One Catholic Life Blog

Rivendell, detail by J.R.R. Tolkien

At the Last Homely House The Hobbit Becomes a Classic

I’ve just finished chapter four of The Hobbit, “Over Hill and Under Hill,” for Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and for me this is where the story really begins to pick up (Minor spoilers of the first four chapters ahead). I especially love the book’s opening opening chapter, in which the story feels like a tale told by a grandfather to his grandchildren, with its authorial intrusions: …what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits needs some description nowadays… Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what...

The Hobbit - Ballantine Silver Jubilee Edition

There and Back Again – Rereading The Hobbit

Today is the first day of Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, and I’m happy to be rereading The Hobbit during the month of February. As I’ve written elsewhere, The Hobbit has been a part of my life since my early teens, and I’ve always enjoyed revisiting The Shire and accompanying Bilbo on his adventures. A wonderful gift of Providence has me rereading The Hobbit at the age of 50, precisely the age of Bilbo Baggins when his adventures begin. Bringing a Walking Stick Like many, I used to think of The...

The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu has all the weaknesses of the typical pulp stories of its era. It perpetuates racial and gender stereotypes, it relies too much on melodrama, and it overuses hyperbole. And yet, with all that, it still manages to entertain. The two protagonists, Petrie and Nayland Smith, are out to save the world from the evil genius Dr....

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls. I agree with Julie Davis: the less said about The Yellow Wallpaper the better, so that you can read it fresh, without any baggage or imposed interpretations. This horror classic gave me chills. It reminded me a little bit of The House on the Borderland, and it fits right in with the Alfred Hitchcock stories I’ve been reading for my...

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Deal Me In Challenge: Stories #3, #4 and #5

The Deal Me In Challenge continues with three more macabre stories, each from a different one of Alfred Hitchcock’s anthologies. Over the past three weeks I drew the K♦, 7♦ and 2♥, which were assigned to the following stories: K♦ – “Prolonged Visit” by Hal Dresner from Alfred Hitchcock’s Hard Day at the Scaffold (read January 15, 2017): This was a pretty mediocre story about a mother-in-law who comes to visit and overstays her welcome. Besides perpetuating the stereotype of the intrusive mother-in-law, the story did not interest me at all. 7♦...

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart

“You Peking weaklings call these things flies?” he yelled. “Back in Soochow we have flies so big that we clip their wings, hitch them to plows, and use them for oxen!” It would be hard to find a more original fantasy series than The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart. Set in “an ancient China that never was,” the series is a delicious concoction of Chinese mythology, detective fiction, epic fantasy quests, and ghost stories, sprinkled with generous helpings of ribald humor and...

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Roads Go Ever On: A Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Readalong

This year as I enter the world of reading challenges, I’ve also jumped into my first readalong: Brona’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Readalong 2017. It didn’t take much deliberation to decide to join. Since first reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1979, I’ve probably reread them a good ten times or more. I think it’s pretty safe to say that The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien have had a profound influence on my life. In fact, my very first blog post ever, way back in...

Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I have admired Ray Bradbury’s writing for several decades now, so it was natural that I would love Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. Bradbury always writes from the heart, and this collection of writing advice is no exception. Here’s what I’m talking about: You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most...

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One Heck of a Story – Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

There were many newsworthy events this past week and there are many more going on this weekend; but there’s one event that happened this past Wednesday that you probably didn’t hear about: one of the world’s best-selling authors passed away at the age of 92. They say that if a book sells more than 20,000 copies in a year, then it’s in the top one percent of all book sales. This author sold over 10 million copies of his books. And yet, despite being so successful, you probably...

Pope Francis Pursued: Pilgrimage by Mark Shriver

The subtitle of Mark Shriver’s book Pilgrimage is My Search for the Real Pope Francis. The implication is that there is some confusion, disagreement, or misunderstanding about who Pope Francis is. It’s almost as if Pope Francis is too good to be true. Or perhaps there’s a suspicion that the public persona of Pope Francis is a mask that conceals his real agenda. As Shriver himself writes in the prologue, I kept warning myself not to believe unconditionally in a guy who, I kept reminding myself, headed a...

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Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it. Black Beauty, page 74 I knew next to nothing about Black Beauty before I started reading it, and it was very different than I expected. My previous experience with equine stories has been through movies like Secretariat, The Black Stallion, and Hidalgo,  so I was expecting a story about a colt who beats all odds to become a great racehorse. If my Kindle edition would have included the original title,...

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To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel. To the Bright Edge...

Deal Me In Reading Challenge

Deal Me in Challenge Stories #1 and #2

I love the concept of the The Deal Me In Challenge, hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. For this challenge you choose 52 short stories for the year, reading one each week. What makes this challenge more fun is that you assign each story a different card from a deck of standard playing cards. Then each week you draw a card at random and read the story assigned to it. This is my first year participating, and I decided that my theme for the year would be “The Macabre.”...

Classics Club Book #6: Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Because I graduated from high school in 1984, I’ve always had a connection with both the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell and the rock album 1984 by Van Halen. Over the years, the former has grown in my estimation and the latter has declined. The album by Van Halen is something you outgrow. The novel by Orwell is something that grows with you. I put Nineteen Eighty-four on my Classics Club list because I knew my daughter would be reading it in her senior high school literature class,...

The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

I have no ambition to be an author. An author is always something of a romancer, and God knows, the mystery of The Yellow Room is quite full enough of real tragic horror to require no aid from literary effects. Gaston Leroux, The Mystery of the Yellow Room 2017 is here, and I’ve kicked off a new year of reading with The Mystery of the Yellow Room. This early twentieth century novel is a classic locked-room mystery by Gaston Leroux. Leroux is probably best known as the author of The Phantom...