A Canticle for Leibowitz

This is an old favorite I re-read or just dip into periodically. It has always troubled me a bit that the author, Walter Miller, committed suicide, because it seems a basically life-affirming novel. But I have decided (1) suicide is often just inexplicable and (2) a work of art is what it is, regardless of the quirks or failings of the author. A couple of my favorite passages:

on the limits of utilitarianism… “To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law–a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.” (p. 305)

“‘Brother Pat!’ Abbot Zerchi called weakly. 'Brother Pat, are you there?'
His secretary came to stand in the doorway. ‘Yes, Reverend Father?’
‘You heard?’
‘I heard some of it. The doo was open, and I couldn’t help hearing. You didn’t have the silencer–’
'You heard him say it? Pain’s the only evil I know about. You heard that?'
The monk nodded solemnly.
‘And that society is the only thing which determines whether an act is wrong or not? That too?’
‘Yes.’
‘Dearest God, how did those two heresies get back into the world after all this time? Hell has limited imaginations down there.’” (p.276)

And this magnificently prophetic passage:
"The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow.
"When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.
“Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they–this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that Man might hope again in wretched darkness.” (p. 265)

I’ve been kind of curious about it since I heard bits of an NPR radio dramitization of it, but I’ve never had occasion to read it.

[quote=“Fantasy_Chaser, post:2, topic:44483”]
I’ve been kind of curious about it since I heard bits of an NPR radio dramitization of it, but I’ve never had occasion to read it.
[/quote] it’s science fiction–set in a future in which civilization has been destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. in the desert in what used to be Utah, a remote monastery is trying to keep civilization alive much as the Church did during the Dark Ages. when they find relics of 20th-century America, they often misread their meaning, which makes for some comic moments.

but for the most part, they not only preserve knowledge, but humane values as best they know how. many of the survivors of the nuclear holocaust, for instance, are deformed and grotesque, but the monastery gives aid and comfort to all who stumble across its remote location, regardless of the marginally human status of some. I won’t give away any more of the story, but suffice to say that history starts to repeat itself, in that what was once the united states is again riven by factions, and war looms on the horizon… can the remote little monastery escape getting caught up in the madness?

`
Patricia,

Your OP reached out and grabbed me.
Tightly.
Therefore I googled.

"In Miller’s later years, he became a recluse, avoiding contact with nearly everyone, including family members; he never allowed his literary agent, Don Congdon, to meet him. According to science fiction writer Terry Bisson, Miller struggled with depression during his later years, but had managed to nearly complete a 600-page manuscript for the sequel to Canticle before taking his own life with a gun in January 1996, shortly after his wife’s death.[1][3] The sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, was completed by Bisson and published in 1997.[4]"
Walter M. Miller, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hemingway used a shotgun.
Sylvia Plath put her head in a gas oven.

I, as an amateur writer, hope to go out with a pen in my hand writing uplifting text
while lying comfortable in bed at age 112 listening to Sarah Brightman sing Sarai Qui

:smile:

I just ordered myself a copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Amazon.com New. $9.00 including S/H

I think I will like it.

I read it some years ago, but frankly don’t recall much about it.

I remember something about the last bit of the last episode that indicated some of that. I’ll have to see if it’s in our local library some time.

[quote=“Jack_Hectormann, post:4, topic:44483”]
`
Patricia,

Your OP reached out and grabbed me.
Tightly.
Therefore I googled.

Hemingway used a shotgun.
Sylvia Plath put her head in a gas oven.

I, as an amateur writer, hope to go out with a pen in my hand writing uplifting text
while lying comfortable in bed at age 112 listening to Sarah Brightman sing Sarai Qui

:smile:

I just ordered myself a copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Amazon.com New. $9.00 including S/H

I think I will like it.


[/quote]thanks VERY much, Jack, you gave me information that was new to me! how very sad that Miller withdrew from everyone in his last yrs. of course that’s never a good sign! and, as you note, its not that uncommon for writers and artists to self destruct in one way or another. I was not even aware that there was a sequel to Canticle, but one has to wonder, if it was written during his final depression, how much it would reflect that.

I did not find Canticle itself to be actually depressing. There is humor in it (rather grim humor to be sure), and beauty–the strange beauty of the desert, the beauty of people making a decent human environment for themselves against all odds. so whatever demons captured Miller’s mind eventually, I don’t think they had done so when he wrote Canticle. Maybe lurking, but not even close to dominating. I have the NPR dramatization on an MP3, and can put on earphones and listen to it whenever trapped in boring situations. When you read it, I will be very interested to get your reaction!

Patricia,

  • Glad I could provide some new & interesting info.

  • I’m looking forward to getting my copy, which I am will spot read :smile:. I do that with almost all
    books, that is I “read in them” I don’t start on page 1 and go to the end. That would bore me to
    tears. I rapidly look for the “good parts” and leave off “the filler.”

I especially do that with novels.

Millions are like me on that, in music its called “loving the arias”, for example the very short Nessun Dorma
is an aria from Giacomo Puccini’s sprawling opera Turandot. Most opera lovers have watched Turandot all
the way through at least 2 or 3 times, but they’ve listened to Nessun Dorma so many times they’ve lost
count.

I even “spot read” the three volumes of The Lord Of The Rings. I do not believe I missed anything significant
though. I have seen all the movies of the LOTR more times than you would believe if I told you, and my
three text volumes of the LOTR are well highlighted. But I have never read every word in those 3 volumes.

Anyway, life is too short to read all the “filler” in all the books I have. If I did that, I’d have to wave good-by
to all the books I am endlessly coming across and wanting to read.

Nonetheless, I will get the “substance” of A Canticle For Leibowitz, thanks to you and your very interesting
"arias" [that is, the excerpts] in your Opening Post.

PS
Yes, I realize that what I just wrote is a “capital offense” to serious novel readers. Please do what you can to
help me escape being “shot at sunrise.”

… lol …

`

I never read every detail in a novel the first time. Usually I will read every word eventually - but only because I’m a bit OCD - I can’t leave out anything . . .

1 Like

I pick up and book, read the Title page, any dedications or prologue and read it through to the last page…including the glossary if there is one! Not necessarily all in one sitting, but I read every word…very often multiple times. When I was in HS, I read Clark’s “The Rivers Ran East” every year–usually while in study hall.

[quote=“Jack_Hectormann, post:8, topic:44483”]
Patricia,

  • Glad I could provide some new & interesting info.

  • I’m looking forward to getting my copy, which I am will spot read :smile:. I do that with almost all
    books, that is I “read in them” I don’t start on page 1 and go to the end. That would bore me to
    tears. I rapidly look for the “good parts” and leave off “the filler.”

I especially do that with novels.

Millions are like me on that, in music its called “loving the arias”, for example the very short Nessun Dorma
is an aria from Giacomo Puccini’s sprawling opera Turandot. Most opera lovers have watched Turandot all
the way through at least 2 or 3 times, but they’ve listened to Nessun Dorma so many times they’ve lost
count.

I even “spot read” the three volumes of The Lord Of The Rings. I do not believe I missed anything significant
though. I have seen all the movies of the LOTR more times than you would believe if I told you, and my
three text volumes of the LOTR are well highlighted. But I have never read every word in those 3 volumes.

Anyway, life is too short to read all the “filler” in all the books I have. If I did that, I’d have to wave good-by
to all the books I am endlessly coming across and wanting to read.

Nonetheless, I will get the “substance” of A Canticle For Leibowitz, thanks to you and your very interesting
"arias" [that is, the excerpts] in your Opening Post.

PS
Yes, I realize that what I just wrote is a “capital offense” to serious novel readers. Please do what you can to
help me escape being “shot at sunrise.”

… lol …

`
[/quote] Jack!!! you forget you are speaking to an old English teacher!!! :firing: Far from showing mercy, I will be heading up the firing squad. Just remember, tho, that well-worn line from another kind of novel, The Godfather**: “I really liked you, Jack. It’s nothing personal!” :crybaby:

Patricia,

… lol … Knowing that its not personal makes all the difference in the world,
plus adding that you “really liked me” gives it all a sense of the magnificently
tragic, a real swords & roses event.

Btw, I’ve never been killed by a woman before, wonder what that’ll be like? … lol …

No blindfold please, I plan to wink at you just before the lead arrives.

And to think! I had Judges 9:54 highlighted in my Bible!

… lol …

:grin:

I got a good laugh outta that myself, Susanna.

[quote=“Jack_Hectormann, post:12, topic:44483”]
Patricia,

…Knowing that its not personal makes all the difference in the world,
plus adding that you “really liked me” gives it all a sense of the magnificently
tragic, a real swords & roses event
[/quote].:dramaqueen:

[MENTION=8351]Jack Hectormann[/MENTION], i knew you would totally appreciate that knowing its “not personal”, and that i “really liked you” would make all the difference!! (somewhat akin to “this hurts me more than it hurts you.” Right!)

“Swords and roses.” love it!

just looked it up.

!!!

:grin:

That’s one of the most interesting passages in the OT. Here is this man, trying to take care that it will never be said that he was killed by a woman, and about the only thing people remember about him is that he was killed by a woman.

[quote=“Susanna, post:17, topic:44483”]
That’s one of the most interesting passages in the OT. Here is this man, trying to take care that it will never be said that he was killed by a woman, and about the only thing people remember about him is that he was killed by a woman.
[/quote] perhaps God has a sense of humor… and a sense of poetic justice.

`

** On America’s Sexual Gender-Confusion and Gender-Destruction Revolution:
[aka America’s Sexual Revolution]**

… lol … I laugh because:

What follows has nothing to do with me or my Tribe. I have no “dog in this fight” because neither
me or any member of my family are connected in any way directly with America’s Sexual Revolution
aka America’s Sexual Gender Reversal Revolution. Not a single one of my Tribe, my extended
family, has any personal contact with any of these people and their absurd ideas and absurd practices
referenced down below. If Scotty beamed them all to Pluto this evening, my family and I wouldn’t
know the difference.

**
Judges 9:54
"Hurriedly he [Abimelek] called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that
they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant ran him through, and he died." **

Let us contrast some of the Liberal “males” of the 21st c. with the warrior males of ancient times.

We have some liberal “males” today that would be proud to be killed by a woman, [if they knew
for a fact they were going to be killed anyway.]

They’d look upon their death at the hands of a “female warrior” as something to be proud of because
it presented them an opportunity to strike another blow for Feminism in America and to once again
reaffirm the equality of males and females on the battlefields of the world. [Not that these particular
liberal types would actually be out there on a battlefield.]


  • little timmie-sue doe pranceth forward … lol … *

Moreover, many of the 21st c. liberal “males” would consider it an even greater honor to be killed
in battle by a lesbian female warrior, which would in their opinion add even more luster to America’s Sexual
Gender-Confusion Revolution, aka America’s Sexual Gender-Destruction Revolution.

Going one step further, many of the 21st c. liberal “males” would consider it an even greater honor to be
killed in battle [if they knew for a fact they were going to be killed in battle anyway] by a transgendered
person, (say) the born-male Timmy Doe who decided he wanted to be a she, and got the operation done
and now Timmy Doe has become Timmie-Sue Doe. There are many American 21st. c. liberal "males"
that would consider it a great honor to be killed in battle by Timmie-Sue Doe. The reason? Because to be
killed in battle by a John Wayne-type does NOT push forward America’s Sexual Gender Reversal Revolution,
but for a Traditional Male Warrior to be killed in battle by a female or lesbian or tranny does indeed
significantly push forward [at least in the minds of the battlefield-equality-of-all-humans crowd]
America’s Sexual Gender-Confusion and Gender-Destruction Revolution.

… lol … Weirdo world out there! The year 2050: Victoria’s Secret Lingerie Sensitivity Class 101 is now a required
course for all hetro males who work in the Department Of Defense!

/joke

[or is it?]

… lol again …

Patricia,

I love it to.

I have tried to find an explanation of how the phrase originated, but no luck.

I came across it years ago, and it always in my mind, conjures up images of
knights and chivalry and gentlemen and their ladies and historical eras like
the Napoleonic Wars where the males were warriors and distinctively males,
and the females were wives and mothers and distinctively feminine.

Also it conjures up the general sense of the romantic as well. Romantic here
as in “Romanticism - an exciting and mysterious quality ~ as of a heroic time
or adventure.”

The following image captures “swords and roses” very
well:

/smile … The painter even painted some roses in
the background.
[they look like vine roses to me]