(2): CWNY’ing My Library


That type of apologetics, also championed by F. J. Sheed and Arnold Lunn, must be kept on a small shelf in the church basement. When given too prominent a place, such over-intellectualizing of Christianity can send the potential convert into a downward spiral, ending in the Slough of Despair. ~ CWNY

Seeing my library in the above condition is like seeing a loved one stretched out on an operating table, with his body jacked up and legs splayed in the wrong directions. Yet, there it is (sixty or so percent of it) and there it’s remained for the better part of a year. I feel intellectually naked without it purposefully arranged. It’s the unfortunate result of a move and my life has been too crazy to get the books back into order.

Another reason it’s difficult to begin re-shelving is that when I built it the first time, I was in the passionate throes of Presbyterian zealotry and to be a good Presbyterian means being a good rationalist. And to be a good rationalist, one must be a good philosopher. And to be a good philosopher, one must excel at categorization; and I was among the best. I recall Jefferson writing about the different ways to organize a library, some order alphabetically, others by subject – the latter seemed best suited to my passions. I developed topic-specific shelves which soon grew into topic-specific cases. But given the sea change in my intellectual affections, re-organizing it all seems like a monumental challenge.

Look at the picture. There’s a set of stairs behind the large walnut bookshelf. My dad made that one for my twenty-ninth birthday (if I recall). It’s my largest case, the most sturdy, and given its origins, it’ll be a family antique eventually. I consider it my most important so in the old days, when I was enthralled with analytical philosophy, it held all the important works of theology, analytics, semiotics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Theology, itself, has to be divided into further categories, corresponding roughly to the major areas of systematics. I had an entire shelf devoted to Ecclesiology and Eschatology, for example. And the apologetics…well, you all know my early fascination with that. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life passionately contending with the unbelievers as a Van Tillian presuppositionalist. I need two whole shelves for my Van Tillian literature alone. That leads to theonomy and Christian Reconstruction – two camps known for their ludicrous output of material. Stop here to consider why, after moving all these, I was willing to hear out my friends who argue for e-books.

The question I have now: where will I find enough bottom shelves to stick all of it? I tried reading from Robert Stern’s book on narrow-scope transcendental arguments in externalist theories of warrant, and couldn’t get through a chapter. Just this evening, I was pouring through material on the Norman Shepherd controversy (from the 1970’s) at Westminster Theological Seminary, and had to throw down the book in earnest (as it were) for lack of concern. Who, other than theologians whos jobs depend on it, care whether the Apostle Paul meant to emphasize union-with-Christ more than justification-by-Faith? Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s important and has big meaning for Reformed dogmatics, but at the end of the day, who in the hell really cares? I suppose I used to, but I simply can’t stomach it anymore. So – to the bottom shelf with the lot of it.

But what goes on the walnut case now?

I’ve been reading Cambria Will Not Yield for the better part of eight years and early on, when I discovered how much it resonated with me, I began purchasing some of the books he’d mention. I developed my “Cambria” shelf. That’s grown quite large over the years, their growing number reflecting their growing importance. They’re the prime candidates to fill the old space. They’ll take up the top half and all my Southern agrarian literary theory – books by Tate, Lytle, Walker Percy, Tom Wolfe, Clyde Wilson, Cleanth Brooks, and so on and on, will fill up the bottom.

To save my conscience as well as my aching back, I’m getting rid of the pop-garbage altogether (the Kings and Clancys); I only read them on the odd occasion I want a taste of pop-writing. The American audience wont read anything, after all, unless it’s written in the fast-paced, shallow style of Steven King, so I like to brush up on it from time to time. I can get those books for free online anyway (I didn’t say that out loud, did I)? Use the F-word in your novel, you deserve to have it pirated.

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2 Responses to (2): CWNY’ing My Library

  1. Hampton says:

    I’ve often thought it would be great for CWNY to create a suggested reading list. I’ve read Scott, Dickens, and Wren following his references but would love to have an organized list.


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