What are you reading?

The breakneck pace of news these days makes it really difficult to do any sustained reading. (I read, honest I do, and I have a reading list that I dutifully check off when I finish something.) But lately current events and characters are turning my thoughts more and more to classic literature.

  • I’ve kept the Oresteia trilogy on my Kindle since the drama over the travel ban started. (Aeschylus taught us a couple of thosand years ago that revenge doesn’t solve anything. Why are we so unwilling to learn that lesson?)
  • Last Saturday’s report of a new producion of Julius Caesar earned a spot for that play on my Kindle.
  • The report of yesterday’s cabinet meeting reminded some of North Korea. but the image of President Trump listening to his cabinet officers sing his praise made me think more of King Lear demanding that his daughters tell him how much they loved him.
  • Garrison Keillor read The Quality of Mercy on the Writer’s Almanac this morning. I couldn’t help miss the contemporary note when he got to the lines

    it becomes
    The thronèd monarch better than his crown:
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway,—
    It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
    When mercy seasons justice.

    I guess Merchant of Venice goes on the Kindle, too.

  • And just five minute ago I ran across a note from The New Yorker that made me think some Gogol was a good idea, too.

So how are you responding to current events? Have they led you to change your reading program, prompted you to revisit a book or read something you haven’t considered before, maybe spark a conversation. And how do we use those experiences together to help everyone become a better speaker? (Holy cow! That Friends, Romans, countrymen speech in Julius Caesar is a masterpiece of persuasion. We could probably spend a whole meeting talking about it.)

It’s an altogether different thing from William Faulkner’s great speech or Ernest Hemingway’s speech, but it’s powerful and it’s a Nobel Prize acceptance speech as only Bob Dylan could deliver one. A few minutes into listening to this, I thought that Dylan was changing our expectation of what such a speech would be and he was changing the vocabulary we use to communicate it. This acceptance might be a preview of what public oratory can and should become.

Under our feet

From The Washington Post

Sometimes literally. Tom got interested in the Civil War after finding relics in his Vienna backyard — Minié balls, mainly.

What was this stuff, he wondered? Who left it behind?

Jim, 67, had a similar story. “I retired about eight or nine years ago from Xerox and found some holes at the back of my yard,” he said. “We didn’t know what they were. They turned out to be Confederate earthworks.”

In Fairfax County, the Civil War is under our very feet.

I knew that Vienna citizens held their vote on secession just across the street from our meeting place at Vienna Presbyterian Church and I know a civil war veteran is buried in a patch of land near the Pan Am shopping center on Nutley Street, but I never heard these stories before. It’s amazing what you can learn about your neighborhood. Who’s got a story to tell us?

No more posts.