October 02

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104 in 2014 : September

As the year rushes toward its end, I rush to finish the 104 in 2014 challenge!

87: The Poetry of Saint John of the Cross, by Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross was a Sixteenth Century writer who used the troubadoric tradition to write verses about his love for God. As he often casts himself in the role of the beloved, and God or Jesus in the role of the lover, the poetry often seems to be written in female voice. There have been some really beautiful performances of his poetry by female singers. Lorena McKennitt’s The Mask and Mirror, for example, contains a really beautiful version of The Dark Night of the Soul.  Since there’s a copy clear version on Youtube I’ll include it here as an example.

The Librivox version which I listened to is instead performed by a male reader.  Aside from some fantastic poetry, Saint John’s works demonstrate how the idea of masculineness has changed over time. His contemporaries saw absolutely nothing homoerotic about his poems, but to a modern reader, there’s certainly an undercurrent there.

88: Practical Instruction For Detectives by Emmerson W Manning

Emmerson Manning’s handbook was written in 1921, and is targeted at young people considering employment in the security field. He describes the work of store, hotel, train, and other detectives. I thought the book would have been most useful as a primer into how to begin work as a small-time criminal in a large American city. He describes various methods of shoplifting, for example, so that new detectives can spot them, but I as a reader now know how to roll a 1920s jewelry store.

89: The Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats

I wanted to like this recording, and so far as it goes, it’s fine. The problem, I suppose is that Yeats was one of the founders of his discipline, and so later people, building on his work, have eclipsed him. It is an interesting read if you are fascinated by folklore, but more modern folklorists have done far better work since.

90: The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin

I had to quit this book after the third hour.  I’m sure that it’s wonderful eventually, but the early parts, where he describes ehat a column is, and what a wall is, are just too dull for me.  I left off at the eighteenth chapter, where he is defining apertures.

91: Invention and Discovery : Curious Facts and Characteristic Sketches by Anonymous

An odd little book of ephemeral facts, presented in small gobbets, dissociated from each other. Many parts are interesting, but others assume you know what makes the fact interesting. The people noted are no longer famous, the mountains conquered now have chalets on them, and so it is hard to tell, at times, what is meant to be considered marvelous in a particular anecdote.

So, 13 books to go, and about 13 weeks to do them in. It’ll be close!