Open Book, October 2020

It’s been awhile since I’ve contributed to the Open Book linkup, hosted by blogger Carolyn Astfalk and the team at CatholicMom.com. Time to catch up and find out what other folks are reading.

I’m looking forward to reading more than just excerpts from Pope Francis’s Fratelli Tutti, released a few days ago. Headlines seldom do justice to encyclicals. At the same time, I’m re-reading St. John Paul II’s The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), which was released 25 years ago.

I just finished this one, and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes good stories and elegant prose: West With the Night is a memoir by Beryl Markham (1902-1986), probably best known for her pioneering transatlantic flight in 1936. I picked up the book out of mild curiosity about how she described her own accomplishment. What I found was one of the most beautifully written works I’ve read. The epic flight rates a single chapter near the end, and those few pages are a small treasure in themselves.

I’m reading a book of G.K. Chesterton mysteries that I found in a bookshop, knowing nothing about them except the author’s name. The Man Who Knew Too Much contains eight short stories with an interesting common bond: to borrow from the book’s cover, “justice does not take its usual course.” These are eight quick little diversions.

Every time John LeCarré puts out a new book, I read it in the usually-vain hope that he can match the perfection of his Smiley trilogy, published about 40 years ago. That’s hardly fair. I’m in the midst of his latest, Agent Running in the Field. So far, so good-ish.

When this year started, I made a list of all my yet-unread literary finds from yard sales and used-book shops. It’s an imposing list. The idea, or rather the good intention I had on New Year’s Day, was to either read them and then pass them on to someone else by the end of the year. I’m actually about halfway through the list at this point, three-quarters of the way through the year. The giveaway box is filling up. That’s progress.

New Hampshire lawmakers consider assisted suicide policy

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 on September 1 to recommend that legislation addressing assisted suicide be considered in a future legislative session. 

This is not the passage of any specific bill. It’s only a recommendation. This post is not a call to action, only a report. Here’s how we got here.

Read the rest of the post at Leaven for the Loaf.

Still dreaming

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech 57 years ago today.

I’m understating the case to say that nonviolence hasn’t quite won out yet. I could fill this post with links to news reports just from today, from this country, proving that point.

With all that Dr. King wrote and said, I keep coming back to his 1964 book, Why We Can’t Wait. I have a paperback edition I treasure, published in his lifetime, without prefaces or afterwords written by people trying to frame his words for me.

In a book that continues to challenge me every time I pick it up, there’s this.

Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.

Martin Luther King, Why We Can’t Wait

“Must” become, not “has” or “will.” There’s urgency there. Perpetual urgency seems a contradiction in terms, yet here we are.

Marching

There’s a march in Washington today, timed to coincide with the anniversary of “I have a dream.” It’s meant to be a nonviolent affirmation of the need for racial justice, and I hope nothing disrupts it.

Pandemic or not, I have no problem with a scheduled march for human rights. Coronavirus doesn’t seem to stand in the way of violence anywhere, so it shouldn’t stand in the way of peaceful demonstrations. The National Park Service in Washington seems to appreciate that.

I expect the same courtesy, permits, and COVID-19 precautions to be extended to the March for Life next January.

Featured photo: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo credit: National Park Service/volunteer Bill Shugarts.