The constant, obvious flattery, contrary to all evidence, of the people around him had brought him to the point that he no longer saw his contradictions, no longer conformed his actions and words to reality, logic, or even simple common sense, but was fully convinced that all his orders, however senseless, unjust, and inconsistent with each other, became sensible, just, and consistent with each other only because he gave them.”

Leo Tolstoy
Hadji Murat (New York: Vintage Classics, 2009), 70

On your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever you will. You order us to practice continence. A certain writer tells us, ‘I knew that no one can be continent except by God’s gift, and that it is already a mark of wisdom to recognize whose gift this is’ (Wisdom 8:21). By continence the scattered elements of the self are collected and brought back into the unity from which we have slid away into dispersion; for anyone who loves something else along with you, but does not love it for your sake, loves you less. O Love, ever burning, never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me on fire! You command continence: give what you command, and then command whatever you will” (X.40, emphasis added).

St. Augustine
Confessions (New City Press), 263

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
by Circe Institute

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This weekend, I listened to David Kern, Angelina Stanford, and Tim McIntosh discuss Flannery O’Connor’s famous short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”. O’Connor is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read this story many, many times.  But I was delighted to learn from the many insights David, Angelina, and Tim shared in this podcast.

If you haven’t read Flannery O’Connor, you really need to.  And this podcast episode is not only an excellent introduction to this gifted author, but also a good example of how to read a story closely.

Click on the arrow above to start listening.

Fall Break Reading Lineup

Fall is a time for reflection, and Fall Break (if you’re fortunate enough to have one) is for reflective reading. Here are my literary companions for the next few days.

This was the single great informing conflict of the American psyche.  The management of insignificance.  It was the great syncretic bond of US monoculture.  It was everywhere, at the root of everything–of impatience in long lines, of cheating on taxes, of movements in fashion and music and art, of marketing…

And it was also the world altering pain of accepting one’s individual flaws and limitations and the tautological unattainability of our dreams and the dim indifference in the eyes of [others]” (emphasis added).

David Foster Wallace
Oblivion (New York: Back Bay Books, 2004), 284-285

dylanI wanted to write poetry in the beginning because I had fallen in love with words.  What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mold, coil, polish, and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly realized truth I must try to reach and realize.

On the Return of a Book Lent to a Friend

“I give hearty and humble thanks for the safe return of this book, which having endured the perils of my friend’s bookcase and the bookcases of my friend’s friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.  I give hearty and humble thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant for a plaything, nor use it as an ashtray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.  When I loaned this book, I deemed it as lost; I was resigned to the business of the long parting; I never thought to look upon its pages again.  But now that my book has come back to me, I rejoice and am exceedingly glad!  Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honor, for this my book was lent and is returned again.  Presently, therefore, I may return some of the books I myself have borrowed.”

~Christopher Morley