Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Had I been a more active person growing up and no certain obvious health disqualifications, I might have made a decent Marine. I say this because most of the things I end up being very interested in turn out to be governed by some kind of creed or "code." This is especially true in what I read. Perhaps it is Catholicism which has bred this in me. A friend of mine, a couple of years ago, noted that I was appropriating this sort of "secular creed" from my reading of Dashiell Hammett; not to say in an ungodly way, but just a way of conducting oneself in the world or in adult affairs. It made sense, and it clarifies a lot about my own mind. That's probably why I look not just for good books, but for good authors; I look for philosophers, not fabulists. But, in this sense, it is philosophy in the Stoic or the monastic sense; it is more about a "way" than about a series of true statements, more about an approach or "attitude" than about a theory. This is one of the common threads that runs, for instance, between C. S. Lewis and Dashiell Hammett; it is what makes Chandler's The Big Sleep superior to his other novels (and effectively rendering all of his other novels, for lack of that, as totally useless); it is also what makes my brand new discovery of Richard Stark's The Score superior to the other Parker novels, for it most clearly explicates Parker's, as it were, "criminal philosophy." Indeed, I think that if one wanted to be a professional thief one could easily regard the novel as a field manual. This is also one of the things that singles out Sun Tzu's The Art of War; this "bible of deception," as it has been called, I regard as a metaphor for how to conduct all of one's affairs.

Not that I regard it as in any way a virtuous path -- the Gospel is, of course, superior to all of these things, but I am not very good these days at accepting the grace to imitate that true Way. Nonetheless, I think that, just as all ancient religions in their own way have something true about them which inevitably reflect the Church, similarly all creeds reflect something, in their own dim and obscure ways, analogous to the True Creed -- that is why I don't regard my pursuits as completely depraved.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rituals and Leisures

For my theory of "categorical reading" see:

Now for some actual examples (not a complete list):


Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Arts of the Beautiful by Etienne Gilson
Collected Poems, 1909-1962 by T. S. Eliot
Introduction to Phenomenology by Robert Sokolowski
Being Logical by D. Q. McInerny
Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper


The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
The Science of Correct Thinking: Logic by Celestine Bittle
The Love of Learning and the Desire for God by Jean Leclercq, O.S.B.
The Essential Russell Kirk (Panichas, ed.)
Deception: The Invisible War Between KGB & CIA by E. J. Epstein
The Human Wisdom of St. Thomas (Pieper, ed.)
The Art of War by Sun-tzu