Since any given three people can rarely even agree on what happened last week, I tend to view books of history with deep cynicism. However, "Why I am a Catholic" by Garry Wills, is an interesting romp through two thousand years of Popes, Emperors, Kings, Bishops and the various councils of the church. A mess of political intrigue, power mongering, lies and repression...one wonders how the church managed to survive at all. Also author of "Papal Sins," Garry Wills's democratic streak runs throughout. In the end he affirms the basic tenets of the Apostles Creed--the faith of the Church. $26 HB.
You may remember Robert Benson, who was the stowaway author from last spring's Cursillo. "That's the guy I was telling you about," wrote Phyllis, reminding me of a teriaki lunch wherein she raved about hearing this keynote speaker at the Mount Hermon Writer's conference. "The book I showed you is LIVING PRAYER."
Some of the most interesting books I read are foisted on me by various folk. At least that's my perspective on good days. Other days my eyes glaze over and I mutter, "How interesting" all the while internally thinking, "Oh God, not another book."
In anycase, the list of suggested books for this fall's Cursillo included LIVING PRAYER by Maxine Dunnam. In the non logical ruminations that afflict people who deal with books and people, people and books day after day, I ordered Benson's LIVING PRAYER for the Cursillo. It came back from the weekend. Benson seems determined to leave Cursillo and arrive at my store.
I brought it home this afternoon. About thirty pages into it, coffee by my side, dog deep into her clown act, late afternoon sun glinting through the solarium windows, I had that joyful thrill of a book worth reading in my hand, and time to read it in front of me. I read through the entrance into the dance of prayer, the rhythm of the mass, blessed and broken, the liturgical year, the daily office and had hit retreats when I suddenly remembered that I had been wanting to go on retreat for over a month and I better get-to-it before we were enmeshed in the holidays.
It's no good continuing to read when what you need to do next hits you full on. So I stopped. Besides it was time to finish making chili verde burritos for the family's dinner.
Robert Benson's trek went from Nazarene -> Methodist -> Episcopal. He's a bit like Buechner, though without the AA streak. Literate, liturgical, accessible. Good for evangelicals moving toward the contemplative as well as for liturgical folk looking for God. LIVING PRAYER is $12 new.
Speaking of AA, an old 12 STEPS AND 12 TRADITIONS book came in. I brought it home, skipped over the steps and read the traditions with great interest. I've always had a fascination with how groups function; especially in their start-up phases. There were some interesting parallels with Toastmasters as well as intriguing ways to avoid many of the pitfalls of the church (see power mongering, repression, lies, etc., above). $5 if anyone else wants to do some historical exploration into the beginnings of AA.
A nice stack of art/photography books came in. Four Ansel Adams books, a couple of how to do photography, a huge, gorgeous black and white dance photography, a Monet, a Rembrant and two on dogs. Yes, dogs. More than can fit on our little art shelf (books not dogs). Come in and make an offer while they're still strewn all over the back table.
Also received a huge box of Swindall group study books. Anyone interested?
Reading through my journal I discover this conversation with my 14 year old son:
It had been one of those days at The Word Shop that was back to back people. Not necessarily buying books, you understand, but a lot of action. I was talking about it at dinner and Robert said, "You ought to get the government to support your store."
"Why would they want to do that?" I asked, neatly side stepping the whole church/state question.
"Because," he said, "it functions as an insane asylum."
If you don't execute your ideas, they die. -Roger von Oech, author and consultant.