Friday, January 2, 2015

Mr. Fezziwig's Ball

“He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lying in Bed

Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.

- G. K. Chesterton, In Defense of Sanity, 39.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


But what is truly strange is that I never liked mornings when I could have them with real sunrises and real dew on real roses and real paperboys wrecking real bicycles on the sidewalk outside my window. How I could ever have remained asleep and voluntarily missed a sunrise, I can't explain.
-N. D. Wilson, Leepike Ridge, 141.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Real fellowship requires stepping outside of you.

-Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, 116.

Sexual Sin

What good Christians don't realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won't be "healed" by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less...Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that.

-Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, 83.

Missing the Point

I came to believe that my job was not to critique and "receive" a sermon, but to dig into it, to seize its power, to participate with its message, and to steal its fruit...The easily offended are missing the point.

-Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, 72.

Good Teachers

Good teachers make it possible for people to change their positions without shame.

-Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, 14.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Because It's There

A solitary rock is always attractive. All right-minded people feel an overwhelming desire to scale and sit upon it.

-Dorothy Sayers, Have His Carcase, 11.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Two Kingdoms of Comedy

The poet W. H. Auden writes, in a beautiful essay on Shakespeare, that there are actually two distinct genres, one might even say kingdoms, of comedy. The first he calls "classical" comedy, though it can be found in many cultures and in many periods of history. Classical comedy focuses on exposing people who think too highly of themselves or have some otherwise fantastic self-image and mocking them. "When the curtain falls" at the end of a classical comedy, Auden writes, "the audience is laughing and those on stage are in tears." The audience may laugh because they believe themselves to possess arete--"virtue," or more generally, "excellence"--which those on stage so demonstrably lack.

The other kind of comedy is best illustrated by Shakespeare's plays. Take Much Ado About Nothing, for instance: at the end of that play we see a motley collection of people, few if any of whom have behaved especially well. They have exhibited pride, wrath, jealousy, envy, treachery--most of the deadly sins and a sizable collection of venial ones--and a great deal of what can only be called sheer stupidity, especially on the part of the male lead, Claudio. Yet they are all celebrating, joyously, a double wedding...Auden calls this kind of story "Christian comedy," because it is "based upon the belief that all men are sinners; no one, therefore, whatever his rank or talents, can claim immunity from the comic exposure." This is a model of society and human nature that turns the Greek notion of arete on its head, because on this account the truest excellence is to know that you deserve the "comic exposure"--to know that you need forgiveness. When a play like this comes to its end, "the characters are exposed and forgiven: when the curtain falls, the audience and the characters are laughing together."

-Alan Jacobs, Original Sin, 271-272.

Misplaced Humility

What we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought no to assert -- himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt -- the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn...The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 31-32 (Quoted by Alan Jacobs in Shaming the Devil).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Feeling Thin

Why I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.

-J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 41.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


...And, the truth shall make you odd.
-Attributed to Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Three Sorts of People

Humanity can be roughly divided into three sorts of people--those who find comfort in literature, those who find comfort in personal adornment, and those who find comfort in food.

-Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse, 7.

I find a great deal of comfort in all three!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Of course, not all art has to rock your world and make you a different person, not in a big way necessarily--but I would agree it ought to have a heartbeat, and not be just lines or dabs of color on a surface.

-Daniel Pinkwater, Bushman Lives!, 228-229.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jane Chords

What is a Jane Chord? "The idea is that if you make a two-word sentence out of the first and last words of a book, it will tell you something revealing about the book in question. Or not..." (Hat tip Terry Teachout.)

Here are Jane Chords for some kid lit favorites:
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett: Once / away
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett: When / Colin
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll: Alice / days
Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Beverly Cleary: Ramona / again
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg: Claudia / yet
The House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne: One / playing
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, Daniel Pinkwater: Nobody / roller-skates
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin: The / chess
Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie: There / sing
Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli: Maniac / home
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien: In / tobacco-jar
The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White: On / Arthur

Monday, January 28, 2013


I think I developed this tic, this habit of constantly experimenting with word order, and nuance of meaning, as a kid in grade school. I remember loving the grammar and logic exercises--the ones that went "Tapioca is to an iron foundry as (choose one) (a.) fish bait is to the houses of Congress, (b.) an avocado is to Frank Sinatra, or (c.) amoxicillin is to the National League." Loved those.
-Daniel Pinkwater, Chicago Days / Hoboken Nights, 123.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Psalm 130

Though great our sins and sore our woes
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free
From all their sins and sorrows.

-Martin Luther

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Lord's Supper

At that holiest of feasts, we are known not just by our official names but by the names people use who have known us longest and most intimately. We are welcomed not as the solid citizens that our Sunday best suggests we are but in all our inner tackiness and tatteredness that no one in the world knows better than we each of us know it about ourselves—the bitterness, the phoniness, the confusion, the irritability, the prurience, the half-heartedness. The bread of heaven, Freddy, of all people? Molly? Bill? Ridiculous little What's-her-name? Boring old So-and-so? Extraordinary.

-Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry, 10.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A World Without Shakespeare?!

And what, in God's name, is all this pother about?

...Suppose Shakespeare had been knocked on the head some dark night in Sir Thomas Lucy's preserves, the world would have wagged on better or worse, the pitcher gone to the well, the scythe to the corn, and the student to his book; and no one been any the wiser of the loss. There are not many works extant, if you look the alternative all over, which are worth the price of a pound of tobacco to a man of limited means. This is a sobering reflection for the proudest of our earthly vanities. Even a tobacconist may, upon consideration, find no great cause for personal vainglory in the phrase; for although tobacco is an admirable sedative, the qualities necessary for retailing it are neither rare nor precious in themselves. Alas and alas! you may take it how you will, but the services of no single individual are indispensable.

-Robert Louis Stevenson, An Apology for Idlers, 12.

In Praise of Idleness

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.

- Robert Louis Stevenson, An Apology for Idlers, 7.