So, in an effort to combat my own affective illiteracy, I declare March "Affective Literacy Month." Over the next few weeks, I hope to reflect on my favourite books, movies, places and people. So, without further ado, here are my favourite books (Part One)!
Heather's Favourite Books
(In no particular order)
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: This novel literally changed my life! It was a reintroduction to fantasy, a genre I'd thought one grows out of like a child puts off training wheels. How wrong I was! Reading Tolkien's mythology made me see the "real" world with greater clarity. I discovered that fantasy's power is to allow you to approach everyday, common, ordinary life as if you were coming at it from a new perspective (an idea whose necessity Chesterton would gladly support me on, I'm sure). Suddenly, a tree was not just a tree, it was a species kept watch over by Ents; it had the power to come alive, if necessary. It was a living, breathing part of the cosmos. Suddenly, heroes took on delightful new proportions. Heart and not stature could change the world. The vivid characters, the entire sub-created world of Middle-Earth, the time and effort Tolkien infused into his work, the dedication to detail, the wonder of getting lost in his world only to rediscover my own....For all these reasons, The Lord of the Rings ranks as one of my favourite, if not my absolute favourite fictional book of all time! Ultimately, when its thick volumes are laid back on my shelf, what remains with me like a living memory is the renewed awareness of my own dignity as a human being, and the promise (if not the realization) of the hope (often deeply buried) which sustains me on the darkest days. Yes, good literature can do all this!
The Book of Ruth: This short book from the Old Testament captivates me with the simplicity of the language which, nevertheless, expresses profound love. I've always admired Ruth's courageous choice to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, to a foreign land, leaving everything she knew behind her to enter a life of uncertainty, hardship, and marginalization. Her words---which are often read at weddings---spoke of her boundless hope in the God of her dead husband. I can just imagine Naomi's gratitude when Ruth took her hands and pleaded with her: "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Having lost everything---children, husband, home, livelihood---Naomi was alone in the world, but Ruth's pledge of solidarity gave her strength to face returning to her own people. The odd courting of Boaz and Ruth still puzzles me, but their obvious love for each other and the lineage which springs from their union is fascinating. Ruth---an insignificant foreigner---becomes the ancestress of the Messiah!
Le Morte D'Arthur: I read Sir Thomas Malory's tome in university. Although the course was a little tedious, I remember getting absorbed in this book. The characters stayed with me, along with gorgeous Medieval words like "all to-brast" (meaning "shattered") or "to-rent" (meaning "torn apart"). It is a gruesome book full of people being shattered and rent to pieces. On almost every page, you will find a dark, forbidding forest; a hermit; a fair damsel; and, of course, a knight. Sometimes, the scenes got blended in my mind and I'd find myself forgetting which knight had slain who. But the names! Oh, they're wonderful! Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Gareth of Orkney, Sir Gawain, Sir Bedivere, Sir Kay, Sir Geraint, Sir Tristram. Those names hold a magical quality for me. Just saying them opens up the world of Arthur. The spiritual, often eerie, visions and prophecies create a world so unlike our own---more fantasy!---and yet the men who ride off on quests are very familiar. Malory's ability to bring every man's moral struggle to the page in such a vivid manner---at time when characterization was, arguably, quite flat---is a triumph. And, lastly, the fact that Malory, himself, was such a scoundrel of a man is fascinating. That someone who had descended so low morally could produce a sort of ode to morality is, for me, a visible sign of the longing every person has for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. I highly recommend this book. But, if you can't stand the Middle English, Roger Lancelyn Green's book for children, based on Le Morte D'Arthur, and entitled King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, is also well worth the read!
TO BE CONTINUED....