Andrew

What we're reading

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Adams' book is fantastic - mythic, exciting, beautiful, inspiring, (insert your own superlative adjective here), etc. I was inspired to re-read it several months ago, after reading Hauerwas' essay. I posted about it somewhere on this site...

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We have threads on both the book and film versions (the latter of which touches on the story's theological overtones). Is that Hauerwas essay online anywhere?

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A quick Google search didn't turn it up, Peter (but you probably already knew that :) ). The essay is in the book, 'A Hauerwas Reader,' originating perhaps in 'A Community of Character.'

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I am reading Brian McLaren's latest, The Secret Message of Jesus. I am only twenty pages in and -- WHY DON'T WE HAVE A SEPARATE THREAD ON THIS THING? Wow, it's his best yet. I am getting that same transcendent, stirring feeling I got when I read the A New Kind of Christian books. I just want to live my life like this and it seems I never do.

-s.

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That's cool to hear, Stef - I've read 5 of McLaren's books so far, and hesitated to pick up his latest, for fear that at the rate he's churning out books that he'd have nothing new to say. Please keep us posted...

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I will have to eventually start a thread of its own. I can tell you for starters that he is just not a very good fictional or narrative writer -- that the elements that made the New Kind of Christian books good were the ideas themselves and certainly not the story or the characters. (Although any character named Neo, we're going to love, right? ;))

It is nice to hear McLaren interpeting the Gospel story in his usual different fashion, and backing up his ideas with history. And it is nice to hear him speaking in his own voice, without the need to advance a story structure. (The first time I encountered him was in a seminar much like this.)

I think I respond strongly because I've had similar thoughts but cannot express them as well as he does. It's nice to hear him just go ahead and speak from his heart. I've only read the two New Kind of Christian books, so this experience may only be mine, and might not speak to yours... Still, I'm in the middle of it and highly recommend it, so pick it up if you can.

-s.

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I may have to stop and read this one with you. The statement "backing up his ideas with history" strikes me as interesting enough.

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I think you'll get a kick out of it, Mike, especially considering you share a passion with McLaren for understanding the ancient minsdet. I'd like to see your reaction to some of his insight. Maybe when we finish one of us can start a separate thread.

-s.

Edited by stef

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I'm about half way through Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men". Every so often he interrupts the narrative with a passage from inside the head of the Sherrif who is handling this convluted drug case. Here is part of one of them where he is thinking about the moral deterioration of kids in just forty years and at a conference he sat next to a woman complaining about the right wing:

"She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm going to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation."

What a great writer.

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Ooh, quoting myself; how cool! :)

::I'm presently reading Michael Malone's 'Handling Sin.' After 300 pages, I'm deeply impressed. So far, there's been a laugh-out-loud moment about once every two pages. The story's pretty darn ridiculous - think Homer's Odyssey set in 1980's rural North Carolina, if Odysseus were an uptight life insurance salesman; but Malone throws in some weighty subject matter on justice vs. grace, plus theodicy, in between the chuckles.

I finished this yesterday evening, and I loved it. The laugh-out-loud moments diminish in frequency as the book progresses, but it becomes tenderer in exchange. Malone manages to keep the story's momentum going through 600 pages, as the hero travels through the South on his quest. Along with some occasional theological commentary, Malone tosses in some thought-provoking asides on race relations and the nature of history.

Highly recommended...

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You're welcome, Ellen. I'll be eager to hear your thoughts on this. The more I think about it, the less certain I am about the Odyssey analogy - there is definitely a 'quest' thing going on for much of the book, though.

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I am reading through Updike's Rabbit novels right now, and it is utterly confusing. His character "Rabbit" is somewhere between the flawed-character-that-teaches-us-something of Salinger, Amis, or basically most contemporary writers and the black and white characters of O'Connor or Twain (no pun intended). Instead Rabbit is almost a giant "zero" in the middle of the story that only serves to move the narrative forward in pathetic little acts of resignation. I don't think I have encountered anyone quite like him in a book.

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Ooh, quoting myself; how cool! :)

::I'm presently reading Michael Malone's 'Handling Sin.' After 300 pages, I'm deeply impressed. So far, there's been a laugh-out-loud moment about once every two pages. The story's pretty darn ridiculous - think Homer's Odyssey set in 1980's rural North Carolina, if Odysseus were an uptight life insurance salesman; but Malone throws in some weighty subject matter on justice vs. grace, plus theodicy, in between the chuckles.

I finished this yesterday evening, and I loved it. The laugh-out-loud moments diminish in frequency as the book progresses, but it becomes tenderer in exchange. Malone manages to keep the story's momentum going through 600 pages, as the hero travels through the South on his quest. Along with some occasional theological commentary, Malone tosses in some thought-provoking asides on race relations and the nature of history.

Highly recommended...

I'm so glad to hear that you ended up liking Handling Sin. It's one of my all-time favorites and I believe it deserves to be more widely known.

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I read Tad Williams' War of the Flowers while I was travelling. It was long, but picked up momentum as it went along, and at least it was only one volume. Actually, I've liked almost everything I've read by Williams, but still haven't finished "Otherland" because I can't find the final volume...

One of my aunts gave me "Divine Comedies," by Tom Holt, a 2-in-1 collection including Here Comes the Sun and Odds and Gods. She compared him to Terry Pratchett. I'll let you know; so far, HCtS is mildly amusing.

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I read Tad Williams' War of the Flowers while I was travelling. It was long, but picked up momentum as it went along, and at least it was only one volume. Actually, I've liked almost everything I've read by Williams, but still haven't finished "Otherland" because I can't find the final volume...

Oh, another TW aficionado. I haven't read anything of his since his Memory trilogy. Which I thoroughly enjoyed, both as a straight out epic and interesting twist on Tolkien's LOTR. His otherworld stuff seemed like it moved into a part of the genre I dislike, the normal person from our world encounters a fantasy realm from beyond.

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I have recently read

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IMHO, it's a flawed but worthwhile read. It's worthwhile, in that Ehrman provides a helpful overview of the ancient and medieval NT documents and the overall history of textual criticism. On the other hand, he seems to take pleasure in being unnecessarily provocative and sensational, so it's my belief that his critical opinions should be balanced with other experts in the field (Metzger, for instance), rather than taken as the final word.

For example, Ehrman is rather dismissive of traditional claims of Pauline and Petrine authorship for some of the epistles, and fails to consider fairly the evidence that is contrary to his own views (e.g., the writings of early church fathers, and the possibility that the leeway given to Paul's and Peter's scribes could account for some of the differences in word choice found in their various writings).

Nonetheless, I found it to be a informative read, accessible to a theological layperson like me.

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- Misquoting Jesus - by Bart Ehrman

Andrew (or listeners)

I confess I keep scanning message boards in the hopes that someone more educated about early church hisory than I and who has a bit more background on this topic than my own (which consists pretty much of Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict) will read this for me and tell me that it is a hyperbolic reframing of arguments I've heard before and not some new examination of Dead Sea Scrolls or some other, you know, actual evidence, that the scriptures aren't actually trustworthy accounts of the writings of the people to who they are historically attributed (link to that other thread whose name I can't pronounce).

Have you checked out MLeary's blog? (Sorry no link but its in his sig file). And consider joining in on the featured book discussion, still not started (beyond my comments on chapters 1-4).

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The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

Disappointing. When Dan Brown blurbs your book, is that a good thing? Not in this case. Pearl's a better writer than Brown, but still the book feels like a ripoff. Pearl's been researching the death of Edgar Allan Poe, and has turned up a few interesting secondary facts no one noticed before. But instead of presenting his research in academic fashion, he folds it into a novel, where Poe's death is solved in 1851 by three fictional characters: a Baltimore attorney and two competing French detectives. Rambling and strangely lacking in suspense, Pearl's writing makes a modest effort at 19th-century phrasing and vocabulary, but can't shake all its modern idioms. His actual theory of Poe's death, once we finally reach it, does manage to be interesting and tightly written. But 80% of it is copped from the work of another writer, John Evangelist Walsh, who published his theory under the title A Midnight Dreary--a slim little book that manages to be more clever and engaging than Pearl's, even without the benefit of invented characters. Although Pearl's theory sounds a little less farfetched than Walsh's, it also ignores some of Walsh's evidence. And while both writers contend that the borrowed cane Poe had with him when he turned up half dead at Ryan's Tavern in Baltimore was in fact a sword cane, only Walsh gives us a reason Poe might have needed a weapon.

I'm not sure that people who aren't Poe fans will have a reason to read this book ... and people who are Poe fans will be annoyed by Pearl's failure to live up to Poe's literary standard.

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The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

I enjoyed Pearl's first book, the Dante Club, very much. Several other folks who also enjoyed it said they read the Poe Shadow and were disappointed. Dan Brown's blurb is on the jacket of the first novel too, and honestly--I wouldn't compare them.

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Right in the middle of Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. Loving it so far.

Thinking of restarting Chaim Potok's The Chosen. I remember liking it a lot, but didn't have a chance to finish it.

For devo's, reading The Celtic Way of Prayer, by Esther De Waal. Very inspiring. A lot about the traditional forms of prayer, poems, songs, and pilgrimages.

In terms of non-fiction, I'm very, very slowly reading The World Is Flat, by Thomas Freidman, about the process of globalization. Very good. He's brilliant.

Ken, saw you were reading Grisham. I tried The Testament a while back; got into the first about 50-75 pages before I started getting bored. Has anyone else read this, and does it get better? I did hear The Broker as a book-on-CD, and liked it.

Edited by Joel C

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My reading list is surprisingly eclectic, at least for me...

The Kingdom Come, Randall Balmer

I really enjoyed and appreciated Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory, and so far, The Kingdom Come has not disappointed.

The Dark Is Rising, Susan Cooper

I've come to realize that I just don't like a lot of modern "adult" fantasy, so I return to "kid's" stories, and find they're much more enjoyable.

Far As The Curse Is Found, Michael D. Williams

Picked this up on a recommendation from my pastor. It's slow going, but very fascinating.

Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes, Brennan Manning

Reading this for a Bible study. I've never read any Manning, thought I know a lot of people really like his stuff. I'm on the fence with this one. Parts are quite good, other parts seem watered down and light.

The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene

I've always been fascinated by theoretical physics and whatnot, so decided to give this one a whirl. His illustrations of concepts such as relativity are well-done, though no less mindboggling.

Edited by opus

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The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene

I've always been fascinated by theoretical physics and whatnot, so decided to give this one a whirl. His illustrations of concepts such as relativity are well-done, though no less mindboggling.

Oh cool! Another Brian Greene fan out there. I read about a third of Fabric of the Cosmos, and got The Elegant Universe for my last birthday. A few books down my list, but I'm really looking forward to it.

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When I get to them, which isn't very often these days (I read more in the winter months):

The Complete Poems and Plays by T.S. Eliot

Ahh, refreshing, although not great bed time reading for me. Needs more mind than I have at this time of night.

Set Phasers on Stun

Funny, in a demented sort of way!

While Creation Waits

Pretty obvious, and not sure I'll finish it. Somewhat out of date as well.

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