Friday, August 04, 2006

Me? Memed?

I don't usually indulge these, for history has proven my approach to be annoyingly novel, discursively digressive, and totally time-wasting. But Zippy's reading my book and if I don't respond he might not finish it.

I didn't even know that 'meme' was a word, let alone that it could be verbed, until I stumbled upon it in researching some topic or other. I've heard of 'enthymeme', a philosophical term referring to an unstated premise or conclusion in an argument, but can't yet see how it relates to the new one coined, apparently, by Richard Dawkins (of respectable evolutionary atheist fame) to account for the existence of thought patterns among conscious creatures (especially human), which are themselves subject to the selective pressures of nature's regime, and probably the cause of Zippy's listing Dawkins' The Selfish Gene at number 4, 'A Book That Made You Laugh'. My guess is that this is Dawkins' attempt to keep consciousness firmly attached to a physical origin, so that we might not wonder too strenuously about its survival beyond death. I should probably read the book to see how his meme philosophy - and, in fact, evolutionary theory itself - escapes the meme deathtrap. I mean if I had written the book, I certainly wouldn't have overlooked such an obvious difficulty.
Update: Actually, he doesn't. Scroll to bottom: "Is Science a Virus?" see how easily I get distracted? Down to business:

1. One book that changed your life: I'm sorry to get contentious right off, but why does it have to be one book? Are any of you the product of one influence of any kind of thing? Name one person who has changed your life. Jesus. I've never actually met him, but I have it on good authority...Actually, I'm wondering how many of us would believe if we hadn't met some really good people who give living witness to the fellow we've never met. This would include historical personages I've also never met, but some of whom wrote books: St. Augustine's The City of God, Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, several things by Chesterton, several things by Flannery O'Connor, Father Hardon's The Catholic Catechism (I did meet that guy), and so on. I'm currently in the process of having my life changed one more time by reading Newman's Arians of the Fourth Century. I didn't answer the question as it was asked, did I? Tough.
Update: don't know how I could have forgotten R.W. Chambers' Thomas More.

2. One book that you've read more than once: The Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Three by Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being by the same girl, All the King's Men by Penn Warren, Dubliners by Joyce, Light in August, As I Lay Dying, etc. by Faulkner, The Portable Faulkner (edited by Cowley), The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms and The First Thirty-nine Stories by Hemingway and, really, a whole bunch of other things too numerous to mention. I have carried on the tradition begun in part I, haven't I? Good.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Just kidding. Or, if I were feeling sufficiently optimistic and misanthropic at the same time, maybe Paradise Regained. Who would want just one book on an island? You'd want a library, wouldn't you? Well, Mr. Luse, why can't you just answer the question the way it's asked? Just because, that's why. It's a trait that's gotten me in trouble most of my life and I don't see any reason to change now.

4. One book that made you laugh: Catch-22, The Reivers, a bunch of stuff in O'Connor. Books that make me laugh accidentally don't usually get finished.

5. One book that made you cry: Do I strike you as the sort of sensitive modern man who is actually going to reveal the moments that brought him to tears, let alone admit that there were any such? I didn't think so. However - a certain Bible-reading session aside - a few works have wrought a great upwelling of the heart that sometimes occurs when an artist seems to touch upon the essential pathos of our situation, when the truth of the moment fans out in great waves of love that reach beyond the details of the tale being told, or the particulars of the subject under discussion. Though a deeply satisfied response is accorded to many works, I believe such revelatory moments to be rare in human literature, but have come upon them in parts of Newman's Apologia and several of his sermons, in Joyce's "The Dead", in Powers' "Lions, Harts, Leaping Does", in O'Connor's The Habit of Being, in Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation", in Bernanos' Diary of a Country Priest, in Caroline Gordon's "Old Red", and James' "The Beast in the Jungle". To name a few.

6. One book that you wish had been written: The one I haven't but should've.

7. One book that you wish had never been written: All right. Catholicism, by Richard McBrien, S.J.E. (Society of Jesuitical Equivocators). Look, if it were left to me, 90% of the verbiage put to paper in modern times would be ash.

8. One book you're currently reading: This is the one I should have been able to answer as asked, but I've broken a long-standing habit and have going Heretics by Chesterton, Darwin's God by Somebody, Arians of the Fourth Century, all in addition to the various novels, stories and poems I dip into when the inspiration hits.

9. One book you've been meaning to read: Everything by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I mention them because it will probably never happen. Those guys talk a lot. What I'd really like to do is give Walker Percy another try.

10. [Not on the list] One book you should read: A Cry of Absence by Madison Jones.

I don't know who to tag, since I'm usually the last to get hold of these things. If Peony, Pansy, Chris, Ellyn vonHuben, Culbreath, Kevin Jones, Dale Price, Erik Keilholtz, Elena, Amy, or Karen Hall haven't done it yet, be my guest.


Rick Barnett said...

Dear William Luse: Are you the Bill Luse I knew through Ward Scott and the Florida Writing Programm in Gainesville around 1979-84? I remember admiring your curmudgeonly and unapologetic Catholic faith, even though I was theologically adrift at the time.

Anyway, I moved to this Yankee-bought city of Atlanta in 1984 with my wife. She's an administrator at the Mercer Pharmacy School here; I'm an itinerant scholar and writer, and adjunct English teacher there.

You must be my Bill Luse; who else has heard of Madison Jones or his work. By the way, I wrote a review of HEROD'S WIFE along with an overview of his works for TOUCHSTONE a couple of years ago but got nowhere with it. Jones has to be the most under-read great writer living. You spoke of R.P. Warren. I'm finally reading his novel A PLACE TO COME TO. It's a might good critique of the ersatz religion of deconstruction/post-modernism and the Art as God crowd currently taken over the Academy.

You can reach me by highway 666 mail at

Best regards,
Rick Barnett

P.S. I enjoyed your piece in TOUCHSTONE very much and meant to look you up sooner. My wife, daughter, and I entered the Church in l995.

William Luse said...

highway 666 mail That's pretty good. Yeah I'm the guy you're looking for. I'll respond by email.