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: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. 124 pp) John Piper is a Christian preacher, author, and theologian. He is currently preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His works include Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, The Passion of Jesus Christ, and Don’t Waste Your Life. The Problem of Jesus Christ John Piper manages to accurately summarize the problem of Jesus Christ: humans, no matter their religious affiliation, try to make Jesus fit into a pre-conceived mold they have set for Him. Perhaps it’s better to just let Him be who He is, both immensely loving and surprisingly offensive. Piper states, “There is no more important issue in life than seeing Jesus for… 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 →

Book Review: The Orphan Master’s Son

The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel of North Korea by Adam Johnson (Random House, 2012. 443 pp) Adam Johnson is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and teaches at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, Harper’s, and The Paris Review. He is the author of Emporium, a short story collection, as well as the novel Parasites Like Us, which won the California Book Award. An “Everyday” Story I’ve taught several international students from North Korea. I especially remember one, as he has an amazing story regarding how he came to the United States. He was imprisoned, along with his father, in North Korea. He was beaten over the head repeatedly during his incarceration, and as a result became brain damaged…. 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 →

Album Review: Scars & Stories

Scars & Stories by The Fray (Epic, 2012, 45 minutes) The Fray is an American rock band from Denver, Colorado. Schoolmates Isaac Slade and Joe King formed the band in 2002, and achieved success in 2005 with their debut album. As a band, they’ve remained at the top of the Billboard charts, and have been nominated for four Grammy awards. When a Musician Is no Longer a Musician I tried, I really did. I started listening to Scars & Stories hoping that something had changed, that some musical revelation had appeared. But, alas, it didn’t. I’m a big fan of what can be called “musicianship”, and The Fray falls short of this concept with Scars & Stories. Simply put, there’s… Read More →

Book Review: Zone One

Zone One: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (New York: Doubleday, 2011. 272 pp) Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 and raised in Manhattan. He attended Harvard College and afterward he began working as a reviewer for The Village Voice. Out of the gate, Whitehead’s fiction gained acclaim when his first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. His work has earned him the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Also, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Knives and Reason Aristotle, when expanding on his defense of virtue ethics, contends that humans act ethically when… Read More →

Book Review: The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend

The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend by Thomas Malory; adapted by Peter Ackroyd (New York: Viking Adult, 2011. 336 pp) Peter Ackroyd, CBE, is a British biographer and novelist. His biographies include those of Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and Sir Thomas Moore. Sir Thomas Malory (1405-1471) was an English writer and poet, and compiler of Le Morte d’Arthur. In Praise of Honor and Valor (Or Honour and Valour) Always a fan of the legend of King Arthur and his knights, I’ve found enjoyment in the chivalry and altogether fascinating exploits within the collective. It’s an unforgettable story of love, adventure, treachery, and magical escapades. The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend is an attempt by Peter Ackroyd… Read More →

Book Review: Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century

Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century: The Classic That Woke Up the Church by Walter Rauschenbusch; edited by Paul Raushenbush (New York: HarperOne, 2008. 400 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.” Paul Raushenbush, great-grandson of Walter Rauschenbusch, was associate dean or religious life and the chapel at Princeton University and current religion editor at the Huffington Post. He has served as an associate minister at the Riverside Church in New York City and… Read More →

Book Review: Wild Thing

Wild Thing: A Novel by Josh Bazell (Little, Brown, and Company, 2012. 388 pp) Josh Bazell has a B.A. in writing from Brown University and an M.D. from Colombia University. His first book is an international bestseller entitled Beat the Reaper, which has been published in thirty-two languages, and was one of Time’s ten best novels of 2009. Hit-man Turned Doctor/Investigator  In 2009, author Josh Bazell introduced the world to Pietro Brnwa/Peter Brown/Dr. Lionel Azimuth, a mafia hit-man/doctor/bodyguard in his widely acclaimed novel, Beat the Reaper. When I opened it, I don’t know what I expected, but definitely not what I picked up. It was a thriller, with some amazing commentary and comedy interlaced within. So I picked up Wild… Read More →