Author Topic: A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!  (Read 3920 times)

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Offline Matthew

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A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
« on: July 10, 2016, 11:05:42 PM »
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  • I'm enjoying the book again right now.

    What a book!

    It's chock-full of Catholic stuff, including lots of Latin. In fact, I don't know that I'd recommend it to a non-Catholic. They wouldn't "get it" or enjoy it as much.

    An excellent, well written, deep, philosophical, and epic book spanning 1800 years of time after a great Flame Deluge (nuclear holocaust) wipes out most of mankind, and the survivors take out their frustration on anyone learned or even literate.

    A new dark age ensues.

    The first part of the book takes place 600 years after the Flame Deluge (around 1960) The second part of the book takes place when we have a 1700's level of technology, with science poised to leap everything ahead and re-conquer nature once again.

    The third part of the book brings us right back around to where we started, with the possibility of another Flame Deluge on the horizon...

    I highly recommend this book.

    https://www.amazon.com/Canticle-Leibowitz-Walter-Miller-Jr/dp/0060892994/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468209900&sr=1-1&keywords=a+canticle+for+liebowitz&linkCode=ll1&tag=httpwwwchanco-20&linkId=a301994ff5dff539ea7ef1b29cd5b4fb
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    Offline Matto

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #1 on: July 11, 2016, 12:03:11 PM »
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  • I read it after I saw it recommended by a Catholic libertarian. I enjoyed it but there was one thing that I thought was strange. The Blessed Mother appears in an extra head of a mutated lady who had two heads. I thought that was strange. But otherwise I enjoyed the book. I liked the first part of the three parts that takes place earlier the most.

    I don't know much about the author. I wonder what he thought about Vatican II and the changes. I wonder if he kept the faith or abandoned it when it became absurd in the Novus Ordo. I believe he would have hated the Novus Ordo, just based on what I read in his book. According to his wikipedia page he bacame a recluse later in life and wouldn't see anyone and he didn't die well, he supposedly committed suicide by gun (which greatly surprised me because of the anti-suicide message in the latter part of his book.).
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    Offline AlligatorDicax

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #2 on: July 11, 2016, 01:07:32 PM »
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  • Quote from: Matthew (Jul 11, 2016, 12:05 am)
    It's chock-full of Catholic stuff, including lots of Latin.  In fact, I don't know that I'd recommend it to a non-Catholic.  They wouldn't "get it" or enjoy it as much.

    An excellent, well written, deep, philosophical, and epic book spanning 1800 years of time after a great Flame Deluge (nuclear holocaust) wipes out most of mankind, and the survivors take out their frustration on anyone learned or even literate.  A new dark age ensues. [....]  The second part of the book takes place when we have a 1700's level of technology, with science poised to leap everything ahead and re-conquer nature once again. [....]

    I highly recommend this book.

    Canticle is 1 of my all-time favorite works of fiction, and 1 of the few that I've read more than once.

    Alas, 'twas the only novel Miller completed during his lifetime.

    He did have earlier numerous short-stories, mostly sci-fi, published.  There are 6 of them, 5 from the pulp-sci-fi periodical If: Worlds of Science Fiction, and 1 from Galaxy, are available free via
    Project Gutenberg
    • .


    -------
    Note +: &60;http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/33738>.

    Offline Matto

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #3 on: July 11, 2016, 01:12:02 PM »
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  • Quote from: AlligatorDicax
    Canticle is 1 of my all-time favorite works of fiction, and 1 of the few that I've read more than once.

    Alas, 'twas the only novel Miller completed during his lifetime.

    His wikipedia article says that Miller was writing a sequel to "The Canticle" during his lifetime and after Miller's death another writer finished the sequel and it was published.
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    Offline Matthew

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #4 on: July 11, 2016, 01:25:53 PM »
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  • Quote from: Matto
    I enjoyed it but there was one thing that I thought was strange. The Blessed Mother appears in an extra head of a mutated lady who had two heads. I thought that was strange. But otherwise I enjoyed the book. I liked the first part of the three parts that takes place earlier the most.


    I think you misunderstood.

    It wasn't the Blessed Mother herself, but she had something in common with her: no Original Sin.

    God created her in a state of original innocence, with all the original gifts to boot. That's why she rejected the priest's attempt at baptism, but could discern the Real Presence.


    I also liked the first and second parts the most. But I love the way the book takes place over such a large amount of time -- and how they keep referring back to things that happened in the first 2 parts. They mention the main character in the first part (Venerable Francis Gerard of Utah), the wood carving with the strange smile, etc.

    And then you have that weird Jew character, who seems to be alive in all 3 parts of the book, even though we're talking about 1800 years!

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    Offline Matto

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #5 on: July 11, 2016, 01:31:00 PM »
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  • Quote from: Matthew

    I think you misunderstood.

    It wasn't the Blessed Mother herself, but she had something in common with her: no Original Sin.

    God created her in a state of original innocence, with all the original gifts to boot. That's why she rejected the priest's attempt at baptism, but could discern the Real Presence.

    Oh. If you are right, then I did misunderstand the book. Thanks for explaining it to me.
    My blog about suffering from mental illness, religion, and life:
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    Offline Matthew

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #6 on: July 11, 2016, 01:31:16 PM »
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  • I have always loved things like this since I was a teenager.

    I remember back in my teens, I played the famous role playing game, "Final Fantasy II". Then when the sequel came out, "Final Fantasy III" I was disappointed how there was no mention of the first characters in the sequel. Each game was always a clean slate -- there was no continuity at all, and it really felt like it was missing something.

    Is what they did really "better", more professional, or what most people wanted? Would people really have been annoyed or bored if the main hero character in the first game was an old king in the second game? Seriously?

    When you think about how much effort goes into writing a book, or virtual world, or movie, it's seems strange to me to simply throw the whole thing away when you create a sequel.

    Is it because I was raised Catholic, and I love Tradition and not just 100% novelty?
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    Offline AlligatorDicax

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #7 on: July 11, 2016, 02:10:26 PM »
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  • Quote from: AlligatorDicax (Jul 11, 2016, 2:07 pm)
    Alas, 'twas the only novel Miller completed during his lifetime.

    I wrote those bolded words in case I needed to provide my own segue.  But as I think Obi Wan said: "There is hope!  There is another one."

    Quote from: David Streitfeld for Washington Post (October 9, 1997)
    Canticle Author Unsung Even In Death
    Walter M. Miller Jr.'s Suicide Caused Hardly A Ripple.
    His Just-published Sequel[##], Though, Has Provoked Interest In His Work.


    [....] A best seller can capture the mood of a moment and be forgotten 3 years later, but for a novel to sell 2 million copies over 37 years, which Canticle has done, it has to offer something extraordinary. [....]

    Miller was deeply affected by the 55 missions he had flown over Italy in World War II as part of a bomber crew.  One of these involved bombing the Monte Cassino monastery, a centuries-old repository of knowledge that was taken over by the Germans as an artillery spotting post.  Miller later agonized over his role in the destruction - only the latest the holy site had suffered over the ages - and it probably played a role in his becoming a Catholic for a decade or so after the war.  It definitely played a role in the creation of Canticle. 

    Quote from: Matto (Jul 11, 2016, 1:03 pm)
    I don't know much about the author.  I wonder what he thought about Vatican II and the changes.  I wonder if he kept the faith or abandoned it when it became absurd in the Novus Ordo. I believe he would have hated the Novus Ordo, just based on what I read in his book.

    Miller was apparently a postwar convert to Catholicism.  I'm sure that many of us here would prefer to read, about anyone whom we already know abandoned the Faith, that it happened because of Vatican II.  But that would require fitting 1 decade precisely into a period of not quite 2½ decades (i.e.: 1945--ca. 1970).  I've yet to see any biographic article that addresses whether Miller's time as "Catholic for a decade or so after the war" was ended by Vatican II, and from what I've read, I infer that the necessary data, even if "out there" in the form of a diary or personal correspondence, ain't gonna be released by his protective family--not no how, not no where--but I have no privileged knowledge.

    Quote from: David Streitfeld for Washington Post (October 9, 1997)
    "Walt was deeply depressed by post-traumatic stress disorder and had been for half a century," says writer Joe Haldeman, who was the closest thing Miller had to a friend in the science-fiction world. "I don't know how many people he felt responsible for killing, but it was a lot." [....]

    The one key person in Miller's life was his wife, Anne [×]. Her death 2 years ago shook him.   In an unconventional letter to the local newspaper in Daytona
    • , the author of one of the greatest modern religious novels made it clear he had left Western religion behind. [....]

      Miller's longtime agent, Don Congdon, said Miller was "the only client I never met, although we talked a lot."  The writer had completed 60 pages of a Canticle sequel a long time ago but then became blocked.  "He couldn't get rid of it - it was basically depression and booze."   In the late '80s, Congdon made a 6-figure book deal off those 60 pages, and Miller rose to the challenge by writing 500 more - nearly 90 percent of the book. [....]  It seems instead that, with the end in sight, Miller lost interest. With his blessing, a deal was worked out with novelist Terry Bisson to complete the book.  "I figured it was going to be a mess, because this guy had been fooling around with it for years," Bisson recalled.  "But it was almost finished.  It was not a mess.  He had written 592 pages and outlined in some detail how he wanted the book to end."   Miller just couldn't do it himself.  "He mentioned to Congdon that trying to finish this book was like trying to spit through a screen," Bisson said.  "I think it was psychological - he felt that when he finished the book that would be the end of him." 

    The sequel is said to be parallel to the 2nd part of the 3 parts of the novel, which were originally written as 3 separate short-stories.

    -------
    Note +: <http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1997-10-09/lifestyle/9710080756_1_canticle-miller-novel>.  This article is concluded on a 2nd Web-page linked from the 1st.

    Note #: Yes, the nationally famous Beach (Volusia Co.), at the eastern end of what Central Floridans poëtically refer to as "The I(nterstate)-4 Corridor".  Miller had been born (1923) a few miles south, on the other side of "Ponce (de Leé) Inlet", at New Smyrna Beach, now federally bounded on the south by Canaveral National Seashore.  The oddly unnamed "local newspaper in Daytona", which published a letter from Miller about the death of his wife, is the Daytona Beach News-Journal, in case anyone is inclined to try to find that letter (I infer a date ca. Fall 1995).

    Note ##: Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.  I'd be surprised if there weren't CathInfo members who'd be pleased with the opportunity to find & post a link for its purchase.


    Note ×: "Anna Louise Becker (1945-1995)" per Wikipedia article on Miller.  So Walter M. Miller Jr. is not the writer surnamed Miller who was married to Marilyn Monroe; for that much more famous writer, look up Arthur (no relation as far as I know).


    Offline Matthew

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    Offline Degrelle

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    A Canticle for Liebowitz - one of my favorite books!
    « Reply #9 on: July 13, 2016, 08:14:46 PM »
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  • Ah yes, Canticle for Liebowitz is one of my favourites as well, a true masterpiece. Aside from all the "Catholic stuff" I also really appreciated the more subtle Catholic aspects like the cyclic nature of human history and the very human and realistic characters.

    I read the sequel, St. Liebowitz and the Horse Woman about three years ago. It is a difficult book to pin down/review. It wasone of those books that I really wanted to like, and which had many elements that I did like, but in the end just didn't hold together and certainly did not rise to the level of the original.

    The main character/protagonist, Blacktooth St. George, is a big problem with the book. He's basically a narcissistic, self-centred, whiner. At the beginning of the novel, this is forgivable, as he still has a certain likeability about him, a charming naivete, and he is still struggling manfully to overcome his demons. So one expects him to develop into a good protagonist, but rather than develop he tends to stagnate and even regress over the course of 450 pages.

    The worldbuilding was fantastic and really took thing "to the next level" in that regard. The time period of the second Novella in Canticle is really fleshed-out and felt like a very gritty, realistic view of what life would probably be like in such circumstances.

    There is some pretty serious "adult stuff" in this book though. I really felt like the book was Miller trying to wrestle with all the changes of Vatican II and struggle with his own faith. Blacktooth St. George struggles mightily with the faith throughout the work, and fails on moral levels several times (hence the "adult stuff"). It has an interesting subplot surrounding the election of a St. Celestine-type hermit as pope after a very contentious conclave. The hermit is no Celestine though but a flaming Bergoglio-style liberal and some serious changes happen resulting in a significant number of cardinals declaring the election null and becoming sedevacantists.

    The plot tends to jump around a fair bit and didn't seem very coherent. The end seemed very rushed. It definitely had flashes of Miller's brilliance from the original and many memorable individual scenes. But as a whole, the work just does not hold up. It is also a much more depressing and "dark" work in the "Song of Rape and Torture" (also known as "A Song of Fire and Ice/A Game of Thrones"*) vein where there are few real good guys and everyone does lots of very bad stuff (some of it seemingly for no reason) evincing a tortured soul who, if he hadn't lost his faith, was on the verge of it.


    * Re: A Game of Thrones -- so as not to scandalize people too much, I watched only part of one episode of that vile series. I couldn't imagine a more horrific combination of pornography and extreme violence/gore. It is a sure sign that our society is beyond all hope (humanly speaking). I did read the first few books though, which, being written many years ago, meant the author could not get away with as much and while they are very "dark" and "gritty" do not have graphic sex scenes or all the gore that the TV series appears to have.

     

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