Of Greene and Graver: This Year’s “Dean’s List”

Of Greene and Graver: This Year's "Dean's List"

Vice President and Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ, offers his "Dean's List" for the 2000-01 academic year:

The Millennial Dean's List welcomes six new titles this year, more than ever before, and thus adieu must be bid to six to maintain the mystical total of 27. These six new titles include three novels, a biography, the translation of a classic and a collection of essays.

Andrea Barrett's novel, The Voyage of the Narwhal, captures the excitement associated with a sailing exploration to the arctic north in the nineteenth century. As the tale evolves we witness how overarching ambition can lead to startling deceit and unexpected family turmoil.

Elizabeth Graver of Boston College's English Department in her second novel, The Honey Thief, recounts a spirited young girl's growing up in the context of a young mother's coming to terms with life. A lesson I drew from the novel is that if one starts out in Manhattan it may take an Ithaca to make sense of life.

Hollywood gave us this year a cinematic presentation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. Greene's novel appears on this year's Dean's List so one may compare and contrast the novel with the movie and see how Hollywood blinked in disbelief when confronted with Greene's stark faith.

From my very earliest years I have been an Aristotelian Thomist. Hence I have never warmed to what I have judged to be St. Augustine's Platonic and Manichaean take on life. However, after reading Garry Wills' much acclaimed brief life, Saint Augustine, I have softened a bit and begin to see why Augustine has had such a profound impact on so many influential thinkers.

Like many, I first read Beowulf in an English literature survey course. If truth be told, I was never quite certain whether Grendel was male or female, or indeed, was the mother or son. All of that is now cleared up for me after reading Beowulf in Seamus Heaney's translation, from Old English. It is a good read and since the Old English text faces the English translation you can enjoy the poem while marveling at how Heaney derived one from the other.

Catholics are sacramental people. Sacraments are the signs that open up human life to God's presence. Water becomes life-giving through the initiating rite of Baptism; oil strengthens us in the sacraments of Confirmation, the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders; and bread and wine offer us the Father's love in Jesus' presence in the Eucharist. In Signatures of Grace , edited by Thomas Grady and Paula Huston, writers such as Mary Gordon, Ron Hansen and Paul Mariani, of Boston College's English Department, offer personal testimonies to the effect of a particular sacrament in their lives. Andre Dubus concludes the collection with an essay on the sacramentality of everyday life. Good writing on an important topic.

James Agee, A Death in the Family

Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

Andrea Barrett, The Voyage of the Narwhal

George Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest

Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons

Albert Camus, The Fall

Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Thomas Grady and Paula Huston (eds.), Signatures of Grace: Catholic Writers on the Sacraments

Elizabeth Graver, The Honey Thief

Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

Seamus Heaney, Beowulf

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm

David McCullough, Truman

Alice McDermott, Charming Billy

Charles Morris, American Catholic: The Saints and Sinners Who Built America's Most Powerful Church

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

John O'Malley, SJ, The First Jesuits

Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries

Ann Petry, The Street

Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels

Wallace Stegner, Collected Short Stories

Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter

Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

Garry Wills, Saint Augustine

Simon Winchester, River at the Center of the World

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