Tuesday, September 12, 2017

At a Church.  The speaker, introducing a book for discussion at a reading group, read from it, “The soul is tender….”

Yes, the soul is tender.  And there are times that we need to be attentive to that need.

The soul is also bold, resilient, and strong.  These are the qualities I want to read about.  Where do I do so?  Emerson, Thoreau, Tennyson, the minor, didactic poets of nineteenth century American literature, the epics from classical literature.

Spearmint.  The spearmint I planted last spring is reaching out of its container.  I will soon transplant it into the yard.  It is not good to hold back living things which want to grow.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Scholastic, 1997; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Scholastic, 1998; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Scholastic, 1999.

The first three books of the famed series are fun.  The plots are exciting, the characters are well-drawn and memorable, and the details of the fantasy are vivid.  The sense of wonder is in close proximity to the reality of evil.  Favorite character: Ron, for his understated, wry sense of humor.  Throughout the series there is a thematic emphasis on the consequences of choice and the importance of friendship.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Joyce Rupp, Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lesson from the Camino.  Orbis, 2005.

Rupp and a companion became pilgrims on the Camino from Roncesvalles to Santiago, Spain, a thirty-seven day walk.  She tells the story, not chronologically, but through perceptions and insights about life from her experiences.  These “life lessons” are titles for the twenty-five chapters; one of them is the title of the book.  She illustrates her learnings by interesting details about the experience, including diary entires.  The book enhances the spiritual lives of the readers.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Kent Haruf, Benediction.  Vintage, 2013.

Set mainly in a small town in eastern Colorado, this is a novel of ordinary people doing what they can with the circumstances they have and choices they have made.  There are a dying man, estranged from his son, hoping in a unsettled daughter; a good minister frustrated by his mission, and his disgruntled wife and suicidal son; a lonely widow of thirty years and her daughter, a spinster teacher; a neighbor bringing up her grandaughter.  All illustrate Thoreau’s lives of quiet desperation.  It is a work of solemn beauty.  (Haruf does not use quotation marks for dialogue.  I do not use them to indicate quoted text.)  Quotations from the work:

He sat and drank the beer and held his wife’s hand sitting out on the front porch.  So the truth was he was dying.  That’s what they were saying.  He would be dead before the end of summer.  By the beginning of September the dirt would be piled over what was left of him out at the cemetery three miles east of town.  Someone would cut his name into the face of a tombstone and it would be as if he never was.  (P. 5)

It’s all so pointless.

You’ll get better, dear.

How will I get better?

. . .

You forget after a while.  You start paying attention to your aches and pains.  You think about a hip replacement.  Your eyes fail you.  You start thinking about death.  You live more narrowly.  You stop thinking about next month.  You hope you don’t have to linger.  (P. 48)

I’m doing the best I can, Mom.  That’s all I can say.  I’m getting along the best I can.  You can tell Dad that much too.  (P. 153)

She became part of the history of the town, like wallpaper in the old houses–the aging lonely isolated woman, the unmarried schoolteacher living out her days among other people’s children, a woman who’d had a brief moment of excitement and romance a long time ago and afterward had retreated and lived quietly and made no more disturbance.  (P. 178)

They bowed their heads.  May we be at peace together with Dad Lewis here.  Lyle [the minister] said softly.  May there be peace and love and harmony in this room.  May there be the same in all the difficult and conflicted world outside this house.  May this man–he stopped and spoke directly to Dad in the bed–may you leave this physical world without any more pain or regrets or unhappiness or remorse or self-doubt or worry and may you let all your trials and troubles and cares pass away.  May you simply be at peace.  May each of us here in this room be at peace as well.  Now we ask all of these blessings in the name of Jesus, who himself was the Prince of Peace.  Amen.  (Pp. 236-237)

[the ending] And in the fall the days turned cold and the leaves dropped off the trees and in the winter the wind blew from the mountains and out of the high plains of Holt County there were overnight storms and three-day blizzards, (P. 258)


About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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2 Responses to Tuesday, September 12, 2017

  1. Penny Evans says:

    Haruf is a beautiful writer. I need to get back to reading him.

  2. Sandi says:

    Bill, I love reading Haruf but haven’t seen Benediction. Thanks for your inspiration.

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