Thursday, December 2, 2010

Confused as Hell

Dear Misfits,

Dimiter, our book for November was puzzling.  In fact, the Misfits who read and discussed the book are still trying to figure out if they liked it or not!  There is much to like about this latest novel by William Blatty (he of Exorcist fame).  First, it can be accurately called a “Catholic novel|” though perhaps not in the tradition of Morris West or say, Graham Greene.  That said, the book was in many respects a thriller that accurately portrayed Catholic themes and theology.  The story begins in Albania in the 1970’s which is the briefest and most exciting part of the book.  Here, we meet a mysterious prisoner who is suspected of being an “anti-government agent”.  The Albanian authorities subject him to unspeakable torture.  The prisoner does not break and suffers in total silence.  It is grim, believable, and our introduction to Dimiter, who turns out to be an American CIA “agent from hell”. 

The scene then abruptly shifts to Jerusalem where we meet a confusing mélange of characters, the most interesting of whom are a Christian Arab police detective, Peter Merel and Dr. Moses May, a brooding neurologist at Hadassah Hospital. Unfortunately, confusing cross references to characters and mysterious, often inexplicable deaths, baffle the reader.  Most of us re-read the ending several times and still could not accurately identify who was doing or saying what to whom and vice versa.  The final 20 pages of the novel do attempt to clarify the story but the ending remains puzzling and in finally, unsatisfying.  Perhaps it will make a better movie! 

Now on to the future:

December’s book will not leave anyone confused.  We have decided to read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol , first published on December 19,1843.  As anyone who has had a childhood knows, the story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visitations of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come.  “Dickens's Carol was one of the single greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England, but, while it brings to the reader images of light, joy, warmth, and life it also brings strong and unforgettable images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death. Scrooge himself is the embodiment of winter, and, just as winter is followed by spring and the renewal of life, so too is Scrooge's cold, pinched heart restored to the innocent goodwill he had known in his childhood and youth”.  You can get the novella on line, in any book store, and hopefully, in any Christian home.  I encourage all of the Misfits to come to our December meeting to share in our discussion of A Christmas Carol and help us prepare to celebrate the coming birth of our Savior. 

January’s book is also very topical!  We have decided to read a novel by Blessed John Henry Newman.  (Cardinal Newman’s beatification was officially proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010 during his visit to the United Kingdom.)  Cardinal Newman wrote two novels:  Loss and Gain (1848) and Callista (1855).   We have decided to read Loss and Gain as it is more widely available. Loss and Gain is a philosophical novel that depicts the culture of Oxford University in the mid-Victorian era and the conversion of a young student to Roman Catholicism. The novel went through nine editions during Newman's lifetime.  It was the first work Newman published after his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845.  The novel can be found at Google Books for reading on line (print editions are quite expensive though they are available with a Google search).  To read on -line, go to Google Books and type in Loss and Gain.

February’s book is by Dorothy Sayers.  We have been talking about reading her for many years.  We have chosen to read Unnatural Death, originally published in 1927.  This is the third of Dorothy L. Sayers’  "Lord Peter Wimsey" mystery novels and is regarded as one of the best in this excellent series.   In the story, a wealthy old woman is found dead, a trifle sooner than expected.  An intricate trail of horror and the senseless murder leads from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of amour as staged by the debonair sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey.  "Here the modern detective story begins to come to its own; and all the historical importance aside, it remains an absorbing and charming story today."   Available from Amazon for $7.99.

March’s book is a return to horror...classic horror!  We have, by popular demand, decided to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  (I think our recent reading of Frankenstein has given us a taste for the macabre.)  One reviewer sums the book up thus:  “Count Dracula has inspired countless movies, books, and plays. But few, if any, have been fully faithful to Bram Stoker's original, best-selling novel of mystery and horror, love and death, sin and redemption. Dracula chronicles the vampire's journey from Transylvania to the nighttime streets of London. There, he searches for the blood of strong men and beautiful women while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power.”  It is widely available.  Amazon sells several editions of the classic story-- some for as little as a dollar (plus shipping.)

April’s book is not a Catholic book in the genre usually read by the Misfits...but it is definitely a classic tale for men.  We have decided to read Ernest Hemingway’s novella, The Old Man and the Sea.  The Amazon review reads:  “Here, for a change, is a fish tale that actually does honor to the author. In fact The Old Man and the Sea revived Ernest Hemingway's career, which was foundering under the weight of such postwar stinkers as Across the River and into the Trees. It also led directly to his receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1954 (an award Hemingway gladly accepted, despite his earlier observation that "no son of a bitch that ever won the Nobel Prize ever wrote anything worth reading afterwards"). A half century later, it's still easy to see why. This tale of an aged Cuban fisherman going head-to-head (or hand-to-fin) with a magnificent marlin encapsulates Hemingway's favorite motifs of physical and moral challenge.”  It is widely available and can be found on Amazon for as little as one cent (plus shipping).

So that should round out our year of reading and launch us into a new year of reading and discussing the classics of literature...and our faith.  I look forward to seeing each of you at our December book meeting on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010, at 7:00 pm, the St. Thomas More Library, the Church of St. Michael.

Warmest regards,

Misfit Buzz

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