Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Get the intellectual abs of Chesterton without the work!

As part of my own personal full disclosure today, I thought I might mention to you that this post is unofficially sponsored by booksneeze. I hope some time soon to create a separate blog for just my booksneeze reviews, with an amazing title, but not today. Today I will briefly review “The Quotable Chesterton”.

G.K. Chesterton is one of those names Christians like to throw out as if we’ve actually read his books. Realistically, though, he was far too witty, intelligent, and sardonic for our palates. Instead, we need something accessible. Something with just enough content to be profound, just enough sarcasm to be scathing, and just enough wittiness to be unforgettable. “The Quotable Chesterton” is what you need.

Want to have something brilliant to add at you next family Dinner? Tired of being beaten with the wits of your aunts and uncles (you know who I’m talking about)? Grab this book, pick 5 quick quips, arm yourself, and steer the conversation towards those topics. The topics are unfathomably numerous (yes, the letter “Z” has an entry). Virtually any conversation can benefit from your quoting of Chesterton. you, too, can be your own intellectual savant.

Consider saving some of the best corollaries for common conversation. Be just funny enough to get laughs out of the intelligent bunch in the room, but too smart for the average listener. That’s what works best if you desire the Frasier Crane effect.

For late night parties, simply look up the quotes under “cheese”. Bound to receive a laugh or two.

Hundreds of quotes, dozens of topics, differing lengths, all organized alphabetically by topic. Great for creating sermons, or enlightening yourself. All without the hassel of actually reading the content. Spark notes for one of the most well-respected writers of this century. My only beef with the book: too many references to authors and thinkers of years past. Also, not much of a “front to back” read-through. I prefer the random page approach myself.

I received this book for free, so long as I reviewed it (it didn’t have to be positive, and i’m not sure if this review is positive or negative). i will be reviewing it over and over for myself. heck, it even caused me to order a chesterton book through the library. 5 stars.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I must have a bookcold because I just booksneezed again.

My most recent booksneeze revealed a slightly pinkish mucus with an astounding outer shell. “The Sacred Meal” by Nora Gallagher has my favorite cover of the Ancient Practices Series (edited by Phyllis Tickle). A nice dusty rose background punctuated by the antique image of an old chalice and bread. The wine in the cup is dark. Strikingly so. There is no doubt what this episode in an excellent series will describe.

Evidently, I do judge books by their covers.

Originally, i was going to go with “The Liturgical Year”, as it is the topic I am least familiar with. Then, I recognized the author of “The Sacred Meal”. Nora Gallagher is one of my favorite writers. She does not author books, but writes well. Anything she writes is worth reading simply for her skill. This book is excellently written, a series of stories about how communion has affected the writer. Nora brings the reader with her through her journeys into the sacred meal. That part of church which is so significant, so misunderstood, and yet so plain. Like Christianity’s founder, the plainness of communion is only skin deep. Inside that skin lies a mystery more complex than the recipient can imagine. No wonder people accused Jesus of teaching with authority.

The content itself is light on Scripture (which speaks infrequently of communion), heavy on story, and mixed in application. Unlike “The Sacred Journey”, which I adored for its challenges and inconsistencies, Gallagher chooses to view communion from a pluralistic view. That is, search traditions, find what is good, ignore the differences, and hope to speak to every reader in agreeable terms. I preferred “The Sacred Journey”.

Here are some quotes that describe the book’s main emphases:

“More than any other practice, taking Communion forces us to be with others, to stand with them in a circle or kneel at the altar rail or pass a tray of grape juice and cubes of bread. We are forced to be with strangers and people we don’t like, persons of different colors and those with bad breath or breathing cheap alcohol. It forces “them” to be with “us” and us to be with them. (p12)”

“Do this to remember me. Do this to remember who you were with me. Do this to remember who you are (p. 24)”

“A practice is meant to connect you with what is deeply alive, to stir in you the same kind of aliveness that the disciples of Jesus must have felt around Him (25).”

“The first time I served, I felt as if I were walking on quicksand. I lived in fear of spilling. And once, I served a young man in a nice tan T-shirt and I poured the blood of CHrist all down his front. We stared at each other for a second, and then I had to move on. In the sacristy afterward I whispered to a priest, “I spilled wine all over this guy.” He paused while wiping off a paten, looked thoughtful, and replied, “That’s too bad. I guess we’ll have to burn him (63-64).”

“While any ritual can be reduced to magic, just about all of them contain an element of something that is deeply meaningful and human: the element of thanksgiving (77)”.

The last quote is derived from a masterful chapter, #7- Eating and Thanksgiving. However, the rest of the book is good, not great. Perhaps I approached it with too great of an expectation. My fascination with communion has lasted my entire life, and is one of the only things I remember from the Catholic church. This book may be helpful to the neophyte, but for most is just a reminder of what happens when we feast together. 3 of 5 stars.