The Marvelous Burning Edge of Dawn

Andrew Peterson just released a new album,  The Burning Edge of Dawn. It’s marvelous. He sat down with Jeffrey Overstreet this weekend to talk about it. Overstreet enthuses over the friend.

Peterson’s songs and lyrics are full of sweeping metaphors, making his songs accessible enough for people of all ages and all experiences, even as they are specific enough to speak of his own specific pilgrimage as a musician; as a novelist (his fantasy series had the same editor and publisher as mine, and was released at the same time, which is how I was blessed to meet him); as a Nashville “community organizer” . . . as a sort of folk pastor; as a “book guy” . . .

Hear some of the new music and what the artist has to say about it on Listening Closer.

‘An End to a Silence,’ by W. H. Clark

The book under consideration here is an example of a type of novel I like very much. It’s a “small” mystery, localized and character-driven. No international conspiracies; no shadowy government agents. An End to a Silence is the sort of mystery that’s produced more in England than in America nowadays, and as it happens the author is English, though the story is set in America, in a small town in Montana, and seems right at home.

Detective Newton is a burnt-out case, a cop whose career stalled long ago. Now he’s just marking time until retirement. But he’s called to a local nursing home, where an old man’s death has been identified as murder. When Newton sees the victim, he’s suddenly galvanized. This man, Bill O’Donnell, is a suspect in 25 year old case, the disappearance of O’Donnell’s own grandson. Newton is certain that O’Donnell killed the boy and hid the body, despite the fact that he was a kindly man, loved in the community and active in his church.

A new policeman has come to help. His name is Ward (he never explains whether it’s his first or last name), and he’s straight out of a Hollywood western. He’s from Texas, he’s tall and lean and taciturn, he wears a cowboy hat, and he has secrets. Along with investigating the murder, he gets involved in protecting a local woman from her abusive, junkie ex-husband.

The story is all about secrets, and what people do to protect themselves and those they love. There’s a surprising reversal at the end, giving us a resolution that’s not entirely satisfying, but true to life as we know it.

I enjoyed An End to a Silence very much, and regret that this is the author’s first novel. I fear I’ll forget his name before there’s another. Sex, language, and violence are relatively mild, and on top of that the Christians in the book are treated respectfully.


American Zombies: Enemies Next Door

Kurt Schlichter ruminates on our current obsession with zombies. Not long ago, many mainstream stories focused on foreign threats or nuclear fallout. Today, we entertain ourselves with mysterious outbreaks that turn people into flesh-eaters.

“What does it say,” Schlichter asks, “that our collective subconscious senses less of a threat from fanatical outsiders who, in the last couple decades, have killed thousands of us via terrorism, than from each other?

. . . The foreigners are a threat, but that’s under control. What is out of control, or what seems like it is out of control, is our society itself.”

Fantasy Dressed Up as Sci-Fi

Author John C. Wright argues against the ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ camp of science fiction with his own Space Princess camp. One side says we will never find intelligent life on other planets or building our own colonies there. The other side says, not only is there intelligent life out there, but the women are remarkably hot and need to be rescued by noble earthmen.

One side says, “Psionics is just magic wearing a lab coat.” The other side says, “Without psionics, there is no way to speak and understand the space princess when you first meet her. Learning a new space-language without psionic aid involves many long and boring sessions with philologists and translators and grammarians, which is all hogwash and humbug. Space Princesses can read minds just enough so that you can talk to them. That is settled.”

You can see where this is going.

Is this kind of argument having assumed your conclusions really that different from the supposedly serious argument put forward in this Canadian propoganda, which says Science is a political value we must all support?

For your Spectation

I have a piece in The American Spectator Online today:

The liberals’ moral GPS tells them that their present location is right outside the gates of Eden. They’re still wearing their fig leaf aprons (they believe) and just a couple steps back in the right direction will return them to Paradise. How could anyone be against that?

In their view, the problem is simple, like a crossword puzzle. Fill in all the spaces correctly, and Paradise is regained. The fact that the goal is never achieved in practice, that more and more spaces keep appearing, needing new laws written to fill them, does not trouble them. Next time it will be different. We’re almost there. We can see Eden from our front porches.

Read it all here.

Learning from Black Scholars

Dr. Jarvis Williams of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary talks about his life as a black man in a mostly white world and offers many practical suggestions for helping “some evangelicals see race and intelligent racial dialogue matters.”

For example, he writes, “white evangelicals must understand there are many black and brown intellectuals. There are many great black and brown preachers. Most white evangelicals I have interacted with never even read one book written by a person of color. Or they’ve never even heard of some of the great black and brown expositors. Ignorance will only reinforce one’s racial biases.”

Piñon Coffee, the Taste of Albuquerque

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014

When Folgers declined to sponsor Albuquerque’s 2015 Balloon Fiesta, a family-owned roaster stepped up. Albuquerque’s own Piñon Coffee brought an estimated 200,000 cups of coffee to the hot-air balloon event that started last weekend and continues through the week. It is the fiesta’s first local company to be coffee sponsor.

“A lot of handcrafting goes into every part of our coffee from the coffee all the way up to the bags to the fill the bags to the roll down of bags,” Piñon Coffee President Allen Bassett told KRGE News 13.

Bassett has been working on several strategies for building his brand and competing with national companies. He has recommended local coffee shops collaborating in order to hold their own against national franchisees.

(Photo of The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014 by Duncan Rawlinson)

‘The Shadow Lamp’ and ‘The Fatal Tree,’ by Stephen Lawhead

I must admit that Stephen Lawhead almost lost me at one point, but I carried on with the last two books of the Bright Empires pentalogy, and came out a fan again.

If you’ve followed my reviews of the previous books, The Skin Map, The Bone House, and The Spirit Well (or if you’ve read the books; some people prefer to do it that way), you know the series involves a group of people who have learned the secrets of “ley travel,” using particular geographical formations in the earth at sunrise or sunset to travel to other times, places, and dimensions. The earlier books involve a sort of race between the good guys and the villainous Lord Burleigh to locate the “Skin Map,” the tanned skin of the discoverer of the ley lines, who had their locations tattooed on his body.

My temporary problems with the story occurred in the fourth book, The Shadow Lamp. I feared, for a while, that author Lawhead had succumbed to “Game of Thrones Disease” – not in terms of perversion, I hasten to add, but just in the sense of producing a story so complex and sprawling that he loses control of it. The characters seemed to be running around chasing each other through time and space, without advancing the story line much. But in the second half of the book things sharpen up. The focus shifts when the characters become aware that thoughtless ley traveling has caused a disruption in the very fabric of the cosmos. The quest becomes one to return to timeless Spirit Well and undo a thoughtless act. That quest continues in the final book, The Fatal Tree. By the time I got into that one I was back with the story all the way, and I found the resolution entirely satisfactory, nay, moving.

Lawhead (as I read him) has been endeavoring for some time to figure out a way to write epic fantasy without big battles. The Bright Empires series is his most successful effort so far.

Highly recommended.

Recapture that Blood Moon Moment

Last week, perhaps you were caught up in the thrills of seeing the moon turn to blood as a harbinger of the end of the world. Too bad it didn’t, right? That just means you can experience the fun all over again, and a group of short story writers may have you covered in this book about an apocalypse that wasn’t.

You can read the premise of the fauxpocalypse and more from the eleven contributing writers on their website. Briefly stated, a scientist predicted the path of an enormous comet would hit the earth on July 15 of this year, and it really looked as if it would hit us. But no. What do you do when almost everyone in the world believe this time it really isn’t a test? Dip into the book here.

I like the idea of the book, but perhaps gathering stories around the theme of something big that didn’t happen will only get you middling results, especially when the story begins with the anticlimax. As one story says it, “Either way, the world had not ended, so it was time for chores.”

I heard of this book through a writer friend, Dave Higgins. He contributes two stories, and you may find that his contributions are worth the price of the whole, though I also liked Alexandrina Brant’s exploration of faith in her story of a college student who attends what could be Oxford’s last chapel service.

Kingkiller Rothfuss Lands Huge Media Deal

“Honestly, I’ve never been very interested in a straight-up movie deal,” said Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle. But now he’s got a movie deal combined with TV shows, video games, bobble head dolls, and underwater theme park off the coast of Iceland. (I may have gotten a few of those details mixed up.)

Lars reviewed the two existing novels earlier this year, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear.

Are Any Books Banned Today?

Ruth Graham points out the problems with that wonderful literary celebration currently engaging many sweet, ill-at-ease readers across the country, Banned Books Week.

Much of the rhetoric around Banned Books Week elides not just the difference between the past and the present but some other important distinctions: the difference between “bans” from public libraries and from school libraries, and between inclusion in school curricula and general availability in a library. A parent merely questioning the presence of a book on a required reading list is the same, to the organizations that run Banned Books Week, as the book being removed from circulation at the local public library. But the former, I would argue, is part of a reasonable local conversation about public education (even if the particular parental preferences are unreasonable). The latter comes closer to a “book ban.”

We at Brandywine Books hope you are enjoying your Banned Book celebrations. If you’re looking for suggestions, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has always been a great fire-starter. We’ve heard of some bacchants snatching books from tables at coffeeshops or smacking them out of the hands of readers on the sidewalk. Don’t let the reason for the season slip into history. Get out there and ban a book. (via Prufrock)

Losing Wisdom in Attempted Wit

Most Americans, it strikes me, are content with cleverness and snark. The scripts of television shows are rife with one-liners. Our children are raised around a torrent of witty banter, teaching them to become ever more clever in their responses. And, in our ever-increasing desire to appear more nonchalant and funny, something is lost.

That something, it seems to me, is wisdom.

Steve Bezner writes that we have so much content and so little wisdom. Seeking the wise life may be the most counter-cultural thing one could do today.

Can the Gospel Be Trojan-Horsed?

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Many Christian artists want to tell the Gospel in a compelling story in order to win readers or viewers to Christ, but can the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, be Trojan-horsed into a new audience? Is there a delivery mechanism that can slip the gospel through cultural barriers and catch those who are tired of their church experience or unfamiliar with Christianity entirely?

Watch this video from a Christian filmmaker. He urges us to believe the moment is right for exploiting technology for the sake of the gospel. We must not be a divided house, he says. We must not hold ourselves to low standards. We must rally around a good, moral film and make it an international blockbuster.

George Whitefield recently tweeted from beyond the Pearly Gates, “Self-indulgence lulls the soul into a spiritual slumber.” I think that may apply here. What do you think? (via Jeffrey Overstreet)

Book Reviews, Creative Culture