- J.K. Rowling, 2008 Harvard Commencement Address
Musican Lecrae has some good thoughts on Christians as makers of culture in this interview with Eric Geiger from last year. He says he doesn't want to be labeled Christian by his claims of faith, but by his practice of faith. The interview is 20 minutes long. For an hour long take on music and Lecrae in particular, see this post with Ed Stetzer.
A Facebook community of authors are donating September's royalties to Iraqi Christians through Voice of the Martyrs. They call themselves Authors in Solidarity. We've reviewed a few of books featured in this community. Lars is donating his royalties from Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga Book 4). There's New Found Dream: Book Two of "A Healer's Tale", The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, Bid the Gods Arise (The Wells of the Worlds) (Volume 1), and many more. Let us know if you join this effort to help Christians in Iraq.
Tolkien's Beowulf gives us the sound of the Dark Ages we lost when it was consumed by Middle Earth.
"Tolkien reproduces the syntax of the Old English poetry almost exactly. The word order of 'His sword had already the good king drawn' is garbled, but in just the way that the Old English sounds when translated word for word. Square brackets mark where present day English has forced Tolkien’s reluctant hand to emend the original."
Whit Stillman on speaking French: "I wasn’t one of these people that love Paris and always talks about it. In fact all my friends were dropping out and taking a year off or semester off and going to France and I was the one who didn’t want to go to France. I went to Mexico because I was so intimidated by my experience in French class. I’d done so poorly in French class that I went to Mexico and learned Spanish first. To this day I’m mocked by French friends who say I speak French like Zorro."
On American cliches: "One of the bad things America has done is that in trying to be popular it’s relied on certain formulas and gone back to the pump again and again and again and with the same formula. It’s flattering the lowest common denominator and it’s this underdog thing, and it’s very seductive, it’s in all the templates in our brain. But it’s a wrong view of the world."
When you leave 50 replies to a negative review of your interactive ebook, you're doing it wrong.
Maybe you need more creativity. But then, "how did we come to care so much about creativity? The language surrounding it, of unleashing, unlocking, awakening, developing, flowing, and so on, makes it sound like an organic and primordial part of ourselves which we must set free—something with which it’s natural to be preoccupied. But it wasn’t always so . . ." (both via Prufrock)
C.S. Lewis grew up among some well-known atheists and may have believed the same things argued today by speakers labeled "New Atheists." Peter S. Williams has written a book on the subject, and this podcast introduces a series of discussions on that book, C S Lewis vs the New Atheists, with an overview. You can get a brief review and chapter list here.
The movie project about America's worst serial killer is moving forward with the announcement that Andrew Klavan will write the script. He says the challenge will be writing a movie that people will want to see, because the base story is almost too repulsive. He tells NRO what's most important about the Gosnell story:
I’m a crime writer. It’s a great crime story. But you know, I notice I’ve gone through this whole interview without saying the words “abortion” or “abortionist.” But that’s a part of it too, a central part. I’m in a sort of — I won’t say “unique” but certainly strange position on this. I’m a natural-born libertarian. With every fiber of my being, I want people to live the lives they want to live, whether it suits me or not. You want to be gay? Have a good time. You want to condemn gays? Knock yourself out. You want to dress up as Beyonce and get a tattoo of Louisiana on your forehead? I’m the guy who’ll buy you a drink and say, “Nice tat, Yonce.” I know a lot of women who’ve had abortions — people I like and love. I know a lot of people who are pro-abortion, likewise. But moral logic has convinced me that this is wrong — more than wrong – as wrong as a thing can be. It’s not about your feelings versus mine. It’s not about social conservatism. It’s not about libertarianism. And it’s not about feminism either or “women’s health care.” What nonsense that is. It’s an actual question of good versus evil. And listen, in the end, that’s what all great stories are about.(via ISI)
Jack Hanson writes about Saul Bellow and his 50-year-old novel, Herzog, a story about a professor who can't handle his life after losing his wife to divorce. Bellow, who died in 2005, said the story is something of a joke about how education can ruin you, but many are not convinced that's all there is to his National Book Award winner.
"It may be hard to imagine what the neurosis of a restless, mid-century academic have to do with Ferguson, militant jihad, or any of our other woes," Hanson states. "But if the book has a single theme, it is that we are dominated more than anything else by ideas, and it is only when we confront ideas and our allegiance to them that we might be able to set our house back in order. Life will never be an easy affair, but it may become, at times, manageable. Herzog is not a morality tale, in the sense of being didactic, but it is highly moral, while being forward-looking."
"One of the joys of reading late Auden is the pleasure he takes in rare words used correctly," Patrick Kurp reminds us. "Like his friend Dr. Oliver Sacks, he loved trolling the Oxford English Dictionary for good catches." Catches like dapatical, for which you'll have to read his post for context.
Alexander McCall Smith wrote a piece last year about the importance of Auden with a few personal anecdotes. "When I started to write novels set in Edinburgh, the characters in these books – unsurprisingly, perhaps – began to show an interest in Auden. In particular, Isabel Dalhousie, the central character in my Sunday Philosophy Club series, thought about Auden rather a lot – and quoted him, too. A couple of years after the first of these novels was published, I received a letter from his literary executor, Edward Mendelson, who is a professor of English at Columbia University in New York. . . . I then wrote Professor Mendelson into an Isabel Dalhousie novel, creating a scene in which he comes to Edinburgh to deliver a public lecture on the sense of neurotic guilt in Auden’s verse."
Lauren Bacall wrote three memoirs over the years. The last one was released in 2005. She said of loving Bogart, "I'd suddenly had this fairy-tale life, at such a young age, who would have thought something like that could happen?"
"Writing a book is the most complete experience I've ever had," she said.
Whit Stillman's next work will be on Amazon.com. A TV pilot episode for a potential series, "The Comopolitans," will be available through Amazon Studios on August 28. See a cute preview here.
“This has elements of all three of the first films,” he tells Vanity Fair, referring to his 1990 debut, 1994’s Barcelona and 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. “It’s very much like the fourth film, of those three.” He says one has to earn a living, and TV is where one can do it.
He also says he doesn't watch TV with violence and sex, "so it knocks out almost everything." Others say he only watches TV on airplanes.
"This summer on my way to work," writes The Public Humanist at The Valley Advocate, "I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk in downtown Northampton . . . a yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping, from April 2, 1978: a list of the books that Tolstoy was most impressed by, organized by the age at which he read them."
The list was written in 1891 and includes selections such as Puskin’s poems: Napoleon, Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect, Rousseau's Confessions, all of Trollope's novels, and all of the Gospels in Greek. (via Open Culture)
John Rhys-Davies on how The Lord of the Rings may have been influenced by World War I.
"Tolkien's experience of war left him with 'a deep sympathy and feeling for the "tommy," especially the plain soldier from the agricultural counties.' He based the character of Samwise Gamgee on common soldiers that he had known during the war, men who kept their courage and stayed cheerful when there was not much reason to hope.
"There's an old saying that you should never judge a book by its cover. Today, perhaps, that conventional wisdom has rarely had more meaning. To a degree that might astonish the reading public, a significant percentage of any current bestseller list will not have been written by the authors whose names appear on the jackets."
Andrew Crofts, "one of Britain's most invisible and yet successful writers," has written out his experiences as a ghostwriter for 40 years. Bestselling ghosted works include a lot of "misery memoirs." (via Prufrock)
Today is Batman Day. The Bat-Man, as he was once called, is 75 years old today, and DC Comics wants everyone to celebrate. Ignoring rumors that one-year-old prince George is being groomed to take on the Dark Knight's mantle (don't call him Robin), Jim Lee talks about the future of the character with Entertainment Weekly. He mentions strong fan-boy love for Batman ’66 on Blu-ray. I guess the cheese is never too far from Gotham City.
Apparently there's one part of Batman's history the publishers have never quite settled: who actually created him? Today they are giving out special edition reprints Detective Comics #27 (1939), in which The Bat-Man first appears. The cover of this issue states it was "illustrated by creator Bob Kane and written by Bill Finger." The official word from DC Entertainment is that Bill Finger was a great guy who helped write many things, but Bob Kane was the first to imagine the hero.
[Steve] Korté, a 20-year DC Comics veteran, explains the sequence of events that lead to the creation and development of Batman. “After Superman debuted in 1938 and became an instant hit, DC editor Vince Sullivan asked Bob Kane to come up with a superhero, which he did with Batman,” he adds. “During that process, he went to a friend, Bill Finger, who gave him some tips on costume adjustments. For example, Bob initially drew bat wings on Batman. Bill suggested a scalloped cape. After Batman became a hit in May, 1939, Bob brought in more people throughout the year.”Both men are dead now, but Finger's granddaughter is rally fans to give Bill the credit she believes he deserves.
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.