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)

‘The Cold Dish,’ by Craig Johnson

Like many people, I recently watched Season Four of the “Longmire” TV series, broadcast first on the A&E Network, and now produced by Netflix. The series, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a crime series centering on a laconic modern day Wyoming sheriff. Australian actor Robert Taylor (not to be confused with the American actor Robert Taylor, who was unavailable for the role due to being dead) plays Sheriff Walt Longmire, and the supporting cast includes Lou Diamond Philipps as his Indian friend Henry Standing Bear and Katee Sackhoff as Deputy Vic Moretti. The series is well done and scenic (though shot in New Mexico instead of Wyoming, which has to lose something in translation), and it has a large and faithful following (A&E reportedly dropped it because it the viewers were too old. Right up my alley).

So I thought I’d check out the first of the original Longmire novels, by Craig Johnson. It’s called The Cold Dish (points if you know the Cervantes reference), and introduces the characters (or some of them; several are unrecognizable). The first thing to strike the reader is the substantial differences between the TV series and the books. The Longmire of the series is a sort of Gary Cooper character, slow talking and depressed over the death of his much-loved wife. The Longmire of the books is older, fatter, and more easygoing. He’s lonely, but he admits he never loved his late wife all that much, nor she him. He’s inclined to be a joker.

In this book he investigates a series of sniper murders. All the victims are young white men who got off easily a couple years before after their conviction for the rape of a mentally challenged Cheyenne girl. The girl is a niece of Henry’s (this makes Henry a suspect, which is awkward). The murder weapon appears to be a relic of the Old West, an antique Sharps rifle. It all works out pretty tragically.

The book was very well written, and I enjoyed it. I had some trouble with the treatment of Native American spirituality; it’s presented as pretty obviously true and effective. But taken on its own terms, The Cold Dish is a good book.

Cautions for the usual things.

Where Was the Grace for Achan?

The story of Achan’s sin in Joshua 7 may be troubling to casual Bible readers. It’s the kind of story used as evidence by those who wish to believe the God of the Old Testament was all wrath and judgment, while the God of the New Testament is love and forgiveness. But we understand that the One who cut his covenant with the people of Israel is the One who raised our Savior from the dead. He is the unchanging, holy, and eternal God of heaven and earth.

So shouldn’t Achan have received some grace?

(I appreciate the opportunity to have another piece posted on For the Church.)

‘The Christians’ Is Serious Theater

Alissa Wilkinson writes, “When theatre works best, it’s because it forces you into a room where the action is happening right there, live. It’s often serious precisely because it’s a good setting for confronting serious issues, like being locked in a room where a horrible argument is happening.”

This is what she says happens when people attend the off-Broadway production of Lucas Hnath’s play The Christians. They’ll see a depiction of a church split over a serious theological disagreement without strawmen and caricatures.

When God Picks His Team

“Do you understand that God is not looking for ‘the cream of the crop?’” Jared Wilson asks. “He is in the margins, picking the scrubs, the losers, the dum-dums.”

Because in the Kingdom of God, the first, in our way of thinking, shall be last, but the last, as we see them, shall be first. God is not vindictive in saying this. There’s no mean spirit about him. He is simply telling us that we look at each other in ways he does not. Those we consider to be losers will not lose a thing in Christ.

‘The Devil’s Pleasure Palace,’ by Michael Walsh

It is the thesis of this book that the heroic narrative is not simply our way of telling ourselves comforting fairy tales about the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil, but an implanted moral compass that guides even the least religious among us.

In a book at once learned, insightful, inspirational, and maddening, Michael Walsh, former Time Magazine associate editor and current New York Post columnist, finds a useful lens through which to examine the culture wars of our time. The conflict goes beyond religion vs. atheism, or left vs. right, he tells us in The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. It’s about stories. It’s about the basic narrative through which we view history.

This, of course, is a point of view that pleases me immensely.

All human cultures, Walsh argues, have told their stories in the basic three-act form, the “ur-Narrative” – something is lost, a battle is fought, and the lost thing (or something better) is regained.

Against this, the modern left sets its own narrative of history, based on deconstruction, adopted from the poisonous thinkers of the Frankfurt School of philosophy who fled to America from Hitler in the 1930, took up residence, accepted the freedom and plenty of the country, and immediately began to plot to bring it all down in flames. Because they believe in destroying the good, to make way for their perfect dream of the socialist society.

I appreciated Walsh’s well-informed critique of the Frankfurt School thinkers and their influence. I was less enamored of his depiction of the “ur-Narrative.” He writes frankly from a Christian (Catholic) point of view, but his depiction of Christian theology is pretty idiosyncratic. It helps to remember that he bases his view of the narrative of the Fall of Man, not actually on Genesis, but on Milton’s poem “Paradise Lost.” And even in that, he stretches the text a bit to make a non-Miltonian, semi-Catholic point.

But I still found The Devil’s Pleasure Palace immensely fascinating and informative. Walsh has hope for the future of our culture. I’m not sure I share it. But I’m glad I read the book. Recommended, with cautions.

Did Frost Take the Untaken Road?

Frost is not simply that rare bird, a popular poet; he is one of the best-known personages of the past hundred years in any cultural arena. In all of American history, the only writers who can match or surpass him are Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe, and the only poet in the history of English-language verse who commands more attention is William Shakespeare.

Everyone loves Frost, and according to David Orr, almost everyone misreads “The Road Not Taken.” I think he’s right. I know I’ve misread it.

Democratic Vikings

I’ve mentioned before the book on the Viking Age which I translated a while back. There’s still no word on when the English version will be published, but the publisher, Saga Bok, has posted an excerpt on their blog here.

How far back in time the oral Thing system functioned, no one knows. It was likely not as highly developed during the Migration Era as it became after the start of the Viking Age in the 9th Century. It is also remarkable that the Norse Thing system has not up till now attracted much interest in the world at large. But in all probability that is easily explained. The Norwegians of that age left behind no monumental structures, in contrast to, for example, the Egyptian, Greek, and Mayan civilizations. On top of that, Scandinavia lay on the outskirts of civilization, and encompassed only a small number of people. In this matter European scholars (including Norwegians) have allowed themselves to be deceived by appearances – the impressive structures and statues of southern Europe. Those who did not erect such monuments must not have had any significance in historical development.

Stirring Puritan Sympathies

Micah Mattix reviews a book that explores the passions and brotherly love of that group of people popularly slandered as being close-minded and stern.

Preaching on 1 Peter 3:8, Nicholas Byfield remarked, “The doctrine is cleer. That we ought to have a sympathie one towards another.” Robert Bolton urged his readers to “make conscience” their sympathy. Puritan sermons often aimed at stirring the holy affections of congregants, and Van Engen writes,

The imaginative work of sympathy, furthermore, constituted its own distinct practice. Puritan ministers instructed their parishioners to pray for others and provide physical aid, but before they acted, they had to be moved.

This helps explain why the Puritans, contrary to popular belief, were so expressive. When his wife was dying, John Winthrop was “weeping so bitterly,” Van Engen writes, “she asked him to stop” because (in her words) “you breake mine heart with your grievings.” When the Puritans fled England, and British soldiers separated children from their parents, William Bradford wrote that there was “weeping and crying on every side.” Anne Bradstreet regularly refers to her “troubled heart,” “sorrows,” “cares,” “fears,” and “joy” in her poetry. One of the most popular poems of the early colony was Michael Wigglesworth’s “The Day of Doom” (1662), in which he imagines the “weeping” and wailing of sinners but also the singing and “great joy” of God’s elect at Christ’s second coming. Van Engen writes that each instance of “tears and grieving, melting and weeping, pity and sympathy” in Puritan texts fits within “a broad tradition of Puritan fellow feeling.”

Author Abram C. Van Engen reveals these and other events in his book Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England. He touches on theological controversies and the witch trials, saying there are elements of Christian charity in all of Puritan life.

Speaking of early America, Mark David Hall criticizes a book on the religious mindset of the founding fathers. Were they a group of “pious, orthodox believers who sought to establish a Christian nation” or were they “Enlightenment deists who created a secular republic that strictly separated church and state”? Were they rational men who were strongly influenced by Christianity? Hall notes some good and bad points in Steven Green’s book Inventing a Christian America. (via Prufrock)

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Book Reviews, Creative Culture