30 June 2009

'I Have Always Imagined That Heaven Will Be a Kind of Library'

It is time for a new book update, particularly since a long-desired volume arrived yesterday which sealed the deal: Alexandros Papadiamandis, The Boundless Garden: Selected Short Stories, Vol. I (Limni, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2007). As my professor has published numerous things on Papadiamandis, including a book hopefully soon to be published in English by my friend Herman Middleton (Anestis Keselopoulos, Greece’s Dostoyvesky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamantis, trans. H. Middleton [Thessaloniki: Protecting Veil, forthcoming]; read about it here), I deemed it politic to familiarise myself with him a bit. Also, from what I’ve read, Papadiamandis just sounds wonderful. See, for example, Felix Culpa’s posts on this book here and here, the latter featuring a link to an online text of one of the stories. But one can also read a review in the TLS, or the posts at biblicalia, The Ochlophobist, or This Side of Glory. Actually, I may be the last Orthodox blogger to acquire and read this book. My tremendous gratitude is due to Fr Luke Hartung for graciously sending this copy, which has muscled its way to the top of my reading list. Order your own from him here (if that doesn’t work, try ordering it directly from the publisher here).

But there is more, dear readers, and indeed, I hardly know where to start! Perhaps with another complimentary review copy: Dionysios Farasiotis, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, trans. and adapt. Hieromonk Alexis (Trader), ed. Philip Navarro (Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2008). Guru is another book that I have acquired shockingly belatedly. In 2004 I actually met the author himself, who was sent to me after everyone else I knew declined to work on editing the original translation. Of course, I was not able to accept the job either, and in the end Farasiotis was persuaded to have it re-translated. This was done by my friend, Fr Alexis, an American monk at Karakallou on the Holy Mountain and the translator of Fr Romanides’s Patristic Theology. The editing of Fr Alexis’s translation was then undertaken by my very good friend, Philip Navarro. I read a good chunk of the original, nearly unreadable translation, and have also looked into the Greek edition a bit (an unattractive book rather hidden at the bottom of one of my less visible bookcases). Furthermore, I contributed directly to the ‘Suggestions for Further Reading’ at the end. But I did not yet have a copy of the completed book until a couple of weeks ago, when Abbot Gerasim of the St Herman of Alaska Monastery (who tells me he must ‘keep on eye on his Logismoi’!), graciously sent me a review copy. Anyway, for those who don’t know, Guru is the story of a young man who was drawn into ‘Eastern’ religions, even travelling to India to become the disciple of several gurus. After many fascinating and terrifying experiences, he was finally brought back to the Orthodox Faith through the prayers and witness of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, one of the great elders of the twentieth century.

Next, there are a few books I’ve discovered at local used bookshops for ridiculously low prices in the field of biblical studies. As a frequent reader of biblicalia and the Voice of Stefan, I find myself constantly wishing I had more biblical studies works, and so when I see them, I have a difficult time resisting. First, there is Amos N. Wilder, Early Christian Rhetoric: The Language of the Gospel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), constituting Wilder’s Haskell Lectures for 1961-1962 at Oberlin College. Yes, it’s a bit old, but it only cost a few dollars and the topic is certainly one that fascinates me.

Second, I finally acquired a much-needed book on the parables of our Lord (important to my thesis)—Klyne R. Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008). Esteban tells me that if one is only going to buy one book on the parables, this is the one to buy. The list price is $50 and you can buy it on Amazon for $31.50, but I got mine at Aladdin for less than $25 (thanks, Dad!). One of the most interesting things to me is the inclusion with each parable of ‘Helpful Primary Source Material’, including parallels in early Jewish and Greco-Roman writings.

Next, as my posts on the Prophet Job had me newly interested in that book, I eagerly bought The Voice Out of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job, Materials for Analysis, ed. Ralph E. Hone (SF: Chandler, 1960) for $2.95. Although it would probably be dated as a work of critical scholarship, the book remains valuable since it is primarily an anthology of essays on Job by various literary figures, including Kierkegaard, Bacon, Blake, Goethe, and Frost, but also theologians like Calvin and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Lastly, a friend gave me an old copy of William Hersey Davis, Beginner’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament (NY: Harper, 1923). I already had a copy of H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (NY: Macmillan, 1963), but I figured, one can always use more grammars!

Next, I finally got a copy (for $3.95) of Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, rev. ed. (NY: Touchstone, 1972), as part of my efforts to acquire more books on education in anticipation of my daughter beginning her formal studies at a Trivium school this Fall.

Then for $6 I found one of the books that caught my attention in Martin Jaffe’s footnotes—Steven T. Katz, ed., Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (NY: Oxford U, 1978). According to Jaffe, it is an ‘excellent resource for reviewing the state of “mysticism” in academic discourse’, and he continues, ‘I have been deeply influenced by the arguments of several contributors to this volume about the error of defining “mysticism” by its alleged “experiential component” rather than by publicly available information derived from social institutions and texts’ (Inner-Worldly Monasticism: Towards a Model of Rabbinic-Halakhic Spirituality [Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2006], p. 12, n. 1). On Jaffe’s book, see this post.

When I bought Adler’s book, I also got a cheap copy of the third volume in Fr Alexander’s St Symeon the New Theologian series, On the Mystical Life—The Ethical Discourses, Vol. 3: Life, Times, and Theology, written, trans., and ed. Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin) (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1997). While the first two volumes contain Fr Alexander’s translations of St Symeon, the third consists of a study of—you guessed it—St Symeon’s life, times, and theology. I read most of it in one sitting and was quite taken with it. Among other interesting points, Fr Alexander discusses the tension between the charismatic authority of elders and the institutional authority of the clergy. I continue to hang on Fr Alexander’s every word.

At the same shop that I found many of these others—OKC’s brand-new Half-Price Books—a copy turned up of Fr John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends & Doctrinal Themes (NY: Fordham U, 1979). Better yet, it is a (now) crème-coloured edition, rather than the new purple one I used to see (and refrain from buying) at Borders. It almost looks like it belongs next to my Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies books!

Finally, I have saved the very best for last. Prompted in no small part by Kevin Edgecomb’s breathtaking description of it here, featuring a complete list of the ‘Hypotheses’, I used the money I was recently paid for a proof-reading job by Bishop Maxim to purchase the paperbacks of The Evergetinos: A Complete Text, 4 vols., trans. Archbishop Chrysostomos, et al. (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2008). Read Kevin’s post if you want a good reason to order your own. I will just confine myself to one point. Archimandrite Justin (Popović) of blessed memory has written (‘Introduction to the Lives of the Saints’, trans. M.J., Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, trans. Fr Asterios Gerostergios, et al. [Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, 1994], p. 47):

And what else are the Lives of the Saints but the only Orthodox pedagogical science. For in them in a countless number of evangelical ways, which are completely worked out by the experience of many centuries, it is shown how the perfect human personality, the completely ideal man, is built up and fashioned, and how with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues in the Church of Christ he grows into ‘a perfect man, according to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). . . .

If you wish, the Lives of the Saints are a sort of Orthodox Encyclopedia.

While this is a striking truth, demonstrated and illumined by long and frequent reading of the Saints’ Lives themselves, it can be difficult to see at first. One must read carefully and attentively, sifting through the countless stories to discern precisely what the lesson to be learned is. The Evergetinos makes this much, much easier. Carefully chosen and arranged according to the schema of ‘Hypotheses’ by the Blessed Paul of the Evergetis Monastery, this book is nothing less than a literal textbook of Orthodox ‘moral philosophy’, to use St Nicodemus’s expression (‘Prologue’, Evergetinos, Book I, p. xxxiii). Really, all English-speaking Orthodox Christians should get a copy of this amazing spiritual classic, published in an outstanding, beautiful edition by the CTOS.


Max Weismann said...

We are a not-for-profit educational organization, founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery--three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos, lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

Three hours with Mortimer Adler on one DVD. A must for libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

I cannot over exaggerate how instructive these programs are--we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

Please go here to see a clip and learn more:


Justin said...

If Carl Sagan were alive today, he would expect us to want heaven to be full of libraries... so we can go destroy them. We're Christians- you know, that's what we do.

aaronandbrighid said...

Thank you, Mr Weismann. I watched the clip on the link you sent, and these videos do look quite fascinating. I certainly plan to order a copy, and I'll have to spread the word about it.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

You're blessed with a particularly good bookstore nearby, Aaron!

I'm happy you're happy, just as I'm very happy, with the gigantic Evergetinos. It's a real treasury, a kind of medicine cabinet for every need.

And Papadiamandis! I didn't know you didn't have that! It's a real delight. I've bought and given four copies away already.

aaronandbrighid said...

Kevin> Well, I have a copy now, but there are other books I don't have if you're interested in giving things away! I would, for instance, like to get the other Papadiamandis translations, few as they are. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure if they're in print.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I don't think they are, yet. They're still in process, last I heard.

I think the full set of his writings is only three volumes in Greek, and I have a link to those at home, somewhere. I always thought that reading Papadiamandis would be a fine indicator that one is fluent in modern Greek, so I plan to get a set. And I am not conversant in modern Greek at all, which I really need to address.

The Ochlophobist said...


Are y'all still planning to come to Memphis later this month?

aaronandbrighid said...

Kevin> The Boundless Garden intro says the Greek edition is 5 vols., of which I would certainly like a set as well! As for the translations, what I was referring to were the earlier translations: a couple versions of The Murderess, Tales from a Greek Island (published by John Hopkins U), and Sherrard's translation of 'The Seal's Lament', all of which Fr Kamperidis mentions in the intro.

Owen> Yes we are. I can't wait!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Oh, forgetful me! I'll look for the link when I get home.

I read that translation of The Murderess a long time ago, I think, though I remember little of it. His name stuck with me though and reputation of "writer of traditional ways that are or have disappeared" (which I guess is what used to be the big opinion of him, kind of an ethnologist, which I think they touch on in there, too), but that misses the point. It's a living faith and a way of life that he writes about. The loss of that way of life is also, to a degree, a loss of the faith, as well. The more modern we become, the more distractions we allow to be perceived as important. I think he recognized this quite early on. There's such a gentle beauty to his writing.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Take a look here for all the ΑΠΑΝΤΑ volumes.

If the link doesn't woork, go to greekbooks.gr and search for ΠΑΠΑΔΙΑΜΑΝΔΗΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ ΑΠΑΝΤΑ.

aaronandbrighid said...

The link worked, and ouch! Those are expensive! I'm not sure what the exchange rate is these days, but when we were in Greece it was like 1 euro=$1.35 or something. I like the covers though.

By the way, for the sake of anyone who tries to copy your search words, you made a slight typo. It's spelled 'ΠΑΠΑΔΙΑΜΑΝΤΗΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ'--with a Τ rather than a Δ.

s-p said...

Aaron, check out this blog post, I think it is this library in your picture. Follow the instructions. It is WAY cool.

aaronandbrighid said...

You're right, that is WAY cool! It's not the same library though, it just looks similar. The one I posted isn't two-storey. The ceiling design is a little different too.