Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Sound of Silence

(to right: Google's third image search result for "i hate heat." Numbers one and two didn't really work, but you can read the blog post that's tied to #1 here. That first paragraph says it all.)


As long as I live here, I'll continue to be lulled by a few nice days, then be shocked -- shocked -- when it turns unbearably hot again. Which it did today. 95 degrees, unbearable in my condo, unbearable outside. It was the perfect day to find a cool, dim bar, hunker down and drink lots of cold beer, and watch Cups World and Stanley. But a man's got to work, alas, so I'm sober and only half-watching. But at least the air-conditioning is strong.

This morning, looking for any way to cool off, I went to my favorite outdoor cafe, sat, and read:

#18 - "A Time to Keep Silence" by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Another book, already? So soon? Maybe 50 books IS possible! Well, until you consider that "Silence" is, uh, 97 pages. Hardly really a book. But it's not like I'm getting paid to do this, you know?

Anthony Lane's recent article rekindled my interest in Fermor, and in it, Lane raved in passing about "A Time to Keep Silence" -- so when I saw it, shoved into the stacks at my favorite used bookstore, I snatched it up.

It's Fermor's tale of a few stops at monasteries, in the 1950s -- Benedictine and Trappist in France, and an abandoned Orthodox cave monastery in Turkey. It's a subject of no small interest to me -- while not religious, I find the monastic life pretty interesting, and appealing on some levels (appealing: quiet, lots of time to think, beer-making; unappealing: lots of work, religion, no girls, and they probably discourage drinking yourself senseless on the beer).

Fermor writes beautifully, of course. I've said that and it holds true here -- I've gone on and on and there's not more to add. Every word is valuable. Subject-wise, he's a little limited here, because of a (stated in the introduction) respect for some secrets of the monasteries. As such there's not much on why (if he found out) most of these people entered the life, which is what I was curious about.

He weaves in the interesting history behind the orders (particularly the Trappists), but the most fascinating part was the abandoned cave monasteries of Cappadocia, in Turkey. There, the silence of the book becomes all-consuming, mysterious and beautiful.

Fermor wrote this nearly 50 years ago, so I have no idea how these places have changed since. Perhaps the Trappist monastery has a gift shop. But reading this is vicariously peaceful -- but the life doesn't become too appealing. I'm not planning to take this on, after reading the book. But, in all honesty, it's something I could see considering much later in life (especially the way dating's been going lately, har har).

I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for Fermor -- like I said before, you wanna begin with "A Time of Gifts." But if that (and "Woods") appeal, this is a beautifully-written quick read.

1 comment:

alanah said...

Your book sounds wonderful - seriously. But I still have the need to dare you to read a Dennis Lehane or Ian Rankin novel. For fun...! :)