Saturday, April 29, 2023

About the Pearce List - Additions


In a previous post, I mentioned Joseph Pearce's Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know.

Specifically, I noted what books by Chesterton and his friends made Pearce's list of 100 works of literature every Catholic should aspire to read.

It's a pretty comprehensive list. I've read in whole 55 of them. I've read most of The Canterbury Tales, but not all of them, so I did not count that. I've read some of the poems of many of the poets listed, but not all of their poems, so I don't count them. With the Tales and the poets I can say I've read in part six  more works he listed.

I have encountered other lists of great works of literature or Catholic works of literature that Catholics should read. Brandon Vogt, for example, has a comprehensive list.

In considering Pearce's list, I have few arguments. It's a good list. Some of the books are hard to find - even in our local library. My personal taste does not run to Jane Austen, so I doubt I'll put a lot of effort into reading more of her books (Mind you, I've taught Pride and Prejudice and even directed a play version of it!). I don't know why he included Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor - a play I rank among his poorer efforts.

The list does seem very Eurocentric, with a heavy British emphasis, but Pearce is from England, so I'll give him a pass on that.

In the the chapters of the book he does touch on some other writers, but does not add any of their works to the list of 100. There are other writers he never mentions at all.. 

Among the works I'd add to such a list:

The Sonnets of Shakespeare (yes, a number of his plays are listed, but not his poetry)
Victor Hugo - Les Miserables
C. S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letter
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Shusaku Endo - Silence
Sandra Benitez - The Weight of All Things
Phyllis McGinley - Times Three (Selected verse from three decades) 
J. F. Powers - Morte d'Urban, Wheat That Springeth Green
Michael O'Brien - Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, Strangers and Sojourners

Yes, some of my added suggestions are not "classics," but they are well worth reading


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Father Brown Goal Met

As a fan of mystery stories in general, one of my long-term reading goals was to read all of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries.

Having now read The Scandal of Father Brown, I have met that goal.

All told, he wrote 53 Father Brown tales. They were collected in the Ignatius Press G. K. Chesterton: Collected Works.

There were five collections:

The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)
The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926) 
The Secret of Father Brown (1927)
The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)

There were also three tales originally not included in the five volumes: "The Donnington Affair," 'The Vampire of the Village," and 'The Mask of Midas."

Chesterton once declared "I think it only fair to confess that I have myself written some of the worst mystery stories in the world.".

I don't agree with him. I have certainly read far worse mystery stories. And some of the Father Brown tales are wonderful mysteries. Even the "worst" of them are enjoyable.  

I do acknowledge, however, that some of the tales read as if he wrote them out of financial necessity or or in a hurry. I remember one tale, for example, where a character was referred to as another person's daughter a couple of times, then, later, as that person's granddaughter. Chesterton also uses some stereotypes when referring to certain ethnic groups, or used the "n" word when referring to Blacks. Yes, I understand that the stereotypes and words he used were not offensive in his time, but they certainly made me uncomfortable as a modern reader. When revealed, some of the crimes seemed implausible. 

Some of the tales were stretched out by theological or philosophical passages. Those enriched the tales for me, and set them apart from many other mystery stories. I think those passages helped ot make the tales timeless.

Now that I'm done with the Father Brown stories I need to explore some of his other mystery stories. 

I look forward to that. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

When reading Robert Frost (clerihew)


When reading Robert Frost
I often find myself getting lost
in thoughts of walls and trees and snow and roads,
but never once of toads.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Inspector Javert Clerihew


Inspector Javert
felt an insatiable desire for a chocolate eclair.
But since the bakeries would not open until well after dawn
he obsessed instead about Jean Valjean.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

They Made the List

 Back in 2019, Joseph Pearce published Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know.

He discusses a number of authors in the book, then, in Chapter 25, lists "100 Works of Literature Every Catholic Should Know." 

It's a pretty comprehensive chronological list, ranging from The Iliad to Lancelot by Walker Percy. It does not, however, include theological works, hence works like The Everlasting Man did not make the list.

Still, it includes many works by some of our friends.

Hilaire Belloc:

The Path to Rome
The Four Men
Complete Verse

G. K Chesterton:

The Napoleon of Notting Hill
The Man Who Was Thursday
The Ball and the Cross
The Ballad of the White Horse

Maurice Baring:

Cat's Cradle
Robert Peckham

J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings

C. S. Lewis:

Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
Till We Have Faces
The Chronicles of Narnia

Hmm. No Screwtape Letters?  

Still, it's a good reading list.