- A. W. Tozer
Observant film critic Jeffrey Overstreet recommends Terrence Malick's The New World for our Thanksgiving viewing. He shares his insights into the extended cut version and a personal encounter with Malick's father.
The New World is an extravagant achievement in historical recreation. It’s also the most refined example of Malick’s visual poetry, which he developed through Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. He has a meditative style all his own that will aggravate many viewers who prefer straightforward narrative and conventional Hollywood flourishes. He’s not an entertainer so much as he is a poet who uses pictures instead of words. Creation itself pours forth speech, as the psalmist says, and Malick invites those with eyes to see to look closer and listen carefully.
Crime novelist Phyllis Dorothy James, also Baroness James of Holland Park, died today in her home. She was 94.
Her publisher states, "This is a very sad day for us at Faber. It is difficult to express our profound sadness at losing P. D. James, one of the world’s great writers and a Faber author since her first publication in 1962. She was so very remarkable in every aspect of her life, an inspiration and great friend to us all. It is a privilege to publish her extraordinary books. Working with her was always the best of times, full of joy. We will miss her hugely."
In this interview last year, Lady James talked about growing old with this, "All things rather close down eventually. I was waiting for the old brain to shut down, but I do hope that is the last thing to go."
"Some years ago," writes John Wilson, "I described the novelist and poet Marly Youmans as "the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers." That's still true today (so I think), and if you haven't tried Youmans yet, her new novel, Glimmerglass, is a very good place to start." (via Prufrock)
Michel Faber has a fascinating story behind his novel, The Book of Strange New Things, as well as a curious story in the novel itself. The novel tells the story of an intergalactic missionary to works to translate the Bible to aliens who are not just a little different. They aren't beautiful Martian queens. They are completely foreign to human beings, and they want to know about Jesus and "the book of strange new things."
Steve Paulson of TTBOOK interviews Faber here as part of a show on science fiction.
Musician Lacrae has taken some heat for switching from writing explicitly Christian songs to writing songs on themes with broader appeal. He has appeared with artists and on shows that have drawn criticism from those who think the right thing to do is stick with people who claim to follow Christ.
But Lacrae says another believer, Andy Crouch, changed his mind a few years ago. Jemar Tisby explains, "Crouch says in his book, Culture Making, 'If culture is to change, it will be because of some new tangible (or audible or visible or olfactory) thing is presented to a wide enough public that it begins to reshape their world.' He proposes that instead of condemning, critiquing, copying, or uncritically consuming culture, something new has to displace the old. It appears Lecrae has been making new music in an attempt to do just that."
The tension point for this idea will be at the place where those who want to change people apply their cultural creations. I'm sure many will continue to create things that won't get anywhere near the people they want to influence, and they will say they are making new culture, but it isn't changing anyone. They're making Halloween candy in hopes of changing Christmas.
Author Ursula Le Guin received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at this week's National Book Awards and inspired the crowd by holding up freedom as an author's best prize. "We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."
She said many things needed to change, and that change often begins in art, specifically the art of words. Writing books according to marketing formulas for corporate profit is a rotten idea, she said. We need artists.
Her speech was short, so you can easily watch the whole thing here.
In an interview, Le Guin said, “If you’re going to create a world out of whole cloth, that is to say, out of words, then you better get the words right.” You can read about her and her many books in The Guardian.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography before her Little House Series and could not find a publisher for it. This month, over eighty years later, an annotated edition will be published. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography has been edited by Pamela Smith Hill, who wrote her own biography of Wilder a few years ago. She blogs about her subject here. In a recent post, a Wilder co-researcher explains a bit of research on a story from a terrible winter.
Wilder places the story of the schoolteacher and his improvised igloo in the winter of 1884–1885, but the setup is strongly reminiscent of the “children’s blizzard,” a storm that struck without warning on a warm day in January 1888 and killed more than a hundred schoolchildren as they struggled to get home. Wilder did not always remember events in their true chronological order, and it seemed likely that she misplaced this one. But she does not give the teacher’s name, and the Kingsbury County newspapers that could complete the story have been lost, so there, it appeared, the matter would rest.
Popular Christian novelist Jerry Jenkins has closed the doors on the Christian Writers Guild. The Guild was founded in the 1960s. Jenkins has owned it since 2001. Christianity Today has some details on why it is shutting down, perhaps due to diverging interests for Jenkins and Dave Sheets, the recently resigned guild president. Sheets is now heading up BeliversMedia, which will offer many and more of the things found in the Christian Writers Guild.
Is Bill Watterson returning to comics? Gracy Olmstead suggests, "Now, after all this time, Watterson is free to create again—to create something new." (via Prufrock)
Author Rachel Starr Thompson takes up valuable space in an interview to say nice things about my work.
I could never do the grit Lars Walker does, but I kind of wish I had written The Year of the Warrior. Wolf Time is amazing too. Actually, I love all of Lars’s books. - See more here
From this interview in England last September, author Lee Child mentions Fredrick Forsyth.
I think that Without Fail  would actually be my homage to Day of the Jackal, because it explicitly references Forsyth’s book. The emphasis there is placed upon the assassins planning for escape, as opposed to the  Clint Eastwood/Wolfgang Peterson film, In the Line of Fire, in which the assassin knows he won’t be able to escape. As I said at the CWA Diamond Daggers ceremony, The Day of the Jackal … was Year Zero for the current generation of thriller writers; it was different, and re-set the clock, and we’ve all had to deal with it ever since. So, I didn’t mean it as a direct homage but acknowledged--for all of us, readers and writers--that Fredrick Forsyth is a giant figure, and his debut novel casts a giant shadow over the genre.
Happy birthday to the late British novelist Evelyn Waugh, who was not the sweetest man to work around.
John Banville describes him as terribly sad at the end of his life. "As a man, he was quintessentially English—stubborn, class-obsessed, honorable, detached and despairing. And he was unfathomably strange." (via Books, Inq.)
Here's an essay of author Walter M. Miller and his classic apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. "Along with Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” “A Canticle for Leibowitz” was one of the first novels to escape from the science-fiction ghetto and become a staple of high-school reading lists."
Within the cathedral of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature, there ought to be a small sanctum reserved for books produced out of the author’s personal experience with cataclysmic events. Other works that fit into this niche include Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five,” which was inspired by the writer having witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, and “The Forever War,” Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel, which drew directly on his tour of duty in Vietnam.(via Books, Inq.)
Casey Cep wrote, "Marilynne Robinson is one of the great religious novelists, not only of our age, but any age. Reading her new novel Lila, one wonders how critics could worry that American fiction has lost its faith, though such worries make one think there might well have been wedding guests at Cana who complained about the shortage of water after witnessing the miracle with wine." (via Alan Jacobs)
A 1959 essay on creativity by Issac Asimov, that has not been published, has been released by a friend at MIT. In it, Asimov talks about the origin of the theory of evolution, which he says was devised by two men independently, Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.
A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.He goes on to say a team hoping to develop great new ideas needs to become comfortable with each other and inspire each other to look forward. (via Prufrock)
Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)
Janie Cheaney talks about war in the context of Andrew Peterson's fourth book in The Wingfeather Saga. Do Christian novelists simplify and glorify it? "While most wars are wasteful and pointless, some are not. And ugly and terrifying as it is, battle seems to have an almost primeval appeal, especially to men. It’s as if they are called to find out what’s in them: savagery or heroism, unspeakable cruelty or self-sacrifice, the best or the worst."
It's a strong desire to live for something large. Perhaps that's how we currently express the eternity God has set in our hearts "yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That yearning for glory easily yields to the lust of our pride, making our desire to live for something big subservient to a desire to live a self-directed life, and in doing so we end up fighting over selfish things or for unwise causes. Lars' latest novel, Death's Doors, deals with this in that there's a real battle over life and death raging around the characters, but their perspectives are too self-centered to see it for a while.
Aaron Belz offers this snapshot of Marilynne Robinson's America, that land where the least of us can become great by the Lord's grace:
As unpopular as it is, the Calvinist/Puritan doctrine of total depravity shares ground with the philosophes’ and founding fathers’ view of humans. Read Candide, a violent satire full of rape, bestiality, and murder designed to supplant European aristocratic classism with individualism and equality. Though Voltaire loathed organized religion and outright rejected Calvinism, he depicted the human race in a Pauline way, each misguided soul awaiting a humble revelation of its own worth. And remember that it was Thomas Hobbes, also a philosophe, who famously described human life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."(via Prufrock)
One of our favorite authors, P.G. Wodehouse, was born on this day in 1881. In honor of the day, we link to McSweeney's for a bit of Plum parody from Rhian Jones in "P. G. Wodehouse's American Psycho."
I had, on the morning in question, breakfasted as usual on the old bran muffin and decaffeinated herbal tea before completing a thousand physical jerks and setting off downtown to Pierce & Pierce. Whilst performing my ablutions I’d gained the fleeting impression of there being something distinctly odd about my reflection, as if I wasn’t quite there, but I put it down to the previous evening’s indulgences at the club and paid it no mind.
Beneath the old six-button double-breasted tailcoat, I was sporting shoes by Susan Warren Bennis Edwards and some frankly tremendous trousers, which allowed me to feel inordinately pleased with myself. This happy state of affairs had of course as much likelihood of lasting as the early grace enjoyed by Milton’s Satan. I realised as much upon entering the meeting room, where I beheld my chums engaged in conversation with Paul Owen, a chap whose company I must admit I struggle at the best of times to tolerate.
Patrick Kurp says he couldn't have read Max Beerbohm at a young age, because he requires a personal depth or history to draw upon while reading. He notes, "In another small masterpiece from And Even Now, 'The Golden Drugget,' Beerbohm describes a rather drab, undistinguished inn near his home in Rapallo, overlooking the Gulf of Genoa, in Italy:
“By moonlight, too, it is negligible. Stars are rather unbecoming to it. But on a thoroughly dark night, when it is manifest as nothing but a strip of yellow light cast across the road from an ever-open door, great always is its magic for me. Is? I mean was. But then, I mean also will be. And so I cleave to the present tense--the nostalgic present, as grammarians might call it.”
Does Lovecraft still matter? A new annotated volume argues in favor of this old horror writer. Lovecraft, who died five months before his 47th birthday, also “shrewdly created an American pantheon of horror,” Klinger said of the hardcore New Englander. “He was the first writer of supernatural literature to understand the psychological consequences of the generations of Puritanism and the warping of the human psyche that resulted.”
I always get a chuckle out of accusations that Puritans twisted our civilization. Where would America or the world be without the Puritans of England and its New World colonies? Nowhere. They would be unrecognizable to us, if we could see such an alternate history.
Speaking of Alt-history, Lars' Death's Doors is tons of fun. You should read it. For real. (via Prufrock)
The Authors Guild met with the Justice Department in August to request a federal investigation into Amazon.com's actions against Hachette Book Group in their ongoing dispute over ebook prices and service fees. They say the earth's largest bookdealer is using anti-trust tactics against publishers like Hachette. Authors United is also preparing to ask the DOJ to get involved. Does this make you want to find other bookseller options, or is this all so inside baseball you don't care?
Sam Smith answers a few questions about himself and his upcoming book, The Green Ember.
I love what C.S. Lewis called “dressed animal” stories. He loved them and kids usually do too, if they haven’t been talked out of them. One thinks of Lewis’s well-known statement about children getting “too mature” for fairy tales. “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”He's using Kickstarter to presell the book and generate buzz. Watch for it this Friday.
Tributes to D.G. Myers from Friends & Colleagues
John Wilson wrote, "Like Samuel Johnson, David Myers was not a clubbable man, but he was the best of friends. Our friendship took place almost entirely under the umbrella of Twitter (where Doctor Johnson also would have flourished), yet in a lifetime blessed with friendship his was among the most precious to me."
"Kjell Askildsen writes what might reasonably be called ghost stories in which there are no ghosts." (via Prufrock)
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)