The Taser's Edge

Tuesday Reading Roundup

Just Kids by Patti Smith
(Ecco, 2010)

I can’t say I love love love Patti Smith (because I don’t know her like that), but I can say that I have long known how brilliant an album 1975’s Horses is.  Last year, her memoir, which focuses on being young and in love with Robert Mapplethorpe (someone about whom I sadly admit all I know is his reputation, which does not involve being in love with Smith or any other woman), won the National Book Award among other biggies.  It was a book that I really looked forward to reading, but knew that I wouldn’t because it would be impossible to get from the public library for months, and then something else would come along.  Thankfully, C to the rescue.  Currently it’s my read-right-before-bed book (a mistake?) because I made the dumb commitment – which I don’t regret – for the first three months of the year to read 45 minutes of theology and also blog every day, and I run out of time (what with honoring my non-commitment to finish watching 30 Rock: Season Four on Netflix streaming and then restarting the series with the first season again).

Reading it does make me want to check out a couple interviews I missed last year around the book’s publication.  Patti Smith is right in the spot (white, 55+) where Terry Gross can actually do a great interview.  (In Gross’ defense, even her nervous-laughter-filled Jay-Z interview from last year is great in transcript form.)

Radical Optimism: Practical Optimism in an Uncertain World
by Beatrice Bruteau

At this point, I’m working hard at finishing this book so I can return it to its owner, having a hard time thinking through the non-Christian theology (not an accusation, as I think the author would agree that it’s not Christian in any traditional sense), having an even harder time not seeing the book’s shortcomings when compared to Merton (again, I don’t think Bruteau would disagree with that comment), but still…getting a lot out of this book.  It’s good to hear good questions, even when you don’t agree totally with the questioner’s questions.  This might be such a case, even though I think it really is a very good book.

Zen and the Birds of Appetite
by Thomas Merton

As you can tell from Sunday’s post, Merton is reminding me why I love him so.  This is seriously one of those books that you would miss everything if you just buzzed through it (like the terrible thing that happened in Church History at Duke when I was assigned Teresa’s Interior Castle).  My rule of thumb for knowing I really love a poem is that on first reading it, I get to the end, pause, and then read it again (and again and again and again); something in a good poem just says ‘Stop! Pay attention!’, and I do, and I am rewarded.  That is the experience of reading this book.  You cannot read it too slowly.  You cannot read a page too many times.  I will finish this book, and I will be back for seconds.  That must be the birds of appetite Merton’s on about.  (And now I really hope that the 75% of the book I have already read doesn’t have me eating these virtual letters.)