- G. K. Chesterton
John Sigismund of Hungary with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1556.
Today, Grim of Grim’s Hall cited Hailstone Mountain again, pointing out that one of the issues I dramatized in the book has shown up in the New York Times.
I’m getting really sick of being a prophet.
“It is my understanding that the prophet Jeremiah frequently expressed a similar sentiment, sir,” said Jeeves.
Over at National Review’s The Corner, Andrew C. McCarthy links to an article about the Islamic institution of the Jizya tax. Jizya is part of the process of submission in a sharia state. The kuffar (infidel) pays the jizya and suffers various social indignities, in order to be permitted to go on living and to practice his religion (this is the much-vaunted freedom of religion of which Islamic apologists boast).
The argument is that the Egyptian government openly considers U.S. foreign aid to be a payment of jizya. In their view, they are in the process of conquering us, and this is the beginning of our submission.
Will this information cause liberals, most of whom are adamant that our government should pay for nothing that can possibly be regarded as religious, to call for an end to our aid to Egypt?
No, no of course not. When they say “religion” they mean “Christianity.”
It's snowing again. Coming down pretty heavy. The weather man says five to eight inches this time.
I was going to call it an insult, but no. The last one was an insult. This is the one there's no alternative to laughing over. Even if it puts down a foot, I declare here and now I won't shovel it. It'll be gone in a couple days anyhow.
I'm beginning to think we need to draw lots to figure out who offended the Almighty.
Only I'm afraid it's me.
Anyway, our friend Grim at Grim's Hall has posted a review of Hailstone Mountain, with a call for discussion on a theological point which I, frankly, had never actually connected to the scene in the book he's talking about. But now that he mentions it, I guess he's right.
I'm happy to report that our free book day (not over yet, you can still get it here until midnight, I think) seems to have been a success. We've given away more than 750 downloads, last time I checked, and one may hope that this might attract a few readers and referrals. Hailstone Mountain reached #2 on a couple of free Christian fantasy books lists today as well.
To put the cherry on the sundae, Loren Eaton posted a review at I Saw Lightning Fall. And we got a link from Vox Day of Vox Popoli.
Now I shall lean back and let all this adulation go to my head.
Thanks to everyone who helped promote it.
In yet another response to my Intercollegiate Review article, Speculative Faith asked me to answer a few questions over at their site. Thanks to those folks.
Visitors to the Evangelical Outpost website experienced, today, the horror of being greeted by my face. David Nilsen, who reviewed Troll Valley yesterday, followed up with an interview, which you can read here.
Part of that is due to Walker’s writing ability. He spends a good chunk of the first third of the book describing life and work on a farm in Minnesota, including extended passages just describing food, without ever losing the reader’s interest. Walker also has the fascinating ability to be witty, even humorous, while dealing with the darker aspects of life and the human condition.
I don't think it would be right to say that my column on Christian Fantasy for The Intercollegiate Review, posted yesterday, has gone viral. But it seems to be approaching the communicable disease level anyway. Editor Anthony Sacramone tells me it's rapidly approaching their record for hits. There've been several links, including...
Our friend Gene Edward Veith over at Cranach calls it "beyond excellent."
David Mills at First Things speaks of "good advice" and "interesting insights."
And, most amazing of all, Jeffrey Overstreet himself devotes quite a long post to it, calling me a "formidable storyteller," which is kind of like having your singing praised by Placido Domingo. Although he's visited our blog in the past and responded to some of my comments on his works, I'm surprised that a guy with so much more important things to think about was even aware of my work. He disagrees with my use of the term "Christian fantasy," a point I appreciate, but I don't think there's much to be done about it.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who's spread the word. I did not expect a response of this kind. Frankly (as I confessed to Anthony) I was a little embarrassed to submit the thing, because it seemed to me a lot of conventional wisdom that had been dispensed just as well by better writers.
But sometimes you're in the right place at the right time, like the merchant in Hailstone Mountain who brought a cat to a country full of mice.
Under protest, it goes without saying, because I'm afraid of the power of the Irish Lobby, I offer the following clip of the redoubtable Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. It's a song I'm particularly fond of -- the kind that might not impress you on first acquaintance, but sticks in your mind after a couple repeats. I particularly like the line, "Castles are sacked in war, chieftains are scattered far -- truth is a fix-ed star...."
Now an Anthony Sacramone update: He sneaked back into his blog last week, tiptoeing with his shoes off, and did a post. Then he did another yesterday. So we've got that. He also links to the web page of the Intercollegiate Review, where he's got a very amusing cover story right now:
Empire builders and revolutionaries, reformers and moral scolds, civil libertarians and uncivil prohibitionists—all believe History is on their side. Beware anyone who imputes to History an inevitable, self-directed, Forward march, as if it were as fixed as a bar code, as predetermined as male-pattern baldness, as sovereign as any voluntaristic deity. Most risible are atheists, old or new, who act as if the expanding energies of a supposedly random and causeless Big Bang could even possess an ultimate purpose....
Today somebody on Facebook referred me to a new blog which will have, I expect, a selective appeal – Sveyn Forkblog. The author, an Englishman named Chris Tuckley, has decided to start a blog to celebrate the millennium of one of England’s most obscure kings – Sveyn (or Svein, or Sven, or Svend – the options are many) Forkbeard, the Viking Dane who conquered England, then promptly died, leaving the whole thing for his son Canute the Great to conquer over again.
This interests me, of course, because it’s in my line and precisely in my period. Svein was an ally of King Olaf Tryggveson of Norway, whom you’ll remember from The Year of the Warrior, but turned against him (actually it was more the other way around; Olaf switched sides on Svein) and led the coalition that defeated and killed Olaf at the Battle of Svold.
If you read West Oversea, you’ll recall how news came of the massacre of the Danes in England by King Aethelred the Unrede. One of the victims was said to be Svein’s own sister, which gave him both a personal reason and a political excuse for returning to England with fire and sword, and subduing the whole place.
He also appears in the classic novel The Long Ships (not the movie), but does not come off very well there.
Joel Friedlander shares some thoughts on the problems and benefits of blogging for fiction authors, particularly unpublished ones.
Photo credit: Musicaline
I’ll fess up. I check our blog statistics now and then. Mostly not just to check the total clicks (though visit totals have been gratifying, thank you) but to back-track visitors and find what posts brought in the most Googlers. And this time of year an odd pattern appears. By far the most common search to wash up on these shores involves the words “Christmas crib.” And the searches, oddly, generally come from places in the Middle East. If I’m reading it right (always a questionable thesis), they generally land on this post, which says nothing at all about Christmas cribs, causing me to figure that the draw must actually be the picture of the crèche I used to illustrate it.
The term “Christmas crib” sounds strange to me. It’s not an English idiom, as far as I know. Nobody in these parts talks about Nativity Scenes that way. We call then Nativity Scenes or manger scenes, or if we’re feeling pedantic (and heaven knows I often do) we say “crèche.” But perhaps Christians in the Middle East do call them Christmas cribs. No reason why they shouldn’t. It’s a perfectly good name.
I might note (to continue in my pedantic voice, now that I’ve got it warmed up) that the Norwegian word for “manger” is in fact “krybbe.” There must be a history there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with manger scenes. But I don’t have any facts on that.
From what I’ve read, the traditional inverted A-frame wooden manger we see in Nativity Scenes is nothing at all like anything used in First Century Israel. Many scholars think Christ was born in one of the caves near Bethlehem, where sheep were stabled in those days. The mangers in those structures were made of stone masonry and were built into a corner of the wall. Which is bad for crèches, as it would badly mess up the composition.
However, another theory, which I’ve grown to favor, says that many Jewish houses of that day had an attached all-purpose room, which could be used for livestock when necessary, or could be cleaned out and turned into a guest room when the in-laws showed up. Such a room would have had a built-in manger as well, and that could explain the reference to the baby in the manger in Luke (where the word “stable” does not actually appear).
The problem with this theory is that it renders the traditional mean old innkeeper unnecessary. Which is OK with me, frankly, because he also appears nowhere in the text. And I've always identified with him.
Loren Eaton refers to the beautiful aurora in northern-most and southern-most skies, which is one of the cool aspects of the new Angry Birds Seasons update, but I don't plan to talk about that here. I wanted to announce my participation in Loren's shared storytelling event, Advent Ghost 2012. We will be posting our 100-word stories on our respective blogs on Saturday, December 22, and Loren will link to all of them on his blog. I'll be sure to link to this indexing post too. Now, you have something to look forward to. There's no need to thank me.
You can read past stories for this event and other flash fiction I've posted in our Creative Writing category.
Photo credit: Inverclyde Views
It appears that the first victim of Hurricane Sandy is a sailor from the replica sailing ship Bounty, built in 1960 for the 1962 movie, “Mutiny On the Bounty,” starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. The ship herself, God rest her, went to the bottom off the North Carolina coast. Twelve sailors were rescued by Coast Guard helicopters, and one further missing sailor was found floating in a life jacket, and has been rushed to a hospital.
This is only the beginning of sorrows, as Revelation says, but it’s a particularly bitter one for me. I love those old sailing ships. Viking ships are in a class by themselves, of course, but all the tall ladies move me to the depths of my Scandinavian soul.
At first I assumed this was the ship built for the 1984 Mel Gibson/Anthony Hopkins film, “The Bounty,” my personal favorite of the Bounty movies. But this goes back to the 1962 film. However, it was also used for another movie I love, the Charlton Heston/Christian Bale “Treasure Island” (1990), by far the best dramatization of the story I’ve ever seen. I see by its Wikipedia entry that it was finally released on DVD last year. I’ve got to get a copy.
Anthony Esolen, over at Front Porch, has posted a profound meditation on freedom and despotism, drawing on an obscure book (which I haven’t read, I confess) by the great Sigrid Undset.
Today the American Spectator published my article on Andrew Klavan's Weiss-Bishop mystery trilogy.
Klavan himself noted it on Facebook. He said, "Well, I like it when someone is both smart AND flattering.... When you sit down to write three books around the theme of love, you think to yourself, 'Not that anyone will ever get that.' It's gratifying to be read so intelligently - and by someone who likes the books to boot!"
You may mark this down in the court records as a good day.
I may have told you once before that I have been writing devotional emails for a small group of CBMC leaders for a few years now. (CBMC stands for Christian Business Men's Connection.) This year, we opened a new, private discussion and resource community for CBMC members, and I'm posting my past and current devotional writing on a public blog there. I doubt I'm breaking any ground--I mean, I'm not Jared Wilson. But I hope to point readers to Christ and away from our natural tendency to moralism.
A few of my recent post are
I forgot to mention that I have a new article up at The American Spectator Online today. Political Non-Science.
I suppose I could go so far as to refer to actor/pundit Ben Stein as my colleague, since we both write for The American Spectator Online. It's a little like a stock boy at Staples calling Mitt Romney his colleague, but I might get away with it. But no, I won't do that.
Anyway, Stein, who makes no claims to Christian faith, writes today that he's been having apocalyptic thoughts.
At breakfast, my wife suddenly said, "And then I beheld a red horse ridden by a man with a great sword...."
"What is that?" I asked her.
"It's Revelation," she said.
"I know, but where does that come from?"
"I just feel as if something big is about to happen," she said. "Something feels like we're about to live in a totally changed world. It feels like end times. Why are we apologizing to the Muslims? They're killing and expelling their Christians and we don't say a word. End times."
I nodded. There is that feeling in the air.
Assuming we're not taken up this weekend, have a good one.
Herman Melville didn't do Norse mythology, orthodox Christianity, or short books. But other than that, he could have written The Ward of Heaven and the Wyrm in the Sea. The deep currents of the language, swelling and moving in great cataracts of imagery, clearly hark back to Melville, even as the surface churns with the kenning and alliteration of old Germanic poetry.
Thanks to Loren Eaton of I Saw Lightning Fall for letting me know about this.
Prof. Bruce Charlton, at The Notion Club Papers, today publishes a paper by our friend Prof. Dale Nelson on C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength.
Our friend Sam Karnick, of The American Culture (where I blog sometimes, though I've been sadly neglecting them) has an article over at PJ Media on violence and sex in the movies. He argues that violent movies are a lot less harmful, and sex in movies a lot more harmful, than it's fashionable to say.
It seems to me, however, that those who maintain that sex and profanity in the culture should be treated more leniently than violence actually have it exactly wrong: earlier social values, which were lenient toward depictions of violence but were fairly strict about depictions of sex and the use of profanity, had it right, and the modern, more “enlightened” approach is in fact blinkered and wrong. The reason lies precisely in this matter of consequences. When sexual license is depicted without the consequences — broken homes, never-formed families, betrayed loved ones, suicides, disfiguring and deadly venereal diseases, agonizing confusion about one’s sexual role, etc. — all the audience is left with is the lure of erotic pleasure. Bad consequences are either ignored or are seen much later than the choices that led to them, thus greatly weakening any connection the audience may have between the action and any deleterious effects.
I agree entirely. I've also argued, in this space, that the big difference between violent movies and sexual movies is not a difference of morals but of appropriateness. Violence is essentially public, while sex is essentially private.
Another point, it seems to me, is that movies have always been about sex as much as about violence. They just weren't explicit, in either case. Every romantic movie had one object in mind, but we discreetly averted our gazes before that object was consummated. When people were shot, we saw the gun smoke and the bad guy falling down, but we did not observe the bullet hole or the spouting blood.
Nowadays both those taboos are frequently broken.
We've been getting a lot of spam lately, and it's a shame you aren't seeing any of it. It's inspiring, in an Engrish way. Early this morning, a dear-hearted spammer wrote, "Writing fictions are really helpful for me thanks a lot for show me the way of my own dream!"
In that vein, I want to share selections from more wonderful, wonderful notes we've received from our beloved spammers.
"Economy the ready with coupons is huge, but you can bail someone out even steven more by shopping at more than one store. Once in a while that you be sure this facts, you are ready destined for your next grocery put by visit."
"One the go fence when wearing eyeliner, is keeping it from running or smearing all the way through the day. To put a stop to this, you should effect that you get the right sort of eyeliner. There are special brands that are arrest proof. These are imagined eyeliners that will matrix all epoch, every day."
Doesn't that warm your heart?
If you've been following this blog for the last few days, you probably noticed the considerable interest raised by my post on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, just a few inches below this on your screen. I wrote the post in response to reading Prof. Bruce Charlton's e-book about Tolkien and The Notion Club Papers.
Today Prof. Charlton posted a piece responding directly to my suggestions. What surprises me most is that he places most of the blame for the rift between Lewis and Tolkien on Tolkien.
The critical rift in JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis's friendship can probably be dated to early 1949, when Tolkien heard Lewis read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
This fact was forcefully brought home to me by Lars Walker's blog posting at Brandywine Books.
Lewis later remarked that Tolkien disliked the book intensely, and Roger Lancelyn Green confirmed this from a meeting with Tolkien about the end of March 1949.
But if early 1949 was the critical incident, then we need to understand the background to the incident (and why it caused a rift) and also understand why the rift was not repaired.
The Inklings Corner at the Eagle and Child Pub (the "Bird and Baby"), Oxford. It was here that the Inklings met for many years. Photo credit: Tom Murphy VII.
I posted some comments a few days ago about Prof. Bruce Charlton’s writings on Tolkien’s The Notion Club Papers. I learned quite a bit reading what he wrote, and it even sparked a thought of my own, somewhere in that dank cauliflower of cholesterol that I call my brain.
It’s well known that Lewis’s and Tolkien’s friendship cooled in their later years. Tolkien was disappointed in the Chronicles of Narnia, complaining that Lewis had sunk to mere allegory. And when Lewis married Joy Davidman, Tolkien considered her rude, abrasive, and just another in a long string of parasites who took advantage of his friend’s generous nature.
About Joy Davidman I’ve got nothing to say at this time. But I think I understand now why Tolkien was so upset about the Narnia books. Read the rest of this entry . . .
I have another post at The American Spectator Online today. In this one, I appeal to Icelandic sagas in order to support my bigoted and hate-filled arguments for traditional marriage.
This is a remarkable way of writing. Most writers know roughly what they mean in their first draft, and in the process of revising and re-drafting they try to get closer to that known meaning. But Tolkien did the reverse: he generated the first draft, then looked at it as if that draft had been written by someone else, and he was trying to understand what it meant – and in this case eventually deciding that it meant something pretty close to the opposite of the original meaning.
I am a Tolkien fan, but not a Tolkien acolyte. Aside from the standard texts, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I’ve read The Silmarillion and a few other writings, but I never made it through The Book of Lost Tales, and I’ve never even tried The History of Middle Earth.
Prof. Bruce Charlton is hard core. I was directed to his blog, Tolkien’s The Notion Club Papers, by our friend Dale Nelson, who has been in correspondence with him. Dale sent me a file of Prof. Charlton’s long blog post, A Companion to JRR Tolkien’s The Notion Club Papers, which I read with some interest. You can find it at the blog right here and judge for yourself.Read the rest of this entry . . .
Mike Hall, over at The American Culture (where I am also known to post now and then) offers a flattering review of my novel, Troll Valley.
In all of his novels, Lars Walker has managed to combine realism with wild fantasy, producing a fascinating hybrid genre that makes for compelling reading. As an artist, he has arrived, and he just keeps getting better and better.
I have another article up at The American Spectator Online today. It's about the problem of how young people are to understand the thinking of their ancestors, especially on issues like slavery.
And then, this morning, James Lileks pointed me to an article from io9 that perfectly illustrates the problem. This writer talks about the "mysterious" culture of the Incas, which "had no markets."
The secret of the Inca's great wealth may have been their unusual tax system. Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.
Of course, not everybody had to pay labor tax. Nobles and their courts were exempt, as were other prominent members of Incan society....
Only someone who has completely failed to understand history, in the sense about which I write for the Spectator, could fail to recognize the actual nature of Incan civilization. The common people were all slaves.
What to do? What to do? I’m torn as to what my attitude should be toward The Dark Knight Rises, the new Batman movie. I haven’t seen it, mind you. But as an internationally respected blogger, I think I’m obligated to have an opinion. The question is, what opinion should I parrot? Two of my favorite bloggers have taken totally contradictory views.
First of all, Andrew Klavan praised it to the skies in a column for the Wall Street Journal, which he links here.
The movie is a bold apologia for free-market capitalism; a graphic depiction of the tyranny and violence inherent in every radical leftist movement from the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street; and a tribute to those who find redemption in the harsh circumstances of their lives rather than allow those circumstances to mire them in resentment.
In the other corner, in the white trunks, Anthony Sacramone at Strange Herring hated it.Read the rest of this entry . . .
First things first: I have a column up today at The American Spectator Online: They Don't Make Hate Like They Used To.
I was thinking of linking to a particular internet post today, and then I thought, “No. Too political.”
And it occurred to me to ask, “We're obviously a conservative blog. How is being conservative different from being political?”
This is an important question, and I think Phil and I are generally agreed on it.
Political questions refer to matters of legislation and electioneering. Heaven knows we comment on such things from time to time here, but it's not what the blog is about.
Cultural conservatism is a much broader concept. I was a cultural conservative back when I was still a Democrat.
Cultural conservatism means having a long-range view of cultural issues. The fact that an idea is new gives it no more than neutral weight. Newness tells us nothing. The fact that an idea is old disposes us toward it positively (though certainly old ideas have been proved wrong from time to time). That which has worked for our ancestors is very likely to have good reasons behind it, even if we no longer see them.
Ideas do not age.
I know what you're thinking: What about slavery?
But the fact is, the basic idea that slavery is wrong is not a new idea. Abolition is a new practice in history, but the essential principle is the Golden Rule—do as you would be done by. No one wants to be a slave, so no one should make a slave of another. That's been true from the beginning.
The inconvenient fact that, up until the Industrial Revolution, civilization was impossible without slavery kept most people from examining the matter too closely.
But the principle itself is one of those old, conservative ones.
A few interesting articles that caught my attention today.
From World Magazine: Despite protests, Boy Scouts reaffirm policy on homosexuality.
“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” Mazzuca said. “We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”
What an outrage. When will this benighted organization understand that a boy's life is forever blighted if he misses the opportunity to spend a night in a tent with a homosexual?
From National Review: A Letter to Young Voters, by the great Dennis Prager.
But just in case you need an argument to take an older person’s thoughts seriously, ask any adults you respect whether they have more wisdom and insight into life now than they did ten years ago, let alone when they were your age. The answer will always be yes. (And any adult who has not gained wisdom over the course of a lifetime is not worth listening to.)
Which directly leads to my point: Did you ever wonder why people are far more likely to become conservative in their views and values as they get older?
This seems an excellent point to me. How do you answer it if you're a liberal? Either it's false that people get more conservative as they get older (which utterly defies all experience) or it's false that people get wiser as they get older (and try telling that to the Boomers, even the liberal ones).
And finally, a Minnesota-related post, from Mitch Berg at Shot in the Dark: The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves. It involves a huge, disruptive light rail project going on in St. Paul right now, which (aside from bankrupting many small businesspeople, most of them East Asian immigrants) is forcing drivers to divert to other streets. What's the city to do? They'll turn one of those streets into "bikes only!" That'll make everything better (it should be noted, by the way, that Mitch is an avid biker).
Joe has too much faith in Wahhabi transit activists. They’re a little like post-modern German artists, the type that glumly intones “Art IS destruction and ugliness” as they unveil their latest, “installation”, a dancing man clad only with a jar holding a gutted cat pickled in urine.
Like the post-moderns, the chaos – to drivers, anyway – is precisely the point. The goal is to make driving, and drivers, miserable. And to them, it’s no matter if you deal with that misery by jumping on the train, or by expressing your anger, fulfilling their prophecy that drivers are base, benighted, spoiled, arrogant and above it all.