All About Books…

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March 30, 2013 by lucieromarin

…because we’re on the cusp of a season of celebration, so they make a better topic than Life Issues! Here’s some of what I’ve been reading recently:

1) Not long ago, I was stuck on a broken-down train in hot weather, with no idea if or when I would get home, and I didn’t care! Why? Because, unlike all the other passengers on the train, I was reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run.’ It’s subtitled, ‘The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-runners, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen.’

Who knew that a book about running barefoot for long distances could be so absorbing? I have no interest in either fitness or sport, but I was carried right into the author’s world; I could see and hear the runners collapsing in desert heat, scaling mountains at night in thin air; I was present at those races, and really didn’t know who I wanted to cheer on the most. The members of the hidden tribe full of amazing secrets, yet vulnerable to exploitation? The half-crazy people wanting to learn from them? The female runner stunning the running world with her inexplicable gift? The professional who never let himself be corrupted by money or envy?

Also – now I know why I prefer to go barefoot whenever I can!

(The only caveat is this: if you can’t stand the kind of narrative that leaps backwards and forwards between stories, you might be irked by this writer’s style; however, the chapters are organised so that if you hit a theme or a side-story that doesn’t interest you, you can skip it easily enough.)

2) Also read recently: Michael Cuneo’s The Smoke of Satan’, subtitled ‘Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Culture.’

Well, the book is out of date by now (it was first published in the 90s) and it’s plenty flawed (some of his dissenters are just people refusing to turn modernist, while others are people electing their own Popes because Our Lady told them to – not quite the same thing!) but I’m still glad I read it. He describes conservatives, ‘separatists’ (his words for people who create their own hierarchies and liturgical enclaves) and ‘Marianists’ (his word for false apparitionists), trying to compare and contrast their motives, their methods and their relationships with the Church and with other Catholics.

Well, where the author’s observations weren’t skewed by his own prejudices (comments like, “He is still a virgin” are a bit of a giveaway) they could be quite illuminating; he notices, for example, the difference between the roles of women in the conservative movement and in the traditionalist movement. The best moments are those when he just lets people speak their piece (whether that’s about the Communist menace or the coming Apocalypse or what’s wrong with the other Catholics) and reports their words without commentary. Reading these speeches was a grim pleasure, but a pleasure for all that. It was rather nostalgic, recalling different inter-Catholic newspaper rivalries and revisiting the experience of reading begging letters (‘HELP US TO DO OUR LADY’S WORK BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!’).

I’m not really sure who I’d recommend this book to, though; maybe to those who want that kind of nostalgia trip; you know, “Hey, remember the days when this group was telling us….” and “Oh, my goodness! That happened to me to!”

I’d also recommend the book to people who really have no idea about the impression they give to the outside world.

3) My Holy Week reading was Rachel Lloyd’s ‘Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale.’ I’ve mentioned this book before, but as this is a post about my recent reading, and I’ve been reading it again this week, here it is!

Does it seem odd to elect a book about the trafficking of girls in America for Holy Week? Maybe, but it’s just that I’ve found that…having learned about these girls and these young women, it’s impossible to get them out of my heart. It’s not enough to read about their sufferings (and their triumphs) once, and then to let them ago, as though a fleeting acknowledgement of such suffering constitutes a sufficient response to it.

Besides, I just can’t make Holy Week all about staring at myself and asking myself if I’m a saint yet. If this season is about being falsely accused, about being misunderstood, about being rejected, about being left alone in the face of unspeakable suffering, then these are the women who belong in my thoughts right now!

And, once again, the book leaves me convinced that nothing will change until the the buyers and sellers themselves change. So someone has to pay the price for a conversion. It must be a big and horrible price. Feel free to get in before I do.

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