Friday, August 10, 2012

Stonewells, Part 4

November 26, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

I struggle to restrain myself from tearing up this paper and overturning the ink-bottle at each word I write, as the moment draws nearer, nearer, and ever more near when I must finally succumb to my separate though similar duties as a master historian and as a careful friend. I must in all conscience, though in no comfort, entrust to your eyes, and to yours alone for the moment at any rate, the continuing and chilling details that comprise the experiences of my kinsman Mr. Montgomery at Stonewells and in its grounds, outhouses, and neighbouring villages. Alas that the general course of things has put so romantic and desirable a stamp on the country life of the British Isles! Those who know better alone understand just how wrong such a stamp has proved and on how many occasions! The land of England is covered with mists and fogs and vapours for a reason that will be only too clear once I have finished my narrative. Let me merely say that -- I know not how to put it any more subtly -- things are better, I think I may say far better, this way.

I last wrote to you on October 19 of Mr. E. J. Montgomery's entrance into the Blue Room of his library at Stonewells, and of the seats that extended throughout the periphery of that heaven-hued chamber. I must continue at the point where Everlasting Jubilee -- oh, if only that name may hold true in the life to come, for it surely did not in this! -- was about to take his seat on one of the many cushioned sections of the more or less continuous bench. I wish to lessen the shock you will experience in reading this letter by saying that he felt a sense of foreboding in his heart. But as a truthful man, I cannot do so, for he never told of any such presentiment, either then or at any other time. As a recovering practical man, Mr. Montgomery took things at face-value, and was about to do so very literally within just a few moments of his entering the library -- how incongruously commonplace it seems to me that I must call it so! But enter he did, and prepare to seat himself he likewise -- dare I write the word in full? -- did.

As he took his seat the wooden top of the bench, along with the blue cushion that covered it, tipped up, and Mr. Montgomery found himself deposited by his own weight and the force of the seat's upward swing onto the softly carpeted floor. He knew that he had made a discovery of some kind, as he had expected he might do, his house having at one time been a Cisercian abbey, etc., but he had not anticipated the event's coming so soon upon his arrival and while he was -- that terrifying word to a man of some temperaments, though not, unfortunately for him, as the sequel would prove, his own -- alone. Such a word, I hope you will understand, deserves its own sentence, or rather fragment. Alone. In accordance with his practical habits, Mr. Montgomery did not choose at this moment to shout, cry, or scream for help. He merely made up his mind to investigate what, if anything, was contained in the compartment his simply action of sitting down had revealed in so nearly-eldritch a manner. He knew from his reading of books of a certain type that it was more than likely that at this point in his 'story' -- he has told me specifically that he thought of the word at that moment in inverted commas -- nothing would be present in the newly-uncovered space, except perhaps a few moth-balls, or a newspaper from a decade or two prior.

What he did find -- I tremble to say it -- is unfortunately constrained to be the subject of my next letter, if I can gather my wits, my courage, and my writing equipment together for yet another time. The events of this narration shook me up quite badly at the time I heard them, and that terraemotus continues to have its effect on my nerves, and indeed on every portion of my person. Please take pity on me if I do not write you as soon as I might be expected to out of courtesy. Courtesy has its places, but I fear me that the telling of detailed horror-stories, every word of which is true, is not one of those places. I regret this, but so it must remain if I myself am to be and to remain

Yours sincerely,

R. O. Fox

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Well, friends, the Olympics have been going on in London for some time now, and all those magnificent athletes -- also known as heroes -- have either become swifter, higher, stronger, or collapsed in tears and been carried away by their psychologists and coaches, unwilling to remain longer in the presence of some hateful person (often a Russian) who has stripped them of True Glory, i.e. the gold medal. Their silver or bronze medal, of course, is not actually a symbol of anything noble or athletic, but a depiction of their shame. Silver, unlike gold, tarnishes, you know.

Strangely, only the winners see things this way. We lesser mortals really dig it when our country's representatives win at all. And even when they don't. Miss Gabrielle Douglas came last on the uneven bars, and yet we (the USA) still love her. I have a sneaking suspicion that we would do so even if she hadn't won two gold medals, but she might not know that. This is an unfortunate situation, but then again there always seem to be a few of those at the Olympics. They're the best when they involve Bela Karolyi, however. He in himself a bit of a silver lining. Or, I suppose, a gold lining, since the other term might remind some poor Olympian of an inglorious prize I did not intend to reference.


The greatest Olympian of all time (since 1896, anyway), the nonchalant, noncommittal, non-much of anything besides swift, high, and strong (presumably in the comparative degree), the naturally swimmer-shaped Baltimorean known as Michael Phelps, has reached the medal count of a well-performing small country. He would be 14th in the table of these Games. Yorkshire, however, not being from Baltimore, but rather the Texas of the UK, (despite being in the North), would be 11th if counted separately from Team GB. I thought that various people might like to know these things for various reasons. Now I have done my duty on that score.


Royalty of both the US and the UK are involved in equestrian at the Games of the XXX Olympiad. Zara Philips, daughter of the Princess Royal, and thus 14th in succession to numerous Crowns, got a silver medal (oh, the dishonor!) in the team eventing. If she were not already married to Mr. Michael Tindall, she might want to consider teaming up with that other Mr. Michael who is also 14th in something, namely Phelps. But then again, he got -- I am loth even to name it -- a bronze medal, so he is probably out of contention for most Olympians' hands, whether we refer to marriage, applause, or even shaking.

Ann Romney's horse is also in the Olympics, and that is what I meant by American royalty being involved. Of course, since the horse's owner's husband is running for President of the United States, a big deal must be made. I am sure I will have more to say on these matters before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.


Wouldn't it be insane if the Marathon were not 26.2 miles, but rather a race from Marathon to wherever the Olympics were held? It would be like an extreme version of the triathlon. Bikes would, naturally, be allowed for a portion of the race, and it would generally involve a lot of swimming: for example, when the Games are in Rio de Janeiro, the competitors will have to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps there can be a sailing component to it as well. Someone must alert Jacques Rogge to this idea. Now that "rugby sevens" (whatever that is) is being introduced to the Games, I'm pretty sure no idea is indefensible.


Occasionally the subject of doping comes up in the context of the Games of various Olympiads. Hey guys, I'm pretty sure that's not what the IOC means by "higher." Never mind.


I leave you with a brief note on Russians at the Games, particularly in gymnastics, and their habit of kissing people more than Americans typically do. That's it. See you in Sochi.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lux in tenebris (John 1:5)

The moon, too far to touch, too close to seem
So far away, has risen in the night,
And by its crescent's soft and gentle light
The tower and courtyard share a certain gleam.
And more, they share the gift, expressed in beam,
That first the moon received from something bright,
The sun that made it; it is only right
That light should so be shared and form a team.
The other members of that nightly band
The stars, who sing within their twinkling round,
Do share the light, as is divinely planned,
Not borrowed, not picked up, like something found,
Given directly by that mighty hand,
Which in creation made their light resound.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stonewells, Part 3

October 19, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

From the tone of your last letter I regretfully infer that your anticipation of my story has increased, rather than decreased, in utter contrast to the hopes I placed in delay. I am sorry for you that such is the case, for although not given either to sentimentality or to prolixity, I have to go through a deal of introductory information before I come to the heart of the eerie tale which I have begun in my two preceding letters. What I have already narrated has been in effect the title page, the dedication, and the table of contents; only the preface, or prooemium, remains before Chapter the First rears its terrific head above the waters of eldritch uncertainty and deadly earnest.

When Mr. Montgomery reached Stonewells on November 1, he gave orders for the installation of some of the more important furniture, and the serving of his next meal, which was to be a simple supper of whatever could be got ready without a good deal of fuss or trouble. He has always been a considerate man, as those who are both well-read and practical tend to be, and this quality of his manifested itself on this occasion no less than on any other. He himself, meanwhile, retired to the room which was to become his library, taking with him a first instalment of the vast collection which was to populate that well-proportioned and commodious room .

It was, rather, a suite of rooms, large ones to be sure, clearly connected as only an enfilade can be, and yet quite separate and distinct. Each chamber of the library was painted a different colour, and the diversity of decor was evident as one proceeded from room to room. The portion of the library in which Mr. Montgomery settled when he first arrived at Stonewells was the Blue Room, as it had been called for generations of our practical forebears; their considerate nature is also evident from the clarity inherent in this nomenclature.

He had considered bringing along with him and his books a folding stool, cushioned for his greater comfort, but he thought better of it, for he remembered hearing of a set of built-in benches that graced the Blue Room around the entirety of its circumference. It was, I assure you, a circular room, yet this was through no necessity of form or function, since it was unrelated to any of the several towers of Stonewells, some of which will figure prominently in other sections of my chilling narrative. The Abbot's Tower, or Turris Abbatis, in particular has an eldritch significance that could not be denied by Mr. Montgomery, and consequently cannot be omitted whenever opportunity arises in this my faithful retelling of his words, words that, I confess, haunt me wholly to this day.

I hope to be able to relate further testimony after a lesser lapse of time, since, although it makes my heart quake at the least premonition of having to tell this -- what can I call it but a story? -- I have fully and pertinaciously committed to a total and ample account of its many terrifying details, as well as its quite normal and homely ones, which are, unfortunately, few and far between, as such things tend to be in the ruins of Cistercian abbeys, or in the buildings that rise therefrom. I must admit that I can only endure so much of my narration before I must cease for the sake of my organism, since I feel a revolting wave of sickness at the very thought of the events; think what Mr. Montgomery went through in the actual experience. With this alone as excuse, I am and remain

Your obedient servant,

R. O. Fox

P. S. No matter how much you beseech me to do so in your next letter, I will not reply any the sooner; I hope you can appreciate the effect such an action would have on my health, in any way considered or defined.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

At Least It Rhymes With Something

My father tells a series of stories about a fictional family -- Mom and Dad (presumably so christened) and their three children: Timmy, Caroline, and Angela (their last name is never revealed). Many of the stories share common elements such as Angela getting lost, drawn-out and/or complicated adventures, and the one that is relevant to this post: the breakfast nook. Each story begins with the family beginning their day together by eating breakfast in this cozy roomlet.

So now you know what I think of when I hear tell of the Nook.

The Kindle Fire you have heard me speak of; concerning the Nook heretofore I have maintained silence. But no more. Please stop reading now if you do not wish to hear

The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the eddies of 
the wind
concerning what may be to some (I know not) a Sensitive Subject. If, like Rodolfo you can truthfully say Non sono in vena, then I cannot guarantee you will not miss out on your first meeting with the Mimì you have sought for I know not how long.


What is the Nook? Is it a self-contained encapsulating Reading-space? Is it a New Book? (It wouldn't be the first instance of Word-smushing.) Is it a derivatively-titled product of Narnes and Boble? It could, for all I know, be any of these things. Or all of them. But at least it does not insult the medium it mimics by being named after that medium's worst enemy. Nook to me connotes "curling up with a good e-book" in a Small Space, which is all right, I admit. Much better than it could be, certainly.

However, a less constricting/claustrophobic name would be Liber. This name would be handy, because it can mean two different things: 1) book and 2) freedom. Everyone has really really really liked Freedom since  about the 18th century, and there has been a general preference for books since long before that. The two things have even at times been connected in various ways. Now comes the opportunity to really put this connection into noomenclatural practice. And it doesn't appear to restrict reading of Barnes and Noble e-books to confined (albeit cozy) spaces either.

I admit that Liber is also one of the names for the god Bacchus, or Dionysus. This may not be as welcome to certain segments of the terrestrial population. He has, in truth, also enjoyed a spike in his stats since, say, the time of Nietzsche, although he was not really ever out of vogue. I don't specifically approve of his name being applied to an e-reader, but as long as it is an unintended side effect, I think we can prudently call into play the principle of Double Effect. Don't you?

Note 1: Mom and Dad's next-door neighbors are named (in British accents) Mother and Father. The R's must be left off; no rhoticism for these folks. Their children's names are Bertha and Humbert, similarly R-less.

Note 2: Perhaps you have heard of the choral group Libera. I have often wondered about the grammar of their name. Is it an imperative? A singular adjective? A plural one? Who knows? (Perhaps it is a made up form, like J. K. Rowling's "Imperius.") Any guesses would be welcome.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stonewells, Part 2

September 12, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

I believe I have now recovered enough of my courage – though perhaps somewhat less of my sanity – to continue on with the tale which I so abruptly broke off in my last letter. I was about to tell you in as unalarming a way as possible of the arrival of my cousin, Mr. E. J. Montgomery, at Stonewells, and the successively more horrible and (dare I say it?) eldritch events and phenomena which inexorably followed.

Everlasting Jubilee himself was, before these events, what one might call a practical man, and he often described himself as a realist. That was, as I say, before the events. Afterwards, he has sometimes confided to me in our numerous and chilling fireside talks sentiments to the following effect: “Remigius, I know now what's real and what isn't. And before” he thus always pronounces the word with dire significance and import “before...I didn't.” There is no need to inquire or to describe what he meant by these sinister and obviously deeply meaningful words, which I have dutifully italicised.

The account of the happening of Stonewells I now present to you comes from the lips of none other than Mr. Montgomery himself, and is thus to be taken as nothing less than the very truth of the thing.

He arrived at Stonewells last November 1st with a small group of servants and a much larger one of books. In his younger days, he had been a voracious reader, laying hold with gusto of any quality printed material he could find. Sometimes he also read mediocre works, but these were in the minority and can be safely termed an exception. Nevertheless, in the past few years, when he had been deeply embroiled in practical affairs and had turned his attention solely to business, finance, and profit, he had neglected this study of his youth, but he was now about to renew it again, and he was filled with eager anticipation.

The night before had, of course, been Hallowe'en, and you may be curious whether any strange happenings had been bruited about the surrounding countryside. The fact is that they had not; at any rate, not any more than is normal for that frightening date. The usual reports of the birth of hideously deformed offspring of various species and inhuman rituals in a nearby grove of ancient oaks were duly given and duly – and dismissively – received, but nothing extremely weird or eldritch was mentioned. So Everlasting Jubilee doubted he had anything much to worry about. He was – need I state it explicitly? – wrong.

The hour grows late, and my cryptographical work beckons. I am sorry I must leave you again at such a point in the tale, but I shall continue at my first convenient opportunity. I know you are as eager to hear the sickening tale as I am not to recount it.

R. O. Fox

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

They're Back

(The Somewhat Traditional Architect is drinking copious amounts of coffee and drafting something very like the Round Temple in the Forum Boarium, when up comes the Liturgical Consultant and with an exaggerated gesture taps him on the shoulder. This causes the STA's covered coffee mug to be in remote material danger of spilling, and he unnecessarily devotes his entire life-force to the safety of his drawing, despite the considerable distance between the mug and the paper. Having seen to it that his project receive nothing of detriment, he faces the LC, who appears likely to want a hug. However, the STA denies him that, and begins a conversation instead.)

STA: Hello, there. How's the church going without any architectural guidance whatsoever?
LC: Oh, pretty well, actually. I've brought along my preliminary plans.

(The STA looks at them. They do not resemble plans. They contain far too many smiley faces, for one thing. Also, the concept of scale is lacking.)

STA: This looks like a good start. I see you've decided on Modern then.
LC: No, no, this is Early Christian. Notice that the community space...

(At first the STA is nonplussed. Then he says:)

STA:: Oh, the nave.
LC: Yes, the community space. Notice that it's welcoming and comfortable like you said.
STA: Did I? Well. It's practically a square, though, you see.
LC: I was under the impression the Early Christian equivalent of a basilica was rectangular.

(The STA ignores the LC's mistaken perception of an anachronism.)
STA: The terms square and rectangular are not interchangeable. Vitruvius gives pretty specific proportions in Book V.
LC: Well, it seems more gathering-spacey.
STA: Yes, I suppose in a way it does. At least more circular. And at least more spacey. But this isn't a basilica.
LC: No? Why not?
STA: There are no columns. There are merely these obnoxious beams that look like something out of a Star Wars film.
LC: So? At least they don't break up the community and block the view of...oh never mind, it's not supposed to be a viewing sort of thing anyway.
STA: I notice you put the choir pretty much on the apsidal wall, and...what is this? a drum set? That's one pretty big drum set. Usually the ambo is there, and the drum set, if there is one, is somewhat closer to the choir and...well, considerably smaller, you see.

(The LC appears confused for a moment, as he had not intended the drum set to appear larger than normal. At least, not much larger.)
LC: I read a reactionary book from sometime before the Church...I mean before the Council...that they used to call the part of the church where the altar was the choir. I thought I might make a little accommodation to that set of viewpoints. Of course this was back when there actually were separate parts of the church for the oppressed and the oppressors...I think they called them laity and clergy, or something like that.
STA: Something very like that. That was, however, a hold-over from even earlier times when the clergy actually sang in a choir near the altar during Mass. I think a better model for you, if you like a central choir is a schola cantorum type of thing.
LC: OK.. What's that? I'm open to dialogue.
STA: It's an enclosure where the...
LC: Just stop right there. I will not have an enclosure in my church! I will not have an enclosure; I will not have a boundary; I will not have an ascent or a descent or change in any kind of level! It will flow, I tell you!
STA: Let's leave that to the baptistery.
LC: I will not have any separate space for ANYTHING! Everything and everyone must be together! Except the children during the Liturgy of the Word! You know what? I've had it. I'm going to go back and work on my church by myself!

(He storms off to read a book on swimming pool design as an aid in creating a fluid environment. The STA realizes it is time for lunch, and then orders a burger that he notices resembles the Round Temple in the Forum Boarium. He lets out a satisfied sigh, and wonders if the LC will ever learn that architecture is everywhere and cannot be escaped. Then he thinks: Maybe that's just because I'm an architect.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή

Our Lord Jesus Christ is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). As Christians, that is disciples of Christ, we are called to learn from the Master and to conform ourselves to Him in every aspect of our lives. We come to know God by faith and reason, through God's revelation of Himself in His Church and in the beauty, order, and variety of his creatures. A school in the Catholic tradition provides an admirable analogy, a microcosm as it were, of the workings of God through His Church and her members by means of secondary causes. We can use Our Lord's threefold naming of himself to explore further the meaning of Christian learning, particularly in the context of an academic environment dedicated to the principles of faith and reason in the service of the Church.

Jesus is the Way. The Christian life is a journey with Christ as its path, its destination, and its provisions. A Catholic school should emphasize this fact: namely, that its purpose is not merely to put information into students' minds, but to lead them on an adventure towards the ultimate beauty, truth and goodness, that is, towards God. Moreover, each individual is not alone on this journey. An essential component of the Christian life is that it takes place in the context of a community, God's "pilgrim Church on earth" (Eucharistic Prayer III). The teacher is a guide, not a general, and thus forms an integral part of the community of learners, who journey together to greater wisdom and love through, with, and in Christ, by the light of the Holy Spirit, who will "guide [us] to all truth" (John 16:13).

Our Lord is that Truth. He is the Logos, the Word of God and the eternal Reason of the universe. Our journey leads to Him, and the Catholic school keeps this goal always in mind. Contemplation of the truth proceeds from learning and forms an important part of it, and to hand on what we have contemplated to others is a natural fruit of the Spirit of Truth Himself, who gives us the words to speak in our particular moments of witness to Christ (Luke 12:12). In the Sacred Heart of Jesus are hidden "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3; Litany of the Sacred Heart), Therefore, Catholic education is not only a conforming of our mind to the Lord's, so that we have "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16), but also a transformation of our hearts so that we may be one with Him in eternal life. For indeed to us, as to Saint Paul, "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

Christ, then, is Life. As the Word of God, he is "living and effective" (Hebrews 4:12), Our lives must be a reflection of His, and in a school community, teachers must lead the way not only in pursuing knowledge, but also in striving to conform themselves to Christ through growth in virtue, Thus they may also more truly serve as grace-filled models of faith, hope, and charity to their students. Nevertheless, no one, teacher or student, can grow individually. The school must be a living community, united and integrated in study, work, and prayer. In this context Catholic educators and students can learn a good deal from St. Benedict, who intended by means of his Rule to set up his monastery as "a school for the Lord's service" (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 45). Our service to the Lord is inspired by the joy and wonder of learning.

I want to teach at a school that knows this true meaning of joy as expressed through the Catholic Church. I want to be part of a community where each member shares in the same calling, and strives to fulfil that calling through striving for sanctity on our pilgrim way. I want to live, pray, work, and grow with people who are bound together by more than their location, indeed by ties of mutual charity and a shared love of truth and desire for God. Through my teaching I want to share with my students a foretaste of the Beatific Vision, which is the goal and final cause of the Christian life. These ideals can best be realized at a school whose Way and Truth and Life is the Word of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rural and Occidental Archetypes

I have written a country song based on a recent Facebook conversation. Anyone have a suggestion for a good title?

Chorus: I'm cold like a cup of left-over coffee
I'm flat like a glass of left-behind beer;
I'm empty like a Heath bar without any toffee,
I'm lost 'cause you're somewhere -- and somewhere's not here.

Verse 1: There's a cold travel mug in my left-hand cupholder
And it's filled with the juice of a life that's gone bad;
And my life, like the coffee, gets colder and colder
When I think of you, girl, and the love that we had.

Verse 2: There's a beer almost gone on the edge of the table
And I feel like a dog that is chasing a car
And he runs in its wake for as long as he's able:
Won't you please come back, girl, from wherever you are?

Bridge: And the only kick left in my life is the kick of my truck
As it kicks into gear, I believe that I am all out of luck.

Verse 3: I'm a cup of cold joe that's been decaffeinated
I'm a bottle of beer that's been left to go flat
Girl, how could you go? Well, it must have been fated
That my life should go dry when you left me like that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stonewells, Part 1

August 5, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

I take up my pen in this august month in response to the query with which you presented me in letter form some two weeks ago. I recognize that the matter concerning which you originally addressed me was one of moderately high importance and even greater interest to you as a student of the things that happen when no one is looking, but I confess that, as a student of the things that have been seen when someone was looking, I must draw your attention to an affair which, although implausible, happened to a cousin of mine last November while he was in residence at the house which was the subject of your letter of July 19. 

This cousin, Mr. Everlasting Jubilee Montgomery, known universally, or nearly so, as E. J., had realized in the months immediately preceding his stay at Stonewells, that he was in need of escape from the stressful world in which he had been for some time playing a leading part. He chose as his retreat our ancestral abbey, Stonewells, which is a late reconstruction of a Cistercian complex ravaged by Cromwell and his destroying angels in the aftermath of the English tumult which had as its motive, or at any rate its excuse, Henry VIII's marital situation, etc. 

Now you may be muttering to yourself that this already smacks of the monotonous motifs of some authors one could mention, who are concerned purely with the deeply grotesque and – dare one say it? – cannibalistic reaches of the human psyche, and to some extent I am afraid you are right to do so. Dare I go further in my story? Yes, indeed I do. Such unnerving details as I am about to present to you – albeit in letter form – must not lie hidden in the yawning abysses of one man's mind, tortured, perfectly at ease, or otherwise.

I fear, however, that I must reserve the actual narration of the chilling events for a later date. Furthermore, I am not permitted at this time tell you for what reason I cannot immediately disclose the facts of the case, but I am sure you understand their validity without comprehending their nature to any degree whatsoever. Do not doubt that I shall duly submit them for your consideration at my earliest possible opportunity.

I am and remain,
Your obedient servant,
R. O. Fox

The "Kindle Fire" Should Be Kept Away From Books.

A few comments on the Kindle, Fire or otherwise.

1. It seems odd, does it not, that a book-replacing piece of technology should have a name that would strike fear into the binding of the most stoutly-bound volume? You would think they would want to minimize, rather than maximize, the misobiblistic overtones of their nomenclature. I would like to suggest to anyone with aspirations of an e-book nature, that they should call their product the Tolle Lege. Latin evokes mystery, ritual, and antiquity, which are all things associated with books. The name I suggest also has the two following advantages:
a) It avoids any possible application to the destruction of books.
b) It is a quote from a book, namely Book VIII of St. Augustine's Confessions.
Even if Kindle Fire better indulges Amazon's prehistoric and Promethean fantasies, it also accords well with their rather violent name. One can imagine the Amazons coming upon a library and their chief ordering exactly what their product recommends: "Kindle Fire!"

2. A less antagonistic reflection on the Kindle Fire centers on the loose connection to grammar enjoyed by its name. "Kindle" is presumably a verb, since how an e-reader's name could be derived from a group of baby felines is above even the Amazon execs' pay grade, and "fire" is likely a noun. Other than that, we must leave it to the imagination to decide what possible synthetic and/or analytic signification attaches to these two words. There is, of course, the chief Amazon's destructive order (see above). This is unlikely, I deem. The "fire" part of the name is, in general, pretty redundant, because what else does one kindle (at least in a literal sense)? And is "kindle" an infinitive? An imperative? And is it acting transitively or intransitively? The glory of English is that no one ever has to know. Perhaps that is why technology is so rampant in American culture, because we can name things without being at all preoccupied by their grammatical inflections or syntax. Also, English has a lot of words that sound exactly like other words, such as the word "kindle." The use of Latin in product names would really be a great boon to those of us who like precision and clarity in nomenclature.

I hereby extend an invitation to my readers to submit names for the Kindle Fire in divers languages; Latin particularly comes to mind, but any tongue would be exceedingly welcome. Please include with your translation a defense thereof, which can be anywhere from long to short. Have fun!

Ready...Set...Kindle Fire!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two Sonnets -- One of Each Kind

There is a chance that you will throw away
A chicken bone into the garbage can;
It's possible that you'll discard today
A pair of tongs all twisted by the fan.
I wouldn't rule it out that you'll discard
An ace of diamonds, bent and torn with age.
I daresay you might find it rather hard
To keep from throwing out a bookless page.
It's not far-flung that you will fling a flower
Whose petals droop into the compost pail,
I won't exclude, within the coming hour,
Your hands' recycling of the daily mail.
All these, love, cast aside; it's only just:
But don't throw me out, if throw out you must.

The heat oppresses like a tyrant's power;
The fans blow forth hot air like demagogues.
We strive to move as if we're stuck in bogs
And wish in vain for a refreshing shower.
Each overheated, sudorific hour
Makes us exhausted, prone to pant like dogs,
Or lie like lifeless, carbon-breathing logs
Hoping that soon the thunderheads will lower.
To bring us rain, coolth, and a change of pace
As welcome as a glass of lemonade,
Or even more; this tempest we can face
With gratitude, like leaf and stalk and blade,
Who know its nourishment and see its grace
And praise their God for all that He has made.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Few Comments Regarding Early Christianity

1.There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need (Acts 4:34-5).

These verses came up in the First Reading at Mass recently, and I was struck by a similarity between the way the Apostles organized the distribution of property and Notre Dame's financial aid policy, namely, that to every admitted student they provide aid sufficient to meet the student's demonstrated financial need. Perhaps partly because I benefited from this system, I am highly in favor of it, agreeing that admission should be the endpoint for judgments based on merit in the university admission/aid/housing process. Other universities, which base some of their aid on further post-admission considerations of merit, seem to be lacking in the commitment to the Gospel that Notre Dame exhibits in this regard, which is, I grant you, a slightly unusual situation. But I don't mind Notre Dame admitting meritorious students and then giving them all the aid they need to get the education that Notre Dame can give them. It certainly works out well for Notre Dame in the end, since they get their money back in many different ways, such as investments  as well as in the tuition paid by wealthier students, who can afford it without much aid. On investments, see the first verse of the Acts passage, although Fr. Jenkins and the other administrators at Notre Dame are not quite the apostles, although at least one of the Fellows is an Apostolic Successor.

2. Has anyone else noticed the trend recently of basing new churches somewhat loosely but pretty recognizably on Early Christian architecture? Fairly wide in comparison to their height with clerestories (sometimes as the main area of windows) and round apses. The two things that are often missing (to my sorrow) are Columns (what's a Basilica without Columns?) and Mosaics. I really think a Liturgical Consultant was sitting around one day with a Somewhat Traditional Architect and the conversation went something like this.

LC: I'd like to help design a church, and I can, thanks to my vague liturgical training.

STA: OK, what kind of church would you like it to be? We've got Early Christian, Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Neogothic, and, I guess, Modern.

LC: Which one of those is the most like a Great Big Welcoming Hug?

(The STA considers for a moment. He seems unsure.)
STA: Um, none of them really, but the Early Christian basilica was based on a Greco-Roman meeting place type of building called a Basilica.

LC: Aha, the church is basically a place to gather, not like a temple you know. It's more about celebrating community than doing some kind of adoration for a God who's in "some heaven light-years away." It's more Gather than Worship, I'd say.

STA: I guessed you might be hoping for something along those lines. Yeah, Early Christian's pretty cool. Just think...all those Columns and Mosaics.

LC: Those aren't accessible to the average Joe Gather. Columns block the view and what possible symbolic significance could they have? And mosaics...they're all little pieces...way too scholastic for me. They don't look like anything

STA: The same could be said for a lot of your art.

(The STA collapses in a fit of laughter; when he has recovered, he leaves the LC to design his own church, while he himself goes to his studio and draws the elevation of a Renaissance palazzo or something.)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Based on an Historical Presumption...

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday!

We know from documentary evidence that William was baptized on April 26, 1564, so historians, being the speculative sorts they often are, presume that, three days being a usual or traditional period of time to intervene between a birth and a baptism, Shakespeare was born on April 23, which, by coincidence or providence, is both St. George's feast day and the date of Shakespeare's death in 1616.

The nimis speculative tendencies of historians deserve their own moderately scathing post. Keep an eye out for that. You don't want to read a book review I once composed on a book about monuments and the rhetorical use of urban spaces. It may have been a slight overreaction.

I will conclude with a grammatically and rhetorically notable quotation from Shakespeare; it's a fairly famous excerpt from Richard II, II.i., spoken by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster:

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out[...]

This sentence is grammatically notable because it contains what amounts to the longest subject in the history of English literature; if someone cares to show me a longer, I will not dispute it,!

It is rhetorically notable mainly due to its buildup, its final contrast, its pathos, and its overall masterful use of all the components of poetry: rhythm, sound, and vocabulary. It's just awesome.

I don't mind admitting I like poetry, and (not that it matters, but...) that I agree with the great overarching consensus that Shakespeare is among the best of poets.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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A Poem (composed during Ancient and Medieval Philosophy class, Spring 2010)

May I not spy the sun these days
When rain is falling down?
May I not spy a glint of hope 
In this despairing town?

Lord Mayor, Lord Mayor, I bid you stay
From this your hopeless ride.
Stay with us, lest in future days
Some evil thing betide.

He turns him not; he sees me not
Or feigns he does not see.
He's ridden off; he's lost, he's gone
Beyond the farthest tree.

The farthest is an apple-tree;
Its fruit is green and sour.
Oh, woe betide me that I see
The Mayor's departing-hour.

The river runs beside our town;
It has no self-control.
When it is given cause to rise
It starts to rage and roll.

The rain has fallen seven days;
Tomorrow will be eight.
The river is in haste to flood
And can no longer wait.

A lady runs to me in haste;
Ah me! it is my wife.
Without a shred of sense or will
She begs me for her life.

Why do you run to beg of me
To spare your life this day?
I have to power to stop the shower
Or make it go away.

Her cries grow shrill, and as she cries
I feel my head grow light.
A quiet sound attacks my ears,
And all around is night.

I wake and see the light of day.
Oh joy! it is the sun.
I lie in comfort on a bed;
The stream has ceased to run.

But wait! Where am I? For this place
Is not the town I know.
What has been done while I have slept?
How long was that ago?

A man approaches dressed in green;
He seems a courteous soul.
He stops and says, "Thanks be to God
"That you are well and whole.

"Thanks be to God that he preserves 
"His sons from evil days,
"For he has freed you from the dark;
"To God alone be praise!"

"Good sir," I say, "now tell me true:
"Where am I, and wherefore?
"How long have I been sleeping here
"A night and day, or more?"

"The King," he says, "knew your distress
"And hastened to bring aid.
"He freed your townsmen from the flood
"Which knew no barricade."

"How did the King know of our plight
"When he is far away?"
"The Mayor brought news of your distress;
"He rode the livelong day.

"The King set out without delay
"To save your town from woe.
"He brought you to his castle high;
"This only do I know."

"The Mayor!" say I, "I took him for
"A coward, not a man!
"But now I see I have misjudged
"The way his counsels ran.

"For had the Mayor not gone," said I,
"Our townsmen would be dead;
"The rocks would all be wet with blood,
"The river stained with red.

"But tell me, if perhaps you know,
"What did befall my wife.
"Oh, do not say she met the flood!
"Did God preserve her life?"

"God did preserve her life," said he,
"And yours did she preserve.
"She bore you with her feeble strength;
"She did not faint or swerve."

"Oh joy!" said I. "Thanks be to God!
"For through our Mayor and King
"He has sustained us by his might
"From this most evil thing."

Mine eyes have spied the sun this day
When rain has ceased to fall.
And I have seen a glint of hope
From God who made us all.

So even when the raindrops fall,
And floods are drawing near,
Remember that the sun still shines
And do not yield to fear.

And when the storm Temptation comes,
with Darkness and Despair,
Remember that our God still iives!
Betake yourself to prayer.

All glory be to God above,
Who saves us from the flood;
When evil threatens in our lives,
He turns it to our good.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Following Is a Sequence

Let Christians offer sacrifice of praise
To Christ the Victim in these Easter days.
The Lamb has purchas'd back his sheep gone wild,
And Christ (though free from sin) has reconcil'd
All sinners to His Father. Death and life
Have met in conflict and in wondrous strife.
The One who died, but came alive again
Life's Leader, starts his resurrection-reign.
O Mary, speak; explain to us and say
What thing you saw while walking on your way!
The tomb of Christ who lives, I saw the glory
Of Him who rose; the angels told the story.
I saw the cloths that wrapp'd his limbs and head,
For Christ, my hope, is risen from the dead!
He will precede his own to Galilee.
We know that Christ is risen verily
And dies no more! Have mercy, Victor King,
On us who now your Paschal paean sing,
On us who laud you (for you live again)
And chant you Alleluia and Amen.

Click here to listen to a podcast of this post.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's Not What You Know...

If I were in charge of branding for the Communion of Saints, I might come up with a tagline that went something like this:

The Communion of Saints: Getting It Done (By God's Grace) Since AD 33.

To belong to this Communion is, basically, to be Epic. It is a large group of people extending over a long period of time and accomplishing ineffably awesome things thanks to their common mission and mutual solicitude for the redemptio et salus et incolumitas of their fellow Saints. What adjective can better describe it than Epic, I ask you?

(Digression 1: I almost said "well-being and redemption," but since that is the Old Translation, I shied away from it; I think the New Translation is "redemption, health, and well-being" or something.)

(Digression 2: There is a non-denominational Christian church in Milwaukee called Epikos. I think they have a point, despite the presumable variance in doctrine.)

I don't mind admitting that I just codified my digressions.

Probably my favorite part about the Communion of Saints is the specificity of it. The names we receive in connection with the Sacraments link us with particular saints and their work. Moreover, the Church has named patron saints for all kinds of things, from various illnesses to divers occupations. (Maybe even the occupation of Divers.) Also, individual institutions (such as colleges, universities, hospitals, cities, republics, and kingdoms) are wont to dedicate themselves to a particular saint both as a sign of honor to that saint and as a very practical way of getting it done. (Pace the Circumlocution Office [see Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens], the point of govenment is in fact to Get it done, and a patron can be helpful in this regard.)

I emphasize the fact that it is practical not because it is counter-intuitive; quite the contrary: it makes a lot of intuitive sense. People are always going around saying the following thing (particularly in the context of Success): "It's not what you know; it's who you know."

(Digression 3: No one says "It's whom you know," even if -- which I don't guarantee -- the accusative form would be correct.)

The same holds awe-inspiringly true in the Communion of Saints. Patrons excel at getting things done in their particular provinces (geographical or otherwise). St. Anthony rivals Sherlock Holmes when it comes to finding stuff. St. Cecilia has helped thousands of musicians over the centuries create some of the most beautiful pieces known to man for the praise and glory of God's name. Just think how many more sore throats one might have to endure if St. Blase wasn't watching our larynges. (I think that's the plural; Blogger recognizes it anyway.) I am firmly convinced that St. Benedict is very interested in all places where his monks have established communities, and takes an active role in them to this day. The same goes for any patron, and for all the saints in a more general fashion.

By our membership in the Body of Christ, by our enlisting in the Church Militant at Baptism, and thus by our Communion with the Saints, we receive the enormous privilege of knowing all these people, and what is even better, and not always true or emphasized in the world of Success, sharing with them the love of Christ. The Lord says, No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:10). The Saints are those who have committed themselves to this love, and through Baptism, all are friends of each other and of Christ. The Saints, though they have gone ahead of us to the triumph of Heaven, nevertheless continue to lay down their eternal life for us, by interceding for us before the throne of God. Our part, which is also part of God all-knowing and all-loving plan, is partly the same as theirs: to intercede for our militant friends on earth. But we have a further privilege and task as pilgrims here on earth: to ask our friends in high places for help they have the right, the duty, and the opportunity to obtain for us. My help comes from the LORD, says the Psalmist (Ps 121), the maker of heaven and earth. The same God and Father who devised all of creation for the good of his children, has also instituted the Communion of Saints for the sharing of spiritual goods.

And, thanks be to God, it really works.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vita, Dulcedo, Spes

I don't mind admitting that I love the University of Notre Dame, or that it has has a considerable potential to frustrate and disappoint me, or that it has often actualized that potential.

Sometimes when I consider an aspect of the University, I rejoice; other times I lament. Notre Dame is not consistent, and I wish it knew this about itself as well as I and many others do. Specifically in the area of academics, the University needs to come to grips with the fact that while its research may be benevolent, useful, and innovative, and its professors are well-trained in their respective subjects and often very good at teaching, it has fallen away to a great extent from any kind of integrated approach, and its Catholic identity, of which it seems to recognize the value more and more with time, is not unified with its academic identity, resulting in a most unpleasant situation of not being One, which as always weakens its ties, and even perhaps its communion, with the Church. I do not mean to imply that Notre Dame is in schism; it is still far from that, but trends have now long been in development which if encouraged may prove quite detrimental to unity.

This situation cannot be solved merely from above or from below, by good students or good professors or good administrators, but it rests more with those in authority to guide the place, and as it stands now, the Board of Trustees has the greatest power. The task of electing the president of the University is entrusted to them (as Trustees, obviously), and if they choose a weak president, as they have been known to do twice over in days not long past, they have a clear way to getting done whatever they want done. Now why their agenda should have become so radically distinct from the Catholic identity and mission of the University as it used to be, I cannot fully say, but it has, I can wretchedly state, a great deal to do with -- to put it plainly -- money.

Inasmuch as a university is part of the economy (and it undeniably is: people work there and -- like it or not -- train for future work), money is a factor that must be taken into consideration. However, it would seem that if financial concerns trump the Catholic identity per se or (as seems especially to be the case at Notre Dame) its integration into academics, someone has made a sizable mistake, and those in highest charge of the University's finances, namely its Trustees, are the ones who must be courageous enough to do something about it, even at risk, painful as it may be to men and women rendered mercenary by the Fall, of losing some prestige, some innovation, or some -- to put it plainly -- money.

A university cannot survive without money, and money comes at least partly from students. And a good university cannot exist without good students. Thus the solution is not to keep away from Notre Dame and hope it will get better: what would that avail us? Why would we want to go there after all the good professors have left when they see that no students there even wants an integrated education permeated and fulfilled by the Faith of Christ? We know from experience that almost everything in this world is a joint effort of some kind. Not everyone can love Notre Dame, especially as it exists today, but no one should give up on it. It is not the best university for every individual: l am among the first to acknowledge this; but it is has things going for it that have stood the test of time and can, if fostered, emulated, and expanded, lead to a renewal of greatness, as defined by strong academics, a love of Truth Himself, and a commitment to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

Here are a few examples. The last two are, in my mind, the most important, so you may skip to them if you wish, but the others are admirable in their own ways.

1. The Liturgical Choir (and some other choirs, but I know Lit Choir best). These splendid people (I can say this now, no longer being one of them) sing for Mass each Sunday, and on several other occasions, and they know (thanks to their excellent directors) why they do this: to give glory to God and to assist others in doing the same. If only these goals were applied in the academic realm, the University would be a healthier and lovelier place. Furthermore, as a community whose members work together for a common goal despite their different functions, Lit Choir can be seen as an example to Notre Dame as a whole. Then, too, there is the beauty of the music they sing. Nothing truly beautiful can lead away from God. As long as the music (not to mention the Mass [see no. 3]) remains at Notre Dame, it will not have failed: far from it.

2. The Center for Ethics and Culture. Judging from its inimitable conference held each autumn, this Center could just as well be called the Center for Charity and Truth. It is has always been viewed as suspect by the University, since, as I see it, if it were left to its own devices and given total control, driven by students as well as faculty, it would more or less implement the necessary reforms throughout the University community. Hence, the University, which sees peril in such a possibility, has considered it prudent to provide as few devices for the Center's use as possible, and to prevent its gaining devices in any other way. We must remember to thank the Center for all it does, since the University would be a far less lovable -- and loving -- place without it.

3. Our Lord is really present in every single one of the 29 dorms on campus, as well as in many other buildings. Mass is celebrated many times every day, and for many the Paschal Triduum is a highlight of the spring semester. As long as the love of Christ shines forth at Notre Dame, as long as priests and people there keep desiring Our Lord and making him present sacramentally and in other ways, he will be present there. And if the just and merciful Judge has not abandoned or condemned a place, who are we to despair and leave it for dead?

4. Finally, a word on Our Lady, Notre Dame. The University has been placed under her patronage, and as long as this continues, she will not fail to protect it from ruin. I believe this wholeheartedly. And since Mary's will is perfectly attuned to that of the Heavenly Father, it is true to say that God is for Notre Dame. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). I ask you all to pray for Notre Dame. By trusting in the charity of God, she can and will overcome.

And I don't mind admitting that I long to see that day.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Automobile Scale, Part 1

Let there be no confusion. I don't mean weigh stations, though truckers or those who live near long-haul shipping routes may presume otherwise, and I don't mean to rate various makes or models, even Italianate ones like Fiat or Alfa Romeo, as my brother N. W. Thomas so kindly suggested; I will leave these matters to Teamsters and the like. Rather, I wish to reflect a bit, not upon mirrors (though my chosen verb may imply it, and objects are no doubt closer than they appear), but upon an aspect of our modern society. I was about to say "upon our modern society," but then I realized that I would alienate a large portion of the blogosphere by infringing upon their province. (Blogger, by the bye, does not recognize the word blogosphere; I am outraged.)

After such a prooemium, you may be wondering what I'm getting at: so much the better, say I. I am talking about the practice that has developed in the United States particularly of planning, designing, and constructing things so as to accommodate that no doubt useful item of technology, the automobile, with the further effect of inconveniencing to a variably great extent, the pedestrian, who, unlike the automobile, has human dignity. I would like to imagine a scenario for a moment; I beseech my dear Realists not to be too put off by my flights of fancy. Idealists, this one's for you.

Imagine, I pray you, a man of another age, indeed, more or less any other age: let us say a Roman of the Late Republic. His praenomen is Gaius, or I daresay Marcus, but no matter. He comes to our time and begins, like a virtuous and civilized man, to follow a road in well-founded hopes of its leading to Rome.

He comes, let us say, to a market of sorts, what we today call a shopping center, a strip mall, or a Series of Shoppes. He at first wonders what it could be, for it is separated from the roadway by a field, or a group of fields, entirely paved. He estimates that the nearest building is a furlong from the road, though this maybe an exaggeration, he thinks. He considers the patrician villas in various outskirts of Roman towns, and wonders if this might be something similar. Let him look as he will for signs of habitation; it is in vain. Instead as he traverses the paved field he notes that the place has a commercial appearance, and is in fact a group of places to buy things. Why, he wonders, separate the products from the consumer? (He sometimes thinks in very 20th century ways.) And why, he further considers, is all the writing so oversized? As one walks along beside the shop, one cannot receive any useful information. He becomes a bit frustrated, and wishes that some roads led to Rome a bit more quickly.

To be continued...

Click here to donwload a podcast of this post; please note that while the podcast does not say "To be continued", it is to be continued.

Why the Dickens?

I don't mind admitting that I like Dickens. Indeed, the very title of this blog is a quotation from Chapter 48 of Great Expectations, one of my favorites among his works. An admission, however, is no explanation, and I intend in my first post to explore some aspects of Dickens' works that may elucidate my grounds for liking him. This is not a Dickens blog per se, but considering its title and the presently occurring bicentenary of that novelist's birth, I find it not inappropriate to begin these pages with at least a Dickens post.
Liking an author is a simple way of saying someting multifaceted: more the beginning of a conversation than any sort of conclusion. The meaning of the phrase indicates something about the person who says it as well as the object of his predilection. Thus I cannot hope to include and conclude all at once. A couple introductory points follow, which will hopefully develop into a discussion and perhaps also a further series of posts on different, gradually diverging topics.

1. Philology in the broad sense
Dickens' writing strongly suggests that besides being able to write long books (as other lesser authors have insisted on doing repeatedly), not to mention long sentences chock-full of words and short sentences with only the right words in just the right places, he loves each of his words, each of his sentences, and each of his books. This love includes both enjoyment and care. Each of these aspects is displayed in the way he combines words in sentences, and sentences in paragraphs. He enjoys a pleasant or unpleasant juxtaposition or layering of sounds as is appropriate to the situation, and takes care to preserve that beauty which is τὸ πρέπον even in his ugliest and most disturbing scenes. The marvels of his paragraphs range from dramatic progression to commonplace events, all expressed in ways that promote interest, inspire commitment, and often evince a wide range of emotions, both in quantity and quality. In many cases he uses the particular ambiguities of language for any or all of the preceding effects, as well as for another, which will be the second section of this post.

2. Humor and character
Dickens has a well-developed sense of humor: humor in all its senses. He has an aptitude for portraying different temperaments, and he does so when he chooses with what to me at least amounts to incomparable hilarity. Now I don't mind admitting that when he refrains from this hilarity, his own temperament as well as the conventions of his period sometimes leads him to sentimentality -- and such in my mind are often the weakest points in his books -- but for the most part his use of the language, laden with enjoyment and care, tends to create identifiable and distinguishable characters and unforgettably funny speech and narration: at the parts where it is meant to be funny. Thus I distinguish four types of Dickensian writing
a. Sentimental (I don't really approve, and it is the least prevalent)
b. Serious (He is excellent especially at setting moods [the openings of Bleak House and Little Dorrit come to mind], and there is rarely a dull Serious moment)
c. Playful (This really deserves a more normal-sounding name, since it is actually his general mode of narration, but it means that the narrator is using the language perfectly correctly and basically seriously, but does not hesitate to notice little ambiguities and turns of phrase that pop up and deserve notice. See the last few paragraphs of Chapter 34 and the beginning of Chapter 35 of Great Expectations for a masterful transition from Playful to Serious.)
d. Downright Funny (Similar to Playful, but -- usually in direct speech -- often quite distinct)
The combinations and progressions among these four, combined with his general skill in language and his memorable characters and locales, come together to create much of what I love about Dickens. He has influenced my writing style, my taste in literature, and even, I think I may truthfully say, my view of the world. I owe a lot to him. I don't mind admiting that.

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