Friday, May 09, 2008

A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz: Walter M. Miller, Jr.: This is another one of those books I've started a million times but never got past, "Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim . . . ." I heard Mary Doria Russell, author of the excellent The Sparrow, speak about her love for this book and thought I might try it again. It's a novel that fits within the same apocalyptic tradition as Alas, Babylon and The Road. Only it covers centuries. It begins with the discovery of the "blessed documents"; items from the time before an unexplained but likely nuclear event plunged the world into a new dark age. We follow the brothers of the Order of Leibowitz through the centuries as they struggle to get their patron canonized and also maintain what little knowledge is left until the world is ready for it again. The novel is divided into three parts that take place in different eras; Fiat Homo (when the documents are discovered), Fiat Lux (when man is beginning to show an interest in knowledge again -- especially science), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (what man does with that knowledge.) A Canticle for Leibowitz also addresses issues of faith, human nature and the rise and fall of civilizations; it is steeped in Catholicism and Latin. The Latin was annoying to me because I don't know it, but I could always get the gist of the conversation from surrounding textual clues. The Catholicism, however, was like coming back to the place where you born -- I know it and understand it. It's been several weeks since I finished this book, but I still miss the brothers of St. Leibowitz, and I will re-read this novel -- I can't think of a higher compliment. If I were rating this novel as Les does, I'd give it a 4.9 out of 5.

Friday Shuffle -- one actually done on Friday!
  1. The Sporting Life: The Decemberists from Picaresque
  2. Casino Nation: Jackson Browne from Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2
  3. Myriad Harbour: The New Pornographers from Challengers
  4. 15 Step: Radiohead from In Rainbows
  5. I Can't Quit Her: Blood, Sweat and Tears from Greatest Hits
  6. The Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari (I love the title of this song): John Hiatt from Perfectly Good Guitar
  7. Heaven Help Us All: Madeleine Peyroux and Willie Galison from Got You On My Mind
  8. Conquest: The White Stripes from Icky Thump
  9. In the Ghetto: Elvis Presley from Elv1s 30 #1 Hits
  10. American Woman: Lenny Kravitz from Greatest Hits


Les said...

Wow! That's a great review and a convincing rating. I simply must read this book (in spite of the Latin!).

But more importantly, your Friday Shuffle has one of my all-time favorite songs: The Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari! Hiatt is in my Top Ten list of favorite musicians. We saw him last summer (it'd been almost a dozen years since he opened for Jackson Browne) and I loved every minute of that outdoor concert. Now to go listen to some of the other songs on your list. :)

Katya said...

I love the Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari, but my favorite all-time Hiatt song is Howling Down the Cumberland. My daughter and I saw him a few years ago -- we had a lot of fun.

I hope you like A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Les said...

Do you know that John Hiatt has a new cd out?! I plan to buy it next month during our employee discount sale! Whoohoo!

Katya said...

Let me know what you think -- I just saw that it was out yesterday.