Saturday, June 02, 2007
The Bubbling Book Pile
This is in response to a challenge from another blogger, Pagan scholar Chas Clifton, author of the influential and entertaining blog, Letter From Hardscrabble Creek.
I think a lot of us have a "book pile"--that jumble of nightstand books that we are actively reading on a daily basis, dipping into every few days, reading for recreation/reading for work, or anticipating reading and have just peeked under the cover for the first chapter or two... At any rate, I do. Maybe it's just a reflection of my jumbled mind.
Maybe it's a reflection of my jumbled mind that, though this picture was only taken a day or two ago, the contents have already changed! The fluid nature of my book pile makes it hard for any one snapshot to stay accurate for more than a few days--kind of like pictures of really little children that way.
In my stack, you can see R.A. Salvatore's Dark Elf Trilogy, which I'm reading partly in response to a student reader in my 9th grade English class who loves the series, and partly because I'm enjoying it too. J.R.R. Tolkien's Children of Hurin is in the stack in the picture, though I have since set it aside to wait for summer's more relaxed pace--it's in the style of The Silmarillion, one I don't especially enjoy. I'm only about 20 pages into it, and I keep getting bogged down, so I have set it aside for now.
Not in the stack, but definately on my daily reading pile is Judith Moffett's Penterra, a sort of Quaker-utopian science fiction novel (with some heavy pagan overtones so far) which I'm enjoying in a very different way than the swords-and-sorcery Salvatore novel.
The Quaker classic, Barclay's Apology, in Dean Freiday's "translation" is there because I had to see what all the fuss was about... though I wish the copy our meeting has that is in the original 17th Century English were in circulation, because I don't find that language off-putting at all. (I'm too cheap to buy a copy, though.) I've only just dipped into that.
Lloyd Lee Wilson's Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order is in my stack because, when I'm not finding his Christian language extremely challenging, a lot of his material on the experience of Quaker worship speaks to me strongly. I'll finish with Wilson soon, but it has taken me a long time to read, not so much because I set it down frequently, as because I read it differently than I do most books. In a way, it's a bit like reading poetry; it's not enough to read and understand the surface meanings of the words. I often have to sit with them, and observe their effect somewhere around my solar plexus before moving on from one paragraph to the next.
Quakers in Conflict is in the stack because it's so hard to find good histories of the Hicksite/Gurneyite schism--in part, I think, because even a century later, Quakers are still unwilling to reopen the old wounds. Anyway, Peter and I have both been banging our heads against this one, off and on, all this year. (Unlike Thomas Hamm's The Quakers in America, which we picked up around the same time, Quakers in Coflict is very slow going... some chapters seem like little more than lists of Quakers who were prominent in the disagreements. What, really, they were disagreeing about is much harder to find out.)
Also in a religious-studies vein, I recently picked up again John Michael Greer's A World Full of Gods:An Inquiry Into Polytheism, partly in hopes that it would help me find some words for how I am beginning to conceive of "god-stuff." I'm finding it pretty heady, though--more likely, perhaps, to appeal to my more philosophically-inclined husband than to me--and that he has a relatively un-nuanced notion of both monotheism and polytheism that I'm not finding helpful... he also persists in seeing them as utterly exclusive categories, and since, as a "soft polytheist"--maybe--I'm not finding that very helpful in fleshing out my own perceptions. I may set it aside... or I may dive in again. Not sure yet.
Finally, at the bottom of the book stack are two RPG game manuals, for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and for Champions of Valor (I have a weakness for playing paladins and paladin-like characters). It has sometimes occurred to me to wonder if it's possible, really, to mix pop-culture activities like RPGs and Buffy the Vampire Slayer videos with Quaker simplicity--or if it's possible to fully participate in Pagan culture without them. In any case, there's hardly a gamer in existence who doesn't have some kind of a manual sitting on the nightstand most of the time. Since some of my deepest and most meaningful friendships have been nourished over a set of twenty-sided dice, I can't say I feel too much shame to show them to you here.