Friday, July 26, 2013

Saint Augustine, The City of God

Because Augustine's The City of God has been a companion for so many years, it’s neither an adjunct nor an extension, but part of me, of my mind.

Whenever I read a book and feel disappointed by it─as for example: The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl─I quickly pick up The City and read a few pages. My faith in good writing is then restored. Besides the wisdom one finds in his book (Augustine being a rhetorician), one finds sentences that flow and gurgle in a crystal stream of sheer magic.

That is not to say that it is a perfect book, for it contains some gross generalizations and prejudices as when he inveighs against Jews: “Indeed, a similar sign appeared when the Lord was crucified by the cruel and impious Jews.”

To make his case (a defense of the charge that the Christian church caused the sack of Rome), Augustine deploys an arsenal of rhetorical weapons. And knowing he was writing a huge book, he made the writing athletic, quite acrobatic I’d say--never boring. To wit: "For evil has no nature of its own. Rather, it is the absence of good which has received name 'evil.'" Or,

How much more honourable a thing is to believe that which was taught by holy and truthful angels; uttered by prophets inspired by the Spirit of God; proclaimed by Him Who was foretold as the coming Saviour by the messengers who went before Him; and preached by the apostles whom He sent forth, and who filled the whole world with His Gospel!

Why is The Dante Club boring? Because it is narrated with the pattern subject-verb-complement throughout. How long can a reader take of this annoying pattern before he puts the book down?

Well, while I only read 24 pages before I put The Dante Club book down never to pick it up again, I will go on reading The City─its 1,200 pages─a lifetime.
The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse

The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers

Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn

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