Greg Kohl, Pamela Greg, Sir Bananas discussed on The Book Review
My colleagues john. Williams and greg kohl's join us now to talk about what we're reading. Hey guys hey pamela greg. Let's start with you. What are you reading well. I'm reading a classic twentieth century. French novel that i had never gotten around to in my years of studying french. It's nine hundred thirty. Six book called diary of a country priest by. I'm not sure. I get his name right. It's george his last name is maybe not no sir bananas e- e r a s. The book was subsequently made into a classic rare brisson film that i also have not seen part of the reason that i turned to this book now is that i've read a couple of novels recently. That both incorporated religion as an overt theme or element. That's jonathan francis crossroads. The main character is the associate pastor at a church and the whole setting. Millea of the book takes place against the church and its youth group and then sally rooney is beautiful world. Where are you which has a prominent character in it who's practicing faithful catholic much to the amusement of some of the other characters and it. It's rare enough. In contemporary fiction or really in an urban contemporary life overall for religion to future that both franson and and rooney have characters kind of preemptively. Mock there's something almost shamefully earnest about it. And maybe that makes sense. Because i feel like religion and literature are in some ways rivals. They're like competing channels for certain kinds of questing personality. But for the same reason they make really natural companions. And i'm always surprised that there aren't more like marilyn flannery o'connor's true believers who use fiction explore their faith so the diary of a country priest. It's exactly what the title says it is. It's it's a novel but it's written. As the year long journal of a young catholic parish priest sent out to a rural village in france he is physically unwell. We learn in the first chapter that he's been turning ayaan pale yellow over the past year will eventually learn his stomach cancer. He's probably thirty years older. So this is his first assignment out of seminary. He's also a mentally unwell is contending with that. Whole lost generation type boredom i say lost generation type ornaments. Really just boredom. The human condition and spiritually. It's not that he is unwell. He's he's not a doubter. He's devout in his faith but he is uncertain how best to practice his faith in the world. He doesn't feel like he fits in among the villagers who are these rural pen types in some ways that time period in the setting of the book reminded me of another book i talked about. I'd cast last year. John burgers pig earth which was also about rural france the peasantry and the encroachment of modern times at the early part of the twentieth century. So this priest. I'm not sure he ever gets a name in the book. He feels like he doesn't fit any. He makes the rounds. He feels like the people don't necessarily that. They're practicing but he feels like they don't feel the same spiritual impulse that he does. They may be mock him a little in some ways. He's a lot. Like the associate pastor in france in book where he's very earnest and not sure how to cope with the parish that's maybe less ernest than he is. And he's just constantly struggling to reconcile. What in theological terms. I guess you'd call the competing parts of the trinity weighing which has most relevance to him and to the people that he serves and that's pretty much the whole the plot of the book. It's not you know. An action thriller gets progressively less healthy. It grants tremendous access to troubled and faithful soul in a way that fulfills what we expect from from both literature and from religion. Shortish or is it. I know it's i mean it's about three hundred pages maybe just under three hundred pages. So it's it's not. I mean the last book. I read before this was an edward reads on june. Eighteenth which you know you just fly through. Sounds like it goes at about the regular pace. Three hundred pages. Yeah that's right. How about you. John i am just about finished with com- tobin's new novel. The magician which he talked about recently on the podcast. I thought very well. It is as listeners to that up. Socal no the life or novel. Based on the life of the german writer tomas mon- won the nobel prize in the magic mountain. In britain brooks and death in venice it follows the well. it doesn't follow directly but it is similar in a sense to toby in two thousand and four novel. The master which was about a few years in the life of henry james. These are the two books that i think stand out in his bibliography that are that are written about famous writers and i really loved that book which i read almost way back then so it's been a while but for whatever reason i was hesitant to pick this one up the things that i was reading about it. Even the positive things just didn't they. They made it sound. Maybe a bit less rich than the master. But it's very different. But i actually enjoyed it a great deal. The master is a really internal book. You get a sense of james's interior life. It's a melancholy book. It's a bit of psychological book and this is more of tobin looking at the grand canvas of history and putting on his family against it and just moving through those events and you actually don't get a lot. I don't think of what i would call psychology. You see everything from the outside but as such. I think it's incredibly well done. There's a wryness to it. It can be very funny in brief moments. And there's also just a sense of the family moving out of germany before and during the war and the ways in which they're endangered but the ways in which they continue to to live and and if not thrive to be themselves. I guess you sort of see people. Living in this tumultuous time in history without the history overtaking the story in a strange way. His children are all very interesting characters. Very lively people. And i don't know he sets this whole thing spinning in a way that i found it had a page turning quality to it which is not how i would describe the master even though i read it fairly quickly i could see someone getting a little bit bogged down in it. This to me is a bit more. I think once you're in its grip. It moves pretty quickly. I don't know if either one of us read it. I have not. I'm curious because i i did. Read the master and it felt very much. They're like immersed himself in the work of james and was a little bit channeling henry james in writing. So there's almost like a cover version sent and i wonder if he's doing the same thing with mon- here i don't think so and that's the funny thing. Is that the henry james book. That's very difficult person to cover. But i think you're exactly right. It gave you some of the feeling of james book of his style. Which was quite something and i thought very impressive and bold this is i would not say that. He is trying to immerse you in either his style or his consciousness. It is toby in style and it even the the kind of somewhat awkward thing occasionally is that he'll do something like monster down to write his novel burden brooks okay. Well that's a little on those can sort of handle what he's doing and not give me the forrest. Gump.