‘Knives Out’ Review: A whodunnit with a (thrilling) Gospel message
‘Knives Out’ Review: A whodunnit with a (thrilling) Gospel message Olga Segura Fri, 12/13/2019 - 16:31 Advertisement
The painful beauty in Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life’
The painful beauty in Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life’ Olga Segura Fri, 12/13/2019 - 16:12 Advertisement
Review: Susan Sontag’s dramatic life (and influence)
Review: Andrew Krivak’s ‘The Bear’ shows the cycle of life
Review: Andrew Krivak’s ‘The Bear’ shows the cycle of life The Bear is nothing if not a beautiful book. We are conditioned—if we learn that a book is about the last two people on earth—to assume it is part of the wave of dystopian novels that have crested into our literary ocean in the last decade. But it would be a mistake to classify this haunting novel that way; rather, this is an elegiac tale that resonates deeply with the creation spirituality that has also been rising in our collective imagination over the same period. It is, perhaps, an allegory about the cycle of life and the fact that humans will never be alone but rather always accompanied by God’s presence. In this case, the presence seems to take the form of a bear. When the world seems to end, that is when it begins again.Advertisement On its surface, this is the story of a young girl and her father, the last two remaining humans who live in a beautiful land that has been mostly reclaimed by nature. In the forest, the man has fashioned nearly everything they need not only to survive, but to thrive. However, they need salt to cure their meat, and so they set out on a perilous trip to the ocean, a trip that the young girl has never been on. The father is bitten by a snake, leaving the girl alone to complete the trip and return home to the cabin in the forest. That’s when things get fantastical—with talking animals arriving to help guide her through her grief.Andrew Krivak’s novel The Bear creates a powerful allegory about the struggles and graces of life.A bear that accompanies her for much of her journey shares the following wisdom:I miss whom I once could touch, as all must do when we make our way through whatever forest or wood it is in which we travel or are raised. This does not mean the man is lost or has disappeared forever. For although he no longer walks beside you, he still remains in the time and place of memory, and this is where he will appear again and again, as often as you will seek him.This seems to directly echo what Jesus tells the disciples about always being with them and what the apostles tell the early church. Before they begin the journey, the father tells the girl, “But there’s still much you can’t understand. So much you shouldn’t have to. Not yet.” This, too, echoes Jesus when he tells the disciples that they aren’t ready to understand what will have to happen. In foreshadowing of what will happen in this universe, the girl “lay on the ground beneath a warm sun and wondered if the world and time itself were like the hawk and eagle soaring above her in long arcs she knew were only part of their flight, for they must have begun and returned to someplace as of yet unseen by her, someplace as of yet unknown.”Krivak’s novel creates a powerful allegory about the struggles and graces of life. James KeaneWed, 12/11/2019 - 10:56 Show Comments () Join the conversation: Login or create an account Before you can comment, you need to update your profile to include your first and last name, as required in our comments policy. Then reload this page and you'll be set up for commenting. Update your profile Advertisement
Conflict abounds on the ‘right to die’
The ‘right to die’ cause is a strange one – we’re all going to die eventually so that right will be vindicated by everybody anyway. It’s not about the freedom, as distinct from the right, to commit suicide as that is no longer illegal, so it’s really about the right to kill, but that’s rather off-putting so campaigners tend to avoid the ‘k’ word, as they conveniently did during the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. When The Tonight Show (Virgin Media One) on Wednesday of last week discussed the issue, presenter Matt Cooper proposed the classic pro-choice line (“individual right to choose”), presumably what got suicide decriminalised years ago. He said, naively I thought, that it “was not being made compulsory” (sound familiar?). This freedom argument was countered by Peadar Tóibín TD who gave the example of the woman in Holland euthanised forcibly, and similar examples abound in countries that have legalised assisted suicide. I have no doubt that if it was legalised here, elder abuse would spiral and freedoms would disappear pretty quickly as campaigners and politicians from the elastic band school of ethics would demand that doctors’ freedoms be taken away, that they would be forced to co-operate or refer, would be denigrated as ‘conscientious obstructors’, if they didn’t, wouldn’t get employment unless they were willing to be involved. David Quinn made the most urgent point, about how the elderly and vulnerable would be under pressure, and he pointed out, giving personal examples from present practice, of how palliative care enables people to die peacefully and with dignity and how it relieves suffering, even if death as a result comes a bit earlier, but he made the clear distinction between that and deliberate killing. Guest co-presenter Sarah McInerney pointed out the rising numbers availing of assisted suicide in the Netherlands as new norms became accepted and suggested a contradiction between society disapproving of suicide and running mental health campaigns to reduce it, while at the same time considering the legalisation of assisted suicide. Newly elected TD Malcolm Byrne (FF) disappointed, warning the pro-life side against ‘scaremongering’ and suggesting we deal with the issue via yet another Citizens’ Assembly (can-kicking, buck passing). Has he not got enough confidence in the citizens’ assembly he has just joined? Like David Quinn, journalist Ian O’Doherty usually has no time for the excesses of political correctness, but he was strongly in favour of assisted suicide from the point of view of human freedom, but again that was more a case for not making suicide illegal, rather than legalising assisted suicide. He criticised how euthanasia in places like Belgium had gone too far, but I thought he seemed blissfully unaware of, or in denial about, the damaging social consequences of a euthanasia regime. Music events In much more positive territory, The Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1) last Friday night was in Christmas preparation mode. Evelyn Grant of Lyric FM enthused about the music of Christmas as she outlined a huge range of Christmas music events coming up in the lead up to Christmas. She was particularly a fan of ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. The programme also featured Sr Colette of the Poor Clares in Nuns’ Island Galway. She spoke to presenter Michael Comyn about their popular prayer book Calm the Soul and how they had recently, with the help of musician and composer Ian Callanan, produced a song and music video of the same name, which is raising funds for the support of persecuted Christian communities around the world. They don’t have a vow of silence, but are a cloistered order. They keep in touch with the goings on in the outside world and receive messages from the public, intercessions which feed into the prayer lives of the sisters. On Sunday With Miriam (RTÉ Radio 1), Bro. Kevin of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin spoke of prayers he made before the Blessed Sacrament – he said to the Lord that if he was supposed to feed the poor he’d have to have assistance. Since then “fantastic benefactors” and a small amount of government money has kept the service going. He was particularly saddened to see children homeless, and was critical of the Government for not building sufficient houses. Presenter Miriam O’Callaghan seemed particular moved and inspired, and hopefully the listening public will feel the same and donate leading up to Christmas at capuchindaycentre.ie *** Pick of the Week Singing the Messiah BBC2 NI, SUnday, December 15, 9 pm Composer Neil Martin and his Ards community choir face the challenge of performing Handel’s Messiah in Ulster-Scots. IN CONCERT: CHRISTMAS IN VIENNA EWTN, Tuesday, December 17, 9.30 pm Celebrate Christ’s birth with a special concert of international music by the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, Singing Academy, and world-famous Vienna Boys Choir. Film: The Bishop’s Wife BBC2, Friday, December 20, 3.30pm (1947) An angel assumes human form to help a bishop repair his marriage and build his dream cathedral. The post Conflict abounds on the ‘right to die’ appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Our Books Editor Peter Costello makes recommendations for you to place in someone’s Christmas stocking... Hey Grandude by Paul McCartney (Puffin Books, £12.99) This is a fun book which granddads of a certain age will enjoy reading with the grandchildren. It is odd to think of Paul McCartney himself as a grandfather – how times flies, but this book was inspired by and written for his own small clan, and will be widely enjoyed. The President’s Surprise by Peter Donnelly (Gill Books, €18.99) This is the third in this surprising but delightful series by artist Peter Donnelly. Here his Excellency goes out for a walk in the Park while final preparations are underway in the Áras for his birthday. A cup of coffee, a bit of yoga and various other diversion delay his return to home. But, as might be expected, all turns out well. Lovely and amusing stuff. It says a great deal about Irish life today that such books sell so well. Let us hope the President himself buys lots of copies Ordinary Joe, Joe Schmidt (Penguin Ireland, £25.00) What with the rugby ups and downs that were in the year, it is inevitable that this book is one of the dominant books for Christmas. It is all very fine and will be greatly enjoyed, but there is a feeling perhaps that there is a great more than might be said about the inner life and thoughts of the man, and his leadership style. So we can expect more to come in future years. But for now his book will be read by many with pleasure. Irish International Gran Prix 1929-1931 by Bob Montgomery (Dreoilin Publications, €49.99) RIAC archivist Bob Montgomery tells a tale of international stars performing in the Park. He recalls in loving detail the famous races in the Phoenix Park, which recall in their way the Gordon Bennett races of an earlier era. This was an all-Ireland event, however, which de Valera’s Fianna Fáil government would not support – was motor racing seen as some kind of “foreign game”. Other such races, such as the Monaco Grand Prix, prospered and continued, but not Ireland’s. Glenstall Abbey: through the Seasons Photos by Valerie O’Sullivan (Columba, €24.99) A lovely combination of fine photography and graceful writing about what monastic life is like, and what it aspired to. So many people these days find the very idea of a monk’s life so strange, they never pause to ask themselves might they, in some corner of their lives, have something to learn from the Benedictines, such as the idea that work is a form of prayer. But this is also about a famous Irish institution of Ireland, which in its time as been and remains very influential. Agent Running in the Field by John Le Carré (Viking Penguin, £20.00) The latest book from a hardy litterateur of espionage and intrigue. This one though in the present day is bubbling with anger about such things as Brexit, but all the old skills are as well honed as ever. Will be greatly enjoyed as the work of a master craftsman still on top of his skills. Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Book of Bread and Baking (Gill Books, €22.00) The ICA is a good thing, and its members present here recipes straight from the rural (and perhaps not so rural) kitchens of Ireland for all kinds of baking treats. Brown bread and soda bread are joined though by recipes for sourdough bread - - so popular now with mashed avocado for a weekend brunch. Rick Stein’s Secret France (BBC Books, £26.00) Rick Stein is an old favourite ours, and we have followed him around the world over the years. Unlike so many of the cooks and chefs that clutter our book shops and television screen, he has always been ready to learn from those he encounters on his travels. How often have we seen him in earnest conversation with local cooks, his note book in hand, taking down what they have to say, rather than showing them how to cook their own local dishes. Here he is on the by-ways of the Hexagon in search of French treats, seeking out 120 recipes that reveal “real French home cooking”. Into the Deep by Wolfgang Dreyer illustrated by Ainnike Siems (Prestel, £18.99) The future of the world depends on the much abused ocean, where life began millions of years ago. This book is suggested for readers seven and up, but the lovely accurate illustration and the authoritative text by the director of Kiel Zoo are informative for any age. Saving the planet starts this moment, and here is a way to enroll your children in the crusade to save creation. As Time Goes By by Alice Taylor (O’Brien Press, €19.99) Alice Taylor is one of the great phenomenons of Irish literature. Her success over the decades has been exceptional. She evokes a world of yesteryear, and yet in her own life is a fully functioning business woman, mother and local activist. A truly great woman, who is always a joy to read. Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind by Tom Holland (Little, Brown & Co., £25.00) There is a great deal of negativity around about religion, and about Christianity in particular. Here, in his latest popular exposition of history, Tom Holland reminds us just what Europe, and beyond that world cultures actually owes to Christianity. Even our forms of disbelief have been shaped by Christianity. This is a book which hopefully a lot of people will enjoy, letting his clear style fill out for them a story which has become so confused for many. Metaphors for Change: Essays on State and Society by Sr. Margaret MacCurtain (Arlen House, €25.00) As a teacher, historian, activist and nun, Margaret Mac Curtain has been a leading personality in shaping aspects of thinking and public discourse. In these collection essays the essentials of her outlook on life, society and history are to be found. She is one of the historians who have worked to reveal “the hidden Ireland” in which generations of Irish women have lived. Certainly a book not just for Christmas, but for the coming year. Unsung Hero: Tom Crean – Antarctic Survivor by Michael Smith (Gill Books, €19.99) This is a reissue after two decades of an already well known book. Though Tom Crean was not in fact as forgotten as the author makes out, he was certainly neglected in Ireland. The nature of his heroic exploits somehow did not fit into the ideals of the “new Ireland”. However today, the story of his true endurance a over a century ago with Shackleton in the Antarctic is now widely admired, and provide an ideal of courage and leadership which can not only be admired, but imitated. Here is the whole tale for a younger generation. William Dalrymple The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of Empire (Bloomsbury, £30.00) Many will read this fascinating account of the East India Company activities in 18th Century India and contrast them with Ireland in the same century. The narrative is cast in a chillingly up-to-date account of ruthless colonial exploitation. But it should also be said that India has always been a country in conflict. It remains one, given the attitudes of many Hindus to the minorities of all kinds in the subcontinent (including Buddhists, Muslims and Christians). The Mughals and the British brought some good things to India, as many Indians will admit. Hallelujah: Memoirs of a Singing Priest by Fr Ray Kelly (Columba, €16.99) The Irish over the years have always loved singing priests. Perhaps it is the seeming contrast between the expected piety and the priest’s real aim to enlarge people’s lives through “mere” entertainment. Since his breakthrough in 2014 Fr Ray Kelly has become a familiar voice, singing popular songs, and here he tells the story behind his performing life. Never discount the power of music, all music, to move and change people. Funny Ha, Ha: 80 of the funniest stories ever written Selected and introduced by Paul Merton (Head of Zeus, £25.00) Dead-pan comedian Paul Merton is something of an authority on English humorists since Victorian times. In this book he collects some of his all-time favourites. Other surprises await the reader in these very varied pages. The ideal bedside book for those who have sleepless nights. Though it is a surprise to find Somerset Maugham, unusually thought of as having a rather grim view of the world, in this gallery. But then Merton’s selection is more about the humours of the human condition than mere rib-tickling. Return to Sender by Paul Kelly (Gill Books, €19.99) Those who are devotees of the famous postcards of John Hinde will delight in this book. The bright sunshine of Hinde’s warmed up Ireland (lots of red, lots of sunshine in every image) will also reveal the changes over the decades. Author Paul Kelly mixes his own family’s unusual history into a tour of rural Ireland as it was – and as it is today. Enchanting, but also a little saddening. Stuff that Changed the World: The extraordinary history of ordinary things by Simon Tierney (Red Stag, €14.99) Radio (or should we say wireless in this context) will have made Simon Tierney’s style familiar to many. This is a fascinating book filled with curious information and exceptional characters – inventors are always interesting to read about. One caveat: he depends too much on American sources; the history of invention looks very different when written about in German, French or even British English. Industrial intellectual theft began in America, as the conflict between Edison and Swan 1880s about who really invented the electric light bulb showed so well. But this is a very enjoyable book all the same, which will inspire budding inventors of any age. An Urban Sketcher’s Galway by Róisin Curé (Currach Books, €22.99) This may be for many a book to catch up with. Anyone who knew or knows the City of the Tribes will enjoy this drawing and the text. Róisin Curé is right on the button about what this thriving, happily active city is like today. In all of Ireland this is the place to go, whatever people from Derry, Cork or Belfast tell you. Let’s hope she does more books like this. Her publisher should send her to Kilkenny for the New Year. Sending Positive Vibes Fr Bryan Shortall (Columba, €12.99) Christians and the New Year should, like this book, promote a positive feeling in everyone, whatever their outlook. This little book will provide readers of many ages with something meaningful to carry into the coming year and the new decade, and so perhaps leave bedding the rancour and division that has mounted up around over the last few years. Fr Shortal’sl message too is one of “Peace on Earth, and goodwill to all people”. A Happy Christmas and Joyful New Year to all the readers of these book pages. The post Christmas Books appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Comic road movie mixes tenderness and farce
The Last Right (15A) A Clonakilty man living in Boston transports the body of a man he only met for a few minutes to his final resting place in Rathlin Island with the police on his tail for corpse-snatching. It’s the kind of situation most of us find ourselves in sooner or later, right? Writer/director Aoife Crehan moves seamlessly from road movie to black comedy to rite of passage parable with some relish in a film that almost tips into farce (the chip shop stand-off) before becoming a tale of friendship, responsibility, making the right choices, atoning for the past and finding one’s own best ‘resting place’ this side of the great beyond. Daniel Murphy is flying home to Ireland to bury his mother when the man in the seat beside him (Jim Norton) drops dead. For reasons best known to himself he names Daniel as his next of kin. The film now segues into a comedy of errors and a (sort-of) love story, with a helter skelter set of unpredictable interludes thrown in for good measure. Rainman and Bonnie and Clyde are namechecked but as we move from picaresque sitcom to some deeper areas we should probably be thinking more of films like Waking Ned and Manchester by the Sea for a trope source. Daniel’s brother, Louis, is autistic. When he speaks – like a computer spewing out data – the parallels to Rainman become more obvious. But there’s a backstory to Louis. It gives the film its biggest surprise. His troubled relationship to Daniel (guilt, diaspora, etc.) underscores the plot. The performances are excellent. Michiel Huisman is Daniel, the reluctant journeyman. Niamh Algar plays Mary, the quirky lass who invites herself along for the ride. Samuel Bottomley is Louis, the troubled teenager who’d prefer to stay in ‘Clon’ than study mathematics in Boston with Daniel. Some years ago a man called Tony Hawks wrote a very funny book called Round Ireland with a Fridge. It was exactly what the title said. The journey became of national interest. Gerry Ryan even got in on it. This is like Around Ireland with a Coffin. It’s no less funny. Joe Duffy stands in for the late Gerry. Crehan treads a fine line between comedy and drama (I believe the term is ‘dramedy’) in a film that has, however, some confusion in its unfolding. Huisman tells Norton he grew up in Boston, for instance, but he didn’t. Why the lie? Brian Cox plays the priest who officiates at the funeral. The fact that he can range effortlessly from Winston Churchill (Churchill) to this is a testament to his versatility. Eleanor O’Brien is the rookie cop thrown in at the deep end, wearing a uniform about three sizes too big for her. You hardly need to be told who turns up as her boss. Yes, inevitably it’s Colm Meaney doing yet another Ballymagash style role. Begob and begorrah. Advisory content for parents: language and sexual material. Very Good **** The post Comic road movie mixes tenderness and farce appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
The Jesuit missionaries who inspired Roland Joffé’s ‘The Mission’
The Jesuit missionaries who inspired Roland Joffé’s ‘The Mission’ Tim Reidy Tue, 12/10/2019 - 13:05 Advertisement
In ‘A Hidden Life,’ martyrdom is the cost of faith
In ‘A Hidden Life,’ martyrdom is the cost of faith Ryan DiCorpo Fri, 12/06/2019 - 16:58 Advertisement
Review: ‘Waves’ raises questions about storytelling in the black community
Review: ‘Waves’ raises questions about storytelling in the black community Kevin Jackson Fri, 12/06/2019 - 17:33 Advertisement
A last-minute Christmas gift idea or two
A last-minute Christmas gift idea or two A novel set in Renaissance-era Florence, and in hell, had me at the premise. I learned about Jo Walton, a Welsh writer living in Montreal, from National Public Radio and immediately bought Lent (Tor Books, $26.99, 384p), a historical fantasy. How do historical and fantasy go together? Easily, it turns out.Advertisement The infamous Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola—the one who ruled Florence and was then burned at the stake in 1498—is the protagonist of the book, and we follow him into the afterlife and back again. Hell and demons are real in this novel, and Walton is a very good writer. Meeting Savonarola for the first time, “A demon with stub wings and a snake’s tail sneers in his face: ‘Oh you thought yourself so high and holy, but here you are...’ He keeps silent, for he has pride still, pride and wrath. Now let his sins be his strength.” Other historical characters are here, too, including Lorenzo de’ Medici and Christopher Columbus. It is a hellish good read.I must also mention the astounding novel by Patrick Chamoiseau, Slave Old Man. A translation from French and Creole, it was published in hardcover a year ago and recently released in paperback (The New Press, $19.99, 176p). The author has been compared to James Joyce and Franz Kafka, because like them, he is a genre-shaping artist. The opening sentences:In slavery times in the sugar isles, once there was an old black man, a vieux nègre, without misbehaves or gros-saut orneriness or showy ways. He was a lover of silence, taster of solitude. A mineral of motionless patiences. Inexhaustible bamboo.Enough said. Buy this little and yet enormous book for someone this month who loves fiction and believes there is nothing new under the sun.I read many books each year from university presses because I have areas of interest that are sparked by the deep research of those who have the skill to do it—and know all the languages that I don’t! I was grateful this year for Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen (Yale, $35, 544p). The book is astonishing in its scope. The author teaches American history at Oxford. It is rare to find such a work, a deft narrative so comprehensive that also includes lots of original research. If you know someone with a passion for the history and culture of Native peoples in the United States, or if, like me, you are particularly interested in the context that gave us Nicholas Black Elk (I am doing research for a forthcoming biography), I think you will enjoy this book.I read many books each year from university presses because I have areas of interest that are sparked by the deep research of those who have the skill to do it—and know all the languages that I don’t!I work in religion and spirituality publishing, and there were many good books this year from familiar names like Elaine Pagels, Richard Rohr, James K. A. Smith, Ilia Delio, Ron Rolheiser, Jack Miles and Karen Armstrong. But How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, by Akiko Busch (Penguin Press, $26, 224p) is the closest I will come to religion on this list. In fact, I think she offers an antidote to some of our too-sanguine religious understandings of her subject: the purpose and value of silence. Exploring the way silence is put to use in penitentiaries or how it works in the lives of the clinically depressed has forever dispelled my own yearnings for the next retreat when I might put up my feet, hear only crickets or chickadees and say ah, how holy and lovely. I have been a fan of Thomas Lynch ever since I heard him at a literary festival 20 years ago. I am usually bored by book readings, but Lynch captivates. A second-generation undertaker in Michigan, Lynch is also Irish, and a storyteller of the old sort. The Depositions: New and Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be (W.W. Norton, $27.95, 352p) is his crowning collection. If you are familiar with Lynch’s essays already, you will enjoy rereading those unforgettable first lines from The Undertaking (a bestselling, earlier collection with such appeal that it will soon be translated into Chinese): “Every year I bury a couple hundred of my townspeople. Another two or three dozen I take to the crematory to be burned.”But I also enjoyed what was new here: five essays and a foreword by Alan Ball, the creator of “Six Feet Under,” the HBO television series. This is memento mori and more. There is even a lyrical meditation on the passing of his old dog, Bill. But my favorite is “Miracle,” where Lynch reflects on his friend Seamus Heaney and the poem Heaney wrote with that title:In Ireland the dead are shouldered to the opened ground and lowered in with ropes by the pallbearers. After the priest has had his say, the grave is filled in by family and friends. The miracle of life and the mystery of death are unambiguously tethered by a funiculus of grave ropes and public grieving, religiously bound by the exercise of large muscle duties.... Maybe what we miss are the ordinary miracles, the ones who have known us all along—the family and friends, the fellow pilgrims who show up, pitch in and do their parts to get us where we need to go.My favorite memoir this year is one that many of you will have already heard about. It has been reviewed nearly everywhere because it ought to have been. Sister Helen Prejean’s River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey (Random House, $27, 320p), had been long-awaited. It tells more of the story of her life than Dead Man Walking (1993) did: the transformation of a woman, who had better be named a saint one day, from life in a convent in the late 1950s, teaching white kids in suburban Catholic schools, to living in an African-American housing project and corresponding with and companioning death row inmates.My favorite memoir this year is one that many of you will have already heard about: Sister Helen Prejean’s River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.The fire metaphor of the book’s title comes from a quotation of St. Bonaventure:" Ask not for understanding, ask for the fire." She could have called it “Being Alive” instead. I love this:As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a vivid sense of being alive. I’d close my eyes and there it was, the feeling: I am. I’m me. I’m alive, having all of these thoughts in my head, which only I know. It still amazes me that I’m alive and thinking—I am always thinking—and I can’t get over it when I open a book and I’m allowed to descend into the inner sanctuary of another’s thoughts.I have heard that filmmakers often schedule theatrical releases for late in the year when they have expectations of winning awards. Apparently, the memories of judges for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are short, and they are more likely to nominate a film that was in the theaters in December over one that left them in March. I doubt the publishers of The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison, edited by John F. Callahan and Marc C. Conner (Random House, $50, 1,072p) used such logic for its late release date, but maybe so. I have only had a week with this book and I already know it is my book of the year. Call me sentimental at Christmastime, but I never am. I winced as I bought this one: the price, the size. My wife chides my enthusiasm for fat volumes that are outside subject areas where I should be spending my increasingly precious reading time, and she is right: I often do not read past the first 50 pages. This one is different.After three days, I am immersed in it, and its richness has me ticking things all over to which I intend to return. I came to these letters not knowing much about their author beyond Invisible Man. But I now know him to be one of the most interesting and endearing literary figures of the last century.The letters are organized chronologically by decades, beginning in the 1930s when Ellison is a student at Tuskegee Institute, writing home, and later in New York, where he meets Langston Hughes. In the ’40s, he corresponds with Richard Wright (Native Son) and dabbles (who didn’t?) with communism. For the next four decades of this interesting correspondence, there are insights and wisdom on myth, ritual, jazz, the blues, blackness, exile, tragedy, lying, friendship, art, how to fight, love and bravery.We could use these things, and more, this Advent and Christmas. May we all enjoy the gift of books. James KeaneFri, 12/06/2019 - 12:30 Show Comments () Join the conversation: Login or create an account Before you can comment, you need to update your profile to include your first and last name, as required in our comments policy. Then reload this page and you'll be set up for commenting. Update your profile Advertisement
Soul refreshing scenes across Ireland
Wild Stories from the Irish Uplands by John G. O’Dwyer (Currach Books, €14.99) The author is a veteran hiker with over thirty years experience of leading walking and mountaineering groups through the Irish countryside. In this collection of essays he visits a number of well-known uplands across the country and recalls their association with historical figures and events. Beginning with St Patrick, he surveys Slemish in Co. Antrim. Here the kidnapped youth was employed as a shepherd on its slopes by Milchu, a slave owner. O’Dwyer next ascends the Hill of Slane, where St Patrick with his Paschal Fire posed an unmistakeable challenge to the pagan Irish High King on the nearby Hill of Tara. Next he traces the saint’s footsteps to Croagh Patrick, on the summit of which St Patrick reputedly fasted for forty days. The author provides a detailed account of the ascent and notes that, despite the hardship involved, the pilgrimage mountain is climbed about one hundred thousand times annually, with the last Sunday in July the most popular day on which to ‘Climb the Reek’. Footsteps The author does not restrict his retracing of the footsteps of St Patrick to high ground and includes in his itinerary Station Island in Lough Derg, the Rock of Cashel and Ardpatrick in Co Limerick, where according to tradition, St Patrick established his first monastic settlement. Mount Brandon in the Dingle peninsula is named after St Brendan. He is also known as the ‘Navigator’ and the author visits Brandon Creek, whence, according to legend, the saint successfully crossed the North Atlantic. Tim Sevrin will forever be associated with St Brendan and his search for the ‘Island promised to the saints’. Convinced that St Brendan’s voyage was based on fact, he built a replica of St Brendan’s currach, using the materials and techniques of the period. After a hazardous journey which involved serial island hopping and landfall in a number of other places Sevrin and his four companions reached Newfoundland. However, not-withstanding Sevrin’s remark-able achievement, Dwyer rejects his claim to have proved that St Brendan was the first European to reach America. The Wicklow mountains provide O’Dwyer with the location for more of his ‘wild stories’. The Ulster princes Red Hugh O’Donnell and Art O’Neill escaped from Dublin Castle on the night of January 6, 1592. They reached the Dublin mountains and thence were led by a guide in inclement weather conditions through the Wicklow Gap to the safety of Fiach McHugh O’Byrnes’ Ballinacor Castle in Glenmalure. Two hundred years later these Wicklow hills were the stronghold of Michael O’Dwyer. Following the suppression of the 1798 rebellion, he refused to surrender to the authorities and continued to harass the crown forces, earning the soubriquet the ‘Outlaw of Glenmalure’. Although none of his attacks on the ‘Red Coats’ were militarily significant, he was a huge irritant to the administrators of English rule in Ireland. Construction To cope with him and other rebels in the area they constructed the Military Road across the Wicklow Hills, with barracks at Glencree, Glendalough, Glenmalure (Drumgoff) and Aughavannagh. By the time the construction of the road was completed in 1809 the entire project had become obsolete. The threat of a French invasion had receded and O’Dwyer had negotiated terms with the authorities and eventually had been banished to New South Wales in Australia. The author recalls a significant historical event which occurred on the slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains on April 10, 1923. While General Liam Lynch and other leaders of the Anti-Treaty movement were fleeing encirclement by the Irish Free State army, Lynch was fatally wounded during an exchange of fire. Within days the Civil War ended. This book is very much in tune with the zeitgeist of our time, with its responsible obsession with ecology” From first-hand experience the author discusses various ways in which Carrantuohill could and should be climbed. In so doing he describes some of the heroic rescues conducted on it by Con Moriarty and the Kerry Mountain Rescue Team –wonderful people. This book is very much in tune with the zeitgeist of our time, with its responsible obsession with ecology. Written with the same fervour with which Pope Francis drafted Laudato Si’, it is replete with information useful to hill-walkers and mountaineers and it is a very interesting read. Visit here for more information on the book. The post Soul refreshing scenes across Ireland appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Seizing hold of life
Shooting and Cutting: A survivors guide to film-making and other diseases by Stephen Bradley (Mercier Press, €14.99) Film maker Stephen Bradley is the creator of Noble, the 2014 drama about the true life story of Christina Noble, the children’s rights campaigner and charity worker in Vietnam, who founded the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation. Some years ago Bradley was asked in an interview with a magazine at Trinity College, where he had taken his law degree: “What is the most useful piece of advice you’ve ever received?” His answer was forthright. “It wasn’t directed at me specifically but the great Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodóvar said ‘if you want to be successful in the film business never give up!’” This memoir deals with both film making and with never giving up, both on film making or life. Having worked in England for some years, and achieving a fair level of success, Stephan Bradley and his actress wife returned to Ireland. But this move home coincided with a diagnosis of stage four cancer – as he says himself there is no stage five. His life was turned upside-down and inside out. Creativity, and what it can achieve under pressure, is a strange thing” This book recounts the path that he and his wife and their cohort travelled over afterwards. The long courses of surgery and medical treatment were difficult. But today he is now cancer free. The sheer determination – originating perhaps in the determination of every artist to achieve what they need to achieve , which is a special kind of success, an integral success, quite alien to that which bankers and business men achieve – played a strong role in the process. Creativity, and what it can achieve under pressure, is a strange thing. Shooting and Cutting is remarkable story, and a cheering one, in that sometimes it seems that with pain and anguish things turn out better than we might have hoped. As Stephen Bradley tells us at the very end, in the last lines of the book: “As for the here and now, I have two revelations that surprise me: I am without a sense of melancholy for the first time in three years. I am anxious no more.” The post Seizing hold of life appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Renovating your spiritual home
Under Construction: Working with the Architect by Neil O’Boyle (SPCK, £8.99) The literary conceit behind this book is an original one. Author O’Boyle takes the idea of revamping your home, from the garden and front hall up to the bedroom, and gives it a spiritual twist. Most of us will have worked with either a builder or an architect on such a domestic scheme. We may even be still waiting to get into one before Christmas. Well, you know what architects are like. But O’Boyle suggests that working with the, so to speak, divine architect of all things is both the same and quite different, and presents problems we may not want to face. Written from an evangelical point of view some of O’Boyle remarks may make one wonder. He writes: “In the west we do not face torture or imprisonment for our beliefs. The likelihood is that you will never face any external problems as a result of being a Christian.” Where has he been living? Many people and not just religious people find that if they hold any views which seem contrary to those most widely held “in the West” find themselves abused, and indeed imprisoned. But no-one reads a book of this kind to agree with everything the author says. But reading what we don’t agree with should not hone our dislike of someone’s ideas, but make us think about what we believe, not just about ‘the state of house’, or what we should believe, but perhaps why we should disbelieve other things. For many of us the state of our disbelief seems as much in need of examination as the state of our beliefs. The post Renovating your spiritual home appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Rome: the city to which all roads lead
Rome: A Pilgrim Guide by Michael Rear, illustrated by Hilary Griffiths (Gracewing, £14.99) Quite by chance the day before this book arrived on my desk I had been looking into the generally excellent Michelin Green Guide series Guide to Rome. This covers a great deal of ground, but for what I was looking for it was a disappointment. Rome is a difficult city to write about, for the interests of visitors are so varied, ancient Rome, Imperial Rome, medieval Rome, Rome and the creation of modern Italy, Rome as the symbol of the corruption that infects so much of modern life in Italy. This new book by Fr Michael Rear, as its title indicates, is intended specifically for the pilgrims, and they are countless every year, who see Rome in a Christian perspective. Every holiday season, such as Easter and Christmas, sees the Christian sites and monuments choked with people: one certainly needs a good guide, or one would be simply overwhelmed. There are drawings instead of photographs, but this is reflected in the price” Fr Rear, a retired priest of the Diocese of East Anglia, is also the author of Walsingham: Pilgrims and Pilgrimage (also published by Gracewing). Now that village, just across the water from us, is a truly interesting place. His book on Rome is to be highly recommended. Not only does he cover all the history at exactly the right level of detail that a pilgrim needs, but he also provides a wealth of practical information of the kind I am afraid that the snazzier Rough Guides and others simply don’t bother with. He even helps you locate the bus stops. There are drawings instead of photographs, but this is reflected in the price. The drawings also give the book a more personal atmosphere. This book is intended for Christian pilgrims, so the details about what they might like to see are well laid out. But more than that he does not neglect the other museums and sights, with details of opening times (ever-changing and confusing he confesses). But in catering to spiritual and cultural needs he does not neglect where to stay and where to eat – invaluable information for as strangers in any city. The reader can trust his judgement, which is more than can be said for other quick. So if you are thinking of a Roman holiday, this is a book to take with you. One caveat: nothing beats having a good large map in a city like Rome. There are times when the sat-nav on your phone just will not do the trick. The maps in the books are indicative, but only cover small areas. Humane man It is to be hoped though that readers might also read some older books. I am thinking of H. V. Morton’s A Traveller in Rome, out of date in the eyes of many people, but so well written and evocative, by an observant and humane man, sensitive to religious matters. Then there is the very personal, much civilised, but enchanting A Time in Rome by Elizabeth Bowen. These books serve to remind us that for every new book we are persuaded to read by the power of publicity, we should also read an old book too. And the best hint of all about the city to which all roads are said to lead: never go to Rome in August. The post Rome: the city to which all roads lead appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Camerata Ireland showcases magnificent young talent
A fortnight ago I wrote about some of our young musicians and their competition successes. This week I am mentioning another group who are further advanced in their respective careers. An opportunity of hearing five of them arose at the NCH’s recent Friends’ Gala with Camerata Ireland under its founder/director Barry Douglas. The orchestra is currently enjoying residency at the Hall. The already well-experienced young soloists involved were violinist Mairéad Hickey, a former pupil of Adrian Petcu in Cork; violist Ed Creedon, who studied with Constantin Zanidache, also in Cork, and Killian White, the first cellist to be awarded the RDS Music Bursary. Before moving to the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, Killian studied with NSO cellist Martin Johnson and Christopher Marwood at the RIAM. Hailing from Co Down, clarinettist Tom Myles received the Flax Trust Arts Bursary courtesy of Camerata Ireland’s Academy. Tom has been a member of the Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and thereby appeared at four BBC Proms in London. Last year he was a finalist in the woodwind section of the BBC’s Young Musician programme. The last, but by no means least, of the five was another Corkonian – pianist Kevin Jansson. From the age of six, his teacher was Mary Beattie in the Munster capital’s School of Music. Moving to New York’s Julliard School, he made his Carnegie Weiss Hall debut in 2017, the year he cut his first CD for the Swiss Claves label. Kevin took first prize at the Jeune Chopin Competition in Marigny in 2018 and received this year’s RDS €15,000 Bursary. But there is another dimension to young Jansson. When 13, he was an all-Ireland winner on the fiddle at Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann and away from music he received the gold medal at the Irish National Physics Olympiad 2016 and, representing his country, took a silver medal at the European Union Science Olympiad in Copenhagen in 2017. Gala opening The NCH gala opened with Killian White playing Haydn’s 1st Cello Concerto and producing magically mellow tone. His soothingly etched central Adagio had an ethereal quality and the outer movements also conveyed his innate musical insights. The rest of the gala hung on Mozart. Mairéad Hickey and Ed Creedon joined forces for the E flat Sinfonia Concertante where their sensitive rapport was ideal. Their distinct instrumental voices rightly came to the fore but this never interfered with the intense musical bond between them. Tom Myles took us on a deeply expressive journey through the Clarinet Concerto. Every phrase was beautifully spun with his unbroken and graceful lines in the Adagio befitting Mozart’s creative genius in this movement. The final work was the Double Piano Concerto with Barry Douglas and Kevin Jansson. Their interpretation had flowing engagement that meant Mozart’s answering, and amusing, exchanges emerging marvellously unimpeded. The ‘bouncy castle’ effects in the concluding Rondeau happily remained within the borders of classical elegance. With Camerata Ireland offering splendid support, I found this concert highly satisfying as it portrayed unusual artistic depths in these exceptionally gifted young people. The post Camerata Ireland showcases magnificent young talent appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Hard questioning sets an interesting tone
Last week I heard and saw quite a few interesting items, most of which can be listened back to on the various web players. I relied on EWTN News Nightly for keeping in touch with the visit of Pope Francis to Japan and Thailand. On Monday of last week they reported his inspirational words at the sites of the atomic explosions calling for an end to the use and possession of nuclear weapons and the diversion of funds used for the arms races to care for the poor. His last Mass at a Tokyo stadium attracted around 50,000 Japanese Catholics and seemed a very joyful and enthusiastic event. Newsnight (BBC2, Tues-day) took a critical look at the transgender phenomenon, in particular highlighting the stories of those wanting to de-transition. Sometimes people chose to change gender because of unhappiness with some aspect of their lives but find that transitioning doesn’t solve the proble. We heard that those who supported such people were sometimes seen as traitors to the transgender cause. I was surprised by the hard questioning presenter Emily Matlis gave to a representative from a gender clinic. She was challenging the idea of putting people on the path to gender change without enough research into the long term consequences. On Tuesday’s Hard Shoulder (Newstalk) presenter Ivan Yates had quite an intersting interview with journalist Niamh Horan on the topic of forgiveness. The context was the unforgiving nature of social media with pile-ons showing no mercy as the online mob bring their pitchforks and flaming torches to current debates and past misdemeanors. Horan was strongly in favour of forgiveness, especially when peopple were sorry. Tuesday night’s Sky News highlighted the case of the three African Americans released from prison (thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project) after spending 36 years there, arrested as teens for a murder they didn’t commit. Their relief and even sense of wonder as they looked up to open skies in the presence of their loved ones was quite moving, as was their dignity, their measured statements, and in the case of at least two of them their expression of religious faith. On Wednesday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) drugs awareness advocate Marie Byrne spoke a lot of sense about suggestions of legalising drugs. She thought it was a bad move, with people profiting from the misery of others. Some texters suggested there would be a huge tax take from a legalised drugs market, money that could go to the health services. They didn’t mention the increased health issues that would inevitably follow greater drug use. Byrne thought it would be a “tax on misery”, and was critical of the concept of “recreational” drug use. She pointed out that some in authority were having second thoughts in Portugal, fearing that legalisation was normalising drug use and further, that, despite legalisation, there was still a thriving black market in drugs in Colorado as the legal drugs were taxed and therfore more expensive. On LBC Radio in the UK the presenters are generally too opinionated for my liking, but at least there’s some diversity of viewpoint on political matters, e.g. some Brexiteers, some Remainers. Last Thursday morning I was listening to the Nick Ferrari Show (LBC Radio in the UK) and there was a telling exchange at the end – a caller gently accused him of bias and he was courteous to the caller, accepted that if bias was unconscious then by definition he wouldn’t be aware of it, and finished by saying that he would take the comments on board. It was refreshing – on our own media I find presenters get cranky and defensive if accused of bias, which is revealing in itself. The transgender issue resurfaced on last Friday evening’s Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1) when Mary Wilson interviewed Minister Regina Doherty about proposed changes to the legislation. You’ll be interested to know that they have for now stopped short of recognising a third gender! Also of interest, considering what I wrote earlier, is that she proposes to streamline the process for those who wish to de-transition. A spokesperson for a trans advocacy group was also interviewed, a person who thought that parental permission should be needed for young people. Of course there was no-one on the programme challenging the whole idea or even airing the many reservations that are out there about the ongoing implications of these developments. **** Pick of the Week THE SIMPSONS Channel 4, Saturday, December 7, 10 am Bart Sells His Soul: Bart casually sells his soul to Milhouse and finds something vital missing. Mass RTÉ1, RTÉ Radio 1 Extra and Long Wave 252, Sunday, December 8, 11 am Mass with a gathered congregation and choir from Clogher don Óige the Youth Ministry organisation of the Diocese of Clogher with music led by Catherine McLoughlin. The celebrant is Fr Leo Creelman. Lucy Worsley’s Christmas Carol Odyssey BBC4, Monday, December 9, 9pm also 2 am Lucy Worsley reveals the surprising stories behind our favourite Christmas carols –from pagan rituals to religious conflicts, French dances and World War I. The post Hard questioning sets an interesting tone appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
The Two Popes
The various narrative strands of this film and the portrayals of the two men are not ends in themselves but rather serve a bigger story, one about God. It is the living God of Christian faith who is the real protagonist here.
Review: How can Christians care for creation?
Review: Reconstructing a lost youth