July 9, 2012

Blurbing the Classics

I love this project that Justin Taylor is undertaking at the Gospel Coalition. He is curating blurbs on theological classics. These books are too old to have been blurbed about on their "original dust jackets," so they are finally getting the short commendations they deserve.

The first book is Augustine's Confessions, which I happen to have read recently. Taylor collected several blurbs and added his own take at the end. Here is Fred Sanders's.
If you took a list of the greatest books of western civilization and whittled it down to the top five, Augustine’s Confessions would still have a secure spot on that list. It might even make the cut and stay on the top three list; it’s that much of a classic. In this carefully-crafted book, Augustine does theology by listening to his life, and then listening even more carefully and passionately to the words of God. We hear him ask all the right questions and most of the wrong ones. We hear him finding the truth and saying it in his own words. Or rather, we overhear him, because from beginning to end the Confessions is one sustained prayer to the God who alone can give the soul what it needs.
Read the rest.

July 7, 2012

14 Characteristics of a Classic

I haven't posted in a while. I've been busy vacationing (saw a bear yesterday!) and finishing up Paradise Lost. An interesting article on Brain Pickings excerpts Why Read the Classics? by Italo Calvino. Calvino offers 14 characteristics of a classic book, most of which I agree with, some of which seem redundant to me.  Here are a few of my favorites.
5. A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.
8. A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off.
 14. A classic is a work which persists as a background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway.
What do you think of the list?  Was "pulviscular" a new word to you like it was for me?