Opening day of the Trying to Say God conference

After a two hour trip on the South Shore Railroad (“The most uncomfortable seats on rails”™), I ended up at the South Bend Airport (“both taxis in South Bend are already here”™) and made my way to A selection of books from presenters at the Notre Dame bookstore otre Dame University for the “Trying to Say God” conference. This is a conference whose animating spirit is “revitalizing Catholic literature.” As a Catholic writer who has some works that could reasonably be termed “Catholic literature” this is something of interest to me and since the conference was relatively inexpensive ($75), I decided to go and see what they had to say.

The conference was apparently begun out of some envy at the fact that the evangelicalsJonathan Ryan (L), Ken Garcia (R) have been beating the Catholics at the literary festival thing for quite some time now. This is meant to be the first in a biennial series of conferences with the conference to return in 2019 in Toronto.

The opening talk came from Bishop Daniel Flores who spoke on the role of artists in the church and was one of those rare statements by a bishop that referenced both Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings.

Bishop Flores later presided over the conference mass at the Basilica of the IMG 2207Sacred Heart which aside from its beautiful architecture also had a heated holy water font, something I’d never encountered before. I can see that being really nice for baptisms.

The eveMary Karrning keynote was Mary Karr who appeared via teleconference thanks to a back injury. Despite being in so much pain she couldn’t walk, she was still an engaging speaker (plus we got a peek at her office complete with cross and bust of Beethoven).

She told those gathered to read stuff by great authors who’ve written about God, giving as examples, Rumi, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dorothy Day, C. S. Lewis and Frederick Buechner. “The secret to writing about God is the same as the secret to finding God—reaching those broken parts within ourselves.”

Karr went on to say that she prays before she writes, “just give me one good sentence,” and revealed a bit of advice she was given, “What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” which she hates because now she has to ask it of herself all the time.

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Beautiful Sentences: Elie Wiesel

I’m past all desires; too many dead people dwell within me.

Elie Wiesel, The Judges.


Dewey Decimal Project: 447.09 GEN Merde Encore!

The 440s NewImagebring me to French. I’m still not up to actually learning a language and this book is thin and looks promising. It turns out that it’s mildly more interesting than reading a dictionary. I kind of hoped that literal translations of some of the expressions would have been provided, but I guess more functionality with French than I have is assumed.


Beautiful Sentences: William Faulkner

I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind—and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying.


Beautiful Sentences: Elie Wiesel

What if they tried to play tricks with your memory in order to attack the thing it protects—your soul?

Elie Wiesel, The Judges.


Beautiful Sentences: Maria Semple

This is why you must love life: one day you’re offering up your social security number to the Russia Mafia; two weeks later you’re using the word calve as a verb.

Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?


Dewey Decimal Project: 439.1 WEX Just Say Nu : Yiddish For Every Occasion (When English Just Won’t Do)

As I continue through the 400s, I also strive to avoid having to learn another language. The 430s are German and Germanic languages and I decide on this book, Just Say Nu hich looks like it might not be a real learn Yiddish book to check off this decade.

It turns out that Wex has written something that’s a bit of a neither-nor. It looked from the cover—and the interior justified the impression—like a book that was meant to be a somewhat humorous look at Yiddish phrases and expressions, and it was, but Wex also couldn’t resist writing something that was also meant to be a serious text for learning Yiddish and as a result, the book doesn’t succeed at either goal.


Beautiful Sentences: Keith Ridgway

She liked art. She liked paintings and video art and photography. She liked to read about artists and she liked to hear them talk. She had been to all the big London art museums already, and she had been to some small ones too, and some galleries. She wanted to be an artist, she thought, she liked how the world looked and felt one way when you looked at it or breathed or walked about, and looked another way completely when you looked at art, even though you recognized that the art was about the world, or had something to do with the world—the world you looked at or breathed or walked about in.

Keith Ridgway, “Rothko Eggs.”


Dewey Decimal Project: 422 RIC How Happy Became Homosexual : And Other Mysterious Semantic Shifts

As I get into the 420s tNewImagehe books are now shelved in the foreign language section. The 420s are the English language and most of what’s hear are books for ESL learners, so the pickings are slim. I spot this book and the title catches my attention, I’m curious about the transition of the meaning of “gay” and figure this might be an interesting book.

It’s not.

Grouped by category, it ends up being only slightly less dry reading than a dictionary with not especially compelling accounts of the shifts of meaning of various words and phrases. I found it so dull, in fact, that I don’t remember the promised story of the title.


Beautiful Sentences: Yiyun Li

Instead, we read other people’s stories, more real than our own; after all, inadequate makers of our own lives, we were no match for those masters.
Yiyun Li, “Kindness.”