The Ring and the Book continues, as the Pope ponders Guido’s appeal for a stay of execution. (As temporal ruler of the Papal States back then, he had authority over the courts of Rome and other places in his territories.)
On Christian Doctrine (St. Augustine’s book on interpreting Scripture) continues. Book I is about things and signs; but first we get to learn all about why free information sharing is a good thing and taught by Jesus; the ineffableness of calling God ineffable, and all kinds of other fun moments in linguistics theory. There’s some anticipation of Anselm’s favorite proof of the existence of God. Also, lots of theology and prayer life hints and advocacy of humility to theologians and… and so on.
The really sad thing (for us lesser writers) is that, not only does this rush of comments make sense in context and flow nicely from one point to the next, but that in any other author most of these points would be an essay or treatise or book. Here, they’re practically asides. Gah! No wonder people couldn’t wait for him to finish manuscripts before they started copying them on the sly and mailing them to their friends. (Sigh. There’s a definite qualitative difference in thought between those of us who are quite intelligent and had decent schoolings and those who are both really educated and real geniuses. St. Augustine demonstrates this. No wonder St. Albert was so exhilarated to win his point against him on the antipodes.)
Yeah, it finally occurred to me that I’d forgotten to finish this one. It’s amazing what sleep and coffee can do for one’s grasp of these little details. (Yeah, I hate the change of seasons and sunlight as much as holiday stress. Put them together, and I’m not a happy camper.)
The Battle of the Aleutians is one of the prettier publications ever put out by the US Army. (Yay, government stuff is public domain! You can see the booklet here. ) You don’t hear much about the role of the Aleutians in WWII, other than that History Channel program they did. So I think you’ll find this interesting.
And yes, that’s the Dashiell Hammett. He wasn’t stationed in the Aleutians until shortly after the Attu and Kiska stuff. But when he got to the island of Adak, the guy in charge was a mystery fan. He immediately put the writer in charge of the camp newspaper, which immediately became the best camp newspaper ever with the best staff and the tightest deadlines. Several of his biographers feel that this was the happiest time of his life, and certainly his letters sound pretty happy. (Especially for a guy living close to one of the only places that competes with Thule for least-requested assignment in the Air Force!) But he seems to have thought the people were good and the work worth doing, and that’s what makes anyplace a good place to be.
Back issues of The Adakian don’t seem to be online, and are apparently pretty rare… but maybe I’m not looking in the right place? There’s also a book somebody created long afterward from reminiscences Hammett collected from the poor guys who fought in the fogs of Attu. I bet it’s good. There’s going to be a play in 2010 about <I>The Adakian</I>, which also sounds interesting. (A bit long of a commute for me, though!)
The Brand of Silence brings us back to the US, and into the hands of famed pulp writer Johnston McCulley. (You may remember him as the creator of Zorro.) This 1919 noirish novel tells the story of an unassuming man who makes his fortune in Central America and returns home to New York — only to find danger wherever he turns!