(Book covers depicted here are not necessarily the same as those in the library exhibit)
by Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich, author of nine novels, two volumes of poetry, two children’s books and numerous essays, is best known for her first novel, Love Medicine. I was first captivated by her lyrical prose that leaves lingering images as she delves deeply into the rich and complex lives of her characters. Her voice is compassionate, humorous and sometimes brutally honest as she explores the clash of two cultures. No other novelist captures the truths of American Indian life as boldly and truthfully as Louise Erdrich does in her four interlocking novels: Tracks, Love Medicine, Beet Queen and Bingo Palace.
Lynn M. Helm Moore
by Franz Kafka
This book is likely to have a great impact on its readers. It is very hard to remain indifferent to such a magical piece of fiction. The story can haunt you, surprise you and get you into a labyrinth, an endless and increasingly intense dream blurring the boundaries of the imaginary with the real.
La Vida del Lazarillo de Tormes (unknown author)
Fabulous piece of fiction from the early Spanish Golden Age period –Picaresque genre. Filled with wit, humor and sarcasm. It was highly influential on Miguel de Cervantes and it is now as it was then unforgettable.
|The Discipline of Taste and Feeling
by Charles Wegener
Wegener was my teacher, and he recently died. The book is a perfect memorial. It shows a great mind at work. It shows a mind passionately involved in artistic experience and trying to explain why everyone has an obligation to enjoy great aesthetic experience. Having an obligation to have certain pleasures is sufficiently paradoxical that it's worth exploring. The book reminds me of why he was a great teacher to me. He could live with the most difficult philosophical ideas and arguments, such as Kant's Critique of Judgment, and see them as items in ordinary experience. How to tie great and challenging ideas to ordinary experience was the most important thing I learned as a student.
by Dag Hammerskjold
Markings is a translation of UN Secretary General Dag Hammerskjold’s journals. As such it consists of short entries, musings, and quotations. It explores the inner life, both intellectual and spiritual, of a great man. When I first encountered this book in college I was astounded. I remember thinking “My gosh, this guy’s been in my head!” So many of my thoughts and concerns--the kind that keep you awake at 3 am--were addressed by Hammerskjold.
Over the years different entries have spoken to me. Many of the ones that so delighted and amazed me at twenty have faded in their appeal, while other entries, that meant nothing to me then, suddenly jump off the page with a directness and vividness that never ceases to amaze me. My copy of this book is now a bit of a journal of my own, with marginal comments that span twenty years and show how my own thoughts and reflections have changed.
|Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond
Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, an impressive synthesis of human history and pre-history, is both an important and accessible work. I personally find the book appealing because of the evolutionary theme. But what sets this book apart from other human history/evolution treatises is the diversity of proximate and ultimate causes he develops to explain the current world economic and political hierarchy. He incorporates geography, climate, continental drift, agriculture, religion, written language, technology, and disease into one cohesive argument. Diamond's book is a most effective response to biological determinism and racism. In addition, it's an enjoyable and fascinating read.
|The Book on the Bookshelf
by Henry Petroski
Although I first read it less than 3 years ago, The Book on the Bookshelf has quickly become one of my favorite books because it combines so many things I love, and love to read about.
Ostensibly a book about how the technology of bookshelves has evolved, in my opinion, the book is really about how humans have related to and cared for books and the written word over the centuries. Discussions and illustrations ranging from ancient scroll sleeves, chained libraries, mahogany-paneled studies, and bookshelves made of orange crates and planks of wood, meander through various bits of history, philosophy, technology, education, and theology, among other fields.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books,” and The Book on the Bookshelf shows how people both before and after Jefferson have felt the same way. Of course, you can count me among them.
|The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
My father gave me a copy of this book when I was eight years old. As we read it together, he would explain the meaning of the new words and we would laugh at the verbal and pictorial illustrations. I believe I have reread this book about every year or two since. Each time I laughed at the wordplay and related Milo's (the story's main character) experiences to my own. Now that I work in academe, much of the story strikes very close to home, and gives humorous but uplifting perspective to our community of learners.
|The Works of Lord Byron
Edited by William Anderson
I bought these 19th century leather volumes of Lord Byron’s poetry because they are beautiful. I was living in England at the time and had come to covet leather books. I wanted to buy at least one, and I got two in the bargain. I like Byron’s poetry well enough (if I could have afforded them, I would have bought volumes by Keats or Coleridge). But these volumes are so wonderfully printed and illustrated that they are works of art themselves. Something else came in the bargain: That they are beautifully made has enhanced my pleasure in Byron’s poetry. The feel of the poems on the page, the pages themselves, transports me to the 19th century. I read “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ and I’m on the passage myself.
|The Fifth Sacred Thing
This book appeals to my idealism—creates a world that I WANT to believe is possible. Starhawk tackles so many issues that are important to me—women’s equality, race, religion, gender and sexuality, the environment, nonviolence, new family forms—all woven together in an intriguing, thoroughly captivating tale. Her characters while epically heroic, are wonderfully human. The evils portrayed are frighteningly close to home, but Starhawk never lets us lose sight of Redemption. While sometimes shocking, this book stimulates great discussion. The reader will never view Reality in the same way.
|The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
This novel continues to ask questions about moral integrity, especially in the face of overwhelming cultural influences. While the novel’s narrative focuses upon racial conflicts, it also creates the context for examining and questioning normative and prescriptive sexual, class, gender, and political practices. Plus, Twain is a wonderful storyteller! His novel—while addressing complex social issues—has wonderfully engrossing characters, lyrical descriptions, and ironic twists; such attributes appeal not just to adults but to young people as well.
|Ex libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
by Anne Fadiman
As the dust jacket of the book reveals, “Ex Libris recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language.” Anne Fadiman’s essays are sometimes humorous, often poignant, but always reflective of the impact of reading and words on her life. In her essay, “The Literary Glutton,” she equates books with food which provides a marvelous image of the way reading nourishes the mind and the imagination. She also explores the ways that books about food stimulate the senses, foster cravings and trigger memories. Oh what wonderful sustenance for someone who teaches that food is more than just something to eat!
At Grandmother’s Table is a delightful collection of vignettes about women and their legacies of passion, strength, and cooking skills. Each story, told by a granddaughter, invites the reader to share the life and history of women born in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I like these grandmothers; I like that some were stubborn, others courageous, a few down right difficult. I like that they valued cooking and that they passed down prized recipes. The book reminded me of the special relationship I had with my paternal grandmother, Rose Elizabeth Veale, and of the memories of creamed pearl onions, watermelon pickles, and olives to place on all ten fingers.
|The Freedom of the Poet
by John Berryman
This collection of Berryman’s essays and a few short stories has been mandatory reading for my work on a biography of the life and poetry of John Berryman (American poet, 1914-1972, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for poetry, taught at the University of Minnesota for nearly 20 years until his death, a suicide in jumping from a bridge over the Mississippi River between the east and west campuses of the University). Since the collection did not have an index, I began to make my own. At different times and places, I’ve read and reread this map of Berryman’s own reading (from a review of Dylan Thomas’s first collection of poems in 1940 to an analysis of The Diary of Anne Frank in 1967). In 1977, I remember reading it daily on the Minneapolis city bus as I rode to and from the University of Minnesota to teach and to do research on Berryman’s manuscripts. My index organizes some of Berryman’s subjects and themes, but it also tells what was on my mind. Lines and phrases seem like anchors to a place and a time. They give me wings as well. It keeps giving back, my reading and rereading – insights, wise sayings, crackling turns of thought, and supple moments of reflection. And humor. One of my favorites: “When Shakespeare wrote, ‘Two loves I have,’ reader, he was not kidding.” Yes, Shakespeare was a real person, and so is Berryman in these pages.
by David Sloan Wilson
This is one of the most provocative books I have read in some time. Wilson hypothesizes that religious belief is an evolutionary adaptation for groups of believers. He suggests that gathering data to test this hypothesis will provide great insight into the origin, spread, and diversification of religions. His explanation for the roles of religion and science in society is clear, respectful, and extremely thought-provoking. This is the first book that I have read that has offered a coherent explanation for why most people are members of a religious tradition. Our community should read and discuss this book.
|The Poems of W. B. Yeats
by William Butler Yeats
Yeats is a comfort. He speaks to modern experience: what people actually think, feel, do. He's not a religious poet but in a curious way--goat glands, Madame Blavatsky, and all--he opens the door to transcendence. "A terrible beauty is born." He has the gift of the poet and the seer of saying all that needs to be said without saying too much. Whether it's the cold, gray lake on an October afternoon or friends around the fire at Thoor Ballylee as the night grows late, he is a companion I turn back to again and again.
Hilary Thimmesh, OSB
| Training in Christianity
by Søren Kierkegaard
Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Should my identity as a Christian shape the way I live my life? Are Christians obliged, sometimes, to be “out of step” with the rest of society? Is it possible to be radically Christian in a society where almost everyone is Christian in name?
The two books I’ve chosen, published just two years apart, offer distinct but complementary answers to these questions. Søren Kierkegaard’s Training in Christianity is a frontal attack on the notion of “Christendom,” that is, on the idea that society can be so arranged that everyone is automatically a Christian. Kierkegaard called on true Christian disciples to challenge the norms of Christendom and even break free of existing religious institutions. This vision helped me translate my adolescent rebellion into a lifelong vocation.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gives more concrete content to Kierkegaard’s ideal. To be a Christian in nineteenth-century America, she suggested, was to resist the church-sanctioned laws that kept millions of African Americans in slavery. It also meant to see God in the face of the slave. It challenges us today to keep looking for God in Iraqi children, in suicide bombers, and in the countless victims of our contemporary “Christendom.”
by Rita Mae Brown
The book I have chosen is a novel about a lesbian coming of age. Great humor, mischief. I’ve used it for a book discussion group (Prime Timers, mature gay and bisexual men); assigned it for the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity course I taught here last fall. I’ve read it aloud with friends on a canoe trip with the duffer doing the reading while the others paddled.
When I first read the book back in the mid 1970s, I was standing in line to purchase a Greyhound bus ticket. Another guy in line noticed my reading the book and commented that he had read it too. Thus began our animated discussion of coming out stories which continued well into the night from Columbus, Ohio, to Pittsburgh, PA (much to the annoyance of our surrounding fellow passengers). I read one of the passages about an altercation between Joseph and Mary in the heroine’s childhood Christmas pageant at two family Christmas Eve celebrations. A little humor goes a long way to lighten such a family celebration.
|Habit of Being
by Flannery O’Connor
I have read Flannery O’Connor’s two novels (Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away) and Collected Stories three different times in my life, and Habit of Being is beside my bed. She is wise, she is funny, she is serious, and she is theologically sound. Her eye for the grotesque, the religious hypocrite, and the real Jesus is intriguing, devastating, and enlightening.
Nancy Hynes, OSB
| Guns, Germs, and Steel
by Jared Diamond
The Third Chimpanzee
by Jared Diamond
I think all liberally-educated students ought to read these two books by the time they graduate. They are very well written and involve the social sciences, the humanities and the natural sciences plus they demonstrate beautifully what the scientific method is all about and are involved in asking fundamental questions about who we are as a species and what sort of differences there are between us.
|The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
by Julian Jaynes
As a psychologist, I have had a long-standing interest in two questions: What is the nature of consciousness? and Why do people believe in gods? Jayne’s book is by far the most interesting treatment of these issues I have ever seen. It has forever changed the way I think about them.
Being and Time
This is a work of great difficulty. It is not, however, impossible. Once one begins to understand it, one will never again see the world quite the same way.
|Tropic of Cancer
by Henry Miller
I first read this novel in graduate school, and for years I have read it at the end of each Spring semester–it is a necessary ritual of rejuvenation after the long academic year. Miller’s prose is vibrant, and his narrator’s experiences pulse with life. The novel conveys a remarkable sense of vitality. I am not sure how to describe the impact of this book on my life, but I consider it one of the most important works I have read. Miller’s novel reflects the influence of Walt Whitman, one of his heroes, and I also perceive a number of parallels with the work of Louis-Ferdinand Céline. This copy is a first American edition; although published in France in 1934, the novel was banned in the U.S. until 1961. I look forward to reading it again. As a matter of fact, I’d like to read it now, but I have to wait until the semester is over.
As an undergraduate, I worked for a translation service, and my supervisor gave me this volume as a going-away present. It is Goethe’s memoir (From My Life: Poetry and Truth), and both the content and language are magnificent. Goethe’s reflections on his experiences offer many insights into our own, despite the fact that we live in an entirely different time and place. I always take it with me when I travel to Germany, and it has accompanied me on three extended trips. I read the memoir as I travel on trains and while I visit or reside in some of the cities where Goethe lived (Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig, Weimar). This particular volume is a delightful artifact as well, with its leather cover, ribbon bookmark, and its perfect size. I enjoy the mere act of holding it and pondering what is inside.
by Don DeLillo
This book is the American equivalent to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and not only its size makes it so. DeLillo masterfully plays with paradox, metaphysics, sin, suffering, and redemption (he double majored in philosophy and theology at Fordham) in a plot that mingles flashback with foreshadowing. Using the idiom of deconstruction to criticize modernity, he attacks both the surety of the Enlightenment and the nihilism of postmodernism. DeLillo leads the reader to recognize Truth as a mystery which is approachable and knowable.
Major sections of the book are set in New York City during the 1950’s and 1960’s. DeLillo captures the language and description of this place and time very well, which is another reason I enjoy each of its 827 pages. I would like to note that a student originally put me onto this book.
One of the most sublime literary works I have ever read. Using Dante’s Purgatorio as the thematic template and Depression era hoboes as characters, Kennedy turns guilt, murder, betrayal, all lubricated with alcohol, into unconditional love. Grace breaks through the ugliest of circumstances. His description of Helen’s death in an Albany, New York flophouse is simply a jewel of language and beauty. Equally fine is his telling of Francis’ reunion with his wife, Annie.
I have read Ironweed several times with my honors theology classes, and I have found something new in it on each occasion.
Michael Patella, OSB
|Campos de Castilla
by Antonio Machado
It was difficult to choose one book from this author to share since all his work is outstanding. Perhaps, Antonio Machado is not well known outside the Spanish Speaking world since his topics often are related to the problems his generation and of his native country, Spain. I often find myself, if not reading Antonio Machado’s works, at least thinking about his ideas and views on life. As the title suggests, this book is a portrait of Castille, once the most powerful kingdom on earth and its people. This description does not do justice to the work if I failed to mention that the portrait is just a point of departure that allows the poet, and the reader as well, to delve into Spanish Identity as well as the essence of things. I have read this book many times and I always find something new. Antonio Machado has meant a lot to me and perhaps he has been one of the most important factors in my choosing to teach and study literature. Other titles: Juan de Mairena, Los complementarios, Abel Martín, Poesía
One of the revelations of young Spanish contemporary authors is Julio Llamazares. What impressed me the most about his works is his highly descriptive style. He is a very powerful writer who makes you feel what he feels. La lluvia amarilla (Yellow Rain) is a monologue of the last inhabitant of a small villa in the Spanish Pyrenees. Concepts of time, memory, autumn, death, are all mixed as the narrator’s death approaches. In a way, as Machado does, Llamazares also evokes a time in history which is no longer there. However, the main difference is that Llamazares takes an actual contemporary problem of his society, the abandonment of small towns in the Pyrenees and subsequent flight to the cities, and turns this into literature. Other titles: Luna de lobos, El río del olvido, Memoria de la nieve, Nadie escucha, Escenas del cine mudo José Antonio Fabres
This is an excellent collection of essays published in 1995. The topics are wide in scope and most are related to contemporary life. The author takes events that are well known to newspaper readers and uses them as points of departure to delve into deeper aspects of the story itself. If you are looking for new ways to look at the news or everyday events, the way they are portrayed, etc., and if you are ready to jump to a more analytical level of your everyday life, you are going to enjoy this book. Other titles: El Invierno en Lisboa, El jinete polaco, Beatus Ille, Beltenebros, Sefarad, Las otras vidas
José Antonio Fabres
by James Joyce
The brilliant, outrageous, encyclopedic, and hilarious Ulysses bursts the boundaries of what we normally think of as a novel and evades generic description. It takes us through an apparently ordinary day in the lives of a few ordinary people in an admittedly subordinary city, yielding paradoxically one of the world's most extraordinary works of art. With these unpromising premises Joyce presents us in his Dublin tale of June 16, 1904, the whole history of civilization, language, art, and philosophy as well as the whole range of human thought and emotions. Ulysses has been the most influential book in shaping the literary world of the twentieth century and still serves as the standard of excellence in the art of verbal narrative. More personally, I find this book intensely moving in its power to impress upon me the splendor and beauty of each day in our humdrum lives and the greatness of the regular people in my life. June 16 is like any other day, and every unexceptional day contains the universe and all time.
The Odyssey changes more than any book I know. When I was in high school it was an exciting story of a swashbuckling hero up against monsters, temptresses, and wicked rivals. In college it offered a vivid portrayal of a young man trying to figure out his famous father and his perfect but beleaguered mother. After I was married, it was a tale of true love and devotion against the odds. When I became a father, The Odyssey focused on mortal life containing immortality through the miracle of parenthood. Now that I am almost Odysseus’ age, it has emerged as a story about a man who looks back on past conquests and failures, accepts them without letting them overwhelm him, and is determined to work out the best possible final third of his life. At all points of my life, The Odyssey has been a tale about the telling of tales, the magic that narrative brings to our lives, and the paradox that fiction can shape reality.
|The Affluent Society
by John Kenneth Galbraith
I first read The Affluent Society in the fall of 1980. When I was finished, I knew that I wanted to be an economist. Galbraith asked the question that I think is still the most important in all of economics: how can poverty and want continue to exist in the midst of great plenty? Galbraith answers this serious, potentially dismal question with style, grace, and wit. By combining the history of economic thought with contemporary evidence, he was able to bring economic concepts to life in a manner that was both lively and thoughtful.
|Coming of Age in Mississippi
by Anne Moody
This book was published in 1968, five years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 put the weight of the federal government against segregation. Anne Moody was in the thick of the change coming regionally and nationally. She showed a mix of fear, courage, hope, despair---a fully human, well-rounded person caught up in events often beyond her control. Still, she persisted in taking a strong stand for human rights, and through her story we get the events, atmosphere of the times as they affected the grass-roots level. Moody writes as if she were at hand, speaking to you. Her descriptive powers are strong and I go back repeatedly to her book to get a "feel" of the period.
Carol Berg, OSB
|The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann
Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality articulates the sociologist’s understanding of how humans create meaning, how it hardens into an apparently objective structure of knowledge about our world, and how each of us gets socialized into that way of thinking. There was a time when modern science seemed to require the rejection of religious tradition because of its scientific errors. Now we can understand ancient religious texts like a visit to our grandparents. They aren’t automatically right, but they speak with a moral authority we shouldn’t ignore and provide a refreshingly different perspective that critiques many of the unexamined premises we hold.
|Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story
by Paul Monette
I've spent the last few years working on a biography of Paul Monette, which is kind of a strange task, considering that half of his creative output was autobiography. In an interview, Paul once said that he thought he'd "mined every weekend" of his life. Becoming a Man is one of the central texts of my life; I bought it in LA in June of 1993 at Booksoup in West Hollywood, where Monette happened to be shopping. When I was in line to pay, he asked me, "Would you like me to sign that for you?" I was thrilled to meet him in the flesh and told him, "Please--and I can't wait to read this and everything else you've written." How strange, years later, to know that Monette and his biographer met, but neither of us had any idea of our extended future together. The Monette I met in Becoming a Man is someone I've grown to admire, cherish, and, I hope, understand, and through him, I understand myself a lot more, too. I love reading this book, teaching this book, and giving it away. I buy used copies frequently and give them to friends and acquaintances as often as I can.
|The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller
by Carlo Ginzburg,
This is a great example of the maxim “the truth is often stranger than fiction.” Menocchio, a sixteenth-century miller, was tried by the Inquisition for heresy because of his bizarre ideas about God and creation. This book is important to me, a historian of the distant past, because it provides a rare opportunity to hear the voice of a “common man.” Also, Ginzburg offers intriguing analysis of how ordinary folk are influenced by, but also are influences on, a society’s culture. This book has inspired other historians to seek out the complexity of reality through detailed analysis of the fragments of evidence we have about daily life. All this in a book that is entertaining and accessible to students and specialists alike.
|La divine comédie
This particular edition of The Divine Comedy is precious to me because it was passed down to me from the personal library of one of my former teachers. Its inscription reads: “Paris, April Evening, 1967.” The book is beautifully designed with lovely colored miniatures.
Lyric Philosophy is my favorite book on poetry and language and the domesticity of inner life. The book is designed to encourage musing. The page on the left is Zwicky’s own thought on everything from lyric itself to the nature of a verb to silence; the page on the right contains music or a painting or a poem or linguistic/philosophical thought. She clearly wants to keep the left and right pages in counterpoint. I think of her as one of my guides into what it is that I do when I write a poem.
Frank Bidart, one of our country’s major poets, examines the twentieth century as a maker of poems; his poems are veil, illusions, music, advice, injunction and lament. His poems are difficult and easy; they are word and music, aria and blues. They accommodate themselves only to one inner fact of poetry: to name is to possess.
Eva Hooker, CSC
by Willa Cather
I love this book. Its lyric, graceful writing and its nuanced portraits of Midwestern farm people defy the “pioneers” stereotypes and capture the stark beauty of the plains.
Wonderful names: Jim Burden, Wick Cutter, the Bohemian Marys
Haunting writing: “She threw the package into the stove, but I bit off a corner of one of the chips I held in my hand, and chewed it tentatively. I never forgot the strange taste; though it was many years before I knew that those little brown shavings, which the Shimerdas had brought so far and treasured so jealously, were dried mushrooms.”
“The pale, cold light of the winter sunset did not beautify – it was like the light of truth itself . . . All those frivolities of summer, the light and shadow, the living mask of green that trembled over everything, they were lies, and this is what was underneath. This is the truth.”
New International Version
One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ecclesiastes, which I have taken to reading regularly, sometimes daily, over the last couple of years. I consider the message of Ecclesiastes--that human beings are creatures with great limitations, subject to forces they cannot control or predict--to be a necessary antidote to our modern pretensions and self-deceptions. Sometimes we need simply to be reminded that we have limitations, and, frankly, it is nice to have a reason to stop banging one's head against a wall one cannot break. My favorite passages deal with human memory (1:11), a purpose for living (2:24, 9:9-10), a reason to continue one's work despite the inability to predict success (11:6), and a plan to live while we are young (11:7-10). This copy was given to me by my home church, the First Baptist Church of Hightstown, New Jersey, when I graduated from high school. I took this Bible to college with me and have had it with me ever since. The NIV was a new translation for me; I grew up reading the King James Version, and I still read it regularly because the language of the KJV is a part of my vocabulary and frame of mind in ways that the NIV cannot be.
by Umberto Eco
My favorite book of the moment is Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. It is a book I have been through several times and has led me to read dozens of other works on the Knights Templar, the Masons, and the heretical belief of Messianic succession. The copy on display is a first edition English translation.
|The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien
I have always had a great appetite for science fiction--both the good and the bad. Sometime in the 60s I picked up something a bit different and much better: an "historical" novel describing how the puny and unimportant hobbit Frodo Baggins (& friends) fought an unbeatable foe and naturally lost, but through "luck" achieved victory (but not a "happy ever after"). What attracted me initially was that failure: in most SF unbeatable foes are overcome by the hero in the final chapter. I have since learned that this book was the carefully crafted product of a linguist don, writing from a Christian viewpoint, in the darkest of times of a dark century. It has never failed to please me, even after more than a dozen re-reads.
by Albert Camus
Albert Camus’ The Plague depicts the responses of the people of the city of Oran to a deadly epidemic. Through the spectrum of his characters’ reactions to the plague, Camus offers us a vision of the possibilities, both for good and for bad, in the human spirit. Camus’ central model of human courage, solidarity and hope continues to inspire me. I have returned to this book repeatedly, and each time I come away feeling ever more strongly Camus’ call to oppose oppression, in whatever form it may threaten us.
|An Oregon Message: Poems
by William Stafford
I had the good fortune to meet Bill Stafford while an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark College, and when planning graduation ceremonies our senior year my classmates and I invited him to read a poem for our guests. Since Stafford was famous for writing at least one poem every day (he regularly rose at 4:00am to write), we thought he might read something new for the event. But when Bill read the title poem from An Oregon Message it struck me as instantly appropriate. The poem became a touchstone for me as I moved far from Oregon for graduate school, and even more significant in the wake of Bill's death in 1993.
I've been somewhat obsessed with this book since my college roommate first gave me a copy in 1989; I've read it countless times since but am still brought to tears by certain passages: "Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them." Other lines resonate like familiar hymns: "In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." Whatever it may seem on the surface, this is a book about fathers and brothers, intimacy and aloneness, and the special places they each inhabit within our hearts and memories. I, too, am sometimes haunted by waters.