Verena in Training

In chapter 20 of The Bostonians, Verena Tarrant has moved in with Olive Chancellor (after Olive paid off Verena’s parents), so Olive can direct Verena’s education and groom her for the cause. The following passage illustrates the considerable descriptive prowess of Henry James: They read a great deal of history together, and read it ever with the same thought—that of finding…

Thinking as God Does

I found Sister Wendy Beckett’s name at the end of today’s Magnificat meditation. She writes: I think you have much “compassion and understanding” but it is limited at present by the natural. You tend to expect others to see as you see, and feel impatient when they don’t. And if people sense that one feels dismissive, their hackles rise and, in fear,…

Recognizing Limits

Back in January of 2013, First Things published an article with a provocative title: “Against Great Books.” It was written by Patrick J. Deneen, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. I printed the article, and it has languished in my studio for years. I reread it today and found it to be another important take on…

Only a Storyteller

At the beginning of January, I started back at the beginning of The Habit of Being (Letters of Flannery O’Connor, selected and edited by Sally Fitzgerald). The book is about 600 pages long, and I still have not read beyond page 120. This time I started over because I wanted a fresh look at what Flannery had to say about…

Observations: Genesis 1

  I’ve read the entire Bible at least twice, using The One-Year Bible, Catholic Edition. I’ve decided to dive in again, but this time I’m using The Ignatius Bible, which is a Revised Standard Version. I’m also taking notes. Here is what I wrote down while reading the first chapter of Genesis: And God said, “Let there be light.” And…

Miss Birdseye

According to Harold Bloom, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing was heavily influenced by Joseph Conrad and Henry James. Last year, I read three of Conrad’s stories, along with The Heart of Darkness. Now, I turn to James, with his 1886 novel, The Bostonians. It has taken me only four chapters to be impressed by his ability to write description. In the…