I’ve been mixing in a lot of new books recently. This is partially because I’ve passed my lovelies, Rilke and Camus along to so many friends since 2020. Sharing authors is a joy, but now my friends are quoting my favorites back to me, and it’s leaving me longing for something new.
It’s not that I’m tired of my favorites, it’s just that I’m feeling a little restless – bookwise – at the moment. So this season, I’m leaving them all on the shelf – or on someone else’s shelf: where is my copy of Resistance, Rebellion, and Death anyway? – and finding new favorites.
[I should clarify: I love hearing Rilke read back to me. I love seeing Camus through the eyes of someone else. I love hearing about my favorite writers from the mouths of my friends and knowing I did something to facilitate that relationship.
I also feel a little stagnant when I realize that I’ve only introduced my friends to 2 or 3 authors.. Oops! It’s true I tend to quote the most quotable…but still – how did I fail you, friends? I’ve been limited in my sharing. I’m attempting to fix that. Continue to quote my loves back to me, but don’t be surprised if I counter with someone new.]
Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion
Evelyn Waugh is a joy. I’d read his famous Brideshead Revisited, and the less well known, but hilariously mocking Handful of Dust and Decline and Fall. Unlike Waugh’s satire, Edmund Campion is quite serious, with a self-awareness and subtle humor. Waugh obviously adores Edmund Campion. He loves Campion’s intelligence and kindness, his ability to be fully present to whoever is with him. Waugh is less fond of Elizabeth (who isn’t, really), though he is harshly fair to her.
“Had she been born in an age which offered no alternative, she would have conformed complacently enough, for, apart from a pronounced deficiency in faith, hope, and charity, she had in many ways a naturally Catholic temperament”
The book gives a clear look at the hell that was reformation England. It follows Campion through many of his little choices that make martyrdom inevitable. In typical Waugh fashion, it isn’t entirely chronological. Like Brideshead, Campion begins at the end – with the death of Elizabeth in this case. – and then skips forward to Elizabeth’s first meeting with the saint.
I read it on a rainy afternoon right after Easter. The kids were draped over chairs, reading their own books. We all had hot tea and hearty sandwiches. I couldn’t put it down until I’d follow St Edmund to his death. Praying with him that “we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgiven.”
The Mabinogi (and Other Medieval Welsh Tales)
This translation by Patrick Ford was recommended in another book about the myths that inspired Tolkien’s own mythology. It’s a delightful translation, very different in some ways than the ones I’d read previously. This one is clear, with modern language and the translator’s notes at the beginning of each story. He avoids all the later stories, and the Arthur portrayed in Culhwch and Olwen, with his 5 pages of bros is a far cry from the later Arthurian romances.
If you’ve read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, you’ll see familiar names, though their personalities are quite different.
These old stories are delightful. I was a little disappointed with the translation, because it seems to prioritize clarity over beauty. But overall, a delightful, introductory look at early Welsh mythology.
Dead Zone by Stephen King
I don’t read a lot of Stephen King. Actually, I don’t read much modern fiction in general. But this book was amazing. I had read some of King’s short stories long ago, as well as The Shining. But I’d never planned to open another of his books. My husband recently read The Dead Zone and told me to give it a try.
This is a fantastic book. It is probably one of King’s best. The Dead Zone isn’t properly horror, but it explores the question “what if you knew beforehand..?” that haunts people. What if you knew what Hitler would become?
Johnny Smith has an accident that leaves him more in touch with his inherent presentience. He can scan the minds of those around him and see their futures through touch. When he touches one man, he sees a future of horror and war. King does a good job making Johnny likeable and believable. He struggles with the morality of knowing too much about the people around him – balancing respecting their privacy with his own sense of responsibility.
After The Dead Zone, I read Misery as well, and I decided that Stephen King deserves a place in my bookshelf after all.
I’ve got exciting books in the mail as well. The most exciting for me being The Demonic Connection – which is an account of the deaths, disappearances, and other issues in and around Clapham Wood in the 1970s and 80s.
I have a lingering interest in haunted forests throughout the world. Clapham Wood is one of the primary haunted woods in England and it was preportedly the gathering site of a group of satanists who preyed on neighborhood pets as well as at least 4 people.
I’ve heard great things about this book, but it’s hard to find at an affordable price. I found my copy on ebay and I can’t wait til it arrives!
What are you reading this spring?