Highlights from Recent Reading

Writers come in two principle categories—those who are overtly insecure and those who are covertly insecure … — from Draft Number 4, by John McPhee


We also saw the Golden-fronted Leafbird, a bright green bird with an orange forehead about the size of a Mockingbird. — from One More Warbler, by Victor Emanuel (That’s a really big forehead.)


Conscience drove Adam behind the trees of the garden; revelation brought him forth into the presence of God. The consciousness of what he was terrified him; the revelation of what God was tranquilized him. This is truly consolatory for a poor sin-burdened heart. The reality of what I am is met by the reality of what god is; and this is salvation. There is a point where God and man must meet, whether in grace or judgment, and that point is where both are revealed as they are. Happy are they who reach that point in grace! Woe be to them who will have to reach it in judgment! It is with what we are that God deals; and it is as He is that He deals with us. In the cross, I see God descending, in grace, to the lowest depths, not merely of my negative, but my positive condition as a sinner. This gives perfect peace. If God has met me in my actual condition, and Himself provided an adequate remedy, all is eternally settled. But all who do not thus by faith see God in the cross, will have to meet Him by and by in judgment, when He will have to deal, according to what He is, with what they are.

It is quite impossible that a divinely-quickened conscience can rest in aught save the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God. All effort to establish one’s own righteousness must proceed from ignorance of the righteousness of God. … Thus, in whatever way we view the matter, we see the sinner’s complete impotency, and, as a consequence, the presumptuous folly of all who attempt to assist God in the stupendous work of redemption, as all assuredly do who think to be saved in any other way but “by grace, through faith.”

[God] made it altogether a question between Himself and the serpent; for although the man and the woman were called upon individually to reap, in various ways, the bitter fruits of their sin, yet it was to the serpent that the Lord God said, “Because thou has done this.” The serpent was the source of the ruin, and the seed of the woman was to be the source of the redemption. … Looking at the matter from nature’s point of view, Eve might be called, the mother of all dying; but, in the judgment of faith, she was the mother of all living.

It was God’s wondrous mercy to allow [Adam] to hear what He said to the serpent, before he was called to listen to what He had to say to himself. — from Notes on the Book of Genesis, by C.H. Mackintosh.


Reno’s record also was superior to that of his closest friend at West Point, James McNeill Whistler, who piled up demerits with heroic aplomb and concluded one examination by defining silicon as a gas. Whistler reputedly said to Reno some years afterward that if silicon indeed had been a gas he probably would have stayed in the Army and become a major general; and Reno said yes, but then nobody would ever have heard of his mother. That must have been one of the cleverest things Reno ever said. Unlike Custer and Benteen—with their very different styles—he seems humorless. There is no levity in that dark face.

The big round bullet that brought him down came from a muzzle-loading Lancaster rifle, possibly one of many weapons given to the Cheyennes by the government at the Medicine Lodge peace council. Barnitz himself had been at Medicine Lodge and was amazed: “Indians signed treaty. Presents distributed—among other things 65 new revolvers!—and hundreds of new butcher knives!”

Eight years later Major Reno wrote his official report of the Custer business while on the banks of the Yellowstone, concluding with these lines: “The harrowing sight of the dead bodies crowning the height on which Custer fell, and which will remain vividly in my memory until death, is too recent for me not to ask the good people of this country whether a policy that sets opposing parties in the field armed, clothed and equipped by one and the same government should not be abolished.”

A century later it is obvious that Major Reno’s question has not yet been answered.— from Son of the Morning Star, by Evan, S. Connell.

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