Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Problems with Follett

I've been trying, and generally succeeding, in enjoying my book, The Pillars of the Earth. Then I hit a major road block last night. Ken Follett, the author, made a huge mistake and it's one that is so glaringly obvious that I have now lost most respect for him - at least as a researcher. What was this huge mistake? He said the vows of a Benedictine monk are poverty, chastity, and obedience. Most people know these to be the common vows taken by all Catholic vocations. Not so.

Those three vows pertain to Franciscan friars only. All other orders - Benedictines, Dominicans, Cistercians, and so forth - follow the vows set forth by Benedict (in his Benedictine Rule) in the fifth century. These started out numbering around six but now they have been combined into three: stability, conversion of life, and obedience. Doesn't sound familiar at all, does it? Just so know, Follett could have easily found this all out by typing "Benedictine vows" into Google - I just tried it.

Francisicans and Benedictines are fundamentally different. As mentioned above, all monks - including Benedictines - follow the rules set forth by their "founder" of sorts, Benedict of Nursia. He was not the first monk - St. Antony was - but he was the founder of monastic communities. Before this, most monks, including Antony and Benedict, were hermits who lived far from settled areas.

Franciscans are not monks, but friars. The order was late in appearing - Francis of Assisi (the founder) died in 1226. They are not cloistered; they have more contact with the communities around them and, were founded upon the principle of a wandering life filled with good works and preaching. Monks (in the traditional historical sense) do none of this - they live in a monastery. However, it must be noted that present-day Franciscans live in friaries - a base of operations, of sorts, for their community work.

Ok, I'm done with the history lesson. I honestly have no idea what is up with this book. You would never find such mistakes in an Ellis Peter or Sharan Newman novel. Another thing irking me is the sex that appeared before page 100. That's quicker than a quickie in a Danielle Steele novel! I didn't know that was the type of book I was reading. Furthermore, it was a totally cliche - not original in the least. (In case you're wondering....the sex appeared amidst death and starvation - mind-blowing surreal sex in the midst of this. Yeah right!)

I'll try to keep reading. The subject matter is interesting - if you can overlook the flaws.