By Alan Jacobs

If the full of the Christian existence is to be ruled by means of the “law of love”—the twofold love of God and one’s neighbor—what may it suggest to learn lovingly? that's the query that drives this exact booklet. Jacobs pursues this not easy activity by way of alternating principally theoretical, theological chapters—drawing specially on Augustine and Mikhail Bakhtin—with interludes that examine specific readers (some actual, a few fictional) within the act of studying. one of the authors thought of are Shakespeare, Cervantes, Nabakov, Nicholson Baker, George Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Dickens. The theoretical framework is elaborated often chapters, whereas quite a few counterfeits of or substitutes for certainly charitable interpretation are thought of within the interludes, which steadily shut in on that infrequent creature, the loving reader. via this doubled approach to research, Jacobs attempts to teach how tough it really is to learn charitably—even should still one desire to, which, after all, few folks do. And accurately as the prospect of examining in this kind of demeanour is so offputting, one of many covert pursuits of the booklet is to make it appear either extra believable and extra beautiful.

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EfsuyYc186) Then follows a witty, indeed a gleefully malicious, catalogue of brave and noble deeds that in Dr. Cummingk scheme could give no pleasure to God. " en Dinah Morris ultimately does agree to marry M a m Bede, then, she thereby repudiates any lingering hold upon her of a C:umming-like divorce between, on the one hand, the love of <;od and a highly generalized love of one3 neighbors and, on the other hand, love for particular other people (the kind of divorce Marian Evans believed to be typical of the evangelicalis111 that she enlbraced as an adoIescent and fir~lnwhich she felt she had been rescued by modern theology, especially the work of David Strauss and Feuerbach).

T I e is ~ o u b l e dand fascinated by Jesus' really quite shocking explanation of why he taught in parables: To his disciples he said, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and he forgiven" (Mark 4:11--12 RSV). Kermode's account of Christian attempts to explain away this harshness-or, failing that, to declare the whole passage corrupt-is scathing.

Faced with the terrifying claims that others can make upon the self, Tom&sRodaja finds a form of madness that evades the need to respond (whether positively or negatively) to such claims: His new fragility puts him both literally and metaphorically beyond the reach of other people. But what is especially interesdng about the licentiate5 glassy state is that, according to Tc~miis,it also makes him preternaturally wise and discerning: "He begged them to speak to him at a disrance and ask what questions they pleased, saying that he would answer them more intelligently because he was now a rnail of glass, and not of flesh and blood; for glass, being a subtle and delicate material, permits the soul to act through it with more efficacy and promptimde than through the body, which is heavy and earthy" (155).

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