Gifts & Good Reads Linkaround

GIFT AND GOOD READS: My friend John Zmirak, who earlier this year edited Disorientation; How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind, to which I happily contributed along with many writers much better than I, writes with some humor about (among other things) the trials and tribulations of getting his latest book out in time for Christmas:

My new Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins is finally on sale — delayed as it was for months by the publisher’s thrifty decision to outsource its layout and printing to tiny, helpful gnomes from the Brothers Grimm. I had great heaping piles of books at last, along with all my older titles, and that day I got to remember the glamorous side of being an author: schlepping (with spindly writer’s limbs) big boxes of books out of car trunks, down crowded sidewalks, into service entries, and up flights of stairs. By the time I heaved the last box onto the crimson tables in the posh drawing room (lined with portraits of glowering Puritans) that was to host our college event, I was damp, rumpled, and grumpy. I looked and smelt like Jimmy Breslin, and the bar wouldn’t open for hours.

I confess, I had not seen John’s two previous “Bad Catholic” books, but he sent me a review copy of this one, (signed, even) and I think it’s pretty cute. Amid some pretty droll illustrations and prose that moves between pleasant snark, clever asides and some outright hilarity, John manages to explore the 7 deadly sins and their corresponding virtues and then alternately rah-rah’s and pummels the reader into realizing that–yes, we’re all trapped in some of these sins, all lacking some of these virtues–but we are not without hope, help or grace.

And with those three things giving an assist, we can overcome!

A neat, unusual book. If you need an unusual last-minute gift, this may suit you well!

GOOD READ: Have yourself a scary little Christmas

GIFT: The more I listen to these Benedictine Nuns in France, the more I am transported. And I like the bio their PR folk sent:

“We would like to say to Great Britain and then to the rest of the world that Decca Music makes us able to speak by means of Gregorian chanting. We want to send a message to our contemporaries, one that is most needed. A message that God loves us madly. And in Jesus we can find the meaning of life and return this love. It is a message of infinite joy which alone can cure the mortal sadness of our times.”
After a long search hearing nuns singing all over the world they chose these nuns. Says Tom Lewis: “The Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation represents everything about modern life that you could escape from. And they are quite simply the best singers. . . .
“We looked at nuns in Boston who have a Facebook page and are very media friendly. But almost felt as if they were too accessible. We listened to African nuns in London and they sang African hymns. Although they were amazing it didn’t transport you to another world.
This is ancient and mysterious and you hear that in the record. It’s intriguing why these women would make the choice to wholeheartedly cut themselves off from the world. It’s the ultimate mystique.”

It’s pretty special.

GOOD READ: Man spends year of unemployment giving $10 a day to strangers. Very interesting chap, with an interesting idea. He has work now, too, which is good. God is never outdone in generosity, even if He’s not in your picture.

GIFT: 16 Nuns, 16 Journeys: a charming little book (though possibly late for Christmas ordering); 16 Dominican nuns from Summit, NJ talk about how they ended up in a cloister, praying upwards of six hours a day. Nice for a young niece of mine, and for an older friend, as well.

GOOD READ: A staggering lesson in humility and generosity


GOOD READ: An Old/New Model for Catholic Schools

GOOD GIFT: I am a sucker for a sock monkey.

GOOD READ: Catholic Radio becoming Voice of Democracy in Southern Sudan.

GOOD GIFTS: Time’s a wastin’!. I’m thankful for those who have used the Amazon links and search box to do some of your shopping; by doing so you’ve donated to the site without additional cost to yourselves. I still did some Amazon shopping tonight, but as things come down to the wire, gift cards are always good!

Two more GOOD READS: George Weigel and Fr. George Rutler

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  • Ellana

    Re: Chant of Avignon
    You tube has two of the chants plus other videos with interviews.

  • Sal

    Cannot be repeated too often: Mystic Monk coffee.

    Their many varieties make it easy and fun to match the coffee to the recipient: Cowboy Blend for the hunter brother, Midnight Vigils for the nightowl, Breakfast Blend for the lark, Espresso for the cool among us, Rum Pecan for the flavor lover, etc. We’re giving them to family, our broker, the donut store lady…

    The service is excellent and it all helps them build their monastery.

  • dry valleys

    I made a trip to Vintage Roots (wine from grapes grown in England) & (distilled from English apples, naturally). That goes to distant relatives whom, in honesty, I feel obliged to but don’t know well enough to make any actual choices for them.

    It is harder (but I like the challenge & hope I do well) for closer people. You have to have an understanding of what they like that is close enough for them to appreciate the present. But you can’t fall into the trap of getting something they already have, which occasionally happens to me. So you end up working twice as hard as anyone else looking at stuff that is coming out.

    I’ll tell you what I like about Christmas. I always take on a second job in late November. After I’ve packed that in for another year, & my main job goes into hibernation (they have a proper old-school shutdown until the new year) you can imagine the relief that descends around the early 20s (the 23rd this year). I am in that sort of restful, but not indolent state in which decicions can be made.

    Also, I am glad to see the daylight fighting back. Even though next week it will be as cold, dark & wet, the fact that it improves daily will make a difference to the way people think.

    A lot of firms have cancelled deliveries to the snowiest parts of Britain. I made my own trip to a farmers’ market where the sellers are made of sterner stuff, so I’ve got all my business.

    Talking about the rest- I haven’t been reading my Economist every week so I’ve fallen behind on less fashionable countries that aren’t covered in mainstream outlets. After one especially grim day at work, then reading about Silvio Berlusconi’s constant refusals to just slink away, I decided to reduce my news until the new year. Did see this little view from high places in India which chimes with some of my thought.

    And this confession by a former drugs minister is all over socially liberal Britblogs (leftist or libertarian). I find it interesting that it’s always former ministers who say things like this, as it makes me think that this is in fact what current policy-makers think, that they don’t believe in their own hardline stances.

    Heard about a film called “Of Gods and Men” which has been getting a lot of plaudits. That might be worth having a look. But not at my hands, I’m in no fit state after all this work :)

    [Sorry this ended up in spam again. JDC's comments also always end up and he should get on well...hopefully he'll see some of your comments and jump in! -admin]

  • dry valleys

    “this is in fact what current policy-makers think, that they don’t believe in their own hardline stances”

    But when they are still worried about their careers they have to keep up the pretence, which after all serves powerful people in the state.

    Political correctness indeed. This is also found in the private sector, obviously, which is why it’s probably better to be a self-employed, even with all the strain that involved, than to have a boss or a hierarchy of bosses & ultra-bosses as I have.