What I was into: February

My favorite of the Friday chalkboard quotes:

What I Read (or Will be Reading)

I finished Leaving Church. It was beautifully written. And while I was moved by the way Barbara Brown Taylor allowed us to experience her exhaustion in her work as a priest and her process of discovering rest and restoration, I was annoyed by the ease with which she let go of the tenets of her Christian faith. She showed me no struggle in the giving up of Jesus-centered theology and the embracing of a more universalistic view of God. I think I would have been more forgiving if she had shown me any kind of turmoil in her soul over that loss of that core tenet. But she just seemed to jump ship as soon as she wasn’t leading a congregation. I’m thinking a lot lately about what makes a memoirist believable to a reader. When I didn’t see that internal struggle over her theology, I stopped trusting her. (Anyone else read her book? Thoughts?)

As I’m thinking about reader/memoirist trust, I’ve been coming back to Mary Karr, who is (in my humble, not so well-read opinion) the greatest memoir writer alive. (Full disclosure: she was once my professor in grad school. But that is just a happy additional fact.) I keep coming back to Lit and just rereading her prose so its rhythm gets in my head and hopefully spills over into work. (If you haven’t yet read Lit, go get it now, my friend. Don’t worry, just trust me.)

The God of the Mundane by was recommended to me by a commenter on my Deeper Church post in January. (It was the post where I talked about ordinariness mattering to God.) This is a short book by a pastor who was convicted about the same things I am: that as a whole the Christian subculture seems to only value the spiritual and doesn’t recognize God’s nearness and care for the everyday, ordinary parts of our lives, especially for those of us who are working in a non-religious job (ie just about the whole world). It’s a good little book and worth spending some time with.

I’m reading a biography of St. Benedict (are you shocked?) by a Baptist-raised southern academic, turned monastic expert. (She’s my type). This is surprisingly an entertaining read. If you’re interested in Benedict at all, I wholeheartedly recommend Man of Blessing: A Life of St. Benedict.

I said I’m thinking about memoir a lot. My next book to pick up and study is Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. I was supposed to have read this in grad school but was busy that week. If only I had! I’d be so much smarter by now! (Trying to undo my poor educational choices.)

 

What I Watched (or Didn’t)

Still watching New Girl, still watching Nashville. Those two are my staples. I was so angry about Downton Abbey’s last episode of the season, that I didn’t even watch it. I just read what happened and then read more articles in rage, and vowed that I would never see THAT episode so as to cause Julian Fellowes to regret his poor choice. (Btw, I don’t think Julian Fellowes cares what I think.)

 

On the Blog

My favorite post of the month was the reflection I wrote about Ash Wednesday for A Deeper Church. I’ve also been enjoying working through the series The Pursuit of Enough. I especially love the post “Slow, Deliberate.”

I put one of those crazy “Like me on Facebook!” sidebar thingys on my blog. So that you can “Like me on Facebook!” (That way you’ll see my updates in your sidebar and you’ll know when I post something new.)

Speaking of posting something new, you can also plug your email address into the sidebar “Subscribe” button and you’ll receive an email every time I add a new post.

Every time I “advise” you of some newfangled way of following my blog, I feel like I’m in seventh grade again wearing those terrible stirrup pants, my buckteeth-emphasized-face begging the popular girls at the cool table to sign my yearbook. You will, won’t you? I’m sorry I’m so awkward.

 

What I’m doing today

I’m actually off to take the written test for my California driver’s license. Woot! Woot! Fact about my laziness: All this time, over the past three years, as I’ve lived in California and Texas, I’ve used my Pennsylvania license, which will finally expire this summer. I think it’s been illegal. But, seriously, who has time to go to the DMV?

This is where I thank my husband for taking the morning off so I can become a legal driving citizen of the great state of California. (If I can actually pass the test.)

 

Love,
Micha

 

Linking up with Leigh Kramer today where all sorts of lovely people are sharing what they were into this month. Join us?

Comments

  1. I’m totally with you on the memorist/reader trust. I haven’t read Leaving Church but would likely respond the same way. THANK YOU for loaning me your copy of Lit last year. I — also not very well read — still agree with your assessment of Mary Karr’s rhythm and prose. Also, with her book I felt like I could trust her in the way she makes sure her readers know that everyone she writes about in her book has read it first. I think there’s a few places she even tells us where her version of the story differs with her ex-husband’s, etc. All without losing the power of her prose. Good stuff. Off to write my “What I’ve Been Into Lately” post. Thanks for the reminder!

    • michaboyett says:

      Yes! I’ve been thinking about that…the way she sort of pans back and tells the reader that she might not have the version exactly right. I’m amazed by how she’s able to do that and not lose us in the midst of the story. I just reread an incredible interview that the Paris Review did with her when Lit came out. In it, she goes off on the excuses people give for not being completely honest in memoir. It’s a fantastic interview and I think the whole: What is true memory? question is a fascinating one…Here’s the link: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5992/the-art-of-memoir-no-1-mary-karr

  2. Haley says:

    I’m new to your blog but really enjoyed reading this list. If you’re interested in the topic behind God of the Mundane, I’m guessing you already know Quotidian Mysteries and Real Love for Real Life… but if by chance you don’t, you should check them out!

    • michaboyett says:

      I LOVE the Quotidian Mysteries, Haley. And thanks for the suggestion of Real Love for Real Life. I’ll look into it…

      • Haley says:

        It was recently re-published, so (happily) it’s a lot easier to find now than it was a year ago. The topic is slightly different than the others, but it’s a fantastic book. It’s one of a select few that I’m constantly foisting upon all my friends!

  3. Jeannie says:

    Micha, two things:
    1. You’re not awkward, you’re endearing. I wish you were my friend. Oh yeah, you kinda are.
    2. Did you go to the Festival of Faith and Writing when Mary Karr was there (2010)? (I ask because I know you went to the 2012 one.) I was there and really wish now I’d gone to the interview she did about poetry. I did hear her give the keynote address on the last night. I am going to my library website right now to look for “Lit” — one of those things I’ve meant to do for the past 3 years!

  4. I love your smart, spot-on discussion of voice in memoir. I haven’t read Leaving Church, but I’m with you entirely on Mary Karr. I could re-read her stuff over and over. I’m pretty picky about memoir. Done wrong, it can feel really narcissistic and whiny; done right, it taps into something deep and beautiful.

    I have not finished Downton either. I have this whiff of an idea about what’s about to happen and I’m trying to maintain blissful ignorance as long as possible.

    I had to do a little “Facebook! Come on! It’ll be fun!” blip on my post today too. I’m with you on the yearbook-signing flashbacks. Seriously. Love you (and, for the record, “like” you on FB too. :) )

    • michaboyett says:

      Yes to the narcissistic, whiny thing! (The voice of our generation.) I so wish we could discuss memoir over a very long delicious lunch. Someday…Until then, thanks for the Like and and the Love. And are there any other memoirs you highly recommend, Addie?

  5. Fiona Lynne says:

    Have duly added Lit to my reading list :) I’ve been a lazy commenter recently (blaming a busy month) but I am really enjoying your Enough series. It’s speaking into my life right now, even though it looks very different from yours.

    • michaboyett says:

      Thanks so much for letting me know that, Fiona. It’s so hard to comment on all the blogs I want to comment on, so I totally understand. I really appreciate every comment you leave! : )

  6. HopefulLeigh says:

    I’m fascinated by what you said about Leaving Church. I read it last year and loved it. Such a breath of fresh air, especially at the time. I don’t remember thinking or noticing a more universalistic view of God, which makes me think I’ll need to reread it soon. Lit has been on my To Read list for ages. I know I need to read it. Soon. Also, I want to study memoir with you!

    What happened in the Terrible Awful episode of Downton Abbey is indeed terrible and awful but it happens at the very end and as such, I think you should watch the episode because there are quite a few wonderful moments worth seeing.

    Have fun at the DMV!

    • michaboyett says:

      Thanks Leigh! DMV was not fun. I forgot my passport / birth certificate (why so demanding, California???) so I’m going back in March. (Cue depressing music.) Otherwise, it’s been a great day.

      And let’s have a memoir study course! (In all our spare time, right?) Please tell me what you think of Lit…And you would also probably love that article I just linked to in response to Tamara’s comment.

  7. Laura says:

    I’ve been reading/writing/thinking a lot about memoir recently too so I have some unsolicited recommendations. :) I can’t say enough good things about Eugene Peterson’s “The Pastor” enough – he does things with words that make my heart skip a beat or two. Sarah Miles “Take This Bread” needs to be on your list too – especially now that you’re in SF. And strangely enough, I think Stephen Kings “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is another not to be missed. Thanks for your continued thoughts & honesty here.

    • michaboyett says:

      I will defintely look into The Pastor. And I’ve also heard great things about Sarah Miles. I just got a gift card for Amazon. Maybe I’ll put it to use. Thanks so much, Laura!

  8. I concur that The Pastor is a must-read.

    I generally love Barbara Brown Taylor and her book The Preaching Life is totally formative for me, but I literally set the book down and stopped reading when BBT left the church in Leaving Church. I obviously knew that’s where it was going – duh – but as a very new pastor when it came out, I just could not go there. For me it was more of a vocational anxiety than a theological question, as I’ve been around a lot of Christians who lean toward a more universalist theology. Perhaps I will eventually go back and finish it, but I kind of doubt it. Not as long as I love, love, love being a Minister of Word and Sacrament.

    Lit is on my list. I will read it, for sure!

    • michaboyett says:

      Okay Katherine, two thumbs up for The Pastor? Putting it on my wishlist next to The Preaching Life. I will continue to read Barbara Brown Taylor. I have a feeling I’d love An Altar in the World and I really do think her writing is gorgeous. I said this in response to Diana below, but my problem isn’t reading an author with a more universalist theology. It just felt to me that part of her process of healing was leaving Christ behind in her theology and it didn’t seem to hurt her at all. I just wanted to understand more how that was possible for her. I wanted her to grieve that a little. Does that make sense? That said it’s totally possible that I misread where she was theologically before she left the priesthood.

      (So good to see you here!)

  9. Adele says:

    Micha, I think you really have Dan Stevens rather than Julian Fellowes to blame for the Downton Abbey ending (of course here in Aus. it hasn’t quite screened yet but you can’t follow the people I do on twitter without knowing EVERYTHING!)
    Still, I doubt cast members would be so keen to leave if Fellowes and Co.’s writing hadn’t been on a steady decline since the beginning of season 2! ;)

    • michaboyett says:

      Yes, I hear you! I should blame Dan Stevens. But who can blame Matthew for anything? Never! Who’s with me? So yes, totally agree, Adele. Let’s blame Fellowes for making the show Steadily Lame-r for the past two seasons.

      • Adele says:

        I’m just choosing to be excited to see Dan Stevens in other (hopefully better!) things. In related news, Jessica Brown Findlay who played Sybil is in the new adaptation of Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth. :)

  10. Wow, Micha – I didn’t get that from “Leaving Church” at all. I loved it and have about 5 pages of typed quotes from it! I’ll have to re-read, I guess. I am a fan, however, and might not be the best judge. I felt her insights into the difficulties of sorting out call from ego were quite good. And yes, she may be more of a universalist than I am, but so is L’Engle – and I believe both women to be devoted followers of Jesus. Again, wow.

    You should also read “An Altar in the World,” which speaks beautifully of the very things you write about.

    • michaboyett says:

      Oh, Diana! We can’t NOT agree! : ) I admire you too much to not take your thoughts into account. So here’s what I think. It’s not that I can’t handle reading someone with a more universalist position than I hold. What bothered me about the book was that I felt there were two narratives. One was her making sense of her faith and one was her making sense of her need to strive and be the Best Priest in the World. What she did wonderfully and beautifully (yes, so many lines underlined and hearted in my book) was tell that story of burning out in ministry and finding restoration. What I felt failed was the later story of (what seemed to me!) a leaving behind of a more orthodox Christ-centered faith. Maybe “universalist” was the wrong word to use, but maybe not? (I’ll let you fill me in on that, pastor-friend.) But, what I didn’t have a problem with was her getting there, if she had struggled more to get there? Am I making sense at all? I’ll leave it at this: I was frustrated at the end. And maybe I’m not putting it into words the right way. Let’s talk it out over coffee next time you’re in SF!

  11. Catherine says:

    Anne Enright’s “Making Babies” is a memoir that is on my reading list, and what I’ve read of it is amazing! I’m with you though on trust being important in memoirs. I’ve read some that I’ve loved, but only if I read them as fiction: The Speckled People. I want to hear the author’s voice more than their narrative.

  12. Oh, now I loved Leaving Church by BBT. I found myself in her story. For me, the letting go happened so gradually, so gently, that my movement felt gracious and not angst-ridden. Maybe I trust her because of that resonance. I didn’t see her moving away from Jesus-centered theology, just the religious apparatus. But my favorite by her is Altar in this World. And I’m part way through Lit and loving it, too!

    Love Nashville. Not into NewGirl.

  13. Karen Bordner says:

    Thank you, thank you. I felt betrayed when I read Leaving Church. Barbara Brown Taylor has always been one of my favorite authors. I read and re-read her books on preaching. But when I read Leaving Church, I almost felt as though she was telling me that she never had believed all the other stuff she told me. I know that’s not what the book is about, but still — betrayal. Thank you for saying what I felt so much more graciously.

  14. Lyndsey says:

    You should rethink watching the final Downton Abbey episode. If the character had to exit because the actor didn’t renew their contract, this way of closing their time on the show was appropriately and beautifully done.