Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Eclectic Reading

My seemingly endless hospital stay has given me abundant time for reading. Here are a few of the books I've read during the past weeks:
  • The Orthodox New Testament, produced by Holy Apostles Convent, both volume one (The Holy Gospels) and volume two (Acts, Epistles, and Revelation). The verbal syntax is unusual (although explained at length in an appendix) and takes some getting used to, but the abundant Patristic commentary in the endnotes is absolutely extraordinary, and can, in any case, easily be used with any translation. These volumes are everything the OSB is not: beautifully bound, tastefully illustrated, theologically sound, with good paper and even a ribbon (which always makes my heart flutter.) I also have the convenient pocket edition, which has the full text of the New Testament without commentary. I will comment more about these in the future. Suffice it to say for the moment that I can't understand how I could have lived so long without these. Buy now.
  • The Prologue from Ochrid, by St Nikolai Velimirovic. The daily readings, that is. This really is an excellent way to begin the day. The old 4-volume edition (translated by Mother Maria and edited by Metropolitan Kallistos, published by Lazarica Press in Birmingham in 1986) is much to be preferred to the new two-volume translation from Sebastian Press, even if the latter does contain the daily poems left out of the former. Mother Maria's translation – likely in large part to Vladyka Kallistos' editing – is stylistically greatly superior in quality. (Note that the 4-volume edition is called The Prologue from Ochrid whereas the 2-volume edition is entitled The Prologue from Ohrid.)
  • Reflections on the Psalms, by C. S. Lewis. Highly recommended for anyone who has puzzled over the Psalms. I hope to comment on this book in the near future.
  • David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. If you haven't read this, you must. Perhaps the most good-heartedly hilarious book I've ever read. (Dark humor is always much easier to comeby, but less satisfying.)
  • Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. One of those books that everyone is supposed to have read, but that almost no one actually has. (Think of Zelig.) I was tempted any number of times to give up on this one, but I'm very glad I made it through. I can't help but think, however, that it would have made a great short story if all the whale stuff had been cut. Just imagine this: you reach chapter 75 (of 135), and the first sentence reads: "Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right Whale's head." And that's exactly what you get. A very dark, skeptical book – a sort of King Lear at sea. Nonetheless certainly worth the effort.
  • Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. A very good illustration of the development of the passions, if nothing else. I must admit, though, that I found it much flatter than I did upon my first reading a very long time ago.
If anyone would like me to comment at more length on any of these titles, do let me know.


DebD said...

Welcome back. I hope you make a complete recovery.

Someone very kindly donated the 4 volume edition of the Proloque to our parish library and I have been enjoying its blessings for a couple of months. I know it's also available online, but it's not the same.

Zac said...

Yes, welcome back. I would really like to know more about the Louth title. He and Fr. John Behr are very interesting to me, and I'm still learning how to read them and approach them as Orthodox teachers. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

I'm really glad you're out of the hospital, and blogging again.

Esteban Vázquez said...

I'm torn on the issue of which of the two English editions of the Охридски Пролог to use. Sometimes I cringe while reading the Sebastian Press edition; today, in fact, I smoothed over a couple sentences in a quote from it I posted in my blog, and didn't do more because I would have ended up producing a fresh translation of that paragraph. But then I find that it takes far less liberties with the text than the Lazarica Press edition does; sometimes, I have discovered, entire sentences are left out in this edition, and the description of miraculous events are not quite as forcefully worded as they are in Serbian. (But then, surely we are to expect such things from translators who speak of St Nikolaj drawing freely on "legendary material"!) On the whole, however, you're right that it is far more pleasant to read the Lazarica Press edition; if anything, its English style is certainly not contrived.