoming.
It’s a grand book, for continual re-reading.
Notes on Reading. Fiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850). Bantam Classics, 2003.
Hawthorne masterfully reveals effects of sin, guilt, and revenge in his presentation of three major characters. The novel shows that evil and good are very close to one another.
Although I admire this work and Hawthorne’s work in general, I do not like this novel. The digressions are prolix; the stated interpretations of motives and actions of the characters, pedantic.