Culture: December 2008 Archives

Weekend Reading

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  • WSJ on the SEC:


    The breadth of the South's football culture creates a fanaticism that crosses all lines. People who didn't attend the schools, or go to college at all, still support them, and will even make donations. It's a group that insiders call "dirt-road alumni." After his business was damaged in Hurricane Katrina, Joe Yargo, a trucker from Hammond, La., who did not attend LSU, says he told his wife "I might lose my house, but I won't lose my season tickets."

    "Half the people in that stadium can't spell LSU," says political consultant James Carville, an LSU alumnus. "It doesn't matter. They identify with it. It's culturally such a big deal."

  • I have just returned from Santo Domingo de Silos, a Benedictine monastery where I spent four days--What four days! I have not been so happy this whole voyage--The life is so good, I can well join my homely upright friends & remain forever in this cloister--It is surely healthful & sane--It is also beautiful: & beside the world around it[,] it is free from superstition, religion, strife, stupidity, wastefulness, disease, & bad manners--The religion is a reverent habit which gives a great dignity to everything done. There is no excess--no sermonizing--inquisitiveness, or self-torture--I have not eaten better in Spain, than in S.D.S. The food is grown within the monastery--There is beautiful fruit, delicious honey, & wine, & Benedictine liqueur beyond words--One is rich here--The library is very rich too, and the cloister sculptures--of the 11th c. are the finest works of Spanish Romanesque art, without any parallel, & strangely isolated in history--There is also a treasure of mediaeval metal-work and Mss. [manuscripts], noble monks, generous life--fine talk & companionship & apparently the perfection of freedoms--one sings the Gregorian chants--& the mass is very simple & beautiful...

    ...I wrote you of how beautiful was the monastery at Silos. I saw little of its exterior or the surrounding country--The course of life is so pleasant and orderly within: & the work suggested by the buildings, the manuscripts, and the carvings, so absorbing, I had no wish to leave or to explore beyond. The monks were, every one, gracious and quiet; there was no touch of morbidity or suffering or extreme asceticism in them. I was embarrassed by their prayers which were brief and simple, but in which I could not join--I was embarrassed by my own lack of faith: for it seemed, in my non-participation--a criticism of these men, an estrangement, that was really only formal. The short chanting before and after meals was beautiful, a reverent thanks and acceptance--which surely I owed more than the others--In the mass, all was subdued: no shrill and over-resonant music (& no jingling of coins) as in the cities, but simple chants of the middle ages. The mass was a meeting of pious musicians--The church itself, an 18th c. baroque building, is an unfortunate hall for these services--The cloister outside is miraculous, with more in common with the chanting and the Benedictine life.

    Thruout the meals, which are excellent & served in a fine refectory, there is silence, except for a man who sits in a pulpit & reads chapters of church history. After lunch, after a brief prayer in the Chapel of Santo Domingo, the silence is relaxed--but in amusing gradation, lest a sharp transition indicate a suppressed desire, and a criticism of the restraint imposed. As we descend the steps of the chapel, we offer by signs the precedence to each other, gesture and smile, like dumb men; prolonging this talk till we are in the cloister where the first words are uttered. Then for a half hour we sit in the garden or a small chamber, and drink coffee and a delicious cordial, prepared by the monks.

    From letters from 20th century art historian Meyer Schapiro to his future wife, written while studying monastic sculpture in Europe. The letters are in the current New York Review of Books but are not online.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from December 2008.

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