Carol’s Meme for November 29th

I just found Carol Magistramater’s meme from last year for the November 29th birthday of three of my favorite authors.

1. What was the first [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] book you read?
Alcott: Little Women, probably. I was in a play based on the first few chapters of the book when I was in fifth grade. I was Jo.
Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I don’t associate anything special with reading this book, but I’m sure I started with the first Narnia book.
L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time.

2. If you could be a [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] character for a day, who would you be?
Alcott: I’d be grown-up Jo with the big house and all the boys running in and out.
Lewis: Lucy, of course, having tea with Mr. Tumnus.
L’Engle: I’d be Katherine Forrester Vigneras playing the piano in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

3. Do you prefer [Alcott?, Lewis, L’Engle]’s fiction or nonfiction?
I always prefer fiction, although C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction apologetics and essays are profound and have been quite influential in my thinking.

4. Which [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] book would you recommend to any reader?
Readers of Lewis should start with the Narnia books unless they’re adults with a low tolerance for fantasy. In that case, Mere Christianity is the book for the nonfiction crowd. Eight Cousins is actually my favorite Alcott book, along with an immediate follow-up read of its sequel Rose in Bloom. A Wrinkle in TIme is a good place to start with L’Engle unless again you don’t care for children’s science fiction. In that case, I would suggest A Severed Wasp or A Ring of Endless Light.

5. Which [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] book did you dislike?
The Last Battle is my least favorite of the Narnia books, although even that one has some excellent scenes in it. Some of Madeleine L’Engle’s early young adult romances feel a bit dated, but I enjoyed them anyway.

6. What is your favorite [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] quote?
Lewis: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere–‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
L’Engle: “Love always has meaning. But sometimes only God knows what it is.”
Alcott: “Do the things you know, and you shall learn the truth you need to know.”

7. Which [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] book would you like to read next?
I’d like to re-read The Silver Chair, my favorite of the Narnia books. Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle is an adult novel about the Biblical King David and about a modern-day David, an actor who engages in serial polygamy in about the same way that David of the Bible loved many women and had many wives. I’d like to re-read it, too. No Alcott right now, thank you.

8. What biography of [Alcott, Lewis, L’Engle] would you recommend?
I haven’t read any biographies of Madeleine L’Engle, but I can recommend her autobiographical trilogy that begins with A Circle of Quiet.
For C.S. Lewis, I read Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer a couple of years ago and thought it was well-written and balanced, not too adulatory nor too negative. (Reviewed here by Carrie at Reading to Know.)
Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs won the Newbery Medal in 1934. I remember thinking it not a bad book at all, but Ms. Meigs’ style and vocabulary are probably too challenging for most children today.

9. Rate the ALL authors by order of preference.
1. C.S. Lewis
Lewis is the best writer and the most profound thinker of the three, the one whose work will stand the test of time. I predict that Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and Till We Have Faces, in particular, will be read and appreciated a hundred years from now.
Jared at Thinklings: Remembering Jack (2005)
Lars Walker at Brandywine Books: The Feast of St. Jack and The Great Man’s Headgear
Hope at Worthwhile Books reviews Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in Lewis’s space trilogy.
Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles writes about her appreciation for the works of C.S. Lewis.
Jollyblogger reviews Lewis’s The Great Divorce.

2. Madeleine L’Engle
Ms. L’Engle is the most likely of the three to have her work become dated. However, the science fiction quartet that begins with A Wrinkle in Time may very well last because it deals with themes that transcend time and localized concerns. And I still like The Love Letters the best of all her books, a wonderful book on the meaning of marriage and of maturity.
In which I invite Madeleine L’Engle to tea in June, 2006, before her death last year.
A Madeleine L’Engle Annotated bibliography.
Semicolon Review of The Small Rain and A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle.
Semicolon Review of Camilla by Madeleine L’Engle.
My Madeleine L’Engle project, which has languished this year, but I hope to get back to it in 2009.
Sweet Potato reviews A Wrinkle in Time.
Mindy Withrow writes about A Circle of Quiet.
Remembering Madeleine: Obituaries and Remembrances from September, 2007.

3. Louisa May Alcott.
I love reading about Ms. Alcott’s girls and boys even though many people, almost all males and many females, are too jaded and feminist, to enjoy books that celebrate the joys of domesticity and home education.
Circle of Quiet quotes An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott on the wearing of blue gloves.
Carrie reviews Little Women, after three attempts to get though it.
Framed and Booked liked Eight Cousins the best just as I did.

November 29, 2007: To This Great Stage of Fools.

There you have it: an impromptu celebration of three very fine authors. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 30th

Another Red Letter Day for literature in the English language:

Jonathan Swift, b. 1667. Read “A Lump of Deformity Smitten With Pride.”

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, b. 1835. Mark Twain’s Christmas greeting from 1890:

It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery, b. 1874.

Christmas broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the ploughed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice re-echoed through Green Gables.

Winston Churchill, b. 1874. Christmas with Churchill by Gerald Pawle, Blackwoods Magazine, Vol. 314, No. 1898, December, 1973.

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 29th

Last year’s quiz for November 29th birthdays. Check it out, and then come back and read about why today is my favorite birthday of the year other than my own.

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Louisa May Alcott House, Concord, Massachusetts




Buy at AllPosters.com

Three of my favorite authors were born on this date:

1. C.S. Lewis, b. 1898. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in particular, has a wonderful Christmas-y theme to it, and I would be happy to enjoy it again with a cup of hot chocolate sitting near the Christmas tree. Several bloggers have written at various times on sundry blogs I frequent about C.S. Lewis, so you can enjoy these tributes:

Jared at Thinklings: Remembering Jack
Carrie reviews Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer. (I read the same biography earlier this year, but I never got around to writing about it. So . . . what she says.)
Lars Walker at Brandywine Books: The Feast of St. Jack and on the 23rd The Great Man’s Headgear

2. Louisa May Alcott, b. 1832.

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, “We haven’t got Father, and shall not have him for a long time.” She didn’t say “perhaps never,” but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Today seems a as good a day as any to remind you and myself to pray for those who are far away, where the fighting is.

3. Madeleine L’Engle, b. 1918. I have two Christmas books by Mrs. L’Engle, and I always ask for one of her books on my Christmas list. THis year I’d like a hard cover copy of The Love Letters or of A Wrinkle in Time.
You may want to look for the following books at the library or in the bookstore; I think either one would enrich your Christmas celebration:

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas: An Austin Family Story tells of the arrival of a Christmas baby during a snowstorm.
Miracle on Tenth Street and Other Christmas Writings includes the story above and other Christmas stories and poems by Madeleine L’Engle. A Full House, another Austin family story, is one of our favorites; we read it every year.

Are any of you fans of these three authors? Which of their books are your favorites? Little Women is good, but my favorite Alcott book is Rose in Bloom. On my list I mentioned two books by Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light and A Severed Wasp, but tonight I’m thinking that my true favorite of all her books is one that’s not as famous, Love Letters, a book about an American woman who runs away from her troubled marriage and ends up in Portugal identifying with the equally troubled life of a sixteenth century Portuguese nun. Not a Christmas story, but I highly recommend it.

As for C.S. Lewis, how could I possibly choose just one? My favorite Narnia book is The Horse and His Boy because it has the best story and the richest lessons, but Lewis’s other fiction books and his nonfiction are all just as rewarding and enjoyable as the Chronicles of Narnia. Till We Have Faces is an excellent story, based on the tale of Cupid and Psyche but infused with all sorts of philosophical and theological truths. And The Screwtape Letters is the most insightful book about sin and temptation and goodness I’ve ever read or ever hope to read aside from the Bible itself. Just take a year or two and read them all.

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 14th

Aaron Copland, American composer, b. 1900. We’ll be listening to some of Copeland’s “greatest hits” this week because I really enjoy his music.

Astrid Lindgren, Swedish author, b. 1907. Here’s a mini-unit study on Pippi for homeschoolers and teachers.
And here are some Pippi coloring pages. The website is in Dutch, I think, or Swedish, but the coloring pages are wordless and well-done.

Claude Monet, b. 1840. Read Linnea in Monet’s Garden.
Free unit study on the French impressionists.
Lesson plan: Painting like the Impressionists.

Nancy Tafuri, b. 1946, author and illustrator of Have You Seen My Duckling? Some ideas for extending the learning and fun of this book..

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 12th

'Richard Baxter' photo (c) 2011, Skara kommun - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Richard Baxter, b. 1615. Puritan preacher, he wrote over 140 books of sermons, devotions, and instruction. Baxter is the author of this famous dictum on Christian unity:

In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.

Let’s thank God today for Richard Baxter and all his fellow Puritans. They may have sometimes lapsed into legalism, but at their best they were passionate followers of Jesus Christ, dedicated to Christian unity, Christian liberty, and Christian charity.

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 11th

I posted this quiz a couple of years ago on this date, but I think it’ll fly again. Leave your guesses in the comments.

He was born on this date in 1821.

While he was at school, his father was murdered by his own servants at the family’s small country estate.

He graduated from engineering school but chose a literary career.

He was arrested and charged with subversion because of his meetings with a group of intellectuals to discuss politics and literature. He and several of his associates were imprisoned and sentenced to death. As they were facing the firing squad, an imperial messenger arrived with the announcement that the death sentences had been commuted to four years in prison and four years of military service..

While in prison, his intense study of the New Testament, the only book the prisoners were allowed to read, contributed to his rejection of his earlier liberal political views and led him to the conviction that redemption is possible only through suffering and faith.

In 1867, he fled to Europe with his second wife to escape creditors.

He returned home and finished what many consider to be his greatest novel two months before his death in 1881.

Quotes by Mr. X:

“Man only likes to count his troubles, but he does not count his joys.”

“It’s life that matters, nothing but life–the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself at all.”
“So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find some one to worship.”

“If there is no God, then I am God.”

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.”

Quotes about Mr. X:

“…the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn.” – Nietzsche

“. . . gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss.” – Albert Einstein

“an author whose Christian sympathy is ordinarily devoted to human misery, sin, vice, the depths of lust and crime, rather than to nobility of body and soul” -Thomas Mann

“..the nastiest Christian I’ve ever met”.-Turgenev

“He was in the rank in which we set Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe.” – Edwin Muir

“My husband was to me such an interesting and wholly enigmatic being, that it seemed to me as though I should find it easier to understand him if I noted down his every thought and expression.” -Mr X’s second wife
(My response to Mrs. X’s observation is: aren’t they all? But who would have time or energy to write it all down–and then try to figure it out?)

Finally, I never have been able to decide how to spell his name. So who is it? And what about you? Have you read his novels? What did you think? Do you find him gloomy and sad or interesting and enigmatic–or all of the preceeding? And how do you spell his name?

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 4th

Augustus Montague Toplady, b. 1740. Toplady’s most famous hymn is Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me, but this one, A Debtor To Mercy Alone, is one we sing in my church:

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n.

Toplady was a great opponent of the Wesleys, especially John Wesley, and he wrote many pamphlets and sermons in opposition to what he termed John Wesley’s “pernicious doctrines,” namely Arminianism. As Toplady was dying at age thirty-eight, he heard of rumors to the effect that he was sorry for the things he had said of John Wesley and wanted to apologize and beg Wesley’s forgiveness. Toplady got up almost literally from his deathbed in order to dispell those rumors and reaffirm his belief in Calvinism and his opposition to the Arminianism of John Wesley.

“It having been industriously circulated by some malicious and unprincipled persons that during my present long and severe illness I expressed a strong desire of seeing Mr. John Wesley before I die, and revoking some particulars relative to him which occur in my writings,- Now I do publicly and most solemnly aver That I have not nor ever had any such intention or desire; and that I most sincerely hope my last hours will be much better employed than in communing with such a man. So certain and satisfied am I of the truth of all that I have ever written, that were I now sitting up in my dying bed with a pen and ink in my hand, and all the religious and controversial writings I ever published, especially those relating to Mr. John Wesley and the Arminian controversy, whether respecting fact or doctrine, could be at once displayed to my view, I should not strike out a single line relative to him or them.”

We sing the hymn above by Toplady and this one by Charles Wesley both at my church. Are the three of them, John, Charles, and Augustus, in heaven amused at the proximity of their two hymns–which seem to my untutored brain to have much the same theme and theology?

Arise my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

J.C. Ryle on Augustus Toplady
Toplady’s Letter to John Wesley

So today I’m thanking God for John Wesley, his brother Charles, and for Augustus Toplady, and I’m asking Him to have mercy on us all–Arminians, Calvinists, and Fence-Sitting Calvino-Arminians, like me.

To this Great Stage of Fools: Born November 29th

Three authors were born on this date. All three are listed on my Unfinished List of the 100 Best Fiction Books of All Time. All three wrote for children as well as adults. Can you identify the author for each of the following quotations?

1. “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

2. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”

3. “The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike…Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish.”

4. “. . . it comes to me that if I am not free to accept guilt when I do wrong, then I am not free at all. If all my mistakes are excused, if there’s an alibi, a rationalization for every blunder, then I am not free at all. I have become subhuman.”

5. “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

6. “God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

7. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

8. “Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors!”

9. “A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere–‘Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,’ as Herbert says, ‘fine nets and stratagems.’ God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

10. “Poor dull Concord. Nothing colorful has come through here since the Redcoats.”

Happy Birthday to Jack, Jo, and Maddy, three of my favorite authors and thinkers.

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 14th

IMG_1259Aaron Copland, American composer, b. 1900. We’ll be listening to some of Copeland’s “greatest hits” this week because I really enjoy his music.

Astrid Lindgren, Swedish author, b. 1907. I thought you might enjoy a picture of my own little Pippi Longstocking today on Ms. Lindgren’s birthday.
Here’s a mini-unit study on Pippi for homeschoolers and teachers.
And here are some Pippi coloring pages. The website is in Dutch, I think, or Swedish, but the coloring pages are wordless and well-done.

Claude Monet, b. 1840. Read Linnea in Monet’s Garden.
This webpage has a selection of coloring pages from famous artists’ pictures, including one by Monet, The Walk, Lady With Parasol.
Free unit study on the French impressionists.
Lesson plan: Painting like the Impressionists.

Nancy Tafuri, b. 1946, author and illustrator of Have You Seen My Duckling? Some ideas for extending the learning and fun of this book..

To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 30th

Another Red Letter Day for literature in the English language:

Jonathan Swift, b. 1667. Read “A Lump of Deformity Smitten With Pride.”

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, b. 1835. Death Disk, a short story by Mark Twain, First published in Harper’s Magazine, Christmas 1901.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, b. 1874.

Christmas broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the ploughed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice re-echoed through Green Gables.

Winston Churchill, b. 1874. Christmas with Churchill by Gerald Pawle, Blackwoods Magazine, Vol. 314, No. 1898, December, 1973.