Tag Archives: Literature

Review: Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South

Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted SouthFlannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South by Ralph C. Wood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoroughly enjoyable book. Professor Ralph Wood does a tremendous job of describing the world we live in–specifically the South–theologically, politically, and philosophically using the writings and letters of Flannery O’Connor as well as a number of her contemporaries, such as Andrew Lytle, and a variety of theologians, such as Karl Barth.

The book is a bit academic; you probably aren’t going to read this at the poolside with kids jumping and running and swimming all around you–especially if you are responsible for their safety! Yet, it is still a worthy read.

Professor Wood goes through a number of O’Connor’s stories, novels, and characters to reveal how we can understand the South and our own world through them. He brings great insight to them by comparing them to life and revealing O’Connor’s own understanding of them as expressed in her letters. Thankful to have been made aware of this book and have the opportunity to read it.

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Review: The Violent Bear it Away

The Violent Bear it AwayThe Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, first let me say I will not make the mistake of rating Flannery O’Connor four stars again. She is a five star worthy author, that much is clear. From both the quality of her writing and also the amount of kickback I received when I rated her book, Wise Blood, only four stars!

Flannery O’Connor is an extraordinary writer. She is one of the few people who can write a story in which all of the characters can be disliked and yet still tell a story worth reading. This book is about a young boy who is kidnapped by his great uncle, who believes himself to be a prophet, so that he can baptize and raise the boy as the prophet who will continue his own work. The boy struggles with whether to recognize he has been called to be a prophet and to obey the call, or to accept that his great uncle was a nutter and get on with his life. He has only the memory of his great uncle to convince him of the former (and any signs from God), but has the impact of his conscience and his uncle pushing him toward the latter.

O’Connor’s stories (at least the few with which I am familiar) tend to not have happy or even resolved endings. If they do, the resolution is quite subtle. I think this is her way of reminding us that we are waiting for the ultimate and total rule of heaven to break into our world, and until it does, life will be dissatisfying–at least insofar as getting answers and justice.

I think this is one of the books that will probably have to be read two or three times. I think there are foreshadowings earlier in the story that I missed, but that I would catch on a second reading. Any Flannery O’Connor–this book or any other–is worth the read.

As one Presbyterian pastor friend of mine once said, “If I converted to Catholicism, it would be because of their literature–not their doctrine.”

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Should Christians Read Pagan Literature?

Classical Conversations’ Writers Circle recently published an article of mine, “The Benefit of the Classics for Youth.” It is a re-write of St. Basil’s famous work, “Address To Young Men On How They Might Derive Benefit From Greek Literature.” In which, I take his basic arguments and represent them in modern vernacular and with modern analogies.

Here’s an excerpt, you can read the rest at the link above.

Our youth need to hone their powers of discernment, and they can practice on the classics as part of maturing themselves in readiness for the solid food of Scripture. It is from the classics, even from the pagan texts among them, that our youth will learn to discern the difference between that which is good and virtuous and that which is injurious. They will attend to the former, and like the young child wanting to ignore his annoying brother, they will plug their ears and yell, “Blah, blah, blah, blah!” to the latter.

Five Reasons to Study The Classics by Saint Basil

Saint Basil wrote an “Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature.” In it he answers the question, “What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?” He defends the right use of Greek literature, which is included in the body of works we might refer to as The Classics. Seventeen hundred years later, Christians are still asking the same question, are still struggling with the same answers.

A brief overview of some of his points:

1. The young cannot have a the understanding and appreciation for the deep thought of Scripture because of their immaturity. They study Greek literature to exercise their spiritual faculties with that which is a mirror to truth.

2. The young exercise their powers of discernment by learning to discriminate between the helpful and injurious in Greek literature.

3. The young need virtue and can only be helped by studying those passages in which virtue is praised; there is much of this in Greek literature.

4. In Greek literature, virtue is praised not just in words, but in the deeds of those who exemplify virtue. The young should study those deeds which line up with the words of Scripture.

5. The young, in studying Greek literature, store up a knowledge of the ideal which can and will be later matured by the study of Scripture.

Saint Basil, himself immersed in Greek literature, offers the youth of his day these words for their own maturation and growth. How wise are they still for the youth of our day?

Review: Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age

Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age
Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age by Gregory Wolfe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over the summer, I was sitting in a hotel lobby reading [b:Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child|9636237|Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child|Anthony Esolen|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51vxC4GMUjL._SL75_.jpg|14523604] while waiting for the opening ceremonies of a conference on classical education. A young man approached me and commented how much he liked that book. I told him that it might be my favorite book of 2011 once I finished it. He responded that it could be, but wondered if I had read Beauty Will Save the World–his favorite book of 2011. I hadn’t.

Now I have. I think it would be fair to distinguish something about these two books before I say which is my favorite.

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Review: The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

The Man Who Was Thursday: A NightmareThe Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun book and a confusing book, all at the same time.

Chesterton was his classic self. The book is about a detective who is investigating anarchists and through odd circumstances gets himself elected to the highest council of anarchists. However, in the process of doing so he swears an oath that prevents him from reporting the anarchists to the police. Trying to figure out how to stop the anarchists without breaking his oath becomes his goal.

The main character, Gabriel Syme, is a fun character. He is horrible at planning, but great at improvisation. Listening to him to try to plan something is laughable, while watching him act improvisationally is impressive.

Chesterton’s commentary on society, the police, and anarchy are thought-provoking, as his commentaries usually are. His descriptions of scenery and people throughout the book are exciting. This is not because his descriptions are especially vivid, but because the analogies and metaphors he uses instead create the picture he intends in your mind better than adjectives ever would have.

The end of the book is where it begets confusion, however. Chesterton turns what has hitherto been a fun detective story into a spiritual allegory that I just cannot follow. I’ve even asked lit junkies about it and they don’t seem to understand it either. But, maybe, just maybe, I haven’t asked the right people. I’m sure there is an article somewhere on the internet that has it all figured out, but I sure don’t.

It is still a fun book though, and I hope the knowledge that it has a confusing ending doesn’t keep folks from reading it.

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