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.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Doing Your Best

But when it comes to putting broken lives back together—when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls—the human best tends to be at odds with the holy best. To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do—to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst—is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own.

-Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey, 46.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Guitars and Women

Although dwarfs did not, as a rule, play stringed instruments, Glod knew a guitar when he saw one. They were supposed to be shaped like a woman, but this was only the case if you thought a woman had no legs, a long neck, and too many ears.

- Terry Pratchett, Soul Music, 35.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

All I Ask

I must down to the seas again,
For the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
That may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day
With the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
And the seagulls crying.

-John Masefield, "Sea Fever"

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beach Reading

The Saturdays, Elizabeth Enright  
Dogsbody, Diana Wynne Jones
Hexwood, Diana Wynne Jones
Diamond in the Window, Jane Langton
Emily of New Moon, L. M. Montgomery  
Seriously Norman!, Chris Rashka
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, Trenton Lee Stewart
The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett (Audio Book)

Death of an Expert Witness, P. D. James
Snuff, Terry Pratchett
Monstrous Regiment, Terry Pratchett (Audio Book)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Butterfly Effect

'Didn't he have a crossbow?' he said. 'Bit odd, going after interesting rare butterflies with a crossbow.'

Zorgo readjusted the fit of the grid on his patient's bald head. 'Dunno,' he said, 'I suppose it stops them creating all these damn thunderstorms.'

-Terry Pratchett, Men At Arms, 295.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Dangerous Business

"[Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?'"

-Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring, 72.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


...It is not the purpose of cathedrals simply to make people feel small (there is no virtue in feeling small) but rather to help people understand that they are located within the vast and orderly architecture of creation. We are indeed small, but a small part of something glorious, in which we can participate, find out place, find our purpose. Cathedrals are celebrations of all that God has made, and they embody in their stone and glass the history of God's dealings with his world and people made in his image.

 -Alan Jacobs, Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant, 51.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Too Many Books...?

I'm usually reading a couple books at the same time - one on my nightstand, and maybe something else during lunch at work or in the evening. And then there are the books I pick up for a night and then put down, fully intending to come back sooner or later (sorry Dr. Zhivago and Paradise Lost). But the following are all books I've been consistently dipping into over the last couple weeks, probably as a result of spending too much time at the library and owning a Kindle. I should also mention that a couple of these are stretches. So far, Augustine is very nice bedtime reading (i.e., it only takes a couple of pages before my eyes start to blur). And Paterson is almost totally incomprehensible, but I enjoy reading it out loud to myself on walks.

City of God, Augustine
The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton
The Memory of Blood, Christopher Fowler
Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant, Alan Jacobs
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones
Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, Eugene Peterson
I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett (Audio Book)
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Paterson, William Carlos Williams


The twenty-four-hour diner, the station waiting room and the motel are sanctuaries for those who have, for noble reasons, failed to find a home in the ordinary world...

-Alain De Botton, The Art of Travel, 51.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


The word 'good' has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of 500 yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.

-G. K. Chesterton (quoted by Jonah Goldberg)