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June 2020

Outline Quotes

I thought I'd share some of the lines and phrases I underlined in Rachel Cusk's Outline:

among other things a marriage is a system of belief, a story, and though it manifests itself in things that are real enough, the impulse that drives it is ultimately mysterious.

From a passage describing her infant children crying when they dropped an object from their high chair, yet constantly repeating the action:

The memory of suffering had no effect whatever on what they elected to do: on the contrary, it compelled them to repeat it, for the suffering was the magic that caused the object to come back and allowed the delight in dropping it to become possible again.

From one character describing a walk to see the Parthenon, "airing the shaded crevices of his being."

The same character drawing a maxim "What Ryan had learned from this is that your failures keep returning to you, while your successes are something you always have to convince yourself of."

Another male character remarking on the same subject "It seems success takes you away from what you know, he said, while failure condemns you to it."

This character says of marriage--"I supposed it's a bit like marriage, he said.  You build a whole structure on a period of intensity that's never repeated.  It's the basis of your faith and sometimes you doubt it, but you never renounce it because too much of your life stands on that ground."

"I said that I thought most of us didn't know how truly good or truly bad we were, and most of us would never be sufficiently tested to find out."

"for people are at their least aware of others when demonstrating their own power over them."

About hate:

when peace becomes war, when love turns to hatred, something is born into the world, a force of pure mortality.  If love is what is held to make us immortal, hatred is the reverse.  And what is astonishing is how much detail it gathers to itself, so that nothing remains untouched by it.

One character consoling the other for what she thought of as failures in her parenting, "family life was bittersweet no matter what you did."

"Writer's need to hide in bourgeois life like ticks need to hide in an animal's fur: the deeper they're buried the better."

One character commenting on his divorce, "the war we were embroiled in . . . was something far more evil, something that had destruction, annihilation, non-existence as its ambition."

The same character describing a delightful experience with his children, "for those were moments so intense that in a way we will be living them always, while other things are completely forgotten.  Yet there is no particular story attached to them."

Discussing one female character who feels trapped, "All she wishes is for her life to be integrated, to be one thing, rather than an eternal series of oppositions that confound her whichever way she looks."

The protagonist at one time says she is trying to live by "the virtues of passivity, and of living a life as unmarked by self-will as possible."


OutlineOutline by Rachel Cusk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I devoured this book. Rarely have I underlined so many sentences in a novel. There are so many insightful and profound ideas. I also found it incredibly funny. Often cackling out loud, which I also don't often do reading a novel.

By the halfway point I felt this novel a better representation of the genre than those I've read by Karl Ove Knausgaard to which they are often compared.

However, by the end, my view had slipped a little bit. Throughout she dropped hints about some of her own thoughts, but they never really appeared in any satisfactory form. Are they in the rest of the trilogy? Knausgaard almost overwhelms with his own thoughts.

By the final chapter, when one more dialogue partner was momentarily introduced, I was annoyed, which is not how one wants to feel at the end of a novel they have enjoyed.

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Whence and Whither

Whence and Whither: On Lives and LivingWhence and Whither: On Lives and Living by Thomas Lynch
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A collection of lectures, essays, and stories and, as such, varied in quality. There are some witty, provocative, insightful images and phrases, but not the overall substance I had hoped for.

His discussion "Red Wheel-Barrow" by William Carlos Williams is itself worth the price of the book. That discussion made me cry.

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God and the Pandemic

God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its AftermathGod and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath by N.T. Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick read. The first few chapters weren't as substantive, but the last two were filled with good bits.

The book includes some interesting and provocative reflections on the doctrine of God ("Might we then say that God the creator . . . has no appropriate words to say to the misery when creation is out of joint?"), which then lead to fascinating ideas in pneumatology and ecclesiology. The church should be present where people are in pain and our first task is lament.

In his final chapter he expressed some of what have been my concerns in recent months. He calls the church to take safety seriously and not do stupid things, while at the same time lamenting that the church is being left out of its traditional role of being present with sick, dying, and grieving people. He also worries that "faced with a major crisis, [the Church] has meekly followed what seems to be a secularizing lead." That we have reinforced the idea that worship is a personal hobby we share with like-minded people.

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The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my list for years. It's even sat on our shelves for a couple, as I ordered it for a Christmas gift for my husband and kept waiting for him to read it first. Finally I gave up waiting.

And it lives up to all the press and expectations. What a rich, imaginative, wonderful story. I was captivated immediately and read it quickly. Now I've ordered volume two.

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The Half-Finished Heaven

The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas TranströmerThe Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer by Tomas Tranströmer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"But the journey visits me. In these days when I am pushed farther and farther into a corner, when the tree rings widen, when I need reading glasses. Many more things happen than we can carry. There is nothing to be astonished about."

I wish I'd read this volume back in late March or the month of April because I think it's meditations would have resonated more deeply with the experiences of the time. Consider a line such as "the deep that loves to invade humanity without showing its own face."

But I think I'm not in as heavy a mood right now.

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Proverbs and Ecclesiastes: A Theological Commentary

Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.(Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible)Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. by Amy Plantinga Pauw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been using this commentary while teaching a church Bible study on the Wisdom Books. This has been a very helpful guide, particularly in Ecclesiastes. Pauw brings to her commentary a rich theological understanding of the tradition, so that the ancient Hebrew work is in dialogue with Augustine, Luther, Kierkegaard, Barth, and Niebuhr, while also drawing insights from a wide set of references including the Epic of Gilgamesh, the poems of Wendell Berry, and the philosophy of Martha Nussbaum.

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