Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

The Beginning of Spring

I am currently enjoying the novels of Penelope Fitzgerald. Having read The Blue Flower and The Bookshop I recently picked up the appropriately titled The beginning of Spring which is set among expatriates living in early 19th century Russia. It is not particularly seasonal but it is very well written and even has something of a plot, something which is often in short supply in many novels I read these days. I guess the Spring thing or the ice thaw is acting as a device to underline the general drift of the novel. Worth a second read. Perhaps the two snippets below will give the flavour

“You can borrow my Blackbird, if you like,' said Ben. This was his new fountain pen, which troubled him. It was guaranteed not to leak, but writers and schoolchildren knew better. Ben wished to be relieved of the responsibility of the Blackbird, without losing his own dignity.”

"Birch Tree Thoughts was at the censor now, and since all poetry was suspect, would perhaps be more carefully read there than it ever would again."

2 comments:

Ed said...

What a coincidence - I've just been tearing through Fitzgerald's novels. I started in
December with The Blue Flower (her masterpiece) and have now read seven of hers; they're
mostly quite short. Offshore is another very good one - with an undercurrent of bleakness
below the quiet humour of her prose - but possibly my favourite of those you haven't read
is The Gate of Angels. In fact I'm already itching to read it again, just to see if the
ending is as extraordinary as I first thought - she essentially saves a character from
misery by a miraculous intervention, and instead of seeming forced and artificial it opens
up the whole scope of the novel and makes it glow; like a spiderweb that suddenly catches the sunrise and becomes a thing of beauty. I'm probably overselling it, but I found it very
moving.

Anyway, she's the best novelist I've discovered since Marilynne Robinson (who I guess you've probably read) and maybe the best at social observation since Jane Austen, which is about the highest praise I've got.

Gary Brady said...

Thanks for this. I was in a bookshop the other day and saw Gate of angels for the first time. It was in an older edition (not uniform with the ones like the one illustrated in my post). Perhaps that's the place to go next. I looked at Offshore and was put off by the nautical theme (conscious I still haven't quite finished Erskine Childers classic Riddle of the Sands. Marilynne Robinson's Gilead also lies somewhere not quite finished after an early rush of enthusiasm). BTW Penelope Fitzgerald also left some non-fiction and I am slowly reading her memoir of her father and uncles.