Catholic commentary on everything that matters.
Dostoyevsky and Flannery O’Connor Reveal Something Ironic about Our Modern World
Essences become meaningless in both a perfect and marred world.
I Was There When Vegas Came Back
I went to Las Vegas last week, spending four nights at the iconic Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. I spent Tuesday evening walking from the Nugget to the Strat, where I surveyed Vegas from 100 stories high for two hours.
The next morning, I covered five miles of downtown Las Vegas on foot, covering huge swaths of area.
On Thursday, I walked the length of the Strip, clocking in over 32,000 steps.
I took a two-hour bus tour and talked with the guide. I talked with Uber drivers. I chatted with all sorts of workers, from a farmers market vendor a half-mile north of Fremont Street to bartenders who make those frozen concoctions along the Strip.
I made notes. I came home and surfed the web. I bounced observations off my traveling companion (wife).
I then put all this into a giant blender and poured out these observations.
American Gardening Literature
Riddle: What literary genre has historical roots that predate Socrates; features hundreds of American writers including Thoreau, Washington Irving, and Edith Wharton; and is a genre that you’ve probably never even heard of?
Answer: American gardening literature.
Don’t roll your eyes.
It’s a thing.
American gardening literature is a blend
In fact, American gardening literature is a big thing.
I have three volumes of gardening literature anthologies in my home library alone. Amazon has an entire department dedicated to “Gardening & Horticultural Essays.” Yes, just “essays.” It has two dozen other departments dedicated to gardening and horticulture in general.
The genre of American garden writing runs the gamut from technical to inspirational, from garden bed blueprints to meditations on weeding.
There are, for instance, seed catalogs that merely list seed specifications. They hardly qualify as literary endeavors. And then there are literary seed catalogs . . . those rare (and free!) publications that are informational, occasionally witty, and serious about their prose (one of my favorites is published by Wild Garden Seeds in Oregon).
Among contemporary books, you have The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, which is my standard “go-to” book but hardly qualifies as serious literature. And you have Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, by theologian-gardener Vigen Guroian, which might be lovely but scarcely talks about gardening techniques.
And then you have The Tao of Vegetable Gardening by Carol Deppe, which is a beautiful hybrid: mostly how-to gardening advice, but laced with a meditational bent that, though rarely overt, informs the book as a whole.
Deppe’s book is what I mean by “American gardening literature.” It’s packed with gardening advice from a highly-educated and experienced gardener (Deppe holds a PhD in biology from Harvard), but it’s about (oh so much) more, as evidenced by its subtitle: Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy, and Serenity.
Devil's Feast: An Ontological Meditation on the Passion
Before creation, nothing existed. There was no matter, no energy, no desires, no images. God then created everything. As a result, everything that is, is from Him, and things have existence only in so far as they partake in the Creator, the source of all being. But when Adam sinned, he detached the world from God. He, in other words, detached the world from being. Through Adam, man lunged away from Being itself and plunged towards its opposite: Nothingness.
20 Books to Make You a Smarter Catholic (or Person in General)
Joseph Epstein is the best essayist alive. He’s urbane, funny, self-deprecating. He’s a fine stylist, and he’s remarkably well-read.
I remember William F. Buckley marveling at Epstein’s erudition and wondering how Epstein could have so many anecdotes and references at his disposal. Coming from a guy of Buckley’s learning, that’s high praise.
So it was with great interest that I turned to his essay, “Joseph Epstein’s Lifetime Reading Plan” (found in this book) and his attempt to respond to a recent college graduate’s question: “What books should I read?” This question, Epstein said, was nothing less than asking, “How do I become an educated person?”
Epstein used the question to launch his essay, but he didn’t provide a list of books. He suggested that a person always have a classic going: Cervantes, Tocqueville, Montaigne, Homer, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Plato. That’s thumpingly good advice, especially for someone like Epstein (and me), who always has two or more books going at once. It keeps one’s reading life varied.
But what about a list? Epstein said there is no dispositive list, and he’s right. The canon of Western civilization alone is neither settled nor static, there isn’t enough time to read everything in one lifetime, and everyone’s situation is different.
One list won’t fit all.
Still, I think a list is possible.
Mine is below.
The New Left and the Old Occult
The supernatural and paranormal. Postmodernism and critical theory. What could be the connection?