Monday, November 29, 2004

Novels worth reading again

Hugh Hewitt is piqued by Jacob Weisenberg's statement that 'You may never put down a Tom Wolfe novel. But you never reread one, either.' On that basis, Hewitt asks which modern novels are worth reading twice.

If by modern he means 19th and 20th century writers, I have several masterpieces that beg to be read and re-read:

Top of the list: C. S. Lewis and Chronicles of Narnia.
This seven-book series was ostensibly written for children, but its depth of Christian philosophy makes it even more rewarding for a 'grown-up.' I read these books again at least once every year.

Close second: C. S. Lewis and That Hideous Strength.
So wrote Sir David Lyndsay in Ane Dialogue, describing the Tower of Babel.
That Hideous Strength is Lewis' artful exposure of the Tower of Babel, its tentacled and deep reach into modern society. It is his third and ultimate work in the Space Trilogy.
I have gleaned much wisdom from multiple readings of That Hideous Strength.

Big Favorite:
J. R. R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings.
This one is so popular that it needs no introduction.
But another little work of Tolkien's that needs a word: Farmer Giles of Ham and other Stories.

Another re-read:
Fyodor Dostoevsky and Brothers Karamazov.
Patricide, atheism, agnosticism, and religious fraud contrasted with authentic faith and existential Christianity -- what more could a person ask?
The depth of Dostoevsky's work could be summed up in a post-Karamazov statement by the author: When mocked by the intelligentsia of his day for writing a novel that broached the worst of all possible arguments against God, yet turned out to be a novel about vital faith, Dostoevsky replied: 'Fools! You cannot understand the depth of my doubt, how then can you understand my faith?'
Brother's Karamazov is the best existential argument for faith in God that I have ever read. Read it. If you dare. It will change you...

Another to consider:
Henryk Sienkiewicz, With Fire and Sword.
This novel will make you laugh, and then bring tears to your eyes...contrasting the daily humor of human condition with its great calling. With Fire and Sword shows what it means to be a real leader in the most desperate of times, a faithful warrior who holds up light and sword even when the outcome seems lost!

These are some of my favorites, worth reading for gripping storyline and consistent philosophy.

Enjoy, fellow so-journer of truth!


UPDATE: The Paragraph Farmer reminded me of A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Definitely one of the best books written in the 20th Century...

Also, one that I enjoyed several times as a teen: Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith. It explores the forgotten role of the Oklahoma territories in the Civil War. Evocative writing.

Great reading!


Anonymous said...

Two other great books that almost demand rereading just to get everything out of them:
1. A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean - don't just watch the movie. This is writing at its very finest with layers of meaning while all the fat is removed.

2. Blood Meridien by Cormac McCarthy. Wow, extremely violent, but too compelling to put down. Harold Bloom compared this book the The Illiad! Fantastic!

Eric Youngstrom
(Sorry posting anonymous, no account, but wanted to give you two additional favorites of mine - you already have LOTR.)

Loy Mershimer said...

Thanks so much, Eric!

Both those books are new to me. Of course, the movie of River Runs Through It -- but movies often are disappointing to an author's metaphysic. Even LOTR was deeply disappointing in that regard, in places. But I will pick up that book and read it.

Also 'Blood Meridian' -- I've heard of it but not read it. Sounds great, epic. I'll have a go at it, too.

Thanks again,


Patrick O'Hannigan said...

Thanks for the link, Loy! I'd never heard of "With Fire and Sword," but because it's by the same Sienkiewicz who wrote the great "Quo Vadis" about the early church, I'm prepared to believe that it's worth reading more than once.

Loy Mershimer said...

No problem, Patrick. I love your site, man! Excellent thoughts over there. I'll be linking you with a permalink whenever I get time to work on this site some more.

And, I loved Quo Vadis, but 'With Fire and Sword' was a whole different level, in my mind. Kind of the difference between Brothers K and some of Dostoevsky's earlier stuff: all great, worth reading and learning from many times, but reaching a new level in that one work.

I think the reason 'With Fire and Sword' hasn't caught on so much is that it is quite lengthy, number one. And number two, it is not a typical novel of its era: set in Poland and the vast Steppe, with various interactions and life situations that are somewhat obscure [to us].

But it is an incredible novel. Simply GREAT!