Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only plot here is that which you might find in anyone’s life. The book flows through Bishop Latour’s years without relying on external forces of any kind. A quote toward the end of the book expresses the way the work itself moves:

“He realized also that there was no longer any perspective in his memories…. He was soon to have done with calendared time, and it had already ceased to count for him. He sat in the middle of his own consciousness; none of his former states of mind were lost or outgrown. They were all within reach of his hand, and all comprehensible.”

Click on the link above to read the rest of my review of Death Comes for the Archbishop.

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Negative Blue: Selected Later PoemsNegative Blue: Selected Later Poems by Charles Wright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Charles Wright collection I’ve read. I appreciated the natural imagery, the interesting mix of backyard and international vantage points, the reaction pieces to his reading material. There were many “moments” as I read, and a few full poems that really spoke to me. There were also times when I thought “there’s that arborvitae, again….”

What appeals to me most is the recurrent theme of internal spiritual/religious struggle and Wright’s facility in connecting the natural with the supernatural in a realistic, non-fantastical way–from the recurrent references to the titular “Blue” that ties the Heavens with the Earth (e.g., Blue Ridge Mountains) to the constant use of images of winter-barren plant life. The Man (Adam?) I see throughout this collection is one who, after a youth of religious devotion and fervid expectation, has experienced a life that challenges that Springtime passion. At the end, he sees rather an absent God, one who has lost interest in His creation. But even then, the Man cannot deny God’s existence, though at times it appears that this is his desire. It seems that the essence of God remains, but the Edenic rupture has yet to heal. Throughout the poems, there is a thread of anger, frustration, abandonment, and doubt as to whether that rupture can heal. But always there remains a sense of reality, even if that reality is difficult to put into words; the spiritual/religious elements are rooted in solid ground, not flitting about in ether.

A bit of the poem “Ostinato and Drone” speaks to this:

“It’s reasonable to represent anything that really exists
by that thing which doesn’t exist,
Daniel Defoe said.
and that’s what we’re talking about, the difference between the
voice and the word,
The voice continuing to come back in splendor,
the word still not forthcoming.
We’re talking about the bush on fire.
We’re talking about this quince bush, its noonday brilliance of light.”

This book is not a skimmer. It deserves consideration. My observations are limited by my knowledge of Mr. Wright and my single reading of this collection.

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The Illustrated Man

The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Illustrated Man is comprised of short stories from a variety of subgenres, with heavy emphasis on rocket ships and space travel/extraterrestrial civilization within our solar system which provide a backdrop for his social commentary.

My favorites from this collection are: “The Veldt,” “The Highway,” “The Long Rain,” “The Fox and the Forest,” and “The City.”

An enjoyable read but, while I love Bradbury, this collection is not my favorite of his works.

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Fire in the Bones: William Tyndale - Martyr, Father of the English BibleFire in the Bones: William Tyndale – Martyr, Father of the English Bible by S. Michael Wilcox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Fire in the Bones, Wilcox presents a brief, readable account of William Tyndale’s experience in making the first English translation of the Bible. As an LDS scholar, Wilcox draws occasional parallels between and connections with Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church. This may enhance the reading of those interested in these areas. It would be a shame, however, if readers interested in the book solely as a history of William Tyndale, the Bible, and the Reformation, or even the political climate in Western Europe during the 1500s allowed these references to interfere with the enjoyment and information available in this book. None of these subjects (LDS or otherwise) are treated exhaustively; each is addressed as it pertains to Tyndale’s efforts to give common English readers a Bible from which they could seek knowledge of God for themselves.

Early in Tyndale’s endeavors, he made the audacious assertion: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost.” This was his response when discussing with “a learned man” the Catholic Church’s positions that English was a language unworthy of Biblical translation and that easy access to scripture would provide too great an opportunity for doctrinal corruption. While there is no avoiding the tension between Catholicism and Lutheranism, and the varied positions of reformers within each camp, Wilcox does a good job of not vilifying the Catholicism. Considering the point of view he takes, that of a proponent of Tyndale, this is not an easy task. Wilcox tends to focus on individuals, sticking to the facts rather than searching out and ascribing dubious motives. He does discuss tenets of the religions and contentions that existed at the time, but he avoids making judgment calls on the veracity of either Catholic or Protestant belief systems.

Wilcox skillfully renders a picture of the life and times of Tyndale, opening the reader’s eyes a little more to the complexity of the political atmosphere in the 1500s. I found myself better informed not only about the generation of the English-language Bible and William Tyndale (and others involved in his efforts) but also of the foundations of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the development of the English Language, English history, and the history and beliefs of Catholicism and Protestantism.

For those interested in further reading, Wilcox provides a 2-1/2 page Bibliography.

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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made On: A Jungian Interpretation of Literature (Chiron Monograph Series : Volume 5)The Stuff That Dreams Are Made On: A Jungian Interpretation of Literature by Clifton Snider

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Snider is adept at offering a better understanding both of Jungian archetype and of the literature he discusses. I come away from my reading with a desire to explore, to read the pieces I have not read, to think, to discourse and converse. These responses, rather than an unquestioning agreement with everything asserted herein (which is not the case with me), is what makes this a “5-star” book.

Works considered include:
* various with Merlin as subject
* “Tristram of Lyonesse,” Swinburne
* The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
* Orlando (and) The Waves, Virginia Woolf
* The Member of the Wedding (and) Clock Without Hands, Carson McCullers
* Several by W. H. Auden

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I just finished this book last night.  It earned 3 GoodReads stars from me: a fun, light read.  A step up from the Nancy Drew mysteries I cut my reading teeth on, but then, it’s not really written for an elementary school audience–more challenging vocabulary, deeper characters, some language (swearing, cursing, whatever you want to call it), better storyline (of course, it’s been a while since I’ve perused ND).  The book is appropriate for YA, Adult, and precocious Middle Graders.  Set in England during the 1950s, this mystery frolic follows 11-year-old chemistry phenom Flavia de Luce through adventures dangerous and dastardly.  I found myself mentally traipsing back to my childhood, imagining myself living her life.

The protagonist is, admittedly, a bit annoying at times.  Perhaps that is inevitable considering the evident influence of intelligence, privilege, and cool, sometimes even antagonistic, family relationships.  Still, the author knows his character and by the end, she has grown and I have gained some sympathy for her.  This is accomplished, in part, with brief, sometimes poignant, glimpses into the “sweetness at the bottom of the pie” that shows through subtle cracks in the “crust” of self-confident, capable Flavia, reminding me that she is really just a little girl riding her bike around the environs of her small town seeking pleasure and her place in the world, and dealing with death in the process.

A couple of final notes on the book:  It is the first in a series, and it is slated to be made into a TV series in 2015.

 

One of Flavia’s sisters, Ophelia, is a pianist, and Bradley uses her as a vehicle to sprinkle references to music throughout the book.  I loved this.  I actually noted each piece so I could listen to them.  I cruised around YouTube, and this is what I found.

Toccata from Sonata in A Major, Pietro Domenico Paradisi

Originally for Harpsichord

Eileen Joyce on piano

Arrangement for Harp and Strings

Flute and Bassoon (I don’t understand the “homage to Barbara Streisand bit.  Can anyone enlighten me?)

 

Robert Schumann sonatas  

Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op 11 (Emil Gilels)

Piano Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Op 22  (Martha Argerich)

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op 14 (Grigory Sokolov)

If you liked those, or want something a little shorter, try something in this Schumann piano playlist.

 

Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould studio recording (video of studio session)

 

Ophelia did not play the following, but they were mentioned in the book.

“Harry Lime” Theme from The Third Man, Anton Karas

Originally instrumental (with zither and accordian)

Piano (straight)

Piano (variation)

Piano (and now it gets wild!)

Organ

UK Ukulele Orchestra

 

Beethoven’s 6th Symphony “Pastoral”

As there are many recordings available, and as it is 42 minutes long, I’ll just post one link.

Pastoral Symphony