On this trip I read So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke
] by Louisa A. Burnham. This is a fairly brief history of the Beguin heretics of Languedoc, an early fourteenth century movement which was stifled effectively by the Inquisition. (And tangentially figures into Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose
.) This is a fairly scholarly book which I read simply for the sake of something interesting well outside my usual splash zone. It was interesting in an intellectual sense, though more scholarly than popular, so didn't have the same reading buzz as the narrative nonfiction which has been so prevalent in recent years. (This is not a criticism, just an observation.)
I certainly learned more than I ever thought to know about Franciscans, the politics and practices of the Inquisition, life in Medieval France and sundry other details. Fascinating stuff at the detail level which will certainly inform my thinking and writing in the future. I also learned some new words, such as "macaronic" and "archiepiscopal", and new terms, such as "Angel of Philadelphia" — that last definitely a story title waiting to happen.
Interesting stuff, worth my time, and much as with my recent reading of Corpse
, about the history of forensic pathology and time-of-death estimates, definitely gave my brain a jolt of different-from-the-usual. Which was, of course, the point.