Monthly Archives: May 2011

I envy them, those monks of old; Their books they read, and their beads they told.

It is a way of life that is absolutely foreign to our times. Its value is as difficult to discern as it is to know where piety ends and obsession begins. If it is a goal to be sought it is only the very few who will be able to seek it in this way. While withdrawal from the world is not a thing that we see as necessary or even advisable – at least not for a lifetime – the insights that they may offer as retreat masters when we do stop and consider our place in the order of things may be invaluable. I will not be joining them but I am glad they are there.

An infinity of little hours : five  young men and their trial of faith in the  western world’s most austere monastic order   Nancy Klein Maguire New York :  Public Affairs, c 2006  Carthusians  St.  Hugh’s Charterhouse (West Sussex, England)  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 258  p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical  references (p. 241-243) and index. Clean,  tight and strong binding with clean dust  jacket. No highlighting, underlining or  marginalia in text. VG/VG

Five young men arrived at the imposing gates of Parkminster, the largest center of the most rigorous and ascetic monastic order in the Western world: the Carthusians. This is the story of their five-year journey into a society virtually unchanged in its behavior and lifestyle since its foundation in 1084.

An Infinity of Little Hours is a uniquely intimate portrait of the customs and practices of a monastic order almost entirely unknown until now. It is also a drama of the men’s struggle as they avoid the decade of hedonism, music, fashion, and amorality — and enter an entirely different era and a spiritual world of their own making.

After five years each must face a choice: to make “solemn profession” and never leave Parkminster; or to turn his back on his life’s ambition to find God in solitude.

A remarkable investigative work, the book combines first-hand testimony with unique source material to describe the Carthusian life. And in the final chapter, which recounts a reunion forty years after the events described elsewhere in the book, Nancy Klein Maguire reveals which of the five succeeded in their quest, and which did not.

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How World War II came to America – two titles by way of explanation.

World War II did not start for America on December 7, 1941.

In 1938 Roosevelt’s party lost 72 seats in the House and 7 seats in the Senate which still stands as the record for House seat losses by a modern president. The New Deal had failed to restore the American economy and there were serious challenges from the right and the left. There were also challenges from within the party by those who did not want a Roosevelt for life presidency and held sacred the democratic value of Washington’s example of two terms.

The only thing that could “save” the American economy, without the sacrifices that a free market naturally entails, was war production – using the taxpayer to bail out failed industries and creating the illusion of leadership. What better stooge than Wendell Wilkie? What more Machiavellian partner than Winston Churchill? Although these two titles sing the praises of Wilkie, FDR and Chruchill they at least provide enough information that if you sift through the hagiography you begin to get faint glimmerings of the truth.

Apply these lessons to today and if you aren’t appalled it means you aren’t paying attention!

Five days in Philadelphia : the  amazing “We want Wilkie!” convention of  1940 and how it freed FDR to save the  Western World   Charles  Peters New York : Public Affairs, c 2005   Republican National Convention (1940 :  Philadelphia, Pa.), Willkie, Wendell L.  (Wendell Lewis), 1892-1944 Hardcover. 1st  ed. and printing. x, 274 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p.  [251]-260) and index. Clean, tight and  strong binding with clean dust jacket. No  highlighting, underlining or marginalia in  text.  VG/VG

There were four strong contenders when the Republican party met in June of 1940 in Philadelphia to nominate its candidate for president: the crusading young attorney and rising Republican star Tom Dewey, solid members of the Republican establishment Robert Taft and Arthur Vandenberg, and dark horse Wendell Willkie, utilities executive, favorite of the literati and only very recently even a Republican. The leading Republican candidates campaigned as isolationists. The charismatic Willkie, newcomer and upstager, was a liberal interventionist, just as anti-Hitler as FDR. After five days of floor rallies, telegrams from across the country, multiple ballots, rousing speeches, backroom deals, terrifying international news, and, most of all, the relentless chanting of “We Want Willkie” from the gallery, Willkie walked away with the nomination.

The story of how this happened — and of how essential his nomination would prove in allowing FDR to save Britain and prepare this country for entry into World War II — is all told in Charles Peters’ Five Days in Philadelphia. As Peters shows, these five action-packed days and their improbable outcome were as important as the Battle of Britain in defeating the Nazis.

One Christmas in Washington : the  secret meeting between Roosevelt and  Churchill that changed the world   David J. Bercuson and Holger H.  Herwig Woodstock : Overlook Press, 2005   World War, 1939-1945 Diplomatic history  Hardcover. 1st ed., 320 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references [p.  277-310] and index. Clean, tight and strong  binding with clean dust jacket. No  highlighting, underlining or marginalia in  text.  VG/VG  

One Christmas in Washington is the in-depth look at one of the most crucial moments in modern history: the weeks between December 1941 and January 1942, when Churchill and Roosevelt were together at the White House, forging what turned out to be the Grand Alliance while in the background, a gloomy and confused America went about its Christmas celebrations. Herwig and Bercuson grippingly recreate the dramatic days of the Washington War Conference of 1941-42, using the diaries, meeting notes and personal letters of the key characters. One Christmas in Washington is the authoritative and emotional story of two proud and accomplished men struggling to overcome their own biases, suspicion, and hubris to create what turned out to be a war-winning alliance.

The truth is out there.

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The victors were not the looters, nor were they the conquerors and maybe that is one of the reasons Memorial Day should be a Sacred day.

As Memorial Day approaches we once again reflect on the brave men and women who serve under the American flag.

There are no Elgin Marbles in America, there is no treasure looted from the homes of those sent to concentration camps to be gassed and there is no systemic destruction of cultures and national identities by American soldiers.

They are given their orders, too often sent on fool’s errands, and they march to the sound of the guns. If they have been well led and allowed to do their best – neither thing is a certainty – their favorite march is the victory parade enroute to demobilization. Those who have by the grace of God lived through it all.

Although you will not read about it in the mainstream media the efforts of those sent into Iraq and Afghanistan have been to build and rebuild lives crippled by Saddam and the Taliban. We have just seen a story about the posthumous release of a Bin Laden tape extolling the virtues of the revolutionary fervor sweeping the Arab world but ask yourself who was it that stood in harm’s way to remove the tyrant’s and offer the people of Iraq and Afghanistan their first chance to vote – the American soldier!

This book is about American soldiers who placed themselves at the front of protecting Iraq and its cultural patrimony in order that a new nation would not lose its heritage. It may not seem as important as freedom, or medical care, or clean water or new schools but it is part of the tapestry of what our armed forces do and it is none the less a reason to remember those who have been lost in the effort this Memorial Day.

Thieves of Baghdad : one marine’s  passion for ancient civilizations and the  journey to recover the world’s greatest  stolen treasures    Matthew  Bogdanos with William Patrick New York, NY :  Bloomsbury Pub. : Distributed to the trade  by Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2005  Iraq War,  2003- Destruction and pillage Hardcover.  1st U.S. ed. and printing. 302 p., [22] p.  of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p.  [300]-302). Clean, tight and strong binding  with clean dust jacket. No highlighting,  underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

When Baghdad fell, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos was in southern Iraq, tracking down terrorist networks through their financing and weapons smuggling — until he heard about the looting of the museum. Immediately setting out across the desert with an elite group chosen from his multiagency task force, he risked his career and his life in pursuit of Iraq’s most priceless treasures. Thieves of Baghdad takes you from his family’s flight to safety at Ground Zero on 9/11, to his mission to hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, and into the war-torn streets of Baghdad on the trail of antiquities.

Colorful characters and double-dealing are the norm as Bogdanos tries to sort out what really happened during the chaos of war. We see his team going on raids and negotiating recoveries, blowing open safes and mingling in the marketplaces, and tracking down leads from Zurich and Amman to Lyons, London, and New York. In an investigation that led to the recovery of more than 5,000 priceless objects, complex threads intertwine, and the suspense mounts as the team works to locate the most sensational treasure of all, the treasure of Nimrud, a collection of gold jewelry and precious stones often called “Iraq’s Crown Jewels.”

A mixture of police procedural, treasure hunt, wartime thriller, and cold-eyed assessment of the connection between the antiquities trade and weapons smuggling, Thieves of Baghdad exposes sordid truths about the international art and antiquities market. Most of all, it demonstrates that, in a culture as old as that of the Middle East, nothing is ever quite what it seems.

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Just because Harold Camping doesn’t know the date – a neither does anybody else – does not mean that the heavens and the earth will not pass away.

There is really not too much difference between the “prophecies” of Harold Camping and Soko Asahara and modern cosmologists who speak with all of the authority[sic] of modern science. The most notable difference is the immediacy of the former – which make their errors more evident – and the “comfort” to be found in most of the latter with the deep time future aspects of their proposed cataclysms. If taking out a 30 year mortgage doesn’t bother us why would a 3,000 or 3,000,000 year sell by date on the universe concern us?

It is easy to dismiss Camping and the commercial machinery of religions who seek to prosper off of messages of impending doom – any true religion and especially any true Christian will realize that the immanentization of the eschaton is the goal toward which we are moving – it is dangerous to ignore the Asahara and Jim Jones characters who spring up Strangelove like across the social landscape and it is equally dangerous to swallow whole the conjectures of scientific speculation that finally reduce the universe to matter formed from a cosmic belch that reduces man to a tube for processing waste.

Doomsday prophecies : a complete guide to the end of the world   James R. Lewis Amherst, N.Y. Prometheus Books, 2000.  Millennialism Case studies Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 269 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 253-265) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

From the time of the earliest tribal religions, high priests, self-proclaimed prophets, and purveyors of doom have been predicting the end of time.

This encyclopedic survey of endtime predictions looks at the history of these prophets and the religious sects that forecast the exact dates that civilization would take its final bow. Author James R. Lewis eloquently remarks that all of these doomsday fear- mongers have one thing in common: they have all been wrong.

As the year 2000 ushers in a new millennium, widespread interest in the end of the world, judgment day, and the “return” of a “savior,” as predicted by many old and new groups, has spread like wildfire across the planet. Encompassing the truly bizarre, the suicidal, the homicidal, and the almost believable, Doomsday Prophecies touches on apocalyptic strains in each religion, revealing that endtime predictions reach all the way back to Old Testament writings. They have thrived for centuries, and today they find new life with New Age religions and televangelists.

Included are “prophecies” from the Hindu scriptures, the Ghost Dance, Iroquois tradition, the Shawnee prophet, the Turner Diaries, Aum Shinrikyo, the Branch Davidians, the Children of God, Rael, Dorothy Martin, Edgar Cayce, Marshall Applewhite, the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord, and more.

Lewis includes everything, from the longtime belief in a final battle between good and evil to the space-age belief that heaven’s gate can be reached through travel with alien beings. Sometimes humorous, often tragic, this enduring book examines the questions raised by the mass appeal of prophetic movements as a theme in popular culture.

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What you save is, later, like something found.

Outwitting history : the amazing adventures of a man who rescued a million Yiddish books  Aaron Lansky Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004  Yiddish language Revival, National Yiddish Book Center (U.S.) History Hardcover. 1st and printing. 316 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [313]-316). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1980 an entire body of Jewish literature – the physical remnant of Yiddish culture – was on the verge of extinction. Precious volumes that had survived Hitler and Stalin were being passed down from older generations of Jewish immigrants to their non-Yiddish-speaking children only to be discarded or destroyed. So Aaron Lansky, just twenty-three, issued a worldwide appeal for unwanted Yiddish works.

Lansky’s passion led him to travel from house to house collecting the books – and the stories of these Jewish refugees and the vibrant intellectual world they inhabited. He and a team of volunteers salvaged books from dusty attics, crumbling basements, demolition sites, and dumpsters. When they began, scholars thought that fewer than seventy thousand Yiddish books existed. So far 1.5 million volumes have been saved!

Filled with tender and sometimes hilarious stories, this is an inspirational account of a man who had a vision and made a difference. It is a collective love song to the brilliant Yiddish writers – from Mendele to Sholem Aleichem to I. B. Singer – whose lasting cultural relevance is evident on every page.

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