A Very, Very Happy Day

1 As I walked into the station I watched the J70 glide away. Well, it is the right bus but is a crowded bus and I have other options. Then came another J70 and it never got crowded.

2 I got downtown just as the bank opened: no line, no waiting, nothing.

3 I read Walter de la Mare for an hour or so at the library. It is classified as an old book and I can’t take it out, so I have to read it there. Sometimes one reads poetry and it is labor, sometimes it goes easily and is exhilarating, suggesting to one other things along the way. It was the latter this morning.

4 Got Elizabeth Bowen’s To the North and was very pleased with the first two chapters. The novel has many masters, but in the hands of women it reaches its perfection. We will see if this one holds out, but Bowen can usually be counted on for interpersonal subtleties and for very satisfying observation of the details of an age.

5 Had a meeting where we discussed our new contract at work. Looks like we’ll have better pay, better treatment, bonuses, and opportunities for more training. The situation was getting grim there, and now it appears to be turning around. They’ve got me a membership to the British Council.

6 Was able to read on the bus back.

7 Good lunch.

8 Afternoon class cancelled late. No teaching and I still get paid.

9 When I had just made the awful discovery that I’d left the Kalevala at work in a locker, the doorbell rang and the box of books I had not dared expect would actually arrive arrived! My Charles Williams, my Frost, my Yeats, my Bowen’s stories, Boswell’s Johnson, the Worm, an unread Barfield, Coleridge and also Middlemarch for bonus. And my Fenelon, which is already with the Bibles and the Book of Common Prayer.

Thanks to Deborah for mailing it. Thanks to my in-law’s for underwriting the financial aspect thereof.

Just in time for the holidays.

10 My new Moleskine notebook just arrived at the bookstore. I’m down to two pages on the one I have.

13 thoughts on “A Very, Very Happy Day

    • Nice! I’m looking forward to reading it.

      I’m a bit more than halfway through David Lindsay’s “Voyage to Arcturus” right now, and really enjoying it. It seems like Lindsay hits on the sparse but mythopoeic style that MacDonald had. Whether the reader endorses the world Lindsay is communicating or not, the meaning *is* communicated.

      In fact, I’m vaguely suspicious that Donaldson’s “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” were an attempt to ape Lindsay’s style and some themes from “Voyage to Arcturus”. There are too many parallels. I’ve not read and “Thomas Covenant” books for more than 15 years, though, so perhaps I’m uncharitable to Donaldson — but I found them often incoherent and gratuitous.

  1. I’m very glad you chose to keep those books and that you got them. Books are like cheese upon the winds of the morning, like the colors created by the sheen on the raven’s midnight wings, like the offices of humble worms renewing the soil of our compacted souls.

  2. I finished “Worm”, what an amazing story! Slogging through the first couple of chapters was a chore, but the sheer enjoyment of experiencing the Jacobean English after acclimatizing was more than worth it. I love the way that he represents the Demon race as being completely free of sin (and thus free of repentance), and the Witches as being more treacherously fallen, but never repenting. It was genius through and through. Based on “Worm”, and your recommendation of “Ebeneezer”, I’m really pleased. Life does get richer with age.

    This past week, I’ve started in on Lewis’s “Discarded Image”. In the first chapter, he provides full context for the concept of “Saving the Appearances”, which Barfield used without context, and which I first approached in a reference from Grinder’s “Whispering in the Wind”. If only I had *started* with Lewis (or Milton or Simplicus), rather than *arrived* at Lewis! Lewis also clearly elucidates some of the concepts that Eddison took for granted, but which I, in my ignorance, didn’t really understand. I can already say with confidence that “Discarded Image” will be among my favorite books of all time, and proves Lewis to be a giant.

  3. It makes me extremely glad to know I have been the instrument of your finding Ebenezer and the Worm. I don’t know if you’re much of a re-reader (I’ve become an inveterate one), but just think of all the joy awaiting you when you come to read these two again after you have forgotten all the details and can still anticipate your way though better.

    I would say you should not expect too much true religion from Eddison. In his later books he becomes devoted to the cult of Aphrodite in a strange way and is wanting in morality and in higher ideals. He was much better when he didn’t get things clear in his mind it seems to me.

  4. Yeah, I noticed that with “Arcturus”, too. Personally, I enjoy reading bad theology and trying to understand what mindset led to people believing those things. I’ve read Iranaeus several times, for example, and wish that more of that had survived. I’ve always been very fascinated by the “bad” characters in the Bible as well, since I think those characters are far more like us than we want to admit, and we do ourselves a disservice by dismissively assuming that we would never act that way. Pharaoh, Saul, Judas, and the people who mocked Christ on the cross — if we don’t understand how very human and likely their responses were, I think we risk being caught off-guard. In many ways, I think Pharaoh’s responses were more likely than Moses’s, for example.

    I don’t re-read nearly as much as I should, but “Arcturus” is one that I’ll definitely re-read, and “Worm” as well. When reading, I always highlight the passages that I find striking, and scan them into my computer with a C-Pen, though. I often go back to the scanned passages, but that’s really not the same as re-reading. It helps me reinforce those specific passages, but really doesn’t allow me to enjoy the craftsmanship and flow like I can upon re-reading.

    • Of Williams, I’ve read only “War in Heaven”, which I really liked. I tend to lean Calvinist, and so I really tried hard to understand where Williams was coming from in the final climactic scene of the novel. It lingered in the back of my mind for a long time, a sort of promise to myself to figure out “*What* was he thinking?!” After reading Lewis’s exposition of Calvinism in “English Literature in the 16th Century”, I think I can better understand Williams’ frame of mind: the lens he was looking through (presuming that his attitudes about Calvinism approximated Lewis’s). I don’t share the same lens, but I’m convinced he was sincere and I respect his position.

      Now that you mention it, I really ought to order “Descent”. Any other Williams novels that you thought were particularly good?

      Of others that Lewis seemed to like, I would say that Chesterton and MacDonald are by far my favorites. I’ve read and re-read most everything I can find by the two. I hope that we’ll be forgiven for overlooking the occasional theological differences and praise God for giving us men like these.

  5. All Hallows’ Eve has an introduction by TS Eliot that helps one understand Williams better. In The Rediscovery of Meaning Barfield has an essay that touches on Williams, Tolkien and Lewis in an interesting way: “The Harp and the Camera.” That particular collection of Barfield’s talks a lot about the Freudian unconscious.

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