Quarterly Media Review – March, 2019

Current (slow reads)

Kathleen Deignan, Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours

Page turners

  • Elizabeth George, The Punishment She Deserves
  • Alexis Ragongeau, trans. Katherine Gregor, The Madonna of Notre Dame
  • Daniel Kehlmann, Measuring the World
  • Mikhail Shishkin, Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories
  • Anthony Doerr, About Grace
  • Podcasts

    On Being:

    David Whyte on ‘The Conversational Nature of Reality’

    Nomad:

    Elaine Heath, ‘Pioneers, Lightning Rods and Anxious Churches’

    Edwina Gately, ‘Missionaries, Mystics & Mother God’

    The Slowdown:

    Having heard poet laureate Tracy K Smith interviewed on Aspen Festival of Ideas, I hurried to this 5 minutes a day benediction of words in voice.

    The Why Factor:

    Fantasies

    The Doctor’s Kitchen:

    Dr Jenna Macchioci

    Encountering Silence:

    Kathleen Norris

    Academy of Achievement:

    Sir Martin Rees on ‘The Future of Humanity’

    W.S.Merwin & Rita Dove

    The Spirit of Things:

    Rachel Kohn’s final show.😢

    Vox:

    Ezra Klein interviews Michael Pollan on psychedelics.

    On screen

    • August Rush

    • Florence Foster Jenkins

    • Gifted

    • Saving Mr Banks

    • Bohemian Rhapsody

    • The Wife

    • Hibiki

    • The Lady in the Van

    • The Green Book

    • Red Sparrow

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    Quarterly Media Review – Winter, 2018

    Current Slow Reads:

    • Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration. (Sigh. This is an extraordinary ‘memoir’ that has had a hold of me for weeks, now. It may become, I think, a vade mecum, which means that I really ought to purchase my own copy and return this one to the library . . .)
    • Jean Vanier, Becoming Human.
    • Rowan Williams, Being Human.

    Page Turners:

    • Philip Pullman, The Book of Dust (1): Belle Sauvage.
    • Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
    • J.M. Coetzee, The Childhood of Jesus.
    • Michael Ondaatje, Cat’s Table.
    • Keigo Higashino, The Salvation of a Saint.
    • Margane Satrapi, Persepolis.

    Podcasts:

    • ABC’s The Minefield, Scott Stephens and Martha Nussbaum.
    • Home-brewed Christianity, John Swinton.
    • Nomad, Kallistos Ware on the Jesus Prayer; Liz West on the Enneagram; Paula Gooder on Phoebe and Pauline spirituality; Danielle Wilson and Brad Jersak in a reflection entitled ‘Nativity at the Edges’.

    On Screen:

    • The Light Between Two Oceans.
    • Paterson.

    Quarterly Media Review — Autumn, 2018

    Not terribly varied media-wise this quarter, but quite voluminous on books and podcasts! Made possible by a spell of time out of time in late June.

    Page Turners:

    👏🏻 Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant

    👏🏻 (🤯!) Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (3); The Story of the Lost Child (4)

    Kate Atkinson, When Will There Be Good News?

    Joan Chittister, Welcome to the Wisdom of the World

    Alexander McCall Smith, The House of Unexpected Sisters

    Philip Pullman, The Book of Dust, 1: La Belle Sauvage 

    Podcasts:

    On Being: 

    Frank Wilczek, ‘Why is the World So Beautiful?’

    Maria Shriver, ‘Finding my “I Am”‘

    Nomad: 

    Walter Brueggeman, ‘Sabbath as Resistance’

    👏🏻 🌈Vicky Beeching, ‘From Shame to Pride’

    👏🏻 Elaine Heath, ‘Spiritual Practices’

    Guardian Books Podcast:

    👏🏻 Marilynne Robinson on contemporary politics and her book What Are We Doing Here? ( AND entelechy! time as matrix!)

    Team Human:

    Interview of Jeremy Lent (of the lauded The Patterning Instinct) by Douglas Rushkov

    Better Listen (not a podcast but a free download)

    Marion Woodman and Robert Bly on ‘The Maiden King’

    The Sacred Podcast:

    Interview of Krista Tippett by Elizabeth Oldfield

    Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations:

    👏🏻 Barbara Brown Taylor, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’

    Fresh Thinking (via Centre of Theological Inquiry)

    Kanan Kitani

    On Screen:

    50 First Kisses (Japanese)

    Quarterly Media Review – Summer, 2018

    Current:

    Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant

    Neil Gaiman, American Gods

    Page-turners:

    Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name

    Petina Gappah, The Book of Memory

    Donna Leon, Falling in Love

    Slower Reads:

    Kathleen Duffy, Teilhard’s Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution

    Laurence Freeman, Jesus: The Teacher Within

    Podcasts:

    Academy of Achievement: Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro

    Aspen Ideas to Go: Panel discussion, ‘Living a Moral Life’

    Intelligence Squared: Panel discussion, ‘If you’re a Citizen of the World . . . ‘

    The Minefield: Scott Stephens & Walid Ali, ‘Is Speed Worth the Moral Cost?’

    On Being:

    Rebecca Solnit, ‘Falling Together’;

    Maria Popova & Natalie Batalia, ‘Cosmic Imaginings’

    Philosophers’ Zone: Rai Gaita, ‘A Common Humanity, But How?’

    RSA: Rutger Bregman ‘Utopia for Realists’

    Sounds True:

    👏🏻 James Hollis, ‘A Summons to a Deeper Life’

    👏🏻 Sr. Joan Chittester, ‘Lighting a Fire with Faith’

    👏🏻 St.Paul’s Cathedral: John Swinton and Rowan Williams: ‘Who Am I? Identity, Faith and Being Human’

    Talking Politics: James Williams, ‘Stand Out of Our Light’

    TED Radio Hour: The Act of Listening

    Uehiro-Carnegie-Oxford Lecture (2016): Michael Ignatieff, ‘Is Globalisation Drawing Us Together or Tearing Us Apart?’

    👏🏻 University College Dublin Humanities: Marina Warner, ‘The Truth of Stories’

    The Why Factor: ‘Listening’

    On Screen:

    An Education (2009)

    Wild Oats (oh dear!😬)

    Lion

    Totoro

    Half Nelson

    Moana

    The Saint of Siena & the Flying of Spinnakers

    You, O Eternal Trinity,

    Are a deep sea into which,

    The more I enter,

    The more I find,                                         billowing-sails.jpg

    And

    The more I find,

    The more I seek.

    O Abyss,

    O eternal Godhead,

    O Sea profound,

    What more could you give me

    than

        Yourself?

    God’s grace, unsought and unearned,

    Blows through my life,

    And

    All I need to do is

    Raise my sails

    to catch the full wind.

    ~ Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380.


    Image: Morris Rosenfeld, American 1885-1968. Silver gelatine photograph (edited), 1938.

    Quarterly Media Review, Spring 2018

    Page Turners:

    • Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising. — Read this over Winter hols with a horde of Tweeple who follow @RobGMacfarlane. Great fun!
    • Alan Jacobs, How to Think. — A practice we might all slow down and try to do with more care, more faithfully. 
    • Elif Shafak, Three Daughters of Eve. — I enjoyed the portrait of Turkey in this, its cosmopolitanism, the mix of old and new, and the strength of the women characters. Good YA novel.
    • Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name. — Blown away! I know there are those who don’t have the stomach for this series and I myself find a recovery period necessary before I open the next one. Thoroughly intense and a unique kind of dark, generous brilliance.
    • NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names. — A slim, substantial novel that I took ages to read because it was, as the blurb said, ‘stunning’. And I found it literally so. I basked in its warmth; I cried, heartbroken, knowing, resonating (or was it shivering in shocked recognition?) by the end.
    • Donna Leon, Earthly Remains. — After those demanding reads, and a period of feeling like Goldilocks around books, I found a nice little Venetian break did me good.

    Slow/er Reads:

    • Graham Ward, Unbelievable: Why We Believe, and Why We Don’t. 
    • Ursula LeGuin, The Farthest Shore. — I hardly want to read this. I don’t want to run out of LeGuin’s books…
    • Shaun Tan, The Arrival. — I’ve never been much of a ‘reader’ of the graphic form, This book expresses tender, human genius and is therefore, unsurprisingly, beautiful!
    • Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things. — This is a book of essays I recently picked up from the library. I remember enjoying ‘Open City’ some years ago.

    Essays & Shorts:

    • Tom Berry, ‘The New Story’.
    • From the Knock Twice anthology, Vol 2. (ed.Andrew Simms):
      • Jayati Ghose, ‘Chitrangada’
      • Sarah Deco,’Baba Yaga’s Mission’
      • Marion Molteno, Tales I tell my Grandchildren
      • Ed Mayo, There are Alternatives
    • Kazuo Ishiguro, Nobel Acceptance Speech
    • Teju Cole, ‘Double Negative’ — Reading this (review) essay and having been drifting toward a different level of photography (i.e. I got a ‘real’ camera and have been trying to learn how to use it properly…), I was reminded that I lost the energy to continue with Ivan Vladislavić’s novel Double Negative. Was it too androcentric for my tastes? It was some time ago; I really don’t remember. Reading Cole’s essay piqued my interest to return to it (maybe). (I watched this feeling of stimulation having just read Gloria Origgi’s short article, ‘Say Goodbye to the Information Age; it’s all about Reputation now.’)

     Podcasts:

    • London Review of Books:
      •  Lauren Elkin on the ‘Flaneuse’
      • Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’
    • Nomad: – Mark Vernon
    • St Paul’s Cathedral – On Shusaku Endo’s Silence
    • BBC Hard Talk – Moshin Hamid
    • Ahead of Our Time – Mario Juarez: Tell Your Story

    On Screen/s:

    • True Story
    • 5 Flights Up
    • The Imitation Game
    • The Blind Side
    • RSA Shorts  (what a resource!)

    Lenten Reads:

    • Christopher Page’s Lent project on his blog, In A Spacious Place, reflections on sayings in the Gospel of Thomas
    • David Brooks, The Road to Character. [— If you haven’t already, I recommend you read this. You will be better off.]
    • Jonathan Rowson, Spiritualise

    Otherwise, currently absorbed by: 

    •  Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman.

     

    Stirrings

    Magnolia copy

    *Rood-Lotus (Magnolia)

    A fountain of stars has gushed up and leapt over a neighbour’s wall. I see them lit by the sun from my terrace, magnolias looking for all the world like they’re climbing the wavy silver-slate-coloured roof tiles tumbling down from the spine of an old Japanese house.

     

    The laundry flaps nearby.

    Petal confetti lie around the skirts of the ornamental plum trees. Our first hope in winter, the plums begin to bloom in late February around the time the baby nightingales start to sing. The unstinting generosity of this song, this ‘fresh-peeled voice’ (Larkin), embroidering lines with brio, thrills me to the core. I wait for it, even hunt for it sometimes, simply to be showered, indiscriminately, in the full, reconciling joy of it. A vivid sign of life, it is one of the things that gets me through the difficult transition from death to life in the often veiled, sometimes turbulent, month of March.

    Daphne is another reminder of life, one that comes through the nose. Her small clustered flowers pack a wallop of sugary-citrus fragrance that regularly arrest my feet on paths.

    The sun has been out, jackets occasionally unzipped. Bodies are becoming less brittle. Sap is rising.

    Buds on the sakura, relaxing knots now, are turning neon yellow-green. Dawdling at breakfast I look through branches over the river and see that the willows alongside the castle moat have suddenly transformed their violently pruned branches back into dipping trains, hippy boas, the same colour as the buds. Evenings at the moat, just after sunset, gazing on the silvery mirror, a swan slowly and surely captures my attention. Dream dancing we are and while I’m thinking-without-thinking of the things going on under water. I see the bird’s reflection and am hypnotised by the grace of those slightly raised wings, that slow ease, the dipping neck. The cold begins to settle and I lift my soul and  hasten home.

    Some mornings, lately, consciousness has cracked gently into waking accompanied by birdsong, love letters, Ikkyu, the poet, knew. Today, I wake to rain.

    “Love Letters”
    By Ikkyu

    Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
    And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
    Before doing that, though, they should learn
    How to read the love letters sent by the wind
    and rain, the snow and moon.

    (Thank you, Parker Palmer)


    *Rood Lotus is a name I’ve made up in honour of Passion-tide. I recently learned that ‘mokuren’, the Japanese name for magnolia, is a combination of tree+lotus.

    Praying with Persephone

    Open in a window beside this note that I am beginning on Ash Wednesday, 2018, is Jan Richardson’s gorgeous image entitled “Into Earth“. I’ve been staring at it for a long time now. Enjoying my absorption in it. The scent of the potted narcissus on my desk wafts delicately, now absent, now teasing, now fully present, now gone again. My mind drifts as I lift my eyes from the picture to look at the dipping heads on the fresh green stems of these impossible, late winter beauties: how these light-bearing blooms flourish! I am thinking of Persephone, the maiden abducted, snatched and disappeared in a brutal instant, into the wild unknown of the Underworld. Blindsided.

    suissenSeed girl, core, inner feminine: from the earth we have come, like you, and to the earth we shall return.

    I begin this Lent brought low, blindsided myself. Chaotic and storm-laden within. Which is, perhaps, a fitting place to begin the season. The prophet Hosea’s words that popped in via @digitalnun’s blog not only affirms this intuition, but offers a certain consolation, too:

    ‘I will lead her into the wilderness, and there I will speak to her heart.’

     

    Joy. Ah! (The Midnight Bells)

    joya-no-kane1

    There are one hundred and seven on the one side of midnight, and a single one on the other. The division between the old and the new is accompanied by the sonorous clang of wood colliding with metal, swung, often with great effort, by teams of religious men, to mark the threshold of the New Year. ‘Joya no kane’ they call the tolling; a toll it is, not a peal.

    As well it might be. To be on the threshold of the new is a solemn rite. There is joy embedded, as you can hear, even across languages, but the bell is meant, above all, to be a reminder; each slow bong should bring a surfacing of reflection, should, while ringing out, echo within: the bell must ring inside you. In the dark, it must waken you. Remember you to yourself. The western rite of confession acts similarly.

    There are 108 ‘misses’ (sins, worldly desires, passions or attachments) we humans repeatedly make, according to Buddhist tradition. The ins and outs you will know according to your interest. Suffice it to say, these increase suffering in the world. People here say that the last bell is rung after midnight to ‘seal the deal’ as it were; to mark the resolution, to let go what has gone before. I’m all for ‘starting again’. I’m glad, in fact, for any and all opportunities to do so. I also acknowledge my anxiety about finishing sometimes, being finished, letting go, moving on.

    The sacred rite of bell-ringing between the worlds of past and present I conceive with the ancient image of the yin-yang diagram, with the last ring, in the earliest moment of the new, as the light particle, a seed, a star, falling into the dark, a quietly, dynamic background. Call it soul-soil.

    Readying for its mission.

    Quarterly+Quarterly Media Review

    (I can’t make up my mind whether a quarter plus a quarter equals a bi- or a semi-, hence the title.¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

    Over the summer break, I was disappointed not to feel lit up by any fiction. I read Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love and I hoped to love it through and through and didn’t. I had been teaching on exophonic writers and learned about this esteemed Turkish woman writer. It was a lovely recalling of the passions of Sufism. I was left, alas, un-ignited and slightly frustrated by it. I very much enjoyed Coetzee and Kurtz’s (non-fiction) conversation and remain engaged by the questions raised about change, in particular, the relation and possibilities that exist in and between the individual and the collective.

    Changes at work have taken an enormous amount of time and energy in the past year and I have been through some doldrums on the reading front. Happily, I have a large stack on the TBR pile, including the 3 later volumes of Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. Each time I pass the cobbler’s shop near my place, I get chills and a wicked thrill of the memory of the ending of My Brilliant Friend! I’m very much enjoying the early stages of NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut (and feeling proud and nostalgic). Just as well semester ends in a few days before a week’s break over the New Year.

    BOOKS

    • A Greater Music, Bae Suah
    • Forty Rules for Love, Elif Shafak
    • The Good Story, Arabella Kurtz & J.M.Coetzee
    • Tales of Literacy for the C21st, MaryAnne Wolf
    • Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
    • My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
    • The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman
    • Make Me, Lee Child
    • The Seed Thief, Jacqui L’Ange
    • Writing in the Dark, David Grossman

    SLOW READS

    • Speaking into the Air, John Durham Peters
    • The Incredible Need to Believe, Julia Kristeva
    • Doing English in AsiaHaseltine & Ma (eds.) 

    SHORT STORIES/ESSAYS

    • Clarice Lispector (trans. Dodson), “And it’s going to rain”; “Better than to burn”; “Forgiving God”.
    • Ted Chiang, “Tower of Babylon”, “Understand” “Division by Zero” 
    • Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Exchange” 
    • Wendell Berry, “The Loss of the University”
    • The Vatican, “Educating to Fraternal Humanism” 
    • Edwin O Reischauer, “The Meaning of Internationalisation” 
    • Adam Kirsch, “World Literature & Its Discontents

    PODCASTS

    • WNYC, Apocalypse, Now
    • The Spirit of Things, Rachel Kohn & Krista Tippett
    • The News Quiz (I miss Sandi Toksvig)
    • Slow radio
    • Pray as you go (I’ve enjoyed a restart for Advent)

    MOVIES

    • The Theory of Everything
    • The Midwife (French)
    • The Circle

    ON THE GO

    • Three Daughters of Eve, Elif Shafak
    • Knock Twice, ed. Andrew Simms
    • The Road to Character, David Brooks
    • We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
    • The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper (#thedarkisreading – a twitter experiment with @RobMacfarlane and @juliamarybird, starting on Winter Solstice eve. So much fun!)