Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Adding to My Belloc Collection

My aunt gave me a copy of The Cruise of the Nona yesterday. Hooray! It was discarded from Los Gatos Public Library, and it was printed in 1955, but once I had pried off the horrible plastic cover and peeled off all the moldering yellow tape, it turned out to be in very good condition, dust jacket and all. In better condition than my old copy of The Path to Rome, I must say. I got that book used from Amazon, and it is now no more than a neat stack of kindling on my bookshelf. It was also printed in the fifties, and I still feel a twinge of vicarious nostalgia when I see the "85¢" label on the cover (If Belloc had ever told the story of the Hungry Student, the price of books should have been a critical point). It is one of those "Image Books," and the catalogue of other titles in the back is interesting: classic books like The Diary of A Country Priest (65¢!), The Everlasting Man, and Waugh's study of Campion; really classic books like the Imitation of Christ and Summa Contra Gentiles; and more evanescent period literature - Father Malachy's Miracle, Joyce Kilmer's Anthology of Catholic Poets. The last volume contains "some 250 poets." Does anyone anthologise "Catholic poetry" anymore? I'm sure that most of the 250 weren't very enduring, but such an anthology would at least be fun to page through...

I recently bought the nice new Ignatius Press edition of The Path to Rome. Somehow it manages to be twice as big and three times as heavy as my old copy. The pages are dense and creamy... the margins generous... the font crisp... the cover evocative... Some of the best pictures have been redone in delicate ink washes, and there is an introduction by Joseph Pearce, who spends his eight pages telling you all the works of Belloc that you must read next. At the top of each page there is a little summary of what comes underneath, such as "Andiamo," "Theological Digression," "Why 'Decimo?'," "Unimportant," "Rome Calls Me" and the like. I suppose Belloc wrote them, but they are not included in my old copy.

Thank you, Ignatius Press!

Still... this is not the volume that I took on my own path to Rome, the little faded book that I read on the long bus rides south, that added new perspectives of clarity and complexity to everything I saw, that finally fell to pieces in a Roman hotel room where I was perched in a high window on the top floor, reading the final pages. That's why I never threw it away.

But I have gotten away from my original subject. The Cruise of the Nona is a little disapointing; it isn't as inspired as The Path to Rome. Belloc muses interminably on British politics and the Prussian War or what not, and a lot of it is as opaque as Anne Coulter's books will be in 75 years. But the subtle, terse descriptions of the vagaries of sailing and the moods of the sea are worth reading. The best parts are the Dedication and the ending...

My Dear Maurice -

I have dedicated to you two books: one was a book "On Nothing." This I dedicated to you because, being on nothing, it dealt with what is better than the fullness of life.

Another book I dedicated to you was the "Green Overcoat," and this I dedicated to you because you had written a play called the "Green Elephant," and we thereby held communion in green things.

I now dedicate you this book, because you also have written a book upon Things That Come to Mind, and this book may well turn into something of the same sort. Yours was called "The Puppet Show of Memory," and dealt with the things and people you had seen and known. What mine will be called I do not yet know, for I hold that a child should be born before it is christened.

And it continues for pages, all pure Belloc - dropping wild names and tantalisingly odd and insufficient explanations, mocking pedantry, and ending with the choice of the title: The Cruise of the Nona.

And the ending... I will use at a later date, because I am tired of typing.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by