Category Archives: Authors

Interview with Andrée Seu

In case you didn’t see the comment left on an earlier thread, Mindy Withrow has posted an interview with essayist Andrée Seu.

Have you always wanted to write, or was it an unexpected development in your life?

It was never my goal to be a writer. My debut in the writing world was a providential fluke (to coin a phrase God may only be half pleased with): One day I wrote a little essay for my own amusement and sent it to my brother. He sent it to WORLD and the Lord had mercy on this soon-to-be widow and gave me favor in the eyes of the editor. Easiest job I ever got.

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Vince Guaraldi

“In 1963, Lee Mendelson was a young San Francisco filmmaker working on a documentary about Schulz, whose “Peanuts” cartoon strip was fast becoming a national craze. He needed music for a two-minute animated segment of his film. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, he heard a catchy jazz tune on the radio called ‘Cast Your Fate to the Wind,’ which was written and performed by Guaraldi, who also lived in the Bay Area.”

This Washington Post feature on a great jazz pianist and composer notes that “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” was “one of the last instrumental jazz tunes to be a crossover hit — and earned Guaraldi a Grammy Award in 1963 for best original jazz composition.” This piece lead to Guaraldi composing the music to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” among other classics.

(via Cranach)

By the way, how many things on God’s green earth are better than good piano jazz? Probably just a dozen or so, wouldn’t you think?

N.T. Wright Profiled in Atlanta

Michelle of Life Under the Sun points out a feature article on theologian N.T. Wright in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here’s a bit from the article:

While Christian conservatives in the United States are often defined by two issues —- abortion and homosexuality —- Wright demonstrates that they can broaden their agenda to include social justice issues.

His theology is difficult to define at first glance.

He’s argued forcefully for the role of women as leaders in the church but believes homosexuality is a sin.

He believes in the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Jesus but not the infallibility of the Bible.

He describes the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States as “unmitigated evil” but opposes the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Wright says his beliefs may seem odd and contradictory in the United States but not his country. He says plenty of conservative Christians in his homeland, for example, are as passionate about relieving Third World debt as they are about defending traditional Christian doctrine.

P.D. James’ Opening Sentences

Speaking of P.D. James, I love some of her opening sentences.



The Children of Men
: “Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty five years, two months and twelve days.”

Death In Holy Orders: “It was Father Martin’s idea that I should write an account of how I found the body.”

A Certain Justice: “Murderers do not usually give their victims notice. This is one death which, however terrible that last second of appalled realization, comes mercifully unburdened with anticipatory terror.”

Original Sin: “For a temporary shorthand typist to be present at the discovery of a corpse on the first day of a new assignment, if not unique, is sufficently rare to prevent its being regarded as an occupational hazard.”

Relgious People Out Give Secular Folks

Today, I heard an interview with professor Arthur Brooks, who wrote Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. He makes remarkable claims which contrast the books by atheists which we’ve discussed briefly in earlier posts. The book cover summarizes one of Brooks’ points: “Strong families, church attendance, earned income (as opposed to state-subsidized income), and the belief that individuals, not government, offer the best solution to social ills-all of these factors determine how likely one is to give.” That points a political spin on it, but in the interview today, Brooks said religious people in general are more charitable than irreligious people–er, I mean, secular people. He didn’t distinguish between religions, at least in the interview, so I understand him to say that faithful commitment to broadly religious ideas indicate a charitable spirit. Brooks went so far as to say that if you take out local religious people, the local PTA will fall.

Author on Author Commentary

BitterSweetLife is asking for quotes from authors about other authors. He leads in this quote from Flannery O’Connor:

This book of C.S. Lewis on prayer is a good one but I don’t like to pray any better for reading it. I also just read one of his called Miracles, which is very fine. Deceptively simple. You really need to read every sentence twice. Go among the biblical scholars, says he, as a sheep among wolves. – “Habit of Being”

The only one I can contribute is one I added to the quotes at the top of BwB this weekend. P.G. Wodehouse in the later part of his life said, “I don’t want to be like Bernard Shaw. He turned out some awfully bad stuff in his nineties. He said he knew the stuff was bad but he couldn’t stop writing.”

Sherry has several quotes though.

The feast of St. Jack

I’m not glad President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Far from it. But I am glad that, if he had to be assassinated, Providence scheduled the event for November 22, 1963, because that’s the day C. S. Lewis died. (Aldous Huxley too, but who cares about him?) I hadn’t read Lewis yet at the time (I was thirteen years old), but it comforts me somewhat to know I mourned deeply that day.

I remember it well. I was in an art class in school when the radio broadcast came over the intercom system with the news from Dallas. It was my brother Baal’s birthday, which was rather tough for him. Moloch and I gave him a great gift—a plastic car designed to fly to pieces spectacularly when you crashed it into a wall. But the news dampened even his eight-year-old spirits.

I credit Lewis with being God’s instrument to preserve my faith through all the challenges it met in college and since. He was the first writer to tell me that faith involved reason as well as feeling. It seemed too good to be true at first. I thought surely I’d learn somewhere that this was heresy. But it wasn’t. So I planted my banner on the orthodox side of the battle-lines for life.

Here’s a quote from Lewis’ letter to his friend Owen Barfield, April 4, 1949:

Talking of beasts and birds, have you ever noticed this contrast: that when you read a scientific account of any animal’s life you get an impression of laborious, incessant, almost rational economic activity (as if all animals were Germans) but when you study any animal you know – what at once strikes you is their cheerful fatuity, the pointlessness of nearly all they do. Say what you like, Barfield, the world is sillier and better fun than they make out.

Have a great Thanksgiving, friends.

Author Asks for Stories about Vonnegut

Author Charles J. Shields, whose book on Harper Lee was well-received last summer, wants to hear from you on your experiences with Kurt Vonnegut. “Now I’m beginning work on the first authorized biography–the first biography at all, actually–of Kurt Vonnegut. I’d like to hear from any of your readers about their experiences with Vonnegut, either personally or with his novels.”

Vonnegut is the author of A Man without a Country, Timequake, Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and a few other books.

I asked Mr. Shields how he gained the opportunity to write Kurt Vonnegut’s first authorized biography. He replied:

Many years ago when I was a little boy wearing thick glasses, baggy pants, and Hush Puppy shoes, I realized I wasn’t the brightest star in the heavens, but I could compensate for that by being persistent. That’s really the story behind MOCKINGBIRD, which Harper Lee didn’t want me to write and tried to dissuade her friends from helping me with. But four years of research and hundreds of interviews produced a portrait of her. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s done in watercolors, not oils, but it will be valuable to biographers of hers who will come later.

Mr. Vonnegut turned me down at first, but when I pointed out the number of ways our lives connect—-we’re both Midwesterners; both humanists; he’s a veteran, so was my father; both men worked in public relations for large corporations—-I convinced him that I’m the guy for the job. He still remained skeptical for awhile, I think, but I kept up a regular stream of chat via phone and mail and I seem to have won him to my side. He’s a generous man, anyway. This biography will be the obverse of the one about Lee, in a sense. Vonnegut is an extrovert with many friends and a large body of work. His papers going back to the 1950s are on file at Indiana University. I was Philip Marlowe on the case of “Harper Lee, Recluse.” This time I get to be Boswell!

Secularists Broad-brush Faith Again (It’s That Thing They Do)

In today’s NY Times, author Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason; Letter to a Christian Nation):

By shying away from questioning people’s deeply felt beliefs, even the skeptics, Mr. Harris said, are providing safe harbor for ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous. “I don’t know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair,” he said.

Dr. Steven Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

True, it is “not merely a matter of lack of education,” though I wonder about the secularists so uneducated on faith matters. Why are these anti-religion activists content to broad-brush the world’s religions? Do they believe all atheists and secularists act the same, all in a clear-headed, beneficent manner? Have we forgotten the motives of the murderous leaders from the twentieth century? [via Books, Inq.]

O.J.’s Book, Interview Pulled

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp. which owns the Fox Network (TV interview) and ReganBooks, an imprint of HarperCollins (tasteless book), has announced the company is dropping O.J.’s book and television appearances.

“I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,” said Rupert Murdoch. “We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”

David Bauder, AP, writes, “For the publishing industry, the cancellation of ‘If I Did It’ was an astonishing end to a story like no other. Numerous books have been withdrawn over the years because of possible plagiarism, most recently Kaavya Viswanathan’s ‘How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,’ but a book’s removal simply for objectionable content is virtually unheard of.”

Simpson the Tasteless

The infamous O.J. Simpson has written a book to say, hypothetically, how he would have murdered his ex-wife and her friend. His publisher, Judith Regan of ReganBooks, “This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession.”

A law professor said, “He can write pretty much whatever he wants. Unless he’s confessing to killing somebody else, he can probably do this with impunity.”

Simpson’s If I Did It may deal mostly with other parts of author’s life, giving only a chapter or so to the murder, but since he has been found innocent of the crimes . . . I can assume this morbid meditation is only the result of his profound tastelessness. Still, I wish he would find a more useful occupation.

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’….

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.)