Tuesday, 31 July 2007

holiday reading thoughts from abroad

It's great to see that Ruby has been hard at work while I have been sunning myself in Italy for a fortnight. Well, in fact 'sunning' is not quite right, it's been too hot for that - the day we went to Florence it was 43 degrees! Even walking around that wonderful Duomo (cathedral) is a slog when its so hot. And ironically it was that day when we learned of continuing awful weather and devastating floods in England. Being so hot I took to sitting in the shade reading and sipping something cool. It's a hard life!

I rarely read anything except novels on holiday, and this one was no exception. The rest of the time what I read is largely dictated by the demands of my appointment, and novels rarely figure, so I save up what I want to read for holiday times.

I read four books this holiday.
'The Rule of Four' was advertised as a combination of 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'The Name of the Rose', though it had neither the pace of the first nor the brooding depth of the second. It is a unlikely if jolly and engaging tale about a group of friends at Princeton University and in particular an obsession a couple of them have with an unfathomable Rennaissance document - unfathomable, that is, until these two likely lads crack the code. It was a decent read, but I left it in the beautiful little house in the mountains south of Naples, where we stayed the second week. Anyone think it's better than 'ok'?

Bill Napier's 'The Lure' was better fare as far as I was concerned. Plausible science bordering on possible sci fi. I've read all his books (He's only written 4 I think!) and they are just the job for this minister on holiday. In 'The Lure' a group of scientists, who have sat around an underground lake in Eastern Europe for a number of years waiting for something to happen suddenly get their wish. Their lake is bombarded with rhythmic bursts of subnuclear particles which, to their astonishment, and the insight of a mathematician ferried in for the purpose, are deemed to contain a code which can only have been sent from highly intelligent beings somewhere in the Universe. ET phone home!

But the book is not about little green men, rather the tussle between scientists wanting to declare their findings to the world, and politicians of their respective countries who decide it might not be best to declare anything and try to repress their discovery. I mean, if we earthlings answer the message then we signal to this intelligence our very human existence, and we don't know if they are goodies or baddies, so we could be walking in to a trap. On the other hand this far superior intelligence must have turned their back on violence and war long ago, mustn't they? And they probably have the cure for cancer. Hmm dilemma.

The small religious contribution to this intelligently presented moral conundrum is presented by an old evangelist figure who is invited by the US President to offer advice. He argues vehemently that a) the intelligence must be baddies, because b) Jesus Christ only came to this world, and therefore all the rest of the Universe must be highly dubious. Now there is a rounded theological position for you! Anyway, well worth the read. Or perhaps you thought it was rubbish!

'Winston's War' by Michael Dobbs was different but equally enjoyable. Using historical events and facts as the framework for fictional additions the book covers the 14 months or so from Neville Chamberlain coming back from Munich stating peace in our time, to the time Winston Churchill unexpectedly became Prime Minister in May(?) 1940. Dobbs obviously hero worships Churchill, but it was a good read nonetheless. Anyone else venture an opinion?

The best laugh came, as it has on a number of occasions down the years, from Bill Bryson. 'The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid' is a comical account of his childhood in 1950's De Moines. As always, among the humour and vivid images he offers, come a few gems, passages or thoughts that I underline - even on holiday - and resolve to use in some sermon sometime. I will find some way of using his observation on p282 when he notes how, faced with the Nuclear threat, and the fear of Communism and suchlike, there was a
'curious blend of undiluted optimism and a kind of eager despair. Over 40 per cent of people in 1955 thought there would be a global disaster, probably in the form of a world war, within five years and half of those were certain it would be the end of humanity. Yet the very people who claimed to expect death at any monent were at the same time busily buying new homes, digging swimming pools, investing in stocks and bonds and pension plans, and generally behaving like people who expect to live a long time.'
And I thought such incoherent consumerism was a trait of postmodernity!

Enough. Back to work means the end of novels for a while. There is a rather juicy three chapters of a near copmplete PhD in the pile of mail awating my return - joy! Let's see if it matches Bryson, though in one sense, I rather hope it doesn't!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Incoherent consumerism - it goes back a long way - its in the Bible too isn't it?

All those folk storing up their treasures on earth....

You can't take it with you.