Category Archives: Reading

We Really Don’t Ban Books in the States

Sherry of Semicolon has a good post on Banned Books Week, which echoes my thoughts on the subject. She starts with some facts on what’s banned in other countries and then states that we don’t ban books in America.

I attended library school and heard librarians say, with a straight face, that when they chose to not purchase Nancy Drew books or comic books, the process was called “selection,” but when parents or citizens tried to voice their opinions about what should or should not be purchased by the libraries that they support with their taxes, it was “censorship.” Librarians were an elite group of educated professionals who knew how to “select ” library materials; others were yokels who were out to keep information out of the hands of the people, book-banners. . . . The only difference is that the librarians are assumed to have good motives, to provide as many materials as possible to the lbrary’s patrons, and the public citizens are assumed to have bad motives, to keep materials out of the hands of others.

Kenyon Review Blog: Give Me My Money Back

Today, I learned The Kenyon Review has a blog. I have a good impression of this literary journal, but still have yet to subscribe. My impression may be unfounded, perhaps being drawn from my good impression of poet Jane Kenyon who doesn’t have anything to do with the college.

Anyway, the KR blogger Liz Lopatto is complaining about books for which she’d like a refund. Among them:

Everything Jane Austen has ever written, but especially Persuasion. I’ve never been fond of Austen’s ridiculous style, and while David Lynn has tried unsuccessfully to convince me that she’s really parodying the characters she writes about, she spends so much loving detail describing every second of their boring lives that I can’t believe him. I threw Persuasion across the room several times when I had to read it for my English comprehensive exercise, but especially when our heroine Anne, who has no flaws except that she might be plain (this changes as the book goes on, however; her beauty blooms again!), discovers Captain Wentworth really does love her. I threw the book and stomped on it when her spurned suitor, her cousin, turns out to be a “villain.” Because our Anne couldn’t possibly break the heart of someone who’s decent–oh, no, she’s too good for that. I understand Austen is considered a classic but I still can’t figure out why.

She doesn’t like Dickens or Moby Dick either. To each his own.

No, I’m not going to type “to each his or her own,” because it’s awkward. English speakers should understand that implication and avoid petty language politics.

Memory Survey Says Turn Off TV, Pick Up Fiction

The Australian National Memory Test has taken in surveys from almost 30,000 Australians and concluded that watching too much TV and drinking too much drags down your mind, making it difficult to remember whatever it was you were trying to remember when you started, say, writing a sentence. On the other hand, people who read fiction, ate fish regularly, and worked crossword puzzles tended to have better memory.

Neuro-psychologist Nancy Pachana said, “TV can be a really passive activity, while reading is active, and any active activity is better.” So a little TV as part of an active day won’t harm your memory, and active TV viewing can be good for you.

Collected Comments

Orange Jack on Don Quixote: “The ironic thing to me is that this book is about 1000 pages, and on the first page the author tells me the main character goes mad because he read too much!”

Laura Demanski on a book she’s read several times: “A friend recently told me that he’s reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and I realized that this is a condition I aspire to. In other words, I wanted for a second to claw his eyes out, but the second passed and I masked my jealous rage nicely, I thought. It used to be every Christmastime that I read P&P. Now my readings are further spaced out, every three or four years instead of every single one as I try (without hope) to regain a state of innocence vis-à-vis this particular book.”

Kevin Holtsberry quotes Athol Dickson on writing too fast: “I recently got into hot water with some writer friends by crying out for a slower, more thoughtful pace. Although I hate it when people are unhappy with me, I’m not backing down. Many popular Christian authors are in the habit of putting out three, four or even five or more novels every year. Such haste strikes me as a risky proposition.” I remember Mr. Dickson saying the same thing in his Novel Journey interview.

It’s your party, and I’ll hide if I want to

Just got an e-mail from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Kingsville, Maryland, informing me that my novel, Wolf Time, has been chosen as their Book of the Month (scroll down the page about three-quarters of the way). They state that I’m gaining “a bit of a cult following among Lutherans,” which is a surprise to me, but I won’t complain. I’m not entirely sure what it means to have a “cult following,” but my impression is that artists who’ve produced cult works generally live in their cars.

Anyway, thanks to the folks at St. Paul’s.

On Friday, while my brothers and I were working in my back yard, one of my neighbors came over and invited me to stop by for his birthday party, Monday evening.

I thanked him for the invitation, but didn’t figure I’d attend. My brothers, though, informed me that I was obligated to show up at least for a few minutes, in order not to offend the neighbor.

I really don’t get these social obligation rules. Never have. I’ve never been able to understand how anyone would be anything but relieved if I didn’t show up at their party.

Anyway, Monday evening rolled around, as Monday evenings are wont to do, and it found me genuinely terrified. I almost didn’t go at all, but I finally commended my soul to God, picked up the card and gift certificate I’d bought, and went over. I wished the neighbor a happy birthday, handed him the card, said I couldn’t stay, and rushed home as quickly as I could on shaking knees.

I suppose that wasn’t good enough. I suppose I took a year off my life and still offended my neighbor.

My advice to you all: Don’t develop Avoidant Personality Disorder. It doesn’t add much to your personal fulfillment.

Why Do We Read Literature?

As a partial response to a suggestion from searider a few weeks ago, I ask you, a reader gracious (or perhaps unfortunate) enough to glance at this humble blog, why do you read literature? Why do you read good fiction as opposed to cheap or pulp fiction or non-fiction?

Here’s an answer from Proverbs 25:11-13.

A word fitly spoken

is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold

is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest

is a faithful messenger to those who send him;

he refreshes the soul of his masters.

Adrian’s Recommended Reading

England’s uber-blogger Adrian Warnock has a list of books which he believes every Christian should read:

  1. ESV Bible
  2. God is the Gospel by John Piper
  3. Humility – True Greatness by C.J.Mahaney
  4. Living the Cross-Centered Life by C.J.Mahaney
  5. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
  6. Spurgeon’s Sermons
  7. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
  8. C.H.Spurgeon, The Soulwinner
  9. What is Reformed Theology?

The list is certainly weighted toward certain authors, but the books look to be contenders for required reading. What do you think?

Please pray for Adrian’s health and that the Lord would give him grace to perservere through his sickness. He has shingles.

Five Favorites from Thirty Evangelicals

World’s July 1 cover story is made up of lists of favorite books and films from various Christian artists, writers, thinkers, and public officials. The link won’t reveal the article unless you subscribe to the magazine, but here are a few of the selections. They chose favorites, not necessarily what they think is the best of the field.

  • Scott Derrickson, Writer-director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, gaves The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell and the film Breaking the Waves.
  • Brian Godawa chose Intensity, by Dean Koontz
  • Denis D. Haack of Ransom Fellowship offered Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost chose Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card and Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman

There were many more selections, but you’ll have to find the magazine or subscribe online to get them and the other book and movie articles this week.

Turning Freetime into Books

[First posted May 24, 2003] The Boston Globe reported on Massachusetts resident Francis McInerney, who is Amazon.com’s #7 reviewer [Now he is #36]. He began writing reviews a few years ago in his free time and has become influential among some editors. At least, I assume he has some influence with those editors who send him advance reader copies and galleys.

Quoted in the article, Elizabeth Taylor, literary editor of the Chicago Tribune, said, “I tell reviewers that a review should be a letter to a very smart friend. It should be rigorous, intellectually enterprising, artfully written, persuasive, and the reviewer should be clear about any conflicts and about point of view.” That reminded me of something George Grant said about the books he reviews. He said that after he had read a few chapters, he could usually tell whether the whole book would be worthwhile and if it was, he usually praised its merits. If it wasn’t, he stopped reading. That’s why, he said, most of his reviews were positive. He didn’t want to waste his time or his readers’ by reading and reviewing an avoidable book. World Magazine Editor Marvin Olasky made a similar comment regarding the books he reads while on his treadmill.

That’s as it should be, isn’t it? What purpose is served by negative reviews in general? Steve Almond, who had a short story collection published in 2002, wrote an article on the pain of negative reviews in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. It supports my notion that book reviews in general ought to be positive. The existence of the review draws attention to the book being review, and some believe that no publicity is bad; so why do some books warrant a special warning for the hapless reader? I think I understand negative reviews of bestsellers. Books on the Top 10 lists attract attention, and if a particularly bad book makes it there, professional reviewers may feel obligated to warn their trusted readership against it, as does David Prather of The Huntsville Times in his review of the best-selling The Da Vinci Code. He wrote, “How much dreadful writing can [readers] accept to follow an interesting plot?” But of course, a bestseller must have something going for it or it wouldn’t be a bestseller—or maybe, it wouldn’t be a bestseller for weeks on end. But for those books which receive a lot of hype, like Mrs. Clinton’s upcoming, deserve honest reviews from a professional. (first seen on MobyLives.com)

Speaking of reviews, The Mobile Press-Register reviewed a biography of the great Southern writer Peter Taylor. Reviewer Thomas Uskali summaries the book by Hubert McAlexander by writing, “McAlexander covers every year of Taylor’s life, but in a manner that bogs down in details gleaned from interviews, letters and other research. Taylor himself told McAlexander that he didn’t consider his own life worthy of a biography, and while it is absolutely certain that Taylor’s life warrants one, it is also clear that there is much richness that gets overlooked in the barrage of minutiae.”