The Common Good
March-April 2003

A Few of My Favorite Things

by Barry Moser | March-April 2003

I have just begun reading Donna Tartt's new novel The Little Friend...

I have just begun reading Donna Tartt's new novel The Little Friend, and I'm rereading the short stories of Flannery O'Connor, which are a constant source of nourishment for my mind, humor, and spirit. I recently read, to my great joy, Robert Morgan's This Rock, an intense story about a man's obsessive drive to build a church—alone and by hand. It reminded me of my own obsession designing and illustrating the Bible. Pat Conroy's My Losing Season connected powerfully because Conroy's history and mine are in many respects similar. Mary Ward Brown's recent collection of short stories, It Wasn't All Dancing, is concerned with real people—flawed people like the folks I put in my Bible.

Lauren Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit was a joy, as was John Man's biography Gutenberg. Both were engaging, entertaining, and informative. So was Witold Rybczynski's fascinating history of the screw and screwdriver, One Good Turn.

I am always rereading Wislawa Szymborska's poetry—a continuing and deeply provocative encounter because for her nothing is too insignificant to be noticed or to be holy.

While working I've been listening, as I usually do, to ecclesiastical music: Monteverdi, Handel, Schütz, Victoria, Bach. It's complex, meditative, and heads in the direction I want to go. And riding around in the car I've been enjoying (once again) the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, B.B. King, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.

I recently saw The Emperor's New Clothes, a film with Ian Holm, who was brilliant in a doppelgänger role. It's a marvelously told imaginary history of Napoleon's late life, having switched places with a look-alike and gone back to France. The cinematography (especially the visual play on the theme of "two"—two doors, two dogs, two trees on a hill, etc.) was subtle and exquisite.

Barry Moser is a book designer, illustrator, and engraver who published a fully illustrated edition of the King James Bible under the imprint of the Pennyroyal Caxton Press. (See "A Revelation in Black and White," Sojourners, July-August 2000.)

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