Unfinished Book Reports
In these weekly columns I sometimes mention books I’ve read. But the number of books I finish is only a small fraction of the books I start. Recently I wondered, Why should I report only on books I read to the end? So long as I tell you I didn’t finish them, it’s not like I’m cheating in English class, right?
Mary and Mr. Eliot by Mary Trevelyan and Erica Wagner is the diary (or excerpts from a diary) that Mary (of the title) wrote of her friendship with T. S. Eliot. It was never before published, and was almost lost to posterity, but is now available with annotations and connecting commentary by Wagner. I am a long-time reader of Eliot and can almost recite some of his poetry by heart. It is interesting to learn of this friendship, to get this partial picture of Eliot the man. But I found myself realizing that I prefer thinking about what Eliot’s poetry means rather than what kind of person he was. So the book lingers, waiting for me to push it to the top of the pile again.
William Lane Craig is a philosopher I have admired for thirty years, a Christian of brilliance who has engaged in dialogue, and sometimes polemic, with atheists. His defense of the existence of God differs from Aquinas’ on the matter of the intelligibility of infinite past time. Craig’s view, I believe, is an error, but it has not diminished my interest in his thought.
His recent tome, In Quest of the Historical Adam, uses his sharp philosophical mind to argue that there really were two historical individuals, Adam and Eve, from whom every human being now existing has descended. The reader gets taken down into the weeds of scientific studies on this. Part of his motivation is evangelical: he wants to defend the truth of the scriptures. Jesus speaks of Adam as an actual person. Jesus cannot be mistaken. Therefore we must believe, etc. I thrill to see a brave man defend an unpopular point of view, especially a view that is despised by the great and the good of society. But my interest in Genesis is first as a text that has something to say to us as such, and so I set this undoubtedly important 400-page book aside.
Roald Dahl’s children’s books were a favorite of my daughter’s who was long disgusted with her father for not reading them. Recently I picked up The BFG (the letters stand for Big Friendly Giant). This was a re-reading for me, as some years ago I had finally paid attention to her wisdom, but with time and the fading of memory I couldn’t recall the book clearly. But before I could finish it, one of my grandsons visited me and started reading it himself. He picked it up—my copy—at every opportunity. So I’m not yet done. But it is good: it involves saving children from bad giants who eat them, and the solution involves blowing a dream into the ear of the Queen of England. And it is charming: The BFG’s English delights at every turn. He calls you and me, dear reader, “human beans.”
Out & About. I am to preach this Sunday at St. Luke’s on Royal Lane in Dallas, at 7:30 and 10 a.m. At 11:15 I will lead an introductory class on A Post-Covid Catechesis, the topic being the adventure that we embark upon when we believe God is the creator of everything. Everyone is welcome to the class (as well as, of course, the Eucharist).
The “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar will meet at St. Matthew’s, Sunday, September 10, at 5 p.m., on Christopher Beha’s The Index of Self-Destructive Acts. Anyone who reads the book is welcome to the discussion (others may listen).