- J. W. Eagan
Two films, Tolkien and Tolkien & Lewis, are being developed by small companies with the hopes of capturing the ticket money of a bunch of us Tolkien/Lewis fans. (via Overstweet)
Ted Thompson, author of The Land of Steady Habits, talks about his business in ways that make him uncomfortable. "I feel like I’m bordering on saying something sacrilegious here, but here it goes: There’s a common strain of thinking among writers, particularly literary writers and the institutions that foster them (conference/colonies/workshops), that insists a book is only as good as its writing."
Although he still believes in the preeminence of good writing, he know believes subject is very, very, and also very important. "Once a manuscript leaves your desk, subject matter is the primary (and often only) way it is discussed. So if you haven’t figured out a quick way to answer that cringe-inducing question 'What’s your book about?' in a way that interests other people, somebody else will. And that will be how the book is sold..."
He goes on to say how surprised he was that people in publishing actually want to love your book and that the slowness of the whole process is understandable.
Author Sarah Perry was "raised by Strict Baptists" in Essex and not allowed to watch movies or read contemporary books. The result? "I turned my back on modernity and lost myself to Hardy and Dickens, Brontë and Austen, Shakespeare, Eliot and Bunyan. I memorised Tennyson, and read Homer in prose and Dante in verse; I shed half my childhood tears at The Mill on the Floss. I slept with Sherlock Holmes beside my pillow, and lay behind the sofa reading Roget. It was as though publication a century before made a book suitable – never was I told I ought not to read this or that until I was older. To my teacher's horror my father gave me Tess of the D'Urbervilles when I was still at primary school, and I was simply left to wander from Thornfield to Agincourt to the tent of sulking Achilles, making my own way."
And she soaked in the King James Bible. Her debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood, is reviewed here. (via Prufrock)
In 1937, The Times Literary Supplement ran this review from Professor C.S. Lewis: "To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone. The author’s admirable illustrations and maps of Mirkwood and Goblingate and Esgaroth give one an inkling—and so do the names of the dwarf and dragon that catch our eyes as we first ruffle the pages. But there are dwarfs and dwarfs, and no common recipe for children’s stories will give you creatures so rooted in their own soil and history as those of Professor Tolkien—who obviously knows much more about them than he needs for this tale."
Read the whole thing.
When The Hobbit was to be published in Germany, the publisher asked for Tolkien's Aryan street cred. Tolkien's personal reply to this English publisher began like this: "I must say the enclosed letter from Rütten & Loening is a bit stiff. Do I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of arisch origin from all persons of all countries?"
By way of accommodation though, the author wrote two letters which could be sent to the German publishers, one a bit more harsh than the other. That letter, marked July 25, 1938, began:
"I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people."
"Tyndale House confirmed to The Daily Beast that it does not plan to reprint Driscoll’s 2013 book, A Call to Resurgence, and have put his forthcoming book, The Problem with Christianity, on hold. Once slated to be released this fall, The Problem with Christianity now has no publication date scheduled." (via Prufrock)
Philip Christman has ranked and encapsulated (sort of) 22 works by Muriel Spark. He says, The Hothouse by the East River comes off like overripe fruit. For Robinson and The Bachelors, he says "Spark was pretty much kicking ass right out of the gate; these are 'the worst' of her early novels, and yet they would have represented a quite respectable peak for anyone else."
The Girls of Slender Means Christman considers Spark's best. Have you read any of these works? What do you think of them? (via John Wilson)
“God’s mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the sea of its water, or deprive the sun of its light, or make space too narrow, than diminish the great mercy of God."
“A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.”
“If you are to go to Christ, do not put on your good doings and feelings, or you will get nothing; go in your sins, they are your livery. Your ruin is your argument for mercy; your poverty is your plea for heavenly alms; and your need is the motive for heavenly goodness. Go as you are, and let your miseries plead for you.”
Relevant has 20 Spurgeon quotes for today. I think I'll tweet Spurgeon quotes all day. (via Jared C. Wilson)
Mike Duran interviews Eric Ortlund about his zombie novel, Dead Petals. Ortlund says, "At some level, I am an endlessly hungry dead thing; but I’m also watching to see how I might survive that evil. And it got me thinking about what the apostle Paul says about humanity being dead in sin in Ephesians. Then I wondered, if a zombie could talk while still undead, what would that sound like? Then the writing started happening. . . .
"The influences are many. First, the Old Testament is the first apocalypse—i.e., it first got that particular way of looking at reality going. Second, the OT has a fund of cosmic symbols (the abyss, the storm, the holy mountain, the tree) which cannot be translated or decoded without essential loss. . . . Third, the OT has this really interesting way of protesting the surrounding idolatrous culture and also “highjacking” it—taking over symbols and themes and images and using them to talk about the real God."
The Milwaukee Alchemist Theatre received a cease-and-desist letter from playwright David Mamet after one performance of Mamet's Oleanna, a play about a pompous male professor accused of sexual harassment by a female student. The Alchemist's production cast a man in the role of the female student. Theatre owners claimed they "did not change the character of Carol but allowed the reality of gender and relationship fluidity to add to the impact of the story."
Mamet disagreed. I don't think he plays the "gender fluidity" game. (via Prufrock)
Columnist Chris Hedges, who wrote such pieces as "We All Must Become Zapatistas" "Thomas Paine, Our Contemporary," has been accused of plagiarism by Harper's and others. The New Republic spells it out:
The plagiarism at Harper’s was not an isolated incident. Hedges has a history of lifting material from other writers that goes back at least to his first book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, published in 2002. He has echoed language from Nation author Naomi Klein. He has lifted lines from radical social critic Neil Postman. He has even purloined lines from Ernest Hemingway.Editors at Harper's were surprised. "A leading moralist of the left, however, had now been caught plagiarizing at one of the oldest magazines of the left," Christopher Ketcham explains. "These examples suggest not inadvertent plagiarism," Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute tells him, "but carefully thought out plagiarism meant to skirt the most liberal definition of plagiarism."
Professor D.G. Myers comments on Twitter, "The case of Chris Hedges teaches a basic truth about literature: every fraud will be unmasked eventually."
Who said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will”? It wasn't Bonhoeffer, but it was written in Eric Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer, so someone fudged the rules on quotations and attributed the words to German pastor instead of his biographer. Today, Metaxas is getting out the word that his popular subject did not say this exact. He may have agreed with it, but he didn't say it.
Now Wikiquotes, which I've found to be a reliable, though not exhaustive, resource, notes this quotation correction.
I noted earlier that Tullian Tchividjian had separated from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) over what I understood to be somewhat doctrinal, somewhat pastoral issues. That didn't bother me much, despite my appreciation for Pastor Tullian and the many people at The Gospel Coalition. I usually like to think of everyone I like being on the same team, so a deliberate separation like this is a little disturbing. But what irritated me far more was the dialogue and comments about it I heard this week.
Chris Fabry ran a prerecorded show on Monday (Memorial Day) with Tullian, essentially throwing Tim Keller, Don Carson, and others (none of them by name) under the bus of the disagreement. They didn't discuss the issues directly. They talked around it and suggested some of the people at TGC were becoming a denomination unto themselves. These unnamed critics were quick to complain about other people's theological missteps and slow to see any missteps of their own.
Add to that someone on Patheos.com saying when your purpose is to contend for the gospel, then you have to make sure you have enemies to contend with. TGC is a fight club now, picking out the splinters in everyone else's eyes.
I know good people disagree on important things, but the people named above are very godly men. How can these common complaints be true of these men, even Chris Fabry, our humble radio host and fiction author? I have a very hard time believing they would deliberately misrepresent the facts or "flat out lie," as one accusation put it.
So I am relieved to read Tullian's apology on his blog today:
I’m sorry for saying things in my own defense. One of the things that the gospel frees you to do is to never have to bear the burden of defending yourself. Defending the gospel is one thing. But when a defense of the gospel becomes a defense of yourself, you’ve slipped back under “a yoke of slavery.” I slipped last week. I’m an emotional guy. And in my highly charged emotional state, I said some things in haste, both publicly and privately, that I regret. I never want anything I say to be a distraction from the mind-blowing good news of the gospel and last week I did. I got in the way. When you feel the need to respond to criticism, it reveals how much you’ve built your identity on being right. I’m an idolater and that came out last week. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose…and last week I fought to win. I’m sorry you had to see that. Lord have mercy…There's more to it, but this is a critical part. Thank you, sir. The Lord is faithful and merciful. May he continue to bless your ministry for the expansion of his kingdom throughout the world.
Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, led to the banning of DDT, a pesticide against malaria-carrying mosquitoes. This week, Google celebrated her 107th birthday with this doodle.
Bethany Mandel writes: "Using faulty science, Carson’s book argued that DDT could be deadly for birds and, thus, should be banned. Incredibly and tragically, her recommendations were taken at face value and soon the cheap and effective chemical was discontinued, not only in the United States but also abroad. Environmentalists were able to pressure USAID, foreign governments, and companies into using less effective means for their anti-malaria efforts. And so the world saw a rise in malaria deaths.
Gallingly, environmentalists even claimed that the effectiveness of DDT was leading to a world population explosion. Translation: preventable disease wasn’t killing enough poor children in developing countries."
She goes on to tell of a horrible experience she had with a dying child in Cambodia, where one million people are infected with malaria each year.
On the 450th anniversary of his death, Joe Carter gives us 9 things we should know about the great reformer, John Calvin.
Thus spake Mark Bertrand:
"Things that don’t matter don’t keep getting done. Things that do become second nature. The key to any discipline, I suppose, is figuring how to make it matter."
So if we want to be writers, we must decide writing is what we actually want to do. And whatever work that must go around the writing too must matter--the research, the market opportunities, and the spiritual nurturing that keeps us closer the Lover of our souls.
"Writers already lead uncomfortably quantified lives, measuring our worth in the number of words written today, in the number of books in print and how well they’ve sold. All of these metrics speak to one kind of quality –– my quality of life –– without addressing another, the quality of my work. The best written books aren’t always the bestselling..."
Far more than any philosophical writing, Bertrand says reading novels exposes and explores him in unexpected ways. "In novels I face up to things I never seem to in other kinds of writing."
The first book of Jeremiah W. Montgomery's Dark Harvest trilogy tells us of a dark religion once thought to be dead, but now it has developed a following and gathered significant strength. A monk leads a translation team on a project to put Scripture in the language of these emerging pagans. J. Mark Bertrand praised The Dark Faith as being "full of adventure, dread, and dark conspiracy." Douglas Bond calls the series "an imaginative warning against the relentless scheme of the enemy to erode truth and leave a barren hulk in its wake."
I asked Mr. Montgomery, who is pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church (OPC) in State College, Pennsylvania, a few questions about his series and himself.
1. Tell us about your Dark Harvest trilogy. Would you give something of your main character's story arc?
The Dark Harvest trilogy follows several young men – and one young lady – through the currents of interlocking conspiracies in a world much like early medieval Europe. There is no single main character, but the first volume focuses on a monk with a talent for languages. Placed on academic assignment in a foreign monastery, he soon finds himself inextricably tangled in a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue – a web walked by dark spiders from his past.
2. You have published two of three books so far, right? Is the third book on track to being published?
The Dark Faith was released in September 2012, followed by The Scarlet Bishop in July 2013. The final volume, The Threefold Cord, is finished and expected in July 2014.
3. How have these books been received? Are you pleased with how you've been able to get the word out and find readers?
There is a grittiness to the stories that has attracted some criticism. Nevertheless, I have been pleased with the books’ overall reception. I cannot say how widely they are read, but from what I’ve seen most readers seem to enjoy them.
4. These are epic fantasy, right? Or are they historic fantasy?
Read the rest of this entry . . .
World magazine reports on the civil suit against a former member of a church once led by C. J. Mahaney and now by Joshua Harris. Last week a jury found the man guilty of molesting three boys in the 1980s, and questions have come up about whether church leaders, not just these two men but many more, knew about the problem and did not report it or handle it properly. Harris believes he should take full responsibility for part of the mishandling and has asked for a leave of absence along with four other church leaders. He steps down from The Gospel Coalition, he says, "because I don’t want the present challenges at my church to distract from this terrific ministry."
Harris comes at the end of this case and appears to be taking the high ground. He has even talked about suffering abuse as a child himself. I'm less sure about what high ground Mahaney can take at this point. Here's a report from last year about his part in the lawsuit. At the time, evangelical leaders were rallying to his support, saying they stood by him and "his personal integrity."
I can make no judgment call here. It's difficult for anyone at this distance to sort the facts and accuse these men, and we don't have to. Let's pray for them and their congregations. Let's do what we can in our own churches and cities to protect each other and call people to account for their sins in godly ways.
The Gospel Coalition (newly redesigned) has a couple links on this subject:
- Protecting Children Against Abuse in Your Church
- Panel Discussion: Preventing Sexual Abuse in the Church
"In a magisterial study of Japanese history, culture and psyche, Mirror, Sword and Jewel, Kurt Singer wrote: ‘The Japanese language is rich in ambiguities, a tool more for withholding and eluding than expressing or stating.’ Where does this leave the translator, given the task of bridging the language gap?"
Nonetheless, Lee Langley recommends two novels by Yasushi Inoue, a Japanese master novelist: The Hunting Gun and Bullfight. Of course, your mileage may vary. Here's a snippet:
“I longed to devote my life to something valuable with a fervor that would consume my being. Young people today probably think the same way. But in our time we were not left to ourselves as they are. All of us believed in some kind of god. We believed in a scholar or in scholarship itself; we believed that right actually exists. All that kind of thing has been swept away, and philosophy, religion and morality must be created anew, from the ground up.”(via Prufrock)
By way of our friend Anthony Sacramone (I'd link to his blog, but he's in one of his hiatuses. Hiati?) an excellent article from Intercollegiate Review, "Heinlein, Hugos and Hogwash," by John C. Wright concerning the sad state of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an organization from which I have also withdrawn:
The purpose of all this hogwash is not to aid the plight of minorities. The purpose is power. The purpose is terror.
One need not ignite a suicide-bomb to enact a reign of terror. One need only have the power to hurt a man’s reputation or income, and be willing to use the power in an arbitrary, treacherous, lunatic, and cruel fashion. For this, the poisonous tongue suffices.
At one time, science fiction was an oasis of intellectual liberty, a place where no idea was sacrosanct and no idea was unwelcome. Now speculative fiction makes speculative thinkers so unwelcome that, after a decade of support, I resigned my membership in SFWA in disgust. SFWA bears no blame for all these witch-hunts, or even most; but SFWA spreads the moral atmosphere congenial to the witch-hunters, hence not congenial to my dues money.
Read it all here.
The greatest relief pitcher of all time, Mariano Rivera, shares his extraordinary story in The Closer. It's a pleasant, personal tale about a Panamanian son of a fisherman who found he could pitch pretty well. He signed on with the NY Yankees for $2,000 and still didn't quite understand that he would have to leave for Tampa, Florida.
Q. You’ve given us the remarkable story of your life in baseball with this book, The Closer. Would you mind telling us what you were thinking in those first days of spring training with the Gulf Coast Yankees in 1990?
A. I was surrounded by guys who were stronger than me and threw harder than me, and I was outperforming them. I was thinking, “How on earth am I doing this?” I was getting results that were far beyond my physical abilities. It had to be the Lord’s work.
I have to thank my first catcher and good friend, Claudino Hernandez, for seeing my potential. When I was on the training field with Tim Rumer, Russ Springer, Brian Faw, and others, I wasn’t as fast or as strong as they were, but I could do one thing better than just about anybody else. It was the thing Claudino saw I could do at the try-outs. I could put the ball exactly where I wanted it.
Q. You’ve said several times that you try to keep it simple. Is that how you made it through your career, just keeping it simple?
A. You could say that. Life is hard and humbling. I do all I can to keep it simple and to pray to the Lord for clarity and wisdom, so that His will and His perfect goodness will guide me and keep me safe. The Bible will tell you everything about how I try to live. For me, it is not just the word of God, but a life road map that is packed with wisdom that you cannot beat. It has this kind of simple wisdom: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
You know how many times I’ve gone out to the mound thinking, “This guy has no shot, because I am Mariano Rivera?” Never. The guy with the bat in his hand is a professional. He is trying just as hard to get a hit as I am trying to get him out. I respect that, and I know everything I have is from the Lord.
When I was sent back to the Columbus Clippers after pitching a few games for the Yankees, I had two weeks of rest and then started pitching faster than ever before. My catcher, Jorge Posada, asked me what I was eating, because I jumped from throwing 88 to 96 mph that game. I know of only one answer. It was a gift from the Lord. The cutter I throw, my fastball with a wicked tail on it, wasn’t something I studied and practiced for years. The Lord gave it to me, and it changed my whole career.
Everything is in his hands. I do not take it for granted. It was the way I wanted to pitch, and it is the way I want to live. Put everything we have into living this moment the best way we can live it. Some players obsess over rumors, but for me, they are only distractions. In my worldview as a pitcher, distractions are the enemy. Again, simple is best. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Hank Hanegraaff must have read all of Joel Osteen's books, because he quotes them all in this article on Osteen's heresies.
Osteen is the hip new personification of God-talk in America... Behind Osteenian self-affirmations—“I am anointed,” “I am prosperous,” “My God is a ‘supersizing God’”—there lies a darker hue. Behind the smile is a robust emphasis on all that is negative. If you are healthy and wealthy, words created that reality. However, if you find yourself in dire financial straits, contract cancer, or, God forbid, die an early death, your words are the prime suspect. Says Osteen, “We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying. And this can be good or it can be bad” (Discover the Champion in You, May 3, 2004). In evidence, he cites one illustration after the other. One in particular caught my attention: the story of a “kind and friendly” worker at the church. He died at an early age, contends Osteen, “being snared by the words of his mouth” (I Declare [FaithWords, 2012], viii–ix).That snare is meant to be an application of Proverbs 6:1-2, but read those verses to see if you get the same application as Osteen does.
Hanegraaff says Osteen's gospel is a version of New Thought Metaphysics, the idea that our words are a force of magic in the real world. In Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, he writes, “You have to begin speaking words of faith over your life. Your words have enormous creative power. The moment you speak something out you give birth to it. This is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative.”
Hanegraaff has written on this at length in his new book, The OSTEENification of American Christianity, which is available for a gift of any amount to the Christian Research Institute.
- Previous edited stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald are being released without the content edits. "Before these stories were bowdlerised, they contained antisemitic slurs, sexual innuendo, instances of drug use and drunkenness. They also contained profanity and mild blasphemy. The texts were scrubbed clean at the Post," James West, general editor of the Cambridge edition of Fitzgerald's work, said. He believes the stories make more sense without the tempered language. "One of the commonplaces of Fitzgerald criticism, for decades, has been that he avoided unpleasant topics and realistic language in his magazine fiction. We can see now that this was not altogether his choice."
- If Eskimos have 50 words for snow and 70 words for ice, do they experience these things more richly than the rest of us? Do their words shape their world? John H. McWhorter says not quite. We can think about concepts for which we have no words, and our world isn't really shaped by our use of language. "...language has only a minor effect on cognition and no effect on a person’s view of the world—that is, in this case, how humans understand time, causality, color, space, and so forth." Reports about studies that supposedly show the opposing view are exaggerated.
- Crossway Books is throwing a sale in celebration of Crazy Busy winning Book of the Year.
- The only measure of a writer is that you want to remember his words.
The lead singer of Jars of Clay, one of my favorite bands, cannonballed the Twitter pool repeatedly this week with commits and questions on gay marriage. Dan Haseltine asked if ruling out gay marriage was really as bad as many say it is. I'm tempted to reenact the drama for you. I got caught up in it somewhat. I saw Dan's tweet splash down: "I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is “wrong.” I care more about how it says we should treat people," and my heart sank.
But yesterday, Dan explained the context of his tweets, what he was trying to say, and how he messed it all up. He says he came from a panel discussion on gay marriage in Australia last week where many things were said that provoked him. He hadn't thought about it much before, so on Twitter, not the best platform for this, he wanted to ask questions outside of his own box, to assume he didn't have all the answers and to wonder where his blind spots were, if any. And he said things that easily misrepresent his views.
It's encouraging. I like this guy and his music. One of his recent songs says we "don't know enough about love, so we make it up." It seems to call our current sexual chaos into question. Some of us talk love but we don't know anything about it. In one of his books, Jared C. Wilson notes that God is love, but love is not God. We can't define love however we feel is right and then say that's god. It doesn't work that way.
I feel we're in a similar situation with homosexuality and the civil marriage debate. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Indie Authors Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant have obtained funding for a live writing exposition through their podcast. "'Fiction Unboxed' is a publishing experiment. Platt and Truant are full-time authors, determined to prove with their Kickstarter project that well-told stories can bloom from excitement and inspiration, rather than from a 'true artist's' tortured soul."
They are doing this, naturally, by torturing themselves for a month.
Apropos of nothing, here's an audio skit.
Indie Authors Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant have obtained funding for a live writing exposition. "'Fiction Unboxed' is a publishing experiment. Platt and Truant are full-time authors, determined to prove with their Kickstarter project that well-told stories can bloom from excitement and inspiration, rather than from a "true artist's" tortured soul."
Two booksellers are making a case for the authorship of notes in John Baret‘s An Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionarie, published in 1580. They hope to prove that the marginalia is Shakespeare's. They have scanned the 300-page dictionary to open it up to the world for review and possible help.
April is poetry month, as I said before, and I learned late that the poet Aaron Belz was in my home town April 4. Here's a video of his poetry reading in St. Elmo. Many of these poems are quite funny and contemporary. He even reads a poem he wrote the day before, which he slightly apologizes for. Belz got his undergrad at Covenant College, which is the Presbyterian (PCA) liberal arts college next to Chattanooga. He went on to get his Ph.D. at Saint Louis University and published several poems in several places. He pulls from common literary knowledge and daily life. His most recent book is Glitter Bomb: Poems.
Like I said, he's funny. One of the poems read in the video goes:
"There is no I in team,
but there's one in bitterness,
one in failure."
He also offers a few remarkable palindromes at 13:40. Enjoy.
Author Robin O'Bryant writes, "I self-published my first book in shame. I was disappointed that after two years of work with my top tier literary agent in New York, editors still didn’t think I had a platform large enough to sell a book."
That book lived for about two years before hitting multiple bestseller lists, due in part to her tireless promotion. Now, Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves, is re-released, and Mrs. O'Bryant has a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press.