Thursday, September 5, 2013

Offered in a Golden Cup

Never read books you aren't sure about . . .
even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view.
Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because
it was offered to you in a golden cup? ~St. John Bosco
What would the perfect evening consist of? Imagine a very warm cup of tea in one hand and a heavy book in the other. A fuzzy blanket envelops your lap. The glow of the fire dances across the pages. Throw in a few bars of chocolate and perhaps a bit of Sinatra and you're golden! There is only one tiny dilemma to our enchanting evening. Your book.

 Classical novels have always held a sort of fascination with me, particularly if they are quoted often. I want to understand exactly what everyone is referencing and why. And so I read The Divine ComedyPride and Prejudice, and other similar classics. And when at last I place the book again on the shelf, a feeling of accomplishment is present. Although recently, there have been several classics that ended a bit abruptly for me. 

One occasion in particular had a great deal of influence on my opinion of classics henceforth. My grandfather had given me the complete works of Ernest Hemingway. I had never read any of his works before and having heard so many references to The Old Man and the Sea I was quite excited to begin. At first I skipped around with a few of the short stories. After a few there was one with questionable dialogue. But it was brief and seemed to fit the gruff characters' personalities. And so I shrugged it off and proceeded to read. And then a story came that made my jaw drop. I was shocked to find such material in an older story. One cannot be too carefully in the selection of suitable reading!

Recall in Dante's Inferno the fair Francesca's tale of woe. She and her beloved were reading Galleot, a romance that kindled untimely desires within them. She attributed the novel as the destruction of their souls. This is a good example of the  potential danger in books. Shall we court death over something so small as a novel?
Not all books categorized as "classics" should be read. So many are drenched in profane language, compromising scenes, and glorified evil that we really must ask ourselves, what is the purpose of reading such a book? The answer is, there is no purpose. The words might be masterfully woven and the scenes brilliantly arranged, yet the images that fill our mind are fatal.

There are so many books that lift our minds upward. There is no need to indulge in the idle pursuit of useless books. At the very least they snatch from you precious time. At the worst they snatch away your soul. Let us take the advice of St John Bosco; if you are uncertain about the book, do not read it!

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