Book #23: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Funny, funny, funny! Sci fi, sort of, with time travel back to the Victorian era. Lady Schrapnell is rebuilding Coventry Cathedral--125 years after its destruction in WW2. Ned Henry is in a search for an awful vase--the Bishop's Bird Stump. Verity Kindle is trying to make right an error--bringing a cat through the time portal. They both wind up in Victorian England, fall in love, find the vase, play croquet, and take part in seances--all to make history happen the way it did before the mistakes. References abound to Three Men in a Boat, The Moonstone, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. Thoroughly enjoyable. But read Jerome's Three Men in a Boat first.
Book #24: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. A bridge collapses in Peru in 1714, hurling 5 people to their deaths. This very short novel examines the 5 lives and tries to answer "Why them?" God's punishment, God's reward, or what? Love is the answer and the problem.
But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth and we ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
Book #25: Lancelot by Walker Percy. Whew. I love Walker Percy, but he is not easy to read. Told in his own words, Lancelot Lamar tells his friend, an unnamed priest (called Percival by Lancelot in reference to the Knights who saw the Holy Grail), what happened at his plantation, Belle Isle, on the night of the hurricane. An apocalyptic, deadly fire--with suspicious origins, causing the deaths of his wife and others on a movie crew filiming at the plantation. Lancelot found his wife had been untrue to him with several other men, documented the affairs and planned revenge. He sees the whole world crashing down around him, and I nodded right along with his assessment of much of the modern world.
But he is locked up in an institution--is this a story of reality--or madness?
Agree or disagree, this is some powerful stuff:
In times like these when everyone is wonderful, what is needed is a quest for evil.
You should be interested! Such a quest serves God's cause! How? Because the Good proves nothing. When everyone is wonderful, nobody bothers with God. If you had ten thousand Albert Schweitzers giving their lives for their fellow men, do you think anyone would have a second thought about God?.......
But suppose you could show me one "sin," one pure act of malevolence. A different cup of tea! That would bring matters to a screeching halt. But we have plenty of evil around you say. What about Hitler, the gas ovens and so forth? What about them? As everyone knows and says, Hitler was a madman. And it seems nobody else was responsible. Everyone was following orders. It is even possible that there was no such order, that it was all a bureaucratic mistake......
"Evil" is surely the clue to this age, the only quest appropriate to the age. For everything and everyone's either wonderful or sick and nothing is evil......
The mark of the age is that terrible things happen but there is no "evil" involved. People are either crazy, miserable, or wonderful, so where does the "evil" come in?
There I was forty five years old and I didn't know whether there was "evil" in the world.