The Confessions

AUGUSTINE st-augustine-botticelli

  • Author: St. Augustine
  • Title: The Confessions
  • Written:  written in Latin between AD 397 and 400
  • Trivia: Read for Greek and Roman Challenge


I’m reading this book very slowly trying to grasp its importance.

  1. Book 1-2 introduction
  2. His infancy, and boyhood up to age 14 – continues to reflect on his adolescence age 16
  3. Book 3-7 narrative of St. Augustine’s life
  1. Book 7 is the ‘middle’ book.
  2. St Augustine struggles intellectually with questions:
  3. Nature of god ? He finds revelation (God speaks to Moses) in Exodus 3:14 “I am that I am”
  4. What is evil ?  He argues that evil is not separate from good.
  5. Just as a shadow grows larger as we move away from the light source…
  6. …so the evil grows as we move away from God.
  1. St. Augustine has gone from Cicero, the Bible and now the neo-Platonist philosophers.
  2. St Augustine describes the neo-Platonists:
  3. they see the goal but not the way to it.
  4. They do not see the bridge (Christ) that leads to our beautiful homeland.
  5. A homeland not to be described but lived in

Paradox book 7:     pagan scholars lead St. Augustine toward Christianity

  1. St Augustine is convinced of the intellectual superiority of Christianity.
  2. He comes to this conclusion NOT by reading the Bible, but the philosophers.
  3. In them he finds a way of articulating christian beliefs.
  4. He compares St John’s Gospels with books of the Platonists.
  1. Book 8 conversion
  2. St Augustine now knows what he wanted to learn from the neo-platonist philosphers.
  3. In book 8 he will have to discover:
  4. What is it that ONLY Christ offers as a way of coming to that final truth he seeks….
  5. …that he told us about in the first paragraph of the book.
  6. ” …and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.” (pg 3)

St Augustine truth index

  1. St Augustine longs to imitate his role models:
  2. St Paul, St Anthony of the Desert, Victorinus (fellow teacher of rhetoric)
  3. Yet he still cannot convert.
  4. Certitude of faith is not the issue, fame/ambition is not the issue.
  5. But Augustine  must first break free of the ‘chain’ (lust).
  • “…disordered lust springs from a perverted will;
  • when lust is pandered to, a habit is formed;
  • when habit is not checked, it hardens into compulsion.
  • These were like interlinking rings forming what I have described as a chain and
  • my harsh servitude used it to keep me under duress.” (pg 205 – 206)
  1. Conversion:  the climax of the book (pg 223 -224)
  2. Place: in a garden, Augustine hears a voice ‘ Pick it up and read’.
  3. Augustine picks up the book of scripture…
  4. Romans 13:13-14 – it speaks directly to St. Augustine’s addictions.
  5. Passage:  is from one of St Paul’s longest letter (saint that also experienced a conversion…)
  1. “Not in dissipation and drunkenness, nor in debauchery and lewdness,
  2. nor in arguing and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
  3. and make no provision for flesh or the gratification of your desires.
  1. St. Augustine says thereafter:
  2. “I had no wish to read further, nor was there need.” (pg 224)
  3. This is his confirmation of the moment of conversion.
  1. Book 9:  Death and Rebirth
  2. Augustine is baptized along with Alypius (friend) and son Adeodatus.
  3. He renounces his career as teacher of rhetoric….will write books and sermons.
  4. He reveals more about his mother Monica.
  5. Augustine grieves about the death  his mother, son and two good friends.
  1. Book 10-13 non-narrative (not part of ‘conversion narrative….)
  2. topics of discussion aimed to guide St. Augustine’s flock as their bishop.
  3. I skimmed these chapters….but not included in this review.

Last Thoughts:

  1. St. Augustine’s last struggle was the question:
  2. Could he accept the christian beliefs ‘privately’ and
  3. ….keep the respect of his intellectual peers?
  4. Must I profess openly?
  5. St Augustine decides to be a part of a community (church).
  6. He gives us this impressive work of literature.
  7. He gives us his prayer that starts with
  8. “Great are you, O Lord…(pg 3) and ends with ‘Amen” (pg  460)
  9. He publicly professes his faith in …his book “The Confessions.”



Posted by on August 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Brothers

DULLES diego-rivera-45232-20140209-9

Diego Rivera: “Glorious Victory”

  • Author: S. Kinzer
  • Title: The Brothers
  • Published: 2013
  • Trivia: Diego Rivera mural depicts the Dulles brothers shaking hands with the
  • dictator Col. C. Armas they installed over the dead bodies of peasants.
  • Trivia: John Foster Dulles is wearing a hat and glasses, Allen Dulles leans his head on John’s shoulder.
  • Trivia: Smiling face on bomb is that of Pres. Dwight Eisenhower!


  1. The Bothers delves into the personal beliefs and perspectives of the Dulles brothers, John Foster and Allen Welsh.
  2. Never were two brothers so different and so powerful!
  3. John Foster – preachy, polished, living behind a mask
  4. Allen Welsh – smooth, seductive, silent
  5. The book reveals a picture of the nature of U.S. foreign policy that is well known.
  6. Under President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles (Secr of State 1953-1959), Allen Dulles (CIA 1953-1961) the US waged a global battle secretly in the 1950’s against visionaries in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa:
  7. Guatemala (Pres. Arbrenz), Indonesia (Pres. Sukarno), Congo (Prime Minister Lumumba), Cuba (Fidel Castro), Iran (Prime Minister Mossadegh), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh)
  8. … instigating secret unrest/war in Burma and during the Hungarian Revolution.
  9. This book is a ‘page-turner’ that outranks any espionage fiction you will ever read!
  10. Dean Acheson (former Secr of State) wins the prize with the most poignant remark he made to JFK when he heard about the plan to invade Cuba:  “Are you serious? ” he said. “It doesn’t take Price Waterhouse to figure out that 1500 Cubans aren’t  as good as 25.000!
  11. There is so much to like in this book.
  12. Often I had to compare  the actions used  against PM Mossadegh in Iran
  13. ….with what is happening in Turkey 2016.
  14. Plans to weaken Mossadegh, democratically elected PM in early 1950’s (instigate chaos, encourage military leaders to stage coup) were all covert operations with tacit agreement from US President Eisenhower.
  15. The more I read…the more I get the feeling the
  16. …same modus operandi is being used in Turkey!
  17. I must keep reading the newspapers.
  18. Hopefully they will not be influenced by
  19. …US government to suppress some news stories…covert actions?
  20. History does repeat itself!
  21. #MustRead





Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized


Rattigan: ‘Separate Tables’

RATTIGAN Terence-Rattigan-Collection-30979_2

  • Playwright: Sir Terence Rattigan (1911 – 1977)
  • Title: Separate Tables
  • Stage: 1954, London
  • Trivia: Rattigan was one of England’s most popular mid twentieth century playwrights.


  1. The guests gather for a life-changing night at the Beauregard Hotel in
  2. …Bournemouth, an English seaside resort town.
  3. We look at the  lives of several residents.
  4. Guests who have their meals at Separate Tables.
  5. The landlady, Miss Cooper, is the lover of failed alcoholic writer John Malcolm.
  6. His life is thrown into turmoil when his estranged ex-wife, Ann
  7. …unexpectedly and mysteriously comes to the hotel.
  8. Other guests include the matronly Mrs. Railton-Bell and
  9. …her withdrawn daughter, the spinster Sibyl.
  10. Sibyl is fascinated by Major Pollack and his colorful stories of his military exploits.


  • This is an absolutely classic English play!
  • Written 1950’s Rattigan’s play develops familiar themes of
  • loneliness, humiliation and the self appointed moral jurors in the private hotel.
  • Rattigan draws on his own world. 
  • He dissects the known realities of the upper-middle-class.
  • Separate Tables  is touching, subtle and proof how
  • …small minds (Lady Railton-Bell) can problematize the unproblematic.
  • Reading tip: try to put faces on the characters before reading.
  • I used the actors/actresses in the  1958 movie version of the play.
  • Score: 5   #MustRead

TABLES 10240_5_large

TABLES images

TABLES 10240_7_large

TABLES david-niven_-mesas-separadas

TABLES 10240_9_large


Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Uncategorized


Eight Comedies


  • Editors:  S. Barnet, M. Berman, W. Burto
  • Essays by: G.K. Chesteron, Frye, S.  Langer and B. Dobrée.
  • Title: Eight Comedies
  • Trivia: Read for Greek and Roman Challenge
  • Table of contents:
  • Aristophanes – The Clouds (read 31.07.2016)
  • Machiavelli – Mandragola   (read 02.08.2016)
  • Molière – The Miser
  • Shakespeare – Twelfth Night (read 03.08.2016)
  • Gay – The Begger’s Opera
  • Chekhov – Uncle Vanya
  • Shaw – Arms and the Man


  1. I have been plowing through 400 pages of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov’.
  2. I need something light and entertaining to bring some balance in my reading day.
  3. This book just jumped off the screen! 
  4. It has a colorful cover and great selection of classic plays.
  5. And I was interested in reading the essays included in the book,
  6. I started  with The Clouds by Aristophanes.
  7. Aristophanes lambasts education (Socrates), politics (Cleon) and tragedy (Euripides).
  8. He especially  pokes fun at Sophists art of logical speaking (dialectical reasoning).
  9. The brunt of the satire is aimed at Socrates.
  10. He is corrupting the youth by teaching them to prove immoral behavior is right
  11. …by using clever logical arguments.
  12. The play is a short classic Greek  comedy and it helps but it helps if you
  13. ….review the plot via Wikipedia before reading
  14. structure of the play:
  15. …prologue – parodos – parabasis – agon (debate) – exode (final choral song)
  16. learn what a Sophist  is.
  17. I’ll be reading the rest of the book during the summer.






Posted by on July 30, 2016 in Uncategorized


Kevin Canty: ‘God’s Work’

CANTY 160404_r27916-881

  • Title:   God’s Work
  • Short story: The New Yorker, April 04 2016
  • Trivia: Canty will publish his 8th novel “The Underworld” this year.
  • Trivia: He lives in Missoula Montana, USA
  • Trivia:  Short Story Challenge


  1. A mother and son pamphleteering on a hot summer day for their faith.
  2. The boy Sander (15 yr) is utterly embarrassed but follows his mother door to door.
  3. One day Sander meets Clara from his school
  4. …when she opens the door.
  5. We are inside Sander’s world looking out.
  6. Why does God not stop him from making a fool of himself?
  7. Characters: Sander, his mother, Clara, her father


  1. What is the most important point Canty wants to make in this story?
  2. Sander wrestles with his faith.
  3. Why can’t he be like his mother?
  4. Why can’t he just be good?
  5. …why can God be so generous and also so exacting?
  6. Why do they have to work so hard to come to Him?
  1. Clara is looking for a spiritual experience.
  2. She asks Sander: ” Faith…where do you get it? Where can I buy some?
  3. Canty uses dreams vs reality in the narrative to raise the emotional level.
  4. There are puberty dreams about girls, open windows, speeding cars.
  1. Foreshadowing:
  2. Sander ‘knows along this passing sadness
  3. ….the beautiful dream of the world only to have it end.’
  4. 85% of the story is about Clara and Sander.
  5. They feel alone and emptiness  even when they are together.
  6. Canty uses a famous ‘tree in the forest’ allusion
  7. …as a philosophical thought experiment.
  8. Tree:  if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it…
  9. Does it make a sound?
  10. Clara asks: “It (the world) will go on without us
  11. …it won’t exist without somebody to touch it (flowers, grass, rain).”
  1. Light bulb moment for Sander:
  2. By answering Clara’s question
  3. …he answers his own questions about his beliefs.
  4. “You don’t have to understand it. That’s for faith to do.”
  1. Images I liked:
  2. she had racoon eyes and pierced anything
  3. an eagle stare he gave her
  4. the sky was empty, mindless blue
  5. he felt a needle of fear
  6. then she’s gone and an electric hush falls over the room
  1. Conclusion: 6/10
  2. God’s Work  was touching story without being preachy about faith.
  3. Canty uses humor and descriptions of the realistic everyday world.
  4. In the begin and end of the story we see….
  5. Sander taking the big valise of pamphlets, walking behind mother in his black suit.
  6. Canty bookends the story  for a sense of closure.

CANTY Canty-Fiction-QA-796

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Kennan Diaries


10 Feb 1966, Washington, DC, USA --- Washington D.C.: Former Ambassador George F. Kennan tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the U.S. "Should do everything possible" to avoid further escalation of the war in Vietnam. Kennan is former Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and a longtime Senate Department Policy Maker. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

10 Feb 1966, Washington, DC, USA — Washington D.C.: Former Ambassador George F. Kennan tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that the U.S. “Should do everything possible” to avoid further escalation of the war in Vietnam. Kennan is former Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and a longtime Senate Department Policy Maker.

  • Author: George Kennan (1904 – 2005)
  • Editor: F. Costigliola  Lecture about G. Kennan by Frank Costigliola
  • Title: The Kennan Diaries
  • Published: 2014
  • Trivia: I read the book on Kindle while listening to the audio book.
  • Audio book  also reads the ‘footnotes’ out loud.


  1. George F. Kennan was the most celebrated ­diplomat-intellectual of the 20th century.
  2. He was the author of the strategy of containment that
  3. …the United States adopted and that won the Cold War.
  4. He spent much of his life thinking about political philosophy.
  5. His instincts and insights were deeply conservative.
  6. Where would he feel comfortable in 2016 political scene?
  7. Trump supporter?  I think not.


  1. Introduction = very good
  2. Chapters 1 – 3 were not very interesting.
  3. The book picks up a little steam in chapter 4 (WW II) continuing to the last chapter.
  1. Weak point: Kennan make NO mention of some major events in history
  2. even though he was in USA  and Germany when they occured
  3. Wall Street Crash of 1929 –  09/10 November 1938 Kristallnacht in Germany
  4. …even the assassination of JFK was not mentioned!
  5. I found this very strange.
  6. I expected a political animal as Kennan would have
  7. …some thoughts about the causes and effects.
  1. Advice given by Kennan that he  MOST regretted:
  2. ….urging  CIA to undertake covert ‘political warfare’.
  1. Weak point: the book is ‘stuffed’ with travelog descriptions
  2. …of trains, boats, cafés and countryside.
  3. This marred the  attractiveness or appeal of the book as a quasi ‘political document’.
  1. Strong point: Kennan the man ‘is a hard nut to crack’.
  2. But when he did put some very personal
  3. thoughts on paper he sketched a very sad portrait.
  4. His mother died 2 months after his birth. This scarred him for life
  5. Boredom....”nothing good can come out of modern civilization…”
  6. These are heavy thoughts for a man who is about to be married at 27 years old!
  1. Narrator: January 1933 Kennan suddenly changes narrator to 3rd person.(pg 76 – 78)
  2. Kennan narrates events and characters from the outside.
  3. He asks the reader to confront what they see.
  1. Tone:  changes on these pages to cold, analytical thought about a man (himself)
  2. …rather than feelings of empathy for this lost soul.
  1. Turning point: 1933:  Recently married to a young girl who was kind but not an intellectual.
  2. Kennan also had difficulty with monogamy. “I’m bored with myself and with everyone around.”
  1. BEST QUOTE: (pg 78)
  2. ‘But the demands of marriage were inexorable…
  3. …to recognize that you had been caught and to make the best of it:
  4. not beat frantically against the bars of the cage.
  5. …On might well watch life outside, through the bars
  6. But one could not participate in this life.”
  1. Trend: Throughout the book….Kennan describes his bouts with depression.
  2. He asks himself: “What are the real things you can’t have? (Kennan is 38 yrs old).
  3. Women, there’s one thing. Liberty is another. Peace of mind is a third. Isn’t that enough?
  4. This is a very unhappily married diplomat…but he stayed with his wife for 73 years!
  1. Trend: You can feel that Kennan is ‘holding back’ in his diaries.
  2. He knows they will be read in the future and as a seasoned diplomat he did not
  3. …mention sensitive details about foreign policy or his personal life.
  4. If you keep that in mind you won’t be disappointed.
  5. This is NOT a tell-all book.
  1. Strong point:
  2. information from  Kennan fills in yet a few more gaps in my knowledge of 20th C history.
  1. Strong point: comments  in 1940-50’s by Kennan about
  2. …American intervention  in Iran, Iraq and Indochina are still relevant.
  3. Policy makers are still NOT listening.

KENNAN 51If0koPiaL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_


Posted by on July 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


Poem: Ammons, A.R. “Extrication”

Ammons a-r-ammons-3

A.R. Ammons (1926 – 2001)

  1. A. R. Ammons was born in rural North Carolina.
  2. His experiences growing up on a cotton and tobacco farm
  3. during the Great Depression inspired a great deal of the poet’s work.
  4. Ammons won the annual National Book Award for Poetry  in 1973 and 1993.
  5. In 1964, Ammons joined the faculty of Cornell University
  6. (Professor of English and Poet in Residence)  and retired in 1998.
  7. Ammons combines the experience of nature with
  8. …the first  feeling of an ‘inner response’
  9. He  uses ‘words to wrestle’ with his thoughts.
  10. In the last stanza he expresses
  11. the ‘quick’ fluid current  (inner response)
  12. …between the ‘slow’ flow of stone. (experience of nature)
  13. …between the river and the rock.
  14. This poem is rural poetry written in simple language…except for the title!
  15. The title ‘Extrication’ does grab the reader’s attention….
  16. (releasing from a snarled or tangled condition)
  17. But it does not draw the reader into the poem
  18. ….it scared me away!
  19. Punctuation: no periods… just one colon and comma.
  20. The word movement is NOT across the page…but vertically, down the page.


I tangled with
the world to
let it go
but couldn’t free

it: so I made
to wrestle in my
stead and went

off silent to
the quick flow
of brooks, the
slow flow of stone


Posted by on July 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 190 other followers

%d bloggers like this: