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N.D. Wilson on Critiquing Stories

Posted by Remy on May 17, 2012

“One final thought: never read or watch a story like a passive recipient, enjoying something in a visceral way and then retroactively trying to project deeper value or meaning onto the story you’ve already ingested. Such projections have been making authors and directors seem more intelligent than they are for decades. As you watch, as you read, shoulder your way into the creator’s chair. Don’t take the final product for granted, analyze the creator’s choices and cheerfully push them in new and different directions. As we do this, the clarity of our criticism will grow immensely.”

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Father Hunger : Douglas Wilson

Posted by Remy on May 3, 2012

With a deft theological hand Douglas Wilson weaves fatherhood and atheism into a digressive encomium of love in a variety of roles, God to man, husband to wife, father to child. The breadth of topics covered by Wilson is impressive, everything from abortion to capitalism, to gender roles; all written in the bombastic style that wins him both friends and enemies. Rigorously pastoral, insightful and full of talking points, I found myself surprised and delighted and even at times confused and squinty-eyed, which are things I most find valuable in a book like this.

I see little doubt that this is one of the great challenges of the future and Father Hunger is an excellent starting point in moving forward.

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On the Reader : Laura Miller

Posted by Remy on March 2, 2012

“There’s some sort of disgrace to being a reader, or a viewer, or just absorbing some work of culture — it’s this lesser activity, by that rationale. I really disagree with that. I feel like reading and looking at art and all of these things are creative acts in their own way. The experience of a piece of culture being appreciated takes two people. A poor reader cannot have a great reading experience with a great author.”

-Laura Miller

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Reality : Marilynne Robinson

Posted by Remy on February 22, 2012

“The advice I give my students is the same advice I give myself—forget definition, forget assumption, watch. We inhabit, we are part of, a reality for which explanation is much too poor and small. No physicist would dispute this, though he or she might be less ready than I am to have recourse to the old language and call reality miraculous. By my lights, fiction that does not acknowledge this at least tacitly is not true.”

-Marilynne Robinson

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Tyndale by David Teems

Posted by Remy on January 21, 2012

Tyndale is one of the most influential writers of English after the man who was Shakespeare and among the most creative, counted among Chaucer and Joyce. The book, Tyndale: the Man Who Gave God an English Voice by David Teems (Thomas Nelson, 2012), is at its best discussing the contributions and innovations of Tyndale the translator, but is marred by dischronous and ill-fitted metaphors that set the stage. Comparing the church at the time to radical Islam, its actions to Jihad, and referring to the orange and red “threat level” do a great disservice to the period; as is calling it a “humorless age”. So while the bulk of the book does not trade on such currency, it makes for an unfortunate first impression.

The glories of the book pay tribute to Tyndale’s style and panache for turning a phrase: Be not weary in well doing, Seek and ye shall find, Fight the good fight. The price of the book is well worth it for the list of words the English language owes to William Tyndale: atonement, churlishness, brotherliness, particolourd, fatling and on and on. His economy put us in such debt that it can never be paid, but in honoring the man who coined them.

 

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Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart

Posted by Remy on October 6, 2011

Biography is a troublesome genre in that it requires reducing a life to its lifeless chronology, pinning the influences upon the writer like labels to the appendages of a butterfly. The default setting of most biographers is to introduce the anxieties and trauma of a writer’s childhood so that the ensuing monuments of literature look to be the inevitable result of such a life, but the new biography of Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart (Thomas Nelson, 2011) avoids both the pitfalls of dreary biographical recap and the tenuous prospect of connecting an author’s psyche with his scholarship by artfully framing vignettes to develop the very themes Dostoevsky reflects upon in his novels. Drawing from Dostoevsky’s letters he constructs conversations as a novelist might to convey the person and his motives.

These biographical vignettes, rigorously researched and footnoted, are ordered by Dr. Leithart with a poets precision and timing. While no doubt a popular biography, Dr. Leithart’s “Fyodor Dostoevsky” nonetheless accomplishes a full vision of this great Russian novelist that a scholarly tome would spend hundreds more pages attaining.

A review copy was provided by the publisher Thomas Nelson, via Booksneeze.

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Pope Benedict on Art

Posted by Remy on October 6, 2011

“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely, the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by the clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history. If the Church is to continue to transform and humanize the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection? No, Christians must not be too easily satisfied. They must make their Church into a place where beauty — and truth — is at home. Without this the world will become the first circle of hell…. A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental: they necessarily are reflected in his theology.”

– Joseph Ratzinger (1985)

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Listen : James Carse

Posted by Remy on September 1, 2011

“…a creative listener is not someone who simply allows me to say what I already want to say, but someone whose listening actually makes it possible for me to say what I never could have said, and thus to be a new kind of person, one I have never been before and could not have been before this directed listening.”
-James Carse, The Silence of God

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Rowan Williams on the “Poet-Priest”

Posted by Remy on July 16, 2011

“I always get annoyed when people call R.S. Thomas a poet-priest. He’s a poet, dammit. And a very good one. The implication is that somehow a poet-priest can get away with things a real poet can’t, or a real priest can’t. I’m very huffy about that. But I do accept there’s something in the pastoral office that does express itself appropriately in poetry. And the curious kind of invitation to the most vulnerable places in people that is part of priesthood does come up somewhere in poetic terms.”

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from the Book of Common Prayer

Posted by Remy on June 16, 2011

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.

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