Monday, December 24, 2007

Schall on Christmas

Fr. James V. Schall, SJ, is one of my favorite essayists as well as a great priest. Over the years he has written essays just for this time of year. Spend some time with:

In his wonderful book Idylls and Rambles, sub-titled "Lighter Christian Essays," Schall explains the notion of "Christmas reading" and suggests we begin with:
  • Belloc's The Four Men
  • E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed
  • Dorothy Sayers's The Nine Tailors and The Man Born to Be King
  • Anything by P. G. Wodehouse, but especially Right Ho, Jeeves and Leave It to Psmith
  • Josef Pieper's Enthusiasm and the Divine Madness
  • Mad Magazine
  • G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy

There is a difference between a "Christmas Shopping Guide" and a "Short List of What to Read for Christmas." It is said that one can "recommend" his own books! What else? My memory is hazy, but Scott Walter once told me that Belloc, in his old age, was supposed to have read nothing but "Wodehouse, the Diary of a Nobody, and his own works."Of my own works, I have a few of late that I am glad are out, to wit: On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs, Sum Total of Human Happiness, and The Order of Things.

My friend Jim Campbell recently asked me if I wanted anything from London. I said, "Find me a copy of Belloc's
Towns of Destiny," a 1927 book. And he found a very handsome edition. It is almost painfully beautiful. I think that Christmas reading and giving of books should not be in the ordinary line of what are called "best-sellers." Rarely are best sellers worth too much effort.

Most of the world's wisdom is found in things that did not currently sell very well. There are exceptions. This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Chesterton's
Orthodoxy. It is the greatest book of the last hundred years. No one should be without a copy. No one will read it and not be delighted.

I read Peter Kreeft's
The Philosophy of Jesus, which I much enjoyed.

The pope's
Jesus of Nazareth is something of an event.

I am still amused, from several years ago, at having read, while at my brother's for Christmas, Dostoevsky's
The Idiot. Needless to say, my brother had great fun explaining to his friends that his brother spent Christmas reading a book called The Idiot. But of course, it is a great book.

Finally, I had mentioned in an interview that I had somehow lost my copy of Robert Short's
The Gospel According to Peanuts. When one arrived unexpectedly in the mail from a generous reader, I was most pleased. This book is well worth reading at Christmas. It contains no Christmas sequences, but it does have two Great Pumpkin ones. It's the Great Pumpkin is, after all, a Christmas story. Linus insists on believing that the Great Pumpkin will come no matter what. He is not exactly a fideist. But one suspects that if we do not believe it will come, we will likely never see it when it does.

1 comment:

Christine said...

I like this Schall chap. Mr. Galten has talked about him. In fact, I am supposed to contact him to ask about grad school.... but had put it off as I started thinking in terms of Europe instead of Georgetown. But he sounds like the best sort of mind and character. Refreshing.