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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Can't Find That Perfect Christmas Gift?



Readers of the New Oxford Review will be familiar with one of its mainstays, Dr. Mitchell Kalpakgian. (Dr. Kalpakgian, incidentally is the father of Greg Kalpakgian, AMSL Class of 2004.) An accomplished professor, author and commentator, Dr. Kalpakgian is one of those rare intellectuals who is as humble and magnanimous as he is a high-powered intellect. Over the years, Kalpakgian has written numerous articles on the habits, customs and culture that the West has produced. Notably memorable are his essays on "hospitality," "on the fault of being nice," and "the lost art of letter writing," just to name a few. He is an accomplished professor with over 35 years of teaching English at the college level.

I have long wanted to write a review of these two delightful books. Unfortunately my own lack of literary talent would not do justice to such wonderful books. Nevertheless, I will attempt to persuade you to buy these for Christmas!!

The Mysteries of Life in Children's Literature is the product of years of study by Doc Kalpakgian. He began exploring children's literature incidentally while attending a post-graduate seminar on evil funded by the Mellon Foundation. What was incidental initially for him was in reality providential and beneficial for the world. The Mysteries of Life echoes Chesterton's sentiment in "The Ethics of Elfland" from Orthodoxy: "Everything I know I learned in the nursery." Kalpakgian shows how children's literature is both exciting, fanciful and inspired. The great virtues that children's literature inculcate lead us to God. The chapter names say it all: "The Mystery of Beauty," "The Mystery of Friendship," "The Mystery of Wishes," etc. Allow me to sum this book up by quoting the author at the end of his Preface:

...[T]his book is written for everyone who loves wisdom and truth in its purity and simplicity and desires the wisdom of the ages and the proverbial truths that have been transmitted through the living stream of tradition, folklore, fairy tales, myths, allegories, parables and great adventure stories. For children's classics--along with Homer, Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare--belong to that body of knowledge that Matthew Arnold described as "the best that has been thought and said."

An Armenian Family Reunion is a delightful book on the glories and beauty of family life. You don't have to be Armenian to appreciate and love this book. The structure of the book is delightful. It is about a family who gets together for a week and 1/2 reunion and decides that each night a different family member will tell a story about the family. The beauty of this book is that the young people in the family are skeptical at first, but in the end realize that the tradition, wisdom and love that is transmitted through these stories are more valuable and rich than anything learned in the classroom. This book should bring you back to the love that God intended for marriage and family life, and I recommend reading it with your spouse or spouse-to-be! ( Thursday and Friday!) Allow me to sum this book up by transcribing the inscription that Dr. Kalpakgian wrote in our personal copy:

To [Advocatus Militaris and Mrs. AM] and children:

May this book make you fall in love with life all over again and make you forever grateful for the joys, adventures, and comedy of family life in all its abundance.

I can't think of a better Christmas gift than these books, and I offer a challenge to other bloggers who read this: post these on your blogs and talk up these wonderful books! You will be enriched for it! Dr. K is certainly a champion of the culture of life and these books are a profound contribution to building up that culture.

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