Two New Year's Day Reflections
It Pleases Me To Know That This Exists


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Thanks, Mac. This is an annual exercise that I enjoy.

I usually also write one about the films I most enjoyed during the year, but this year I spent the entire year watching films from the past 10 years, preparatory to drawing up a "Favourites of the Decade" list. I'm still working on it, and it'll probably be a month or two before it's done.

You're welcome. I'm looking forward to the film list.

I love Craig's lists (not Craigslist), but I am here to hijack this thread.

My husband just told me about a new book called Merton & Waugh: a Monk, a Crusty Old Man, and The Seven Storey Mountain. Did you know Waugh edited 7SM?

I would love to read it, but alas, I cannot buy books at the moment.

The author is Mary Frances Coady.


No, I had no idea. My first reaction (well, after surprise) is that they probably grew apart after that period, with Merton becoming more progressive and Waugh more traditionalist.

In 1948 when 7SM was published Waugh was only 45. Crusty no doubt but not exactly old. As he was only ("only") 62 when he died I now balk slightly at calling him an old man.

Innaresting item from the first page of search results for "merton and waugh":

Well, the book is correspondence, so likely he gets older and crusty as he went along.

Oh, I don't dispute "crusty" at all. He was probably crusty at 19.

I tend to agree with him about 7SM. I really thought it was longer than it needed to be.

I wonder what Waugh would have been like at 75. Or 80. He would have been 80 in 1983. Hard to imagine him in the world as it was transformed by the late '60s.

I had no idea Waugh was involved with 7SM. The link says the UK title was to be "Elected Silence" -- a reference to a GM Hopkins poem.

Speaking of correspondence, I noticed that some of Flannery O'Connor's has recently been published for the first time.

Gosh, I had not read that poem for decades and didn't recognize the reference. What a great one it is. "hutch of tasty lust" comes pretty close to being an occasion of sin.

I saw a review of the O'Connor letters and my first thought--and second--is that I want to reread Habit of Being first.

I think Waugh edited only the British edition of the book. Just checked my local library and they've got that edition, Elected Silence, and it has 381 pages, as well as The Seven Storey Mountain, which has 429 pages.

It might be my favourite Hopkins poem. I keep trying to memorize it, without notable success.

Once upon a time I knew several Hopkins poems by heart. Faded now.

It would be interesting to compare those two versions of Merton's book. I'm afraid I'm not interested enough to do it, though.

I remember some references to Merton from Evelyn Waugh's letters. At one point he describes Merton's style as 'not pattern bombing' but instead - now I've forgotten the term, but it is a word that means the opposite, where the pilot drops the bombs all over the place. In other words, Waugh means that Merton makes lots of suggestions and allusions and repetitions, rather than saying precisely what he means and getting it over with. I also remember Waugh commenting that Merton's superiors think the best they can do with him is leave him alone to his typewriter - with a clear indication that he didn't share the superiors' judgement. I don't recall any sense from the letters of joy in the task of editing Merton. He did a lot of things like public speaking in convents and Catholic schools out of duty, and I think editing Merton was one of those duty-and-obligation tasks.

That certainly sounds plausible.

In the end I was not as enthusiastic about the whole of the book (Seven Storey) as I was about some of the parts. Perhaps I should read it again as I've written a somewhat similar book which I think has somewhat similar problems.

Grumpy, I found the letter Waugh wrote to Merton that mentions those two types of bombing, which he called precision-bombing and pattern-bombing. It's in a book by Mary Gordon, titled On Merton. You can read the pages she wrote on Waugh here.

Anyone who missed A Hidden Life when it first opened may want to check the listings again. I read that it has gone into somewhat wider release, and will be showing in places where it didn't run initially.

Thanks, I’ll definitely check around. I had wondered if that might be possible given the enthusiasm it’s generated.

I might even go a second time.

I've heard complaints that it doesn't really explain the sacrifice the guy made. Maybe he had some deep theology which explains it and which Malick missed out, but to my mind these things are generally inexplicable. Two or three English people stood out against Henry VIII, and one, Thomas More, was a friend of Erasmus.

I don't know anything about Jaegerstadter but on the face of it I tend to agree, more or less. Doesn't seem to me to require a "deep theology" for explanation, just the collision of an unjust authority and a conscience that says "thus far and no further". Plus a lot of courage. I guess that's the rare ingredient.

I meant "anything beyond the basic story" about him.

I saw "A Hidden Life". Loved it. I wasn't surprised that it didn't spell out why Franz did what he did -- it's right there in the title. We don't even know from the film precisely what he objected to. I think the film is not really about the Nazis, and so Malick kept all those specifics out of it.

Anyway, it was a wonderful experience for me. I'd love to see it again, and probably won't have the chance for a good long while.

I just looked around at the local theaters and it doesn't seem to be on the horizon here.

"I think the film is not really about the Nazis,"

A week or two ago I was saying that the subject of the film didn't seem very promising to me, or something along those lines, and the basic reason was that, crass as this sounds, is that the Nazis have been pretty much exhausted as a subject for art, at least in the usual simple good-vs-evil treatment. So this is a plus for me.

I agree with Craig. It could be any evil government anywhere requiring a citizen to go to war on its behalf.

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