Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | September 27, 2011

Need for a New Transmission

Been reading a bit of late.

Finished and Recommended: “Crime and Punishment” by The Dos. Mentioned that a while back. Yep. Real book all right. I know I mentioned this a while back, but let me say, I’m just still amazed I got’er done. Packed with real writing, real characters, the whole nine yards. Better than the “Brothers K” in my scoring, but maybe that’s just me. Less pretentious by some measure and less caught up in the 19th century conversion of compassion into sentimentality aka the dying kid syndrome (Did Dickens and The Dos know/read each other?). What is good about this book in particular is that it is balanced. There’s scenic description, but without the Dickensian sense of it as a living breathing person. There is plot, but without leaving the internal dialogue behind. These folks have some complexity and depth. What I can say is that for a great work of literature, it’s even handy to find one every now and then that’s both a great read… even at the beach, and great literature. This is one for a reader… not just an aficianado or student.

Disappointed, Quit and Not Finishing: Adding to the earlier selection failure of Jonathan Franze’s “Freedom” is one I sure thought would be a winner: “One of Our Thursday’s is Missing” by Jasper Fforde. Prior to this, I’d have labelled myself a real fan. I’ve read his other books and for the most part found them light, breezy, clever, very literary and highly entertaining. This was just clunky. There was an introduction to a collection of science fiction stories I read recently where the editor pointed to the difficulty of the genre as neat encompassed by the problem of setting a story entirely within a fictional, typically future or space environment that usually had to be explained, and accomplishing this without burdening the reader to stop everything to deal with the anomalies. Well…. in this book, ol’ Jasper fails to unburden the reader and literally clunks him to death. At times, I felt as though I were at a play and the playright was so busy throwing pieces of the set at the audience that they finally got sick and tired of waiting for a chance to stop dodging and watch the plot to develop – only to discover that the throwing of these pieces of the stage at the audience really constitutes a major theme.  With no option but to up and leave, I followed suit. Not sure why this book turned out this way, and can only speculate the author was tired of the series but bound by contract or financial need to crank out “just one more”. Sheeez! Real loser in my view. Even”The Brother’s K” – which I didn’t like but may try again in a concession to the “it’s just me” department’s urging, yes even “The Brother’s K” is excellently written.

Finally, there’s Highly Recommended, Not Finished, But Loving It: And this is Michael Plekon’s “Living Icons: Persons of Faith in the Eastern Church.” If like me, you’ve wondered what all the buzz regarding the Paris emigre school was about, this provides a helpful insight. Plekon does a remarkable job of summarizing their lives and works: He tries to present a balanced picture of the good and the bad, emphasizing of course the good rather than the controversial. If there’s a complaint, it might be that so far as I’ve read, this is a pretty narrow slice of the church. Most of these emigres are forced by circumstances and necessity to adapt to the realities of modern life as Orthodox in the West during the 1930’s, and it is a remarkable account of personal renewal and effort to make this into an institutional renewal. Unmistakably, there has been a push back as much by the obscurity of time and place – Orthodox in the West as a lonely, desolate vanguard. And Plekon seems to speculate that those who have read these authors have judged them preciptiously – without delving far into thoughts, works, and lives. He sets out to restore that balance, but in my view, by leaving out a few more traditionalists, tends to paint a picture of the people of the church that is probably too forward for its time. And perhaps this undermines his contribution by leaving him open to promoting rather than simply portraying these folks. Nevertheless, for those of us more accustomed to Roman Catholic and Western hagiography, it is a relief to find a survey study of this sort as a point of departure. And the lives of these folks as he paints them do indeed conform to his purpose in showing something of a view toward holy lives in a modern setting.

So that’s the report. As The Most Interesting Man in the World” would say, “Stay thirsty, my friend!”


  1. I didn’t get Bro.K. either… perhaps I should try Crime&Punish. but don’t know if I’m ready yet.

    Sorry Fforde’s book didn’t do much for you. I’m currently listening to the first in his Nursery Crime detective series and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

    I’ve had “Living Icons” on my TBR pile for quite a while. Perhaps I’ll move it further up on the list 😉

    • I’ve read every Jasper Fforde book out and loved them. My high expectations were what made this such a big disappointment. Couldn’t focus my attention without heightening my awareness that the artifice was just too high for the art in this case. My wife says he’s got a new “youth/teen fiction” series, and this seems to be where his attention may have gone… or at least his heart. So maybe that explains something. BTW… your post on the same book was pretty much the same, was it not? The Nursery Crime division was my favorite. Loved the “Big Over Easy” or whatever it was.

      Glad to know I’m not the one and only Orthodox Christian out there who didn’t just have a slobbering love fest over Bro. K. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. “To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.” ~ Alphonse de Lamartine

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