Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Book Challenge

Mark Sullivan has tagged me and I am apparently it.

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned. Impossible to tell. I've given some away over the years. Some have been lost. And a few - a very few desperate, infuriating mistakes - have been thrown away. I can hazard a guess this way: there are 101 built in shelves, mostly in the den but also covering one wall in the bedroom which my long-suffering wife has permitted. I counted 4 shelves and arrived at 31, 25, 27, and 28 books on each respectively. Some shelves have many fewer, some have more both because the books are smaller and because there's another row stacked in front of the first. I'm presuming an average of 28 books per shelf times 101 shelves and arriving at 2,828 volumes. This doesn't count the children's books which I've gathered over the years for the huge family that never arrived. These are being parceled out to assorted nieces, nephews, and friends of family where appropriate. It also doesn't count the books on the desk, the kitchen table, the night table, the large table in the front room (ideally only used for state occasions, but there seems to have been a subtle anschluss by the den), the floor, and the dozen or so plastic tubs in the garage. I expect the total would come to something in the neighborhood of 3,500. But: perhaps 500 to 1,000 of those are my wife's. So, my books would be perhaps 2,500-ish.

2. Last Book I Bought. We were in B&N just last Tuesday and I came away with the latest of Alexander McCall Smith's #1 Ladies Detective Agency series "The Full Cupboard of Life" The latest in paperback, anyway. Also "Portugese Irregular Verbs" by the same author. And one mistake: Tony Hillerman's "Hunting Badger". Not that it isn't an excellent book of its type. It is very good indeed. But, addle-brain that I am, I already own it and I've already read it. But the synopsis on the back cover wasn't at all familiar and I thought it was one I'd missed. Nope. Two pages into it and it was immediately familiar. Graham Greene once said that his poor memory was a wonderful asset: he could read the same mysteries over and over and never remember whodunnit. My memory kicks in at all the wrong times. The final book was a corker of an adventure story just finished last night: James Brady's "Warning of War".

3. The last book I read. Well, as I said, "Warning of War" finished last night. I'm currently in the middle of "Merry in God" a biography of Fr William Doyle, S.J. who was chaplain to the 8th battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in the first world war, Pope John Paul's "Crossing the Threshold of Hope", a re-read of E.F. Benson's "Queen Lucia", and Fr Eugene-Marie's "I Want to See God" (which I will probably be "in the middle of" for a very long time).

4. Five books that mean a lot to me. Peter Thomas Rohrbach's "Journey to Carith", a history of the Carmelite Order, emphasizing the Disclaced reform. It gave me an enthralling introduction to the Carmelite Order in just the way most suited to me: its history. If I had come across Carmelite spirituality first it would have scared me off. (Should it have? No, of course not. But it would have nonetheless.)

Fr Quadrupani's "Light and Peace". This is a wonderful little book, ideally suited for calming down the obsessive. It was in my back pocket constantly for a certain period in my life. It's still nearby and I still refer to it.

"The St Anthony Sunday Missal" That little book was my first missal and the first prayer book I ever had not intended for a child. I was already serving Mass at the time so I must have been 10 or 11 when it was gifted to me. It was also my introduction to the Gospels. We had a bible in the house but it was too daunting. The print was very small and most of it was incomprehensible. But the little Sunday missal had its Epistle and Gospel for each Sunday that seemed designed exactly for me. I remember exercizing great restraint in not reading the Sunday Gospel selection until it was actually the Sunday. The epistles, I'm afraid, I mostly found impenetrable. Truth be known, they're still not the easiest read in the whole wide room. It finally wore out completely. I think I may still have the pieces in a trunk somewhere.

Michael Davies' Liturgical Trilogy. The first solid work I had seen defending the traditional Roman Rite. Heretofore, nothing but a few pamphlets and some very poor books, mostly filled with invective and conspiracy theories. This series was a landmark. And more than that an enormous consolation. This gave traditional people a tremendous sense of confidence we had not had before; there really was an intellectual foundation for our beliefs, beyond nostalgia, beyond sentiment.

Jane Eyre. "Jane Eyre??" I hear you ask. Yes, the guy who just finished following a Marine detachment through North China at the beginning of WWII in "Warning of War" was knocked for a loop by Jane Eyre. We had a list of books in high school. We had to choose a certain number to write on, one every month I think. I don't know why I chose Jane Eyre. Maybe it was because we already had a copy in the house. Maybe because "Bronte" came at the beginning of the list. Who knows? In any event, it was completely absorbing. I still love it. The Orson Welles film was good. And there was a multi-part tv series with Zelah Clarke as Jane that is magnificent and as close to the book as was possible. But the book is the best. My high school copy is on the shelf; the pages turned to yellow long ago and are now nearer brown. We have a couple more copies now to keep it company, newer and with intact bindings.

Oh, one more: Agnes Repplier's "In Our Convent Days". A sentimental favourite, although not an overly sentimental book under the circumstances. It's a good humoured recounting of the author's life in a 19th century boarding school as a very young girl -- perhaps 9 or 10. A wonderful look into a Catholic culture we'll never see again. I've re-read it a dozen times. Highly recommended.

5. Tag 5 people and have them do this on their blog.

And like the man said: "my apologies if they've already been tagged." (But it didn't look like it.)

Ellyn at Oblique House
Ellen of Mommentary
Hilary of Fiat Mihi
Jeff of Hallowed Ground
and MamaT of the SummæMatri who usually asks the questions.