Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hey Kids! Christian Comics!

Looks like someone else is jumping into the Christian comics realm. Publisher's Weekly offers a nice profile of Kingstone Media Group's new venture.

While Kingstone's site has many comic previews on Elijah, Revelation, Pilgrim's Progress and even biographies of a Baptist pastor on the Titantic.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Confessions of an Ex-Bookworm

Rebecca's summer reading woes plus Kent's news that The New Yorker Fiction issue is out led me to discover a delightful essay this week: Salvatore Scibona's "Where I Learned to Read."

There's no twist for me to spoil; it's more or less a personal look at one writer's track to his future as a writer and, importantly, a reader. But as I read, waves of nostalgia (ugh, the cliche!) rolled through my mind--I remembered when reading was fun and magical. I remembered when I was "a bookworm."

Now beside my bed sits my one-year Bible alone--nothing else. Nestled in my still-packed vacation bag is a literary novel of notable critical acclaim I got 7 pages into. On my desk sits the unread 6 or 8 self-help books I ordered over the course of the year to magically transform me into a better teacher, disciple, and time-manager (ha), which I never cracked open.

I have always heard you make time for the things that matter. But I remember a time when I didn't have to "make time" for reading. I am not sure when I stopped reading. Did I lose the "bookworm" bug or was I ever truly a "bookworm" to begin with? Oh you know, the people who would rather be left alone with a book than... well, anything. Maybe you don't have to fit that cliche to be a reader; maybe you don't even have to be a voracious reader to be successful at... whatever it is you pursue. So why do I feel guilty?

These are questions I don't have answers for today. What I do have are some fantastic quotes from the essay that spawned this ramble:
  • About the writer's childhood: "The television stayed on day and night, singing like a Siren in the crowded house. 'Come sit by me and die a little,' it said."
  • "As long as nobody had assigned the book, I could stick with it. I didn’t know what I was reading. I didn’t really know how to read. Reading messed with my brain in an unaccountable way. It made me happy; or something."
  • About working to pay his way through a literary-driven college: "I carried bricks and mortar to rooftops during the summers, but if I hadn’t made time to read the night before, my legs wore out by noon. Even my body needed to read."
  • Upon the reading immersion he grew to love in college: "The gravity of the whole thing would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so much fun, and if it hadn’t been such a gift to find my tribe."
What "tribe" do you claim? Are you a "bookworm" or at least the casual reader? However you define yourself, I hope you never outgrow reading. I wish for you the time and inclination to read and enjoy it this summer. Even if it's just the little occasional gem like this essay, I am determined to do better personally. So here's to our "tribe" at Word, helping bring out the "bookworm" in all of us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

100 Greatest Non-Fiction Titles

The (UK) Guardian offers an impressive list of the 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books of all time. It's a great list of classic and contemporary titles. Sadly, I've only read about 12 of them (partially or en toto).

How many have you read?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our Twitter Feed

...is acting up off our blogs, as we're not getting picked up. Joel opines on Kafka and Derrida, thoughts on the (Pentecostal) teensbeing all right in Word, while Momo has some good stuff on theNBA Finals.

So we're posting, but there's a feed disconnect. Running a test now.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Unbearable or Unbelievable?

A very simple lesson that too many seem to ignore hit me upside the head earlier this week.

I'm reading a couple different series with the 8th grader with diametrically opposed results.

He expressed interest in The Looking Glass Wars, so I snatched up an audio copy in advance to see what it's about (& to be able to discuss the title later). The concept is cool: What if Alice in Wonderland were true, but Lewis Carroll didn't believe Alice's telling of the real story of a mean queen named Red, card soldiers, Hatter Madigan the bodyguard, and the Cat assassin. This is the real story. Sadly, the real story is dull, predictable and unbearable. It reads more like an outline for a movie than an actual story. It's what's wrong with most Young Adult (YA) literature. There just isn't much imagination thrown into the characters or situations or settings that haven't already been covered (though I'm almost at the point of the Looking Glass maze, so that might change my evaluation somewhat).

The other series we're reading is The Asterix Adventures, a French comic collection that has spawned movies and even a theme park outside Paris. It's the story of a small Gaulish village that continually prevents Rome from conquering it due to smarts and a magic potion that makes the villagers super strong. It is witty, fun, and hilarious (those aren't the same things). The creators wring every bit of creativity out of every panel. (See example.)

The Same Limitations
Honestly, there are only about 7 plots in the entire history of storytelling (some say fewer), but it's the imagination you put into the story itself that makes the difference. It doesn't even have to be original. It just has to surprise.

Now go check out Asterix The Legionary for the start of a very long and happy reading season.

The (Pentecostal) Kids Are All Right

So the older brother told me his sister, who graduated from high school in May, decided to read Anna Karenina for the summer before she moved off to college. Turns out she liked a couple short stories she read in a lit class and saw AK on the library shelves, so she picked it up.

I checked with her to make sure it was true. Yep. All 900+ pages by a teenager who is heavily involved in her local church just because.

I told her I'd been given opportunities to share Christ because of doors opened by sharing a love for books. She nodded. I also told her to read at least 10 pages a day or she'd lose track of everything going on in this classic. She laughed. It's a wonderful, lively masterpiece that you must put on your bucket list if you haven't read it yet.

In the meantime, don't fret about all the Pentecostal teenagers who don't seem serious enough to handle today's world. There are always those who choose the narrow road, they just might not be getting noticed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Yorker Summer Fiction Issue ...

...is on newstands now. Or check out their web site at the many big names who are writing in this issue. I'm not sure this issue is all that daring (I haven't read it yet), but it's always worth examining to see what many feel like is the finest publisher of short fiction in the Western world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Appendix A: You Can Read What You Like

Some of us still don't have a summer reading list finalized because we're scrambling to keep up with an estimated 3000 pages of assigned reading in a class on church history at UGST.

But whatever else we can't squeeze into our reading schedule, let's make time for J. Mark Bertrand's essay, "I Know What You Read Last Summer." He writes: "As much as I agonize over summer reading, you can't get it wrong. High-brow or low-brow, genre or literary, timeless or trendy, you can read what you like."

It's a good thing I like church history.

Photo: The C.S. collection at Covenant Theological Seminary, Saint Louis

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mind Games

Is it just happening to me, or is there a voice narrating your life, too? In the film Stranger than Fiction, the protagonist is an obsessive guy who has followed the same routine every day of his life. One morning, though, he is standing before the mirror and hears a voice describing the way he brushes his teeth. Soon he realizes that the narrator isn't just describing his actions; she is actually plotting them, and she seems to have a vendetta against his life.*

My narrator isn't so deranged. I'll give you an example of the kind of stuff she writes about me:
It was Sunday evening, night really, and she was home from church. The clock on the wall behind her was ticking persistently as she sat at the kitchen table typing on the black Dell. The strains of easy listening instrumental music were playing on Pandora. If only she'd written this blog post earlier, she thought.
Ms. Narrator's voice is pleasant enough, her tones lending a seeming significance to the mundane.

But it suddenly struck me a few nights ago that this voice lending significance to each and every action is only one of the voices vying for a place in my mind. There is definitely another voice, belonging to a deep-sounding, worldly-wise man. Think: Screwtape.
You really think you matter? That you can make a difference? The world is a big place, and you are just one out of billions. Who's to say you have a better life than any one else? Is there really such a thing as truth?
The skepticism of Narrator II is intimidating. The questions he asks seem as vast as the universe. (He calls it a "multiverse.") You hear him, too?

But Ms. Narrator's endless chatter strikes me as naive. Yes, my life and actions matter, but perhaps not to the extent she imagines.

I've come to believe that somewhere between his skepticism and her idealism lies the reality of it. There is yet another Voice narrating, a still, small voice. And I'm so often wont to tune It out because I like to play this game with Ms. Narrator and Narrator II. Yet the Voice is speaking all along, overriding others' narrations, to imbue my each experience and very existence with meaning.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).

*Disclaimer: Illustration from film not to be considered an endorsement.