Paul Lakeland is the Aloysius P. Kelley, SJ, Professor of Catholic Studies at Fairfield University.
By this author
Because I spend quite a bit of my working life talking and thinking about the Catholic intellectual tradition, I was more than a little humbled to read Patrick Hayes excellent new book, A Catholic Brain Trust, which is the history of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (hereafter the CCICA) during its first twenty years of existence from 1945-1965. Who knew? Certainly not me.
Milkweed Editions, $25, 407 pp.
The Rhetoric of Death
Berkley Books/Penguin Press, $15, 376 pp.
Ive been reading a marvelous new collection of essays edited by Penelope Rowlands, Paris Was Ours: Thirty-Two Writers Reflect on the City of Light, and I just saw Woody Allens latest movie, Midnight in Paris, so it wont be a surprise that Im wallowing in nostalgia, even though my own visits to Paris have been infrequent.
Im pleased when one of my students is excited to discover that something we are talking about in the course Im teaching actually connects to something in another course! But I found myself falling into the same set of feelings without the justification of inexperience or youth when two of the eight or ten books I am currently reading (that is, periodically picking up and putting down) revealed the same serendipitous connection.
If you know Walter Mosley for his series of Easy Rawlins stories, already an established classic of the mystery genre, be prepared to be very surprised by his latest novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Mosleys protagonist is a 91-year old semi-recluse who depends for his lifeline to the world on his nephew Reggie. When Reggie is suddenly out of the picture, the 18-year old Robyn steps in.
In these days when American bishops seem to have the time to write scolding books informing us how we should be thinking and acting in public life, arguably areas about which people in general know more than their clergy, it is refreshing to discover a newly-translated classic that breathes the air of common sense about the Churchs mission in the world.
Raymond Chandler didnt just write some of the best American detective fiction. He also wrote about the genre and in much the same hard-boiled style of his own Philip Marlowe. He takes no captives, whether he is writing about authors or readers.
Im starting with a long list of names but I need to in order to make my point. So, suppose you had encountered a new book on the Catholic Church by Michael Lacey or Francis Oakley or Joe Komonchak or Frank Sullivan or John Beal? What if it had been written by Gerard Mannion or Lisa Cahill or Cathy Kaveny or Charles Taylor? And how about Leslie Woodcock Tentler or Katarina Schuth? Or another sociological study by the indefatigable team of Bill DAntonio, Jim Davidson, the late lamented Dean Hoge and Mary Gauthier? Wouldnt you be excited to read what the book had to say?
When I was in grad school working on a dissertation on Hegel, my director warned me that Hegel is easy to get into, very hard to escape. He should know. Hes still inside Hegel. However, I escaped Hegel. The one I cannot escape is Henry James, and Im not even sure I want to.