Book Review: The Shipping News

The Shipping News: A Novel by Annie Proulx (New York: Scribner, 1993. 352 pp) Born in Norwich, Connecticut, Annie Proulx earned her B.A. at the University of Vermont and her M.A. from Concordia University. While working as a journalist, Proulx published works of fiction in various magazines before publishing her first novel, Postcards, in 1992, winning her the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Of her many awards, she notably won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for The Shipping News and she adapted her short-story, Brokeback Mountain, into an award-winning feature film. She currently resides in Wyoming. The Dinner Table  There’s something pristine about a populated dinner table. The scent of freshly prepared food. The peace of… Read More →

Film Review: Hugo

Hugo directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount Pictures, GK Films, Infinitum Nihil, PG, 126 minutes) Starring Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloё Grace Moretz, and Emily Mortimer. We Always Need More Drinking Games When the cast of Bridesmaids introduced a category at this year’s Golden Globes, they ushered in a new era of award ceremony watching. Humorously, the cast suggested a “Martin Scorsese Drinking Game”, in which one takes a shot every time someone mentions Scorsese during an award ceremony telecast. The inherent joke in this game revolves around the notion that Martin Scorsese seemingly has his hand in every part of the movie business; by default, anything Scorsese touches garners critical acclaim. A Boy Named Hugo Case in… Read More →

Book Review: Agenda for Biblical People

Agenda for Biblical People: A New Focus for Developing a Life-Style of Discipleship by Jim Wallis (New York: Harper & Row, 1976. 126 pp) Jim Wallis is a bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. He serves as the chair of the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum. President and CEO of Sojourners, Wallis contributes columns in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. He teaches a course at Georgetown University and lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Joy Carroll. The Sins of Prosperity  In the wake of victory in World War II, the United States encountered unprecedented prosperity. Of course, the… Read More →

Book Review: The Lifespan of a Fact

The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 128 pp John D’Agata is the author of About a Mountain and Halls of Fame, and editor of The Next American Essay and The Lost Origins of the Essay. He teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where he lives. Jim Fingal worked for several years as a fact-checker at The Believer and McSweeney’s, where he worked on the titles What Is the What, Surviving Justice, Voices from the Storm, and others. He currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he designs software. Evaluating Truth Recently, I engaged in an existential debate regarding the meaning of book evaluation. My… Read More →

Book Review: The Snow Child

The Snow Child: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey (New York: Reagan Arthur Books, 2012. 400 pp) Named after a character in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Eowyn Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Educated at Western Washington University and the University of Alaska, Anchorage, Ivey began her career as a reporter for the Frontiersman. Her award-winning articles have been published in the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Magazine, and other publications. Currently, Ivey works at Fireside Books, an independent bookstore. The Snow Child is Ivey’s debut novel. The Space between Reality and Fantasy  One of my favorite movies of all time, Pan’s Labyrinth earned critical acclaim and an Academy Award for… Read More →

Book Review: Acres of Diamonds

Acres of Diamonds: All Good Things Are Possible, Right Where You Are, and Now! By Russell H. Conwell and Robert Shackleton (Lexington: Feather Trail Press, 2009; originally published in 1915. 92 pp) Born in Massachusetts, Russell Conwell attended Yale University and Albany Law School. Conwell founded Temple University and pastored The Baptist Temple in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An Inspiring Story  For some reason, the simplicity of the standard “success story” conjures the hopeful sentiment that such accomplishments could occur in any life. Truthfully, most successful stories begin with an idea, a notion of which all human beings are equally capable. In Acres of Diamonds, Russell Conwell utilizes positive and negative narratives in order to inspire productivity in his community. In Defense… Read More →

Television Show Review: Awake

 Awake created by Kyle Killen (Letter Eleven, Teakwood Lane Productions, 20th Century Fox Television. Airs Thursday night on NBC.) Starring Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, and Dylan Minnette. Cogito Ergo Sum  René Descartes seemingly graces the annals of history exclusively for the quote, “I think; therefore I am.” The sentence is an answer on a high school history quiz; it is chiseled in the foundations of university philosophy departments. Unhooked from its preceding line of reasoning on the pursuit of epistemological truth, the sentence sounds painfully obvious. By positing that thinking is his conclusive proof of his existence, Descartes asserts that all other sensory experience might be false. As such, the all-too-familiar notion of a realistic dream offers questions. If a… Read More →

Book Review: The Illumination

The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier (New York: Pantheon Books, 2011. 272 pp) Kevin Brockmeier is the author of The View from the Seventh Layer, The Brief History of the Dead, The Truth about Celia, Things That Fall from the Sky, and two children’s novels. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Oxford American, The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, and Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists, among other publications. He has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. Illustrate and Elevate While in high school, I learned a writing technique that remains a tried-and-true method for introducing an essay, lecture, or blog post. Coined “illustrate and elevate,” the procedure… Read More →

Book Review: A Theology for the Social Gospel

A Theology for the Social Gospel by Walter Rauschenbusch (Mansifeld Centre: Martino Publishing, 2011; originally published in 1918. 290 pp) Walter Rauschenbusch was the leading proponent of the Social Gospel Movement whose mission was to reform society to meet the social needs of the poor through the ministrations of the institutional church. PBS recently called him “one of the most influential American religious leaders of the last 100 years.” The Nature of Sin and Salvation  When attempting to manufacture a systematic theology, the nature of sin and salvation becomes integral components of the position. Slight changes in these core beliefs cause vast differences externally. Having previously labored toward the notion of “the social gospel,” Walter Rauschenbusch writes A Theology for… Read More →

Television Show Review: Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire: Season One created by Terence Winter (Home Box Office, Leverage Management, Closest to the Hole Productions) Starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, and Kelly Macdonald. In Praise of the Anti-Hero  Not to say that the anti-hero is a recent development in storytelling, but it seems like the last ten years have seen a rise in the flawed protagonist. Whether Dexter Morgan in Dexter, Walter White in Breaking Bad, or Don Draper in Mad Men, many current shows extol depravity and require the viewer to root for the “bad guy”. Boardwalk Empire’s Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is another character to add to this list. Boardwalk Empire: Season One tells the tale of prohibition-era Atlantic City and the politician who… Read More →