It may come as a surprise to many, but most Norwegians were never particularly proud of their Norse ancestry. The little knowledge they had of the Viking Age and our common ethnic and cultural heritage was usually horribly outdated. Until recently, in popular culture the Vikings were almost always portrayed as dumb, brutal rapists and villains. Also, Norse mythology was a subject of parody and not to be taken as anything more than naive stories told by our stupid ancestors. Those of us who thought differently, those of us who had already connected with our Norse ancestry, were ridiculed.
Aside from its praise for the awful History Channel “Vikings” TV series, I was pleased but not especially surprised by this article “How the Americans Taught Us Norwegians to Love Our Viking Heritage.”
One thing I learned in my translation work for Prof. Torgrim Titlestad (they tell me our book’s coming out this spring at last. We’ll see. Watch for it in any case; it’ll be called The Viking Heritage), is that for several decades now the Norwegian school system has taught almost nothing about the Viking Age. The main reason was a higher critical view of the Icelandic sagas, our main source of information about Norwegian politics in that time. The same kind of destructive skepticism that scholars have applied to the Bible, they also applied to the sagas. Since the sagas were written a century or more after the events described (much longer than is the case for the gospels), they argued that no information of value could be derived from them.
Scholarly views are changing, though. Sociological studies have shown that substantial useful information can be preserved by oral (non-literate or semi-literate) cultures for much longer than is the case in cultures which rely on books for their records.
Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen, the writer, is a novelist, screenwriter and blogger living in Norway. A brief perusal of his site indicates that he’s not crazy, which is generally a good thing.
I’m encouraged to see two of my Advent-themed posts go up recently on For The Church.
- The first asks whether Jesus was chomping at the bit to start his earthly ministry. “I don’t think the Lord has the same concept of time I do. Just look at the incarnation. Christ Jesus did not appear to us like Melchizedek in Genesis, an established priest and king of the city of peace. He didn’t walk out of the desert and begin casting out demons like a fabled dragon slayer. He came to us as an infant. He spent years growing into adulthood, asking questions of his parents, learning his father’s trade skills, and studying at the synagogue.”
- The second reflects on a great hymn of the season. “Save us, Lord, and all the nations. By your authority, we live. The doors you open, no one can shut, and the doors you shut, no one can open. Lead us through that door to heaven and bring with us the rebels, strangers, hypocrites, and refugees who have exchanged their lives for yours. Lock up the door to misery, for your name’s sake, so that we may rejoice.”
The Millions is launching a new initiative in coordination with National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo).
We are launching #NaGrafWriMo in recognition of all the writers with jobs and family obligations, and those who just spend an ungodly amount of time on the Internet, who find it hard to read a whole book in a month, much less write one. But we are also embarking on this new program because we have found that, for most writers, it can take more talent, determination, and hard work to write one good paragraph than an entire lousy book.
Here, here to more good paragraphs and fewer lousy books.
Sean Minogue writes about writers using social media for better or for worse.
Unreachability and self-seriousness used to define many of our best-known authors, but the public appetite for writerly swagger in both old and new media is at an all-time low. Jonathan Franzen, for example, continues to spark minor firestorms with his pooh-poohing of Twitter: “I see people who ought to be spending time developing their craft […] making nothing and feeling absolutely coerced into this constant self-promotion,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. Franzen is behind the curve, but not because he doesn’t like Twitter. It’s his fundamental misunderstanding of social media that makes his opinions so quaint.
In the end, social media are just other platforms for authors to speak or ignore as they wish.
Nathan James Norman reviews Death’s Doors here. It appears that I achieved the effects I was going for, with at least one reader.
I found myself highlighting numerous passages in the book. Like C.S. Lewis I find Lars Walker quite quotable. Typically, I don’t go out of my way to notate fiction. I marked twenty-nine passages in this book.
Author Cedar Sanderson approached me a while back about contributing to a series of posts on her blog. The theme is “Eat This While You Read That.” The idea was that I would recommend a recent book of mine, along with a meal to eat with it. Then she would prepare the meal, photograph it, sample it, and report.
So (somewhat shamefacedly) I recommended Death’s Doors and the most memorable meal in my recent memory, an unusually good hot beef sandwich (also known as a commercial, or a Manhattan, apparently).
It all came out better than I deserve. You can read it here.
One of our oldest friends in the blogging world is S. T. Karnick’s The American Culture blog. I’ve been a participant there, though I’ve had to cut it back severely in the last couple years, due to my educational schedule. You may have noticed that the operation moved to the Liberty 21 Institute for a while. That association has ended.
If, like me, you’ve had a little trouble finding TAC again, it’s back at its old digs here.
This has been a public service announcement.
Who first said, “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it”? Is it an old Chinese proverb or more recent American maxim?
The Quote Investigator works it over and decides he doesn’t know, but there’s this:
One instance appeared on March 7, 1903 in a periodical called “The Public” based in Chicago, Illinois. An acknowledgment to the humor magazine “Puck” was appended.
Things move along so rapidly nowadays that people saying: “It can’t be done,” are always being interrupted by somebody doing it.—Puck.
“Don’t hold theology and the study of the Scriptures to an unfair standard. Buy a dictionary!” A pastor describes his exploration of new words as a student before the Age of Internet. “Do I really need to know what Heilsgeschicte is and really, what does obstreperous mean?”
Adam Frost and Jim Kynvin have developed several charts to display the numbers they have crunched from A.C. Doyle’s famous stories. Here are two of the charts. Another states Holmes has been adapted for film and TV more than any other fictional character, except Dracula. (via Prufrock)
Rosaria Butterfield describes her rejection of lesbianism, three heresies related to homosexuality, and the importance of what and how we read to our worldview.
In short, we honor God with our reading diligence. We honor God with our reading sacrifice. If you watch two hours of TV and surf the internet for three, what would happen if you abandoned these habits for reading the Bible and the Puritans? For real. Could the best solution to the sin that enslaves us be just that simple and difficult all at the same time? We create Christian communities that are safe places to struggle because we know sin is also “lurking at [our] door.” God tells us that sin’s “desire is for you, but you shall have mastery over it” (Gen. 4:7). Sin isn’t a matter of knowing better, it isn’t (only) a series of bad choices—and if it were, we wouldn’t need a Savior, just need a new app on our iPhone.
Erik Raymond offers a few hacks for reading more books. His advice includes making a plan and pushing yourself a bit. I have to draw the line at making a spreadsheet. That seems so Windows 95.
Who came up with this joke, “Only monarchs, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we’”? The Quote Investigator, um, investigates.
Loren Eaton talks about how weird Oregon is and introduces his new short story, “Fostering.”
“You, uh, may not want to watch this.”
The Bible Exchange labels J. Mark Bertrand “the most interesting man in the (Bible) world” as a way to soften him up before peppering him with questions. What’s his favorite Bible? The ESV Reader’s Bible, though possibly not the edition I’ve linked to. Is this the Bible he’d want if he were to be stranded on a dessert-ladened island surrounded by cakes and coffees… I mean, a desert island with only a shade weed and a view of Nineveh? No. He’d want “one that doesn’t yet exist.
“Every so often people will ask me, ‘Why don’t you design your own Bible?’ I’d really like to. I’ve gone so far as to create the proposal to see whether any publishers are interested in the project. Meanwhile I am staying away from boats and airplanes for fear of being prematurely stranded.”