Saturday, January 22, 2011

the Friday Five

...I think it's still Friday, briefly perhaps, somewhere in the Pacific just this side of the International Date Line!

Jan, over at RevGalBlogPals, has posted this:

I hope some of you received books for Christmas presents; I did and have been reading ever since. Then I discovered a new author from those recommendations that pop up on Instead of buying those books, I've been checking them out at the library, which will not help Amazon's future recommendations for me at all.

So tell us what you're reading, what you would and would not recommend--five books or authors! And if you don't want to do that freestyle, here are some questions:

1. What books have you recently read? Tell us your opinion of them.
Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple, essays from the late 90's by an English psychiatrist practising in a slum hospital and a prison. He identifies and illustrates the pervasive self-deceptions and self-delusions that, in his view, have created and are sustaining a permanent under-class. The mindset he talks about is not just a local phenomenon. His comments on interactions between immigrant communities and the native underclass are stimulating. A bit of a rant, this one--but I'm in sympathy with it, or much of it. Also re-read, with great enjoyment, Metaphor and Memory by Cynthia Ozick. (She could have a fine howdy-do with Doc Dalrymple, come to think of it!) And P. D. James, Original Sin; great evocation of place, as always, and -- I thought -- a sharp recognition of the emotional climate of the post-religious society.

2. What books are awaiting your available time to be read? Peter Brown's big bio of St. Augustine. Essays by Emanuel Levinas. Buber's I and Thou --finally! Chittister and Williams, Uncommon Gratitudes. Williams, again -- Tokens of Trust.

3. Have any books been recently recommended? I have a great yen to read Paul Halliday's new book, Habeas Corpus, after the laudatory review in TLS. There has been so much reference to Saul Bellow in reviews I've seen recently, I think I might give him another try, after 40 years.

4. What genre of books are your favorite, along with some titles and/or authors you like best? I read mysteries for relaxation: Allingham, Burke (James Lee), P. D. James, Ngaio Marsh, Sayers, Dell Shannon, Josephine Tey. And biography. And literary criticism. And classic novels. (Austen rules!)

5. What have you read lately that you have a strong urge to recommend? (or to condemn?) If I read something that I have an urge to condemn, I don't finish it! Life grows short, too short for literary disappointment. But I will recommend one additional book that I'm in the midst of re-reading (after about 20 years): A Cry of Absence by Martin Marty. I read it originally, huddled in a corner on the floor of the university spoke to me in the midst of marriage collapse (which is all I'm going to say about THAT) introduced me to Karl Rahner, and may have had something to do with flinging me into seminary studies; it identified my own spirituality to me, or so I thought. What is astonishing to me in the re-reading is how much of my very positive memory of the book is really memory of the construction I put upon it at the time. Anybody else have that experience? Of remembering a text you actually "made up out of your head"? Weird!

PS looked at other people's lists and was reminded that I am also re-reading cookbooks I've had for a while: most recently, the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. I don't know how long this has been on the shelf. I do know I've never before cooked anything from it. I must have bought it back when most suppers began with a great sullen lump of ground beef. Frozen. And everything else was an afterthought! But I've made 2 kinds of vegetable stock and converted the Roasted Vegetable one into cream-of-spinach and creamy carrot-sweet potato soups. Tastes change, I guess. They are good.