Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dear James She Wrote

Dear Misfits,
We've just finished another great book from our Catholic literary tradition.  Jon Hassler's wonderfully Catholic novel,  Dear James, definitely belongs to that literary tradition.  The author is intensely Catholic and probably the last who will write with the authenticity of a Catholic literary genre represented by authors who were raised in the pre-Vatican II church.  Our discussion of the novel noted that a natural Catholicism permeated the story and formed a legitimate and authentic backdrop for the actions of the characters.  It was a delight to read! 

Jon Hassler, only recently deceased (1933-2008), wrote a dozen novels, most of them set in MinnesotaDear James is one of his four predominantly "Catholic" novels (Simon's Night, A Green Journey, and North of Hope).  Of the four, Dear James and A Green Journey are his most intimately Catholic novels.  They portray characters who take their religious vows and commitments seriously and faithfully.  The power of the friendship between the two protagonists in Dear James and A Green Journey, Father James O'Hannon and Agatha McGee, portray a love that transcends sexual love.  Misfit Loome placed the friendship of James and Agatha into the context of the four loves described by C. S. Lewis in his book by that name and as derived from the four Greek words for love: affection, friendship, Eros, and charity.  

However, if you are going to read the novels that deal with Agatha and her friend, James, start with A Green Journey (1985) and then read Dear James (1993).  The novels do stand alone but you will have a deeper understanding of the characters and the story by reading them in that order.

Now to the future:

April, 2010:  We will read the play, Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot.  (We said at the beginning that we would read Catholic novels, biographies, poetry and plays. We have never read a play so this will rectify that shortfall!)  Eliot's short play was originally written for the Canterbury festival and tells the story of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett (1118-70) by Henry II's henchmen. One reviewer notes that it “is essentially an extended lyrical consideration of the proper residence of temporal and spiritual power, of the obligations of religious believers to the commands of the State, and of the possibility that piety can be selfish unto sin."

May, 2010: We are going back to our childhood and read The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful fantasy novel.   We're looking for a "change of pace" and believe that this novel is it.  It will get us ready for summer...and perhaps, heighten our imaginations!  The novel is set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains hugely popular and is recognized as a classic.

June, 2010:  We don't have the time to read War and Peace but we do want to read Tolstoy!  Therefore, we will read The Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy (Harper Perennial Modern Classics -March 2, 2004)  I did a bit of research and this volume is generally regarded as one of the best anthologies of Tolstoy's short stories.  (We'll decide which selections we'll read at our next meeting--the book runs to 720 pages!)

July, 2010:  We will continue our summer exploration of great short story collections by reading the Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Perennial Classics).  I think this work has some of Dostoevsky’s best short stories in what is regarded as a very good translation.  (As with our June selection of Tolstoy, we'll decide which selections we'll read from this collection at our next meeting--this volume runs to 768 pages!)

May the joy of the risen Lord be with you,

Misfit Buzz:

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