Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Two New Reviews

One of the casualties of the exciting Dante project which we are chronicling here is that the new proposed book will draw a lot of attention away from The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. This is really too bad; this monumental tome needs to be read and appreciated by all those interested in the life and times of Rod Dreher and will forever stand as an inadvertent exposé of his high self-regard, his vindictiveness against perceived enemies, his insufferable contempt for those not sharing his patchwork political ideology and his tendency to use other people as objects.

So it well to look at two recent reviews which are not meant to pan the book or dismiss it, and yet do not read like book-club cheerleader effervescence. They are also short and to the point, which is a positive feature in any review. The first was from August 13 by a reviewer named Kim Strong.

This book inspired me to want to love others more selflessly. Ruthie, though not perfect, was a good example of living the Christian life. I marked it down slightly for portraying her brother as a serious student of the Bible, but he didn't seem to grasp it well.

I suppose the author of the book might point out that, well, she has obviously bought into the idea that "there is no conflict between being a faithful Christian and living within the American system" unlike the enlightened Americans (of means) who are able to jet over to Florence for a cultural-political chinwag and have pictures taken of them putting food into their mouths. That's why Ms. Strong wouldn't recognize him as a student of the Bible as she (and practically all normal Christians) have understood it.

Here's the most recent one as of this moment, from September 12 by Bruce L. Taylor.

I know this is based on a true story so I wish the story of Ruthie's life would have told in more detail, emotions, etc. I wanted to know her better. We are told over and over what an amazing person she was but the personal touch was missing. I felt I never got to know her the way I wanted to so I could feel the difference she made in everyone's life. Something was missing in the story that I needed to draw me more personally into the story.

Something was missing. I agree; in fact, I'd point out that there was a lot missing from many of the episodes in the story that would have explained said episodes better. Oengus pointed that out about the bouillabaisse incident—that was the one about the time Rod made bouillabaisse at a family dinner and Ruthie not only refused to eat it, but persuaded everyone else in the family to abstain from it. Oengus spoke my thoughts in his comment:

I kept getting the feeling that RD had left out some critical piece of information which would have explained the motives that the other people had. It is easy for me to imagine that had I been there I would have come away with a different impression of why what happened happened.

I also remember pointing out somewhere that the first story in the book about Ruthie was missing something. This story—the first "proof" of her saintliness—was about how, when they were children, she wanted to take the punishment for something that her brother was about to be punished for. We're never told about the nature of the infraction because Dreher claims to have forgotten what it was. But I'm not so sure about this. It's nice to be the one to write history. Mr. Taylor's review received one comment.

I found that he was too wrapped up in his own experience which blocked his depicting Ruthie in a personal, real way. Perhaps that's what was missing?



  1. I think Rod spends a majority of his time working on what a number of insecure po' white folks concern themselves with: getting the message out to whomever will listen just how far they've managed to separate themselves from the culture of po' white folks from which they sprang.

    Thus, the distinguishing from the unfortunate roots represented by Ruthie, and thus the Rodcumentation of every greblet of culrurin' possible from Italy. TMFKS makes a similar point here about Rod's profane world-transcending Italian manifestation of his true self.

  2. getting the message out to whomever will listen just how far they've managed to separate themselves from the culture of po' white folks from which they sprang

    There is definitely a huge element of that.

    Ties in with his rejection of Catholicism, too, methinks. We are the unwashed hoi polloi. Convertodoxy, by contrast, comprises a bunch of cool hipsters.

  3. Your discourses on the bouillabaise are de trop. His family did not care for the soup he made and did not eat it. When you're all done with your daisy chain of speculation, he's now a pathological liar.