November 17, 2009

Holy Simplicity

Holy Simplicity by Raoul Plus, S.J., was thought-provoking, but unfortunately, not a book I really enjoyed. I think that's largely my own fault and not necessarily the author's; my anticipation of what the book would be was far from what it actually was. I was expecting something more like God, Help Me by Jim Beckman, a more fast-paced, modern feel with actual step by step guides to help the reader. After reading a few pages and realizing I was bored already, I flipped back and saw that the book had originally been published in 1951.

Ah, well, that made more sense.

It's not that the book is poorly written, it's just that the syntax is definitely very 50's, not 21st century. Which, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing, it simply makes it a little more difficult for those used to modern prose to sink into.

I also found it very wordy for such a short book. For example, on page 47 (of only 86 pages!) Plus writes,
We have already noted that simplicity, being a primary idea, can be defined only by its contrasts: what is not complex is simple. The trouble is that such "complexities" are beyond numeration, ranging from what is properly called duplicity, deliberate hypocrisy, and unconscious deception, to versatility, rapid changing of ideas, vacillation, ill-defined theorizing, contintual doubt, the lack of harmony between principles and practice, affectation, a sense of complication, scruples of conscience- to give only a few forms of "plurality."
I feel out of breath just typing it! The bulk of the book is theological insights and observations, and it isn't actually until the conclusion (which is only two and a half pages long) that Plus gets around to how to achieve simplicity, and even then, he tells us that's it's pretty darn difficult and a lot of people will never succeed. Actually, it's kind of ironic that a book on simplicity was so complicated!

Still, Plus does do a good job of drawing on the words of Jesus and the Saints to make his points, and his observations simplicity really are excellent. I just found it unfortunate that it was packaged in kind of a boring way. It's not a book I would recommend to my average lay friend, though I would definitely recommend it to those that are more theologically and academically.

This book was written as a part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from the Catholic Company. I was provided with the book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.


Shelley said...

OH MY GOSH. I'm glad I don't have to tell the girls to diagram that sentence. PHEW!

I don't know your taste in reading, but a modern self-help be-more-spiritual, keep-a-cleaner-house, run-a-tighter-ship book written by a Catholic mom that I wanted to THROW AGAINST THE WALL was that one by Holly Pierlot called A Mother's Rule of Life. Have you read it?

She was one of those home schooling moms who had about a thousand kids, yet was able to clean her house with one arm, hold a nursing baby with the other arm, write her book with some other appendage she never mentioned and drive everyone to soccer, piano, tae kwon do and who knows what else.

I'm slightly exaggerating. But not much.

Please don't tell me she's your sister or something. In which case I'll take everything back and say WHAT A GREAT BOOK it was.

Katie said...

I know! Don't you feel exhausted just reading it??

Okay, I haven't read that book, but now I want to, just so I can come back and be like "OMG SHELLEY!! THAT BOOK WAS AWFUL!! YOU WERE RIGHT!"

Sarah said...

I have read that book -- THe Mother;s Rule. It was awful. Did you get the feeling she hated her kids?? I wasn't impressed with her "Super Mom" abilities, but got more of an impression that the minute her husband walked in the door, she grabbed her car keys and ran.
You should read it, Katie, just to get your heart rate up=)

Toni said...

Wow. I disagree. I did read the book and also have heard her speak. I found her to be refreshing. I do know what you mean about her wanting to leave when her husband came home but the ideas in the book helped me put things in order. Maybe it's cuz I am so scatterbrained and spontaneous that her routine is so attractive. At the end of the day, if she pencils in time for prayer, school and chores-- that to me is virtuous.