The Future of News on Inked Paper

This one is for Michael, who raised a question about the need for definitions in our post on reading the classics. World reporter Timothy Lamer asks, “Is the newspaper industry about to die or experience a revival? The answer may depend on whom you ask and how you define the word newspaper.” Heh, heh.

The point of the article is to quote some folks about how newspapers will survive and can they make money online. I think a subscription for the Chattnaooga Times-Free Press (formerly two papers, one of which was the Chattanooga News-Free Press, a far superior name don’t you think?) for a year is $120. If the cost was $50/year and it was only online, would I subscribe for the sake of local news? I don’t know. Maybe I would. I think I’d have to see the offer when it comes, much like the 2008 presidential election questions being asked now. I don’t know if I would vote for Giuliani or McCain. I don’t want to vote for either of them. So, I’ll wait and see what the options are.

When you have no thoughts of your own, quote Lewis

I know I’m quoting too much from my current reading, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, but I burned my brain out last night, and I was impressed with this passage today, from a July 20, 1940 letter to his brother Warren:

Humphrey came up to see me last night… and we listened to Hitler’s speech together. I don’t know if I’m weaker than other people: but it is a positive revelation to me how while the speech lasts it is impossible not to waver just a little. I should be useless as a schoolmaster or a policeman. Statements which I know to be untrue all but convince me, at any rate for the moment, if only the man says them unflinchingly. The same weakness is why I am a slow examiner: if a candidate with a bold, mature handwriting attributed Paradise Lost to Wordsworth, I shd. feel a tendency to go and look it up for fear he might be right after all.

I know just how he felt.

This, by the way, is from the same letter, where he mentions, later on, in reference to going to church on Sunday morning…

Before the service was over – one cd. wish these things came more seasonably – I was struck by an idea for a book wh. I think might be both useful and entertaining. It wd. be called As one Devil to Another and would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first ‘patient’….

People Don’t Read Classics; They Only Talk About Them

Ella askes an important question: “If you want to be a good writer, do you need to read the classics?” She believes her writing has improved after having read great literature for the past few years, but she wonders if it is necessary. Should the average writer read the classics in order to mature or are there other options, this one being simply the road less traveled? I think the would-be good writer should read the classics and study some of them too. But now that I’m thinking about it, “good writing” is a fairly relative term, isn’t it? We have to define what we mean by “good writing” before we can decide how to accomplish it.

For more writing advice, Mark Bertrand suggests spending time singing, painting, photographing, or other creative, non-writing enjoyments as a way to enhance your creative writing. I guess blogging doesn’t count, does it.

Call me Cassandra

I heard from my prospective renter a few minutes back. He decided he’d fit better in an apartment of his own.

Maybe God’s telling me that’s where I belong too.

Gave a lecture to the Northfield, Minnesota Sons of Norway lodge last night. It was a special Twenty-fifth Anniversary meeting, held in a banquet room at St. Olaf College (which was fitting, since I was lecturing on the original St. Olaf, among other people).

It was one of my better lecturing experiences. Excellent meal, receptive audience, and I sold a lot of books.

And yet, my heart is bowed down.

I wrote the following years ago, in my novel Wolf Time. The speaker is a television news reporter:

“Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m sorry we have to bury America—it has its good points. But we’re talking survival now. This is the nuclear age, the killer virus age, the age of terrorism. As long as we can defend ourselves there’s no chance for survival…. I want to live, and I want my children to live, if I ever decide to have any. In a world like this we can’t afford honor. My honor, if you want to call it that, is to persuade people, any way I can, that nothing—nothing in the world—is worth dying for. And I think people are getting the message. You know why we’ve only fought little wars since Vietnam? Because Americans don’t have any stomach for long-term sacrifice anymore. I like to think we [the news media] had something to do with that. It’s an incredible power we have.”

I hate being right. I had the hope, when I wrote that scene in a novel set in the near future, that the Universe (not Providence. They’re two different things) would step in, as it usually does, to prove my prediction false. Unfortunately the Universe backed me up this time.

I’ve heard all the arguments that nothing big will happen in the wake of the power shift in Washington, because of gridlock, etc.

I don’t buy it. I keep hearing smart people on the radio saying the election was mostly about the war. And it doesn’t matter that a lot of people who voted to throw the bums out were angry that the war wasn’t being prosecuted aggressively enough.

The message sent by this election was, “America has given up. We’re pulling out. We’ll do what we can to save face as we leave, but you’ve beaten us.”

I think we’ve turned a critical corner, pulled the pin on the grenade. The message of Vietnam has been confirmed—fight the Americans long enough and you’ll wear them down. They’re soft. They won’t make sacrifices.

I have a vision of the future. I hope I’m wrong this time.

I see embattled people all around the world, Christians and non-Christians, fighting against the pressure of Islam. They’ll know that there’s no help to be expected from America, and far less from the United Nations. In other words, there won’t be any polite, Geneva Convention answer to their problem.

They will do what they need to do to survive.

It will be very, very ugly. There will be acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing. There will be terrible battles and massacres and atrocities. On both sides.

I don’t think it will happen in America. At least not soon. But it will happen elsewhere, and it won’t be long now.

And it will be our fault. Because we had the chance to stop jihadism in Iraq, and we couldn’t finish the job.

But I see something else. It came to my mind as I sat in church on Sunday.

Our guest preacher was a missionary from Mexico. He spoke, among other things, of signs and wonders.

I need to explain here that we’re not a charismatic group. We mistrust faith healers, and positively oppose tongue-speaking.

But this pastor spoke of miraculous healings in answer to prayer, on the mission field. He spoke of a man raised from the dead. He spoke of exorcisms. He named names, names of several people who are known to us from mission trips, or as students at the Bible School.

He talked of all this matter-of-factly, as things just to be expected when God is working.

And that reminded me that the Kingdom of God is bigger than my fears. God is at work today, and what He’s planning to do is probably something that hasn’t occurred to me. His instruments will come from places where I’m not looking.

So be comforted.

But not too comforted.

Solzhenitsyn Praises by His Sons

There’s a new anthology of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work, and his two sons praised him at a related celebration event in Philadelphia last Friday. Asked whether they could understand their father’s deeply felt pain, Ignat, the musician in the family, responded:

It’s a fundamental question of human experience, what can be transmitted and what can’t. Fundamentally, we only really understand things we experience ourselves. Having said that, he has spoken very eloquently, nowhere more so than in his Nobel lecture, about the power of art to fill that gap, to build that bridge, to connect the disconnect, to help people to understand without the benefit of bitter experience what others have suffered, what others have experienced, whether taken as nations or as individuals.

(Thanks to Books, Inq. for the link.)

The Ardent Fan

From an article on Thomas Pynchon comes this description of a fan.

Tim Ware, who runs the Web site thomaspynchon.com from Oakland, Calif., recalls having a hard time getting through “Gravity’s Rainbow,” at least the first time around.

“I went back and looked again at the first page and everything just sort of snapped into view, and I thought, ‘This guy is a genius,’ like those who walked the Earth in the 19th century,” says Ware.

“And I got rather messianic about it, and I wanted my wife to read it. I started creating an index of all the characters, because there were so many and it was so hard to keep track of them.”

Maybe this is the wrong day for me to read something like this, but with so much going on in our shrinking world, giving yourself to the ardent fandom of Thomas Pynchon seems like a waste.

Don’t Want the Must-Read List

Have you read Blue Like Jazz? What did you think about it? Jared gives it high marks for narcissism and thought message was “Look how cool me and my friends are.” He also cannot recommend A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity, whose authors apparently want to remake God to appeal to the modern world.

I know I’ve always thought the most culturally appealing things about Christianity were genuine godly character and authentic Christian living, which I suppose is another way to say loving our Lord wholeheartedly and loving each other properly. But that’s the most repelling thing about Christianity too. We can count on being slandered for our good deeds. I wonder if the emergent crowd understands that or if they are working to be appealing only.

Eugene Peterson: Recommended

Jared of Thinklings has heartily recommended Eugene Peterson’s books, namely Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. He quotes Petersen, saying, “The blunt reality is that for all our sophistication, learning, and self-study we don’t know enough to run our lives. The sorry state of the lives of the many who have taken their own experience as the text for their lives is a damning refutation of the pretensions of the sovereignty of the self.”

Peterson was a guest on one the Mars Hill Audio Journals this year, and notes from that appearance as well as his entire unedited conversation with Ken Myers are available at marshillaudio.org. Myers notes that “Peterson believes, [the Bible] is too often read in that superficial way, perhaps because we are in a hurry to get down to the real business of life, which we assume can be conducted well with only a quick pit-stop with Jesus. That is not a good way to read anything important, especially the Word of God.”

Praise for ‘Stranger Than Fiction’

World Magazine Editor Marvin Olasky says the new Will Ferrell movie, Stranger Than Fiction, is good viewing. It’s a funny, interesting story.

“Screenwriter Zach Helm suggests that our lives are part of a bigger design but that we also have free will; that knowing we have purpose rescues us from everydayness and can even lead us to heroic activity; that there is joy in simple tasks, such as serving good cookies.”

I’ve thought this had potentional the first time I saw the trailer, but some trailers are better than their movies. I’m glad this one will be good.

Uncle Buck

I’ve been planning to blog about Uncle Buck since last weekend, when I gathered with family and they gave me his yearbook. But other things to write about came up. So here it is, the birthday of the Marine Corps, and tomorrow is Veterans’ Day. And Uncle Buck was a Marine. Pacific Theater. WWII.

Good timing. Almost makes me believe in Divine Providence. Which I do believe in. Except when it comes to real life.

Years ago, one time when we were visiting his house, Uncle Buck handed me a red book. “This is the story of my unit in the Marines,” he said.

I should have realized what a big deal that was. Uncle Buck never talked about the war. Never.

I looked at the book for a while, but didn’t get much out of it. I’ve felt guilty about that ever since. Especially since he died of cancer in 1978.

Last Saturday, when I went down to Faribault for the burial of Uncle George and Aunt Martha, I was given the red book. It turns out to be pretty much what it looks like—a school yearbook. Only the school was Marine boot camp.

And it leaves me pretty much as ignorant as I was before.

I asked an aunt on Saturday, “Do you know where Buck fought in the Pacific? What battles he was in?”

She thought a second and said, “No, I really don’t. He didn’t talk about it much. I think he might have been at Wake Island. But they kept him out of some of the fighting because he’d gotten that Dear John letter. So he wasn’t in all the battles with his unit.”

The yearbook doesn’t help. I really shouldn’t have felt guilty about not getting much from it when he showed it to me. The name of the unit was the 9th Replacement Battalion. They trained at Camp Elliott, near San Diego in 1943. I can find no mention of them on the internet. For all I know they were dispersed to existing battalions after finishing their training.

Uncle Buck is still a mystery.

I remember him as a tough guy. A quiet man who never knew what to say to kids (never had any of his own), and who drank and smoked a lot. If I remember the story correctly, he met a girl in Australia while in the Pacific and got engaged to her. Then she sent him a Dear John letter, as mentioned above. He saw combat—somewhere. Eventually he contracted malaria and was discharged. He had recurrences of the malaria for the rest of his life. After the war he married a girl my grandfather didn’t like, converting to Catholicism to marry her. Everyone agreed he was a different man after the war than he’d been before.

We tell stories about our warriors. We make movies about them; build statues. We try to preserve some memorial, to let them know that we understand that they lost something they can never get back for the sake of the rest of us.

But we can’t really know. All we can do is say thanks, and give them what honor we can.

Semper Fi, Uncle Buck.

To all you veterans, thanks.

Renewing the Mind

Nate Shurden of Reformation21 on James E. White’s A Mind for God:

In a day where more and more Christians prefer humble ignorance to a cultivated mind and where the newest bestseller receives more attention than Christian classics, White’s introduction to Christian thinking is not a moment too soon. In a little over a hundred pages, we’re exposed to the world of the mind and principles by which our minds can be enlisted in the work of God for the glory of God. White understands our time to be filled with great promise and opportunity, like no other time in human history. But, equally so, ours is a time of great peril. We cannot continue to shirk our God-given responsibility to think and live in a consistently Christian manner. At heart, it’s a question of worship. Will we be conformed to this world or transformed by the renewing of our minds? Time will be our biographer; let us choose today what story will be told of us.

I submit that most of us in the modern church do not know what “conforming to the world” means. We may be able to define it adequately, but we can’t apply it to our lives and we don’t know what it looks like. “Taking every thought captive”–what does that mean? Do I have to give up Desperate Housewives?

‘God Delusion’ Helped by Reading the Word

Frank Wilson reviews Richard Dawkins’ complaint about faith in God, entitled The God Delusion. He says Dawkins doesn’t mind teaching the Word of God in classrooms for its cultural value and somehow believes this will undermine faith instead of build it. Frank notes:

As for teaching the Bible as literature, that might be the best way of communicating its spiritual message. If the scriptures were treated with the respect and attention we give to poems and novels and plays, with an appreciation for their often rich ambiguity, they would touch readers – in the way poems and novels and plays do.

I agree, but, Frank, why the complaint about people who take the Bible literally (which can be read at the end of his review)? Are you saying I shouldn’t believe Joshua really fought the Battle of Jericho several centuries ago?

Book Reviews, Creative Culture