Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seven Heavens of Summer Reading: The Platypus Reads Part XLIII

Reading "This Discarded Image" this summer has deepened my respect for the Medieval model of the cosmos. So, to honor the imaginative achievements of my ancestors, I have decided to end off this summer by posting my awards for "The Seven Heavens of Summer Reading."

Sun: The heaven of scholars could be monopolized any summer by C.S. Lewis, but as he seemed to prefer the sphere of Jove, how about an author that uses C.S. Lewis for a character? For giving us a thoroughly believable Lewis, the Sphere of the Sun goes to Peter Kreefte for "Between Heaven and Hell."

Moon: For all its twists and turns, one book this summer deserves the honor of being paired with the Sphere of Luna; and it even shares her name: "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," by Robert Heinlein.

Mars: Last year's martial book "A Princess of Mars," is a hard act to follow. I think this year's winner is up to the task, however. In the category of glorifying courage, valour, and feats of arms "The Worm Ouroboros," by E.R. Eddison, reigns supreme.

Venus: The choice for the planet of love was easy this year: "The Allegory of Love," by C.S. Lewis. After all, what better way to celebrate Venus than by reading a book on the development of literature and ritual adultery? Buhler? Anybody...?

Mercury: In the matter of words, there were some close contenders, but the "Prince of Paradox" still holds his throne. For sheer delightfulness in language, this year's Mercury award goes to that most mercurial author, G.K.C., and "The Ball and the Cross."

Jupiter: The planet that heralds the coming of kings can go to none other than Robert E. Howard and his "Coming of Conan the Cimerian."

Saturn: What better way to honor the planet of endings than by writing a book about the end of the world? For sheer pessimism and despair, Arthur C. Clark's "Childhood's End" carries the day.

Wherefore Art Thou Platypus?

This year, I am a literature teacher. The wheel keeps turning.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

If I Were a Platypus...

We were able to see "Fiddler on the Roof" featuring Topol this Tuesday with the Olsons. I had never seen the musical (or the movie) before, and it was a real treat to see a production that featured one of the most well known leads in the musical's history. Quite a fun way to end off the summer.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Edwardian Platypus: The Platypus Reads Part XLII

Trying to fill in some literary corners has led me to pick up Athony Hope's "Prisoner of Zenda" and Baroness Orczy's "The Scarlet Pimpernel." Both novels are from the turn of the last century and serve as a nice compliment to other early twentieth century reading from this summer such as "The Ball and the Cross," and "The Worm Ouruboros."

Hope and Orczy's books are both firmly in the adventure fiction genre. Like Edgar Rice-Burrows' "A Princess of Mars," they are first and foremost ripping good yarns intednded to dazzle and entertain. This is not to say that each novel doesn't make a moral point, however. The moral of each can be summed up rather quickly. For Hope it is: "duty before desire." For Orczy, it is "balance passion and reason." Both are good morals, but may seem more than a little quaint or threadbare to the modern reader -and that is precisely why we need to hear them.

C.S. Lewis sums up our need for reading old books best by reminding us that prior ages usually get right some virtue that we neglect while having vices that we, because of our culture and temperment, are unlikely to fall into. In our time, the imperial and aristocratic impulses are flatly out of favor in their traditional forms, but a sense of duty of balance is severly lacking. If you doubt the need for a sense of duty and a sense of balance, just look at the shinanigans that caused all the trouble on Wallstreet. As Hanson (and Lewis) points out, we mock things like duty and moderation at our univerisities and then are shocked when we find the best and brightest in our financial world putting personal gain above national safety.

"The Prisoner of Zenda" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel" are not Milton, nor were they ever meant to be. Their priamry purpose is to provide light entertainemnt. Hope's work has been all but forgotten by the general reader, and Orczy's rellegated to "high school reading." While these may, arguably, be their appropriate places, that doesn't mean that they have nothing to offer the contemporary reader. In our current age of "chronological snobbery" it is good to have the morals of a prior age presented to us plainly and winsomely from time to time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Little Shop of Platypi?

We went with a co-worker and his wife to see "Little Shop of Horrors" last night. It was well done and we had great seats. The play was funny as I'll get out, but it does change your whole attitude towards working in the garden the next morning.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Platypus Changes Pills

So after two weeks of being treated for a possible stomach infection, there's been no change in my symptoms. My doctor is away right now, so I had to check in with another one to see if I needed another course of antibiotics (it can take up to a month to eliminate an H Pylori infection). The new doctor seemed to think that the stomach infection was a red herring and added another pill on to my course of normal hernia treatment. So now I get to take two omeprazole every morning and one zantac every night. I got a month's worth of free zantac, but I don't even want to know what it's going to cost to buy all those pills once I run out. Meantime, I made sure to contact my normal doctor's office and make sure they knew about the change in plan. We'll see what happens when the good old doctor comes back from vacation. Probably more tests leading up to surgery.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

When Athens Met the Platypus: The Platypus Reads Part XLI

"Oh the East is the East, and the West is the West,
and never the twain shall meet,
till earth and sky stand presently
at God's great judgment seat..."


My wife and I have finished reading John Mark Reynolds' "When Athens Met Jerusalem."
Let me start off with the virtues of the work. "When Athens Met Jerusalem" is an excellent introduction to Greek thought. The key concepts of Homeric religion, the pre-socratics, Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic schools are presented in a clear and accessible manner. Anyone setting out to wrestle with the Ancient Greeks should begin by picking up this book; even if only as a refresher course.

The only downside is that it was hard to figure out the exact point of the work. The title is deceptive, as the book focuses almost entirely on Athens (the ancient Greek tradition) and has almost nothing to say about the development of Jerusalem (the Judeo-Christian tradition). However, the title may not be the author's fault (it could be the work of an IVP editor). "When Athens Met Jerusalem" seems to be more of an apologia for why contemporary Christians need to reconnect with the classical tradition. I kept envisioning the author's intended audience as a circle of skeptical homeschool moms wondering why they should send their kids to Torrey instead of a denominational Bible college. Even if the exact point and audience are hard to determine, however, "When Athens Met Jerusalem" is still well worth the read.