Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 21: failed resolution

I lasted seven more days than last year with my book buying 'fast'... but I succumbed to two.

The first is Thomas Merton and Buddhism from Fons Vitae excellent series on Merton's relationship with other traditions

https://www.fonsvitae.com/OnlineStore/tabid/58/pid/106/01967mb-Merton-Buddhism-Realizing-The-Self.aspx

It is a tragedy that Merton was killed when he was - in an accident on his first trip to Asia - because his deep intuitive grasp of Buddhism was on the threshold of being filled out through both encounter with key Buddhist scholars and practitioners and the proffered offering of serious practice. It is sometimes imagined by lovers of Merton, for whom his Catholicism is difficult, that he was on the threshold of shedding it and heading towards, for them, a more comfortable place, namely Buddhism. Nothing I think could be further from the truth but what was on offer was one of the most radical engagements of a Christian contemplative with the fruits of Buddhist understanding and practice, akin to Fr Henri Le Saux's encounter with Vedanta. That would have been something... but we must be content with his moving, powerful enterprises after understanding this tradition that was so close to his heart, captured beautifully here in his own photographs of the calm serenity of the Buddha's at Pollonaruwa in Sri Lanka.


The second was a reprint (as a Virago classic) of Rumer Godden's 'In this House of Brede'. This was the second of her novels to be set within a community of nuns, and she saw it as a 'penance' for the first. The first 'Black Narcissus' (her first novel) is an exercise in (powerful) melodrama - and the nuns, though beautifully drawn, tend towards the stereotypical laced with hysteria! 'In the House of Brede' is a more tempered and sober exploration of what makes a person take upon themselves an enclosed life and navigate the temptations and difficulties attendent upon it through to a balanced wisdom. I am so delighted that Rumer Godden is being reprinted and receiving the 'classic status' as I think she is one of the most underrated of 'English' twentieth century novelists. She is psychological acute, compassionate, funny and gently wise - I cannot think of a better set of qualities for a writer.

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