Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Archangel loved heights

I'm not quite sure why, but lately I haven't been able to get the idea of the book Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, by Henry Adams, out of my head.  Only the idea of the book, mind you, which is to say its title and opening line, not the actual contents of the book--for I have never read it.

One of my college history professors, Dr. John Carrigg, used to talk about the book in class.  He must have mentioned it a number of times, because I've never forgotten the title or the opening line, "The Archangel loved heights," which Dr. Carrigg liked to quote.

A personally interesting side-note about Dr. Carrigg is that it was a comment from him on an exam paper, written in red pen at the end of one of my hastily scrawled, barely legible essays, that helped me start considering writing as a career.  The comment was something short and simple, saying in essence that I had a good writing style and perhaps I should consider a career in writing.  Several years after graduation, while questing about for a new career direction, I happened to find that blue-book, and soon found myself (to my dismay) back at college for a year studying creative writing.
Perhaps it's that I've been listening to a CD of music by Philip Glass recently (the soundtrack to The Hours) which reminds me of the soundtrack (also by Philip Glass) of the film Mindwalk, which is set in and around Mont-Saint-Michel, that has led to the idea of the place, and thus the idea of the book, being lodged so firmly in my noggin of late.  Whatever the cause, I looked up the book on the internet and found that it's apparently a study of the medieval worldview, and thus fits in well with some of my recent reading, so I decided to track down a copy.

Several years ago I happened to see the out-of-print hardcover edition in a little booth at an antique mall, but didn't buy it at the time.  I went back to that same antique mall Wednesday, where I found the same booth and the same book (or, rather improbably, a different copy of the same book, which I've never run across in any other store), which I bought.

Alas, I'm unusually busy right now and won't be able to read it till next week.  Until I do (and probably long afterwards) I'll have those words echoing in my head:

"The Archangel loved heights."