THE YOUNGEST DAY: An Island's Seasons in the Light of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon

THE YOUNGEST DAY: An Island's Seasons in the Light of Grace

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Father Capon alternately shines and fizzles in these rambling personal meditations on the symbolic interplay between the four seasons and the ""four last things"" (death, judgment, heaven, and hell). The ""Island"" he writes about is Shelter Island, N.Y., where he has spent the past five years, and a place whose charm he evokes with infectious verve. But the links between the landscapes of nature and those of faith are sometimes strained or non-existent, and Capon's wit sometimes degenerates into garrulous whimsy. He starts off, though, in fine fettle, reflecting on winter and death. With his habitual love of paradox (the whole book is sandwiched in between two long and brilliant quotations from a Christmas sermon by John Donne), Capon rings the changes on the theme of ""while there's death, there's hope."" The section of spring/judgment, however, is much weaker, with no convincing central metaphor, except for the wiredrawn notion that Doomsday (der jÃœngste Tag in German) ""is indeed the youngest, freshest day of the world"" and hence springlike. Capon hates summer, and so he connects it with hell. Unfortunately, at this point he forgets about his physical environment and indulges in uncharacteristic high and dry speculations (concluding that there has to be a hell, even though there may be nobody in it). Autumn and heaven are more congenial to Capon, and he ends with a graceful, if somewhat eccentric, celebration of both. Whatever his faults, Capon is almost never dull. His eager, unblushing interest in sex, like his hearty, worldly joie de vivre and his robust theological optimism, make him an agreeable preacher. If only he wouldn't call God ""the Supreme Pussycat"" or imagine him as the host of the party-to-end-all-parties, ordering St. Peter ""Juleps all around, and don't spare the bourbon."" At any rate, a brisk and unmistakable Caponian performance.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row