Server problems have prevented me from dialing in and blogging, so I finally decided to stay in during lunch and use the library's computer. I wish I could say that the delay means I have lots of news to catch up on, but life has been uneventful. On the work front, Midwest fortunately agreed to take back the Torah Commentary, although the sales representative did give me a friendly warning about their official 90-day return policy. The religion department continues to send in reams of book requests even though their budget is already drained halfway through the fiscal year. I am becoming more and more aware of the subjectivity of book reviewing. For example, I was interested in a biography of Aldous Huxley which The Atlantic called one of the best literary biographies of the 20th century, but then I found a review in an academic journal of literature which deemed the book a failure. Admittedly, the discrepancy in this case might be partially due to the difference in readership; the academic journal complained that the biography did not spend enough time analyzing Huxley's writings, something which the journal's readers are understandably very interested in compared with readers of The Atlantic. But what about the case of a recent Choice review which called a book in its second printing a classic and took to task the negative Choice review of the first printing? I'm not griping, though; I think learning the biases of various book reviewers and journals will be part of the intellectual challenge which makes collection development one of the more interesting fields in librarianship.
I'm still roaming El Llano Estacado in search of things to do. Saturday I drove an hour to the Palo Duro Canyon, the nation's second largest, and took a long hike through the sage-covered, juniper-dotted gorges. I worked up a sweat and drank the liter of water I packed with me; which, given that it is still January, suggests that I better get my fill of outdoor activities before the summer. In a park restroom I changed into city duds and drove into Amarillo to try a new Latin American restaurant I read about online. It was a tiny, colorful place with good, cheap food. (I was hoping for some Concho Y Toro, the Chilean wine, but apparently this place doesn't have a liquor license.) After dinner I drove west on I-40 into one of those widescreen, Technicolor sunsets I mentioned earlier, until the darkness settled on the immense plains. On the way back to town I stopped by the mall to shop for clothes. Alert readers will remember I just bought a shirt last weekend. With a new job, I felt the need to update my wardrobe; and since the spiritual master St. Francis de Sales writes that "For my part, I would have devout people, whether men or women, always the best dressed in a group," I guess my sartorial expenditures will also serve to further my sanctification.
On Sunday morning I attended services at the larger of our two Methodist congregations. Architecturally this is probably the most impressive church in town, certainly among the ones I have visited. It's a long, tall church in rough-hewn beige brick, with some fairly elaborate stonecutting framing the stained glass windows, a vaulted roof covered with gray slate shingles, and a fancy metal-plated steeple. Inside, the white plaster walls are immaculate, the pews, rafters, and altar are polished oak, and the floor is covered in pristine red carpeting.
However, the service reminded me of why I left Methodism seven years ago: the role of the congregation was almost completely passive. There was no liturgy, no Eucharist, and only a couple of hymns to sing (and these cut down to half the number of verses). Instead, the time was taken up by presentations: a couple of musical performances by the choir, an awards ceremony for the United Methodist Women, a children's sermon, and the main sermon. There wasn't much of theological substance either: the sermon was typical of my experience in Methodism, a string of moralistic admonitions linked by very tangential jokes. In the Episcopalian church we have our share of bad sermons, of course, but at least we get a lot of Scripture: the lectionary calls for readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, and the Gospels. At the Methodist service we only heard a three-verse snippet of a Psalm. Although I got a free lunch, I don't think I'll go back.