Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reading and Re-Reading

Regardless of what I read, I notice two books—aside from Scripture and the Divine Office—that I re-read every year: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo. 

What does this say about me? I do not know. A friend of mine began reading Confessions for a class and attempted to dissect the book into a Trinitarian structure through which he could deduce a neo-Platonic Christian message. I told him he had missed the point. Under the polemics against the Manichean heresy, and it is a polemic in some places, Confessions is the story of a soul, of a man whose life can be summed up in those words from psalm 50: "I am well aware of my iniquity and my sin is before me always." Augustine turned away from sin after a long captivity within its snares and entered the Church through Baptism. And yet his conversion did not stop there. His focus shifts from sin to Truth, to Christ in the last books of Confessions. We all must turn away from evil, but we still not see anything if we keep our eyes closed before Christ.

The other book, which I reviewed here, is Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Rubricarius tells me there is an extraordinary form of Brideshead, which was never abrogated and was good reading then and good reading now. I shall have to track it down one day. The abridged and standard version is still fantastic reading. Waugh's descriptions excite an aesthetic sensation similar to mixing a recording of Victoria's Tenebrae responsories with good wine. Above all I love the characters of Brideshead because I know some of them and I am some of them. The way in which God works among the characters aptly reflects how He works in most of our lives, letting us go in sin to the ends of the world only to be brought back to Him by a "twitch upon a thread." I also recommend the 1981 serialization of Brideshead staring Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons, which is usually available for instant viewing on Netflix. An hour of free time could be worse spent.

What do you re-read?


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  2. I re-read the memoir of Monsignor Alfred Gilbey by some friends, More Than Music by Alec Robertson and Asking For Trouble by (an autobiography) Monsignor Bruno Scott James.Th original 1945 Brideshead is lusher and has more about food and drink; sometime found in a cheap Readers' Union re-print quite cheaply.A second hand hard back of the standard edition seems harder to find.

  3. I have yet to read "Brideshead Revisited"- just can't do it. I find the TV series much more digestible. Lazy, I know. I always find myself re-reading "The Sun Also Rises" by Hemingway. When I first read it in high school I absolutely fell in love. It is a wonderful book!