Read the Beloved Book

A reader of this blog noted a few months ago her intent to read the book on which this blog’s title is based. The occasion was my once again defending the ironic intent of the title ‘Somber and Dull’ and noting that it is based upon the main character of Alan Paton’s wonderful 1948 novel Cry, the Beloved Country.

I’m still waiting to hear whether she kept her vow. If she hasn’t, perhaps I can urge her, and you, to move the book somewhere near if not at the top of your ‘to-read’ list. If you need extra incentive, then note the occasion of the death of Nelson Mandela by reading the book that sets the context for understanding the world Mandela sought to change.

Writer Kevin Roose in a helpful NPR story had this to say about the book and its main character, Stephen Kumalo (“…a parson, somber and rather dull no doubt, and his hair was turning white….”):

Kumalo is a quiet, unassuming man who relies on his faith to get him through tough circumstances. And when he finds out that his son has been arrested for the murder of a white activist and is scheduled to be executed, he begins working for reconciliation and justice. It’s a beautiful book – lyrical without being maudlin, lofty but unpretentious – and Paton captures perfectly the difficulty of nonviolent resistance. In one scene, Kumalo, speaking to a farmer who he fears has become too radicalized, says: “I cannot stop you from thinking your thoughts. It is good that a young man has such deep thoughts, but hate no man and desire power over no man.”

The whole piece is worth listening to (or reading), but nothing can surpass the delight and joy of experiencing the book itself.

Do so, and then tell me what you think.

[By the way, if you don’t know why this blog has the strange name it has, and you WANT to know, then read here or here. Or both.]


4 thoughts on “Read the Beloved Book

  1. Adri

    Whoever promised to read the book is missing something great if she/he has not already read the book. It’s a wonderful story; Paton’s writing is lyrical and poetic.
    It’s a book worth reading more than once; I can’t count how many times I’ve read it, each time finding something new to think on and marvel at.

  2. Jenny McCarty

    Hey Randy – did I ever tell you that I am working on this book too? Just found it in Kevin’s gear from when he’d finished it. I was sad when I bought it off of Amazon used to find that it was a Los Angeles High School library book that had never been checked out (card still in pocked) and was summarily “discarded.” I figure if we add it to the McCarty Library then redemption will be achieved for this particular copy.

  3. phillydull

    I fortunately came across a “book on tape” version in our local library, tuned out sports talk radio for a couple of days during my commute, and enjoyed the meanderings of Kumalo patiently grappling with his pain. I listened carefully to the description of the parson; somber and rather dull. couldn’t get visions of James Earl Jones out of my head though . . . .no doubt. . Thanks for the recommendation.

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