Of cyclists, colonial Catholics, and crappy endings

Last weekend I stayed at the Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, there to be evaluated for admission to their kidney transplant list. Much of my downtime was spent (how else) reading.

How Cycling Can Save the World is a straightforward argument for the promotion of bicycling as transportation, following the Dutch example. Walker is particularly interested in reviving urban cycling’s prospects in Great Britain. which had some support at the time from Mayor (now Prime Minister) Boris Johnson, and he compares Johnson’s efforts with those of Bloomberg’s transport coordinator, Janette Sadik-Khan. Contrary to the book’s title, Walker doesn’t draw much on the environmental appeal of bike transport; instead, he focuses on health, human happiness, and the boons to cities. Preaching to the choir for me, of course, but I have three books waiting (Creating the Dutch Cycling City, Copenhaganize, and Streetfight) on the practicalities of creating better streets and human spaces within American cities.

Next up was Pioneer Priests and Makeshift Altars, which I’d intended to save for June. This is a history of colonial America’s Catholic communities, which were few and hard-pressed. Connor begins with a history of the reformation, particularly as it developed in England, before moving to the creation of Maryland as a hoped-for Catholic refuge during the era of Elizabethan and Jacobean England. English Catholics were more willing to try their luck at home than abroad, though, and Connor details how Maryland was quickly swamped by Puritans – -who, during the coup-by-Parliament that brought William and Mary of the Netherlands to the English throne, made Catholic colonists enemies in their own place once again. Despite the disdain many of the founding generation for Catholics, and the risk that independent states might impose some form of protestantism as the new state religion, many Catholics supported the cause for independence. Connor attributes this to Charles Carroll’s role as a revolutionary leader, as well as the pragmatic determination that it was better to stand side by side of puritanical patriots and have a voice in creating the new nation than to be permanently cast as outsider loyalists. This is a generally-ignored area of early American history, and I’m glad for Connor’s series. I’ll probably be continuing with his books on Catholics in the Civil War, followed by the Catholic experience in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was strengthened by mass immigration from Ireland, Italy, Poland, etc.

Called to Serve is another book on Catholics in early America, this one focusing on nuns.

Lastly and very leastly, I picked up John Grisham’s Sooley from the library bookstore. It costs $0.25 there ,and I’d like a refund. I’ve read Grisham’s other sport books before and more or less enjoyed them — particularly Bleachers, with its unique appeal to anyone who’s experience Friday night football in a small southern town. Sooley had promise, introducing us to a sweet kid from South Sudan whose height, talent, and hard work take him to America to play basketball. Within weeks of his arrival, he learns that his family has been dislocated by Sudan’s interminable civil war. Although he wants to return, he’s convinced by his stateside mentors that he can help them far better from the States, where he’s in a position to forward them money and raise awareness for their and other refugees’ plight. Although Sooley struggles both with this and the increasing challenge of playing basketball against other men who are just as talented as he is, he’s breaking out and on his way to glory when the hedonism his new wealth unlocks gets the better of him. I had mixed feelings about the novel before reaching the frustratingly dismal ending (the sentence structure is oddly simplistic, as if Grisham were writing for a younger or duller audience), Grisham’s weak attempt to put a silver lining on his bleak and depressing story reinforced my already healthy disaffection for him as an author.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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12 Responses to Of cyclists, colonial Catholics, and crappy endings

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    Streetfight is already on my Amazon Wish List. Plus I have a book about Catholics in 19th century England (technically being one myself!) coming up soon(ish) which might very well interest you.

    • SC says:

      I’m guessing the 19th century book has something to do with Catholic emancipation? Will look forward to it.

      • Cyberkitten says:

        Indeed it is. I only came across the long history of Catholic oppression when I read about the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. Review will be around mid-April I think.

        Did you watch the video I posted about Tolkien in the USSR? Interesting what they thought was anti-Soviet esp after Raygun’s ‘Evil Empire’ comment! [lol]

      • Not yet — I’m at work. I imagine Tolkien’s view of the Soviets was dim to dark considering how much he despaired of modernity in the west.

  2. Cyberkitten says:

    Ah, work…. I remember that… vaguely.. [lol] I think you’ll find it interesting when you get home later. Plus the Cold War channel as a whole might interest you too.

  3. grllopez says:

    How odd to hear that Grisham used the topic of sports to write novels. (No, I’ve not read Grisham, but my husband read a majority of his books, being mostly political and on war.) And, you know what I think would be even better than bikes? I think we need to return to horses!

    But aside from that, I do pray you get that kidney you need. Hope all is well.

    • I think Grisham gets bored sometimes writing about the same genre and likes to switch it up. He’s done Bleachers on football, Calico Joe on baseball, and Playing for Pizza on soccer. I suppose ice hockey will be next..

      Re: the horses….they still have their place. There’s a subset of organic farmers who avoid tractors and the like because of the soil-compacting effect they have on the land. I assume you were being facetious, though. 😉

  4. Marian says:

    The topic of early American Catholics is really interesting and not one I’d thought about before. Seems like there are a fair number of them who favor monarchy (!) today… I wonder if they’ve looked into this area of history. Your other reviews on Catholic history will be interesting; I’m still reading Joyce’s Dubliners where Catholicism comes up repeatedly. Was there anything particular that motivated you to read this topic?

    • Marian says:

      P.S. Been praying about your upcoming transplant, thanks for updating us!

      • Thank you! You’re very kind. I’m just trying to get on the lists now. Piedmont’s done, and UAB and Vanderbilt are next.

        On the subject of colonial Catholics…it’s hard to explain. I developed a fascination with Catholicism ten years ago, when reading E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful” and learning about the Catholic social doctrine, which struck me as very humane. I’ve grown to admire the body of wisdom in its tradition, and many of my favorite authors now are Catholic traditionalists — Esolen, Birzer, and Pearce, for instance. I’m also interested in the Church from a sociological point of view, since it was formative to western civ. This has caused a similar interest in Orthodoxy, but not nearly to the same degree since they’re not a strong part of the Western cultural fabric.

  5. Wow. Three books that I never would have known about if I didn’t read your wonderful blog. My interests definitely do not range as wide as yours, or at least not in the same direction. Who knew that Grisham wrote sports novels?

  6. Pingback: Top Ten New-to-Me Authors from 2022 | Reading Freely

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