Thursday, March 25, 2010

Committed to Memory by John Hollander

I have been a poetry lover since the Fourth Grade when our teacher had us write and illustrate our own poem books. Unfortunately I was raised in a generation that was not required to memorize any poetry in school. As a homeschooling mom I read poetry to my children (one or two poems before every bedtime story) in the hopes that they would not grow up as deficient as I was.

For years I’ve wished for a book that would put some of the “Poems I Should Have Memorized” in one place. Committed to Memory sounded like just the ticket. After all, its subtitle is “100 Best Poems to Memorize”. Silly me, I assumed it meant “best-loved” poems (as in, poems that most people know and love.) Instead it contained a hundred poems, half well-known and half obscure.

The editor said the selections were chosen for good rhyming (as an aid to memorization) and for length (not too long nor too short). That criteria may have made them more memorize-able, but definitely not more lovable. Not only were many of these poems unfamiliar, most were difficult to understand. And many were downright gloomy.

Luckily for me, my friend Carol at Magistramater just wrote a post about another poetry book, The  Top 500 Poems, that sounds promising. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Divine Yes by E. Stanley Jones

Since God recently said “No” to something we really wanted to happen, I was intrigued by the title of this book. Jones, a friend and contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, was a Methodist missionary in India for many years.

This was Jones’ last book, written after a debilitating stroke. In spite of the fact that he could barely walk or talk, he praised God for sparing him. I cannot afford to be anything but grateful that He thought enough of me to give me this period at the end of my life to be a proof that what I’ve spoken about all my life – the unshakable Kingdom and the unchanging Person. (p. 85)

Jones continually reminds the reader that nothing that happens in a Christian’s life is for nothing. He writes, Pagans waste their pain. They don’t come out to anything, no dividend. But when it is divine pain, like the pain of the Cross, it is not wasted pain, but contributive pain – like the pains of a mother in childbirth. (p. 132)

Much of The Divine Yes was an encouragement to my heart so it’s hard to limit quotes, but here is just one more treasure:

Some people think if you come to Christ you surrender to being cancelled out. Cancelled? All you think and act and are become heightened by the heightened contact… It is the same surrender that ink makes to the author… It is the same surrender that a wire makes to a dynamo. Unattached, it has no light or power, but surrendered to the dynamo, it throbs with light and power . When you surrender to Jesus Christ, a plus is added to all you do and think and are. You do the things you can’t do and are a person you couldn’t be otherwise. (p. 61)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope

Anybody who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I love Anthony Trollope. He had me hooked when I first read The Small House at Allington and reeled me in for good with The Warden. I have read all of the Barsetshire and Palliser Chronicles (six volumes each). Some were better than others, but all were pleasing.

I had mixed feelings about Rachel Ray. First, this book was more of a straight love story than the others which may be a plus to most people, but I enjoy plots with a little more complexity. Second, although Rachel was a lovely young woman, I was frustrated by her lack of gumption. When her sweetheart was denied her, she basically wilted away. All of my favorite heroines suffer the loss of love (Jane Eyre, Anne Elliot, Elizabeth Bennett), but they persevere and live fruitful lives until their faithfulness is rewarded.

Third, I read the first half of the book with the vague feeling that something was missing. On page 275 I laughed out loud and then realized that Trollope’s wit had been absent in most of the previous pages. I always contend that his books can be dry, but that the witticisms keep you going. In the case of this book, you don’t get much pay off till the second half. If you’ve never read Trollope, this is definitely not the book to start with, but if you’re already a fan, you may be interested in the different style of this novel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Newer Librivox Recordings has added 1,000 new Librivox recordings to its library. I skimmed the over 700 titles in the literature category and added the following to my listening list for 2010. Keep in mind that I automatically delete any books that have terrible readers so I plan to complete only half of these books. I'll let you know how they sound.

The Aeneid by Virgil
Ayala's Angel by Trollope - good
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Nesbit - DNF. (Shakespeare without the beauty).
Brazilian Tales
A Brief History of England by Beers
Castles in the Air by Baroness Orczy  This reader had a nice voice, but English is not his first language.
Daniel Deronda by George Eliott - fairly good reader, VERY long
Day Boy and Night Girl by George MacDonald - This was okay, not my favorite of MacDonald's works
Deephaven by Sarah Orne Jewett - did not finish (due to story if I recall, not the reader)
From the Temple - poems of George Herbert
Holy War by John Bunyan
Literary Tastes: How to Form Them by Bennett
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Burnett - reader was okay, story was a bit syrupy
A Short History of England by G.K. Chesterton