Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Category: impressions

2019 in Bibliophilia

It’s the end of the year, and now that the reminiscing and navel-gazing is over it’s time for the most important year-end festivity, looking at how many books I read. In 2018 I read thirty-six, compared to 2017’s forty-two. This year, I have twenty-nine books recorded in LibraryThing, but this excludes eight volumes of Toriyama Akira’s DragonballZ because they’re part of a box set and so, from LibraryThing’s perspective, are only one book. There’s also The Bowl of Tears and Solace, which isn’t in their catalogue at all last I checked. That brings us up to a more typical thirty-eight, two more than last year.

Since I’ve already mentioned DBZ, that, Ito Juni’s Frankenstein, and the second omnibus volume of Go Nagai’s Devilman make up all nine graphic novels I read this year.

I only read three books of poetry, all by Dante: RimeLa Vita Nuova (my second time reading this one), and a collection called Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’. Of those, La Vita Nuova is the best and I can recommend Mark Musa’s translation, but Dante’s Lyric Poetry is nice because it includes ample commentary. Speaking of Dante, I also read Marco Santagata’s fine biography Dante: The Story of his Life and Dante’s prose work on vernacular poetry, De Vulgari Eloquentia, which was more tedious and less interesting, and less focused on poetry, than I’d hoped. Another great poet, Homer, was represented in The Printed Homer: A 3,000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Philip Young. One last work of serious literature worth mentioning was Fables françaises du Moyen-Age.

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Frankenstein (Actually, it’s Ito Junji’s Monster)

When I pick up a story by prolific horror artist Ito Junji, there are two things I expect: It’s gonna be good, and it’s gonna be gross. There are a few exceptions at least to the latter point, but his adaptation of Frankenstein delivers on both fronts. If you’re looking for a manga to read for Halloween but want something more classic than Uzumaki or Gyo, this will be a solid choice.

Since comics are a visual medium let’s start with the art. Every panel is filled with detail, and the heavy linework and monochrome colour make the whole story feel appropriately dark and uneasy. Panel layouts are effective throughout the work, and the design of the monster is excellent. Perhaps this sentiment comes from reading it so recently, but thinking through other designs for Frankenstein’s monster, like the 1931 film or Hammer’s movie series among many others, this may be my favourite. He looks appropriately terrifying and obviously stitched-together, but also strong and agile as he is in the novel. I was less excited by the human characters, who all look good but not particularly special. I suppose that’s fine, though, since Frankenstein is best kept relatively realistic to aid suspension of disbelief, so wild character designs aside from the monster may call too much attention to themselves.

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Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

So, the semester is well underway, you have a heavy load of coursework to do, a full time job, a blog you need to update, a woman you’re attempting to woo, a library to volunteer at, all in addition to the normal errands and chores and unforeseen tasks to do. It’s a lot, so how do you deal with so much work? Obviously, you dive into the sprawling 40+ hour campaign of Ogre Battle 64: Person of the Lordly Caliber, the best game of its era and, for me, the best of any era – with one massive, almost game-wrecking caveat, which we’ll get to shortly.

I’ve touched on the Ogre Battle franchise a couple times previously in talking about the two Tactics Ogre spin-off games, Let Us Cling Together and The Knight of Lodis. In those reviews, though, I mentioned that I preferred the gameplay of the main series. It’s an RPG/Strategy hybrid, where the player forms units of highly customisable characters and in each stage uses them to capture strongholds and beat an enemy boss character, then repeat the process in the next stage. The overall flow of each mission isn’t terribly different from many strategy games, but what makes it interesting is the interaction between two levels of army customisation in the characters and units they’re part of. There are a few dozen character classes to choose from, each of which can equip different items and grow in experience like most RPGs, but in addition to this one must consider how each character complements others in the same unit, and how those combinations fare against different enemy formations. Though it is possible to build just a few super-units and overpower everything, it is, of course, most satisfying to play the intended way, and the mechanics give the game a lot of replay value despite its length (my last play-through took about forty-three hours, without doing much in the way of side-quests).…

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Confession Made Easy

There are two ways to make something “easy.” One is to provide a brief overview of a subject, the other is to cover every aspect of it so that the student has no questions left by the end. Fr. Fructosus Hockenmaier takes the latter approach in his 696-page Confession Made Easy.

Despite its intimidating length, Fr. Hockenmaier’s book does, in fact, make things easy by explaining the Sacrament of Confession in layman’s terms, and giving his book a practical focus. He begins by providing some reasons to attend Confession regularly, answers some common objections, cautioning against scrupulosity (which a book of this kind could easily engender), explaining the difference between mortal and venial sins, going through the Decalogue and Seven Deady Sins, and finally discussing how to approach the Sacrament itself. In the final part of the book he provides many prayers and devotions.

Now, Fr. Hockenmaier assumes that his reader is already Catholic, so he does not provide an apologia for the Sacrament, nor does he spend a lot of time discussing the theology of it. For example, some of the objections to frequent Confession he answers are simply excuses that people use for not going, such as not having time, having nothing to confess, or being too embarrassed by one’s sins. Of his explanations and advice, only a few illustrations are needed. From his discussion of Sixth and Ninth Commandments:

It is with this sin as with sin in general that the principle “Beware of the first step” is to be applied. For in matters of holy purity one most easily falls into mortal sin, from seeking the danger. No sin so quickly begets an intense habit as the sin of impurity, a habit which is often found to be incurable.

Confession Made Easy received its imprimatur in 1910, and one can tell that it’s an old-school Catholic book by the seriousness and clarity of passages like the above. One problem that many Catholics seem to have is not only recognising what things are sinful, but what are not. The vice of the 21st Century is indifference to or denial of sin, but there are those who run to the opposite extreme of scrupulosity, or sometimes just uncertainty. For example, while offering instruction in how to distinguish mortal and venial sin, Fr. Hockenmaier says this:

The same is to be said of persons who suffer from involuntary thoughts and illusions. What are illusions? They are representations to the mind, originating from bodily ills, especially nervous diseases, and such illusions are forced upon the minds of such persons, altogether against their will, now for a short time, now for a longer period. They should remember that no thoughts or illusions can be sins, when they do not invite such thoughts or illusions.

What about cases when we aren’t sure if something is sinful or not? In such cases, Fr. Hockenmaier repeats many times to consult with one’s confessor.

Such a long book represents a significant time investment, so is Confession Made Easy worth the effort of reading, or is a pamphlet as one often finds online or laid out near a church’s confessional sufficient? For those who are well catechised, having a good guide for an examination of conscience is probably enough. For those who did not have the fortune of a good religious education, though, or who simply want as thorough a guide as possible, Fr. Hockenmaier is excellent. Though not everyone needs it, Confession Made Easy accomplishes its task perfectly.…

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