Tuesday, September 22, 2015

From Waugh to Dickens and Onward!

Dear Misfits,

We had a very lively evening last Wednesday discussing Evelyn Waugh's novel, A Handful of Dust.  The novel is generally regarded as one of Waugh's best.  Set in the 1930's, the novel's protagonist, Tony Last, is engaged in trying to maintain his anachronistic Victorian values in an increasingly volatile society while his wife, Brenda, involves herself in a pointless affair with her fatuous lover, the generally clueless, John Beaver.  As the story develops, Tony, having been betrayed by his wife, sees his illusions shattered one by one.  He seeks solace by joining an expedition to the Brazilian jungle where he finds himself trapped in a remote outpost as the prisoner and plaything of an insane settler, Mr. Todd. It has been noted that "Waugh incorporated several autobiographical elements into the story, notably his own desertion by his young wife."  Then, in 1933–34, he undertook a journey into the South American interior where a number of incidents and personalities from the voyage are incorporated into the ending of the novel. Tony's singular fate in the jungle at the end of the novel was first used by Waugh as the subject of an independent short story, published in 1933 under the title "The Man Who Liked Dickens".  In other words, the ending of the novel stands alone as a separate story.  And it works!  The ending "fits" and makes for a very poignant and effective end of the story.

Now to our book for October.....and November!  We will read and discuss  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  "The novel is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. It depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution.  It shows the brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution and has many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same period. The novel follows the lives of several characters through these events. A Tale of Two Cities was published in weekly installments from April 1859 to November 1859 in Dickens's new literary periodical titled "All the Year Round".

We will read the novel in two bites:

For October, 2015:  Read the Book The First: Chapter I-Vi and Book the Second: Chapter I-XXIV

For November, 2015: Read Book the Third: Chapter I-XV.

The novel is available at Amazon or can be downloaded and read at The Project Gutenberg web site: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/98/98-h/98-h.htm#link2H_4_0001

For December: We have decided to read and discuss two works reflective of the birth of the Christ Child.

The first is Hans Urs von Balthasar's Unless You Become Like This Child. This is one of the last books he wrote before his death in 1988.  The book provides a moving and profound meditation on the theme of spiritual childhood. In this book, von Balthasar argues that the central mystery of Christianity is our necessary  transformation from world-wise, self-sufficient "adults" into abiding children of the Father of Jesus by the grace of their Spirit.  The book is quite short at 75 pages.  It is available from Amazon for $ 8.26.

The second part of our December read is a poem by T. S. Eliot, "Journey of the Magi"  It is a 43-line poem written in 1927 by T. S. Eliot (1888–1965). In the poem, Eliot retells the story of the Magi who travelled to Palestine to visit the newborn Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. The narrative of the poem is told from the point of view of one of the magi.  The poem expresses themes of alienation and a feeling of powerlessness in a world that has changed dramatically. The poem's monologue incorporates quotations and literary allusions to works by earlier writers Lancelot Andrewes and Matthew Arnold.  The poem is widely available on line.  You may wish to use this website: http://allpoetry.com/The-Journey-Of-The-Magi

For January 2015:  We will begin the new year by reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  The novella is by Polish novelist Joseph Conrad, about a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State, in the heart of Africa, as told by the story's narrator, Marlow.

For February, 2015:  We will read a work of non-fiction, Thomas Merton's now classic conversion story, The Seven Story Mountain.

For March, 2015:  We return to one of our most beloved authors, Flannery O'Conner.  We will read, Letters of Flannery O'Conner: The Habit of Being.

For April, 2015:  We will read The Idiot written by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published serially in The Russian Messenger between 1868 and 1869. The Idiot, alongside some of Dostoyevsky's other works, is often considered one of the most brilliant literary achievements of the "Golden Age" of Russian literature.

For May 2015:  We will read The Quiet American, an anti-war novel by English author Graham Greene.  The novel was first published in the United Kingdom in 1955 and in the United States in 1956. It was adapted into films in 1958 and 2002. The book draws on Greene's experiences as a war correspondent for The Times and Le Figaro in French Indochina 1951–1954. He was apparently inspired to write The Quiet American in October 1951 while driving back to Saigon from Ben Tre province. He was accompanied by an American aid worker who lectured him about finding a "third force in Vietnam”.

That should keep us busy well into the new year.  It is going to be another exciting and challenging year of reading he great books and authors of our Catholic literary tradition. Hard believe we've been at this for over 13 years!  We are so blessed.

Yours in Christ,

Misfit Buzz

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