Book Review: Institutional Intelligence

Institutional Intelligence

Institutional Intelligence: How to Build an Effective Organization by Gordon T. Smith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017. 224 pp) Gordon T. Smith is the president of Ambrose University and Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, where he also serves as professor of systematic and spiritual theology. He is an ordained minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance and a teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the author of many books, including Courage and Calling, Called to Be Saints, Spiritual Direction, and The Voice of Jesus. Where Have You Gone, Institutional? As the 2017 roller coaster comes to a complete stop, a variety of circumstances fight for the label of a year’s defining moment. The world feels miles different… Read More →

Book Review: Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan (New York: Scribner, 2017. 448 pp) Jennifer Egan is the author of five previous books of fiction: A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Keep; the story collection Emerald City; Look at Me, a National Book Award finalist; and The Invisible Circus. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Granta, McSweeney’s, and The New York Times Magazine. A Crisp Morning in the San Juans Life’s verification exists in the vignettes we embed in our unconsciousness. Our senses capture the material world and etch these memories into our brains like a Dürer woodcut. Of the many etchings catalogued in… Read More →

Book Review: Fresh Complaint

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

Fresh Complaint: Stories by Jeffrey Eugenides (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 304 pp) Born in Detroit, Michigan on March 8, 1960, Jeffrey Eugenides is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer. As an undergraduate, he attended Brown University and later earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University. Eugenides received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Fellowship for a short story he wrote in 1986. In 2002, his novel, Middlesex, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Ambassador Book Award. Eugenides works on faculty at Princeton University’s Program in Creative writing and lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. The Knot in Your Stomach A signal of life, outside of biological factors such… Read More →

Book Review: Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus: 1818 Text by Mary Shelley, edited by Marilyn Butler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008; originally published in 1818. 276 pp) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in 1797 to authors William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Poet Bysshe Shelly courted Mary and the pair eloped in 1814, during which that summer Mary began writing Frankenstein. She died in 1851. Marilyn Butler is a former Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, and previously King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University. Questions in the Western Cultural Canon The western cultural canon offers an intriguing case study on how the roots of a story take hold before blending into whatever a culture requires of it. What starts as… Read More →

Book Review: Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong.

Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017. 208 pp) Rachel Khong grew up in Southern California and holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Florida. From 2011 to 2016, she was the managing editor then executive editor of Lucky Peach magazine. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, Joyland, American Short Fiction, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, and California Sunday. She lives in San Francisco. The Bowl of Mixed Nuts It all started with a pill in the mixed nuts. For years, the one rule by which we lived centered on how my grandparents would bestow gastrologic riches upon visiting family. Good food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…. Read More →

Book Review: Pigeon English

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Pigeon English: A Novel by Stephen Kelman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 288 pp) Stephen Kelman was born in Luton in 1976. Pigeon English, his first novel, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Desmond Elliot Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. He lives in St. Albans. Existential Fears of Parenthood There’s a list of Oscar-nominated films piling up in the queue. The reasons are many. We work; we try to make dinner; scarcely a minute passes without the air molecules punctured from another exhort: “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Look at me!” Down the list of reasons for which we tend not to watch movies exists a fear. Put differently, many films place children in perilous circumstances. While such… Read More →

Book Review: Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Frog Music: A Novel by Emma Donoghue (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. 410 pp) Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland to Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended University College Dublin earning first-class honors in English and French. Later, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. In addition to Room, she has written the Sealed Letter, Landing, Touchy Subjects, Life Mask, the Woman who Gave Birth to Rabbits, Slammerkin, Kissing the Witch, Hood, and Stirfry. Donoghue lives in Ontario, Canada with her family. Describing History The preservation of history requires detail. Historians often wax poetically around the systems and institutions of history. The historian asks big questions, such as, what socioeconomic issues constitute causes for the… Read More →

Book Review: Tenth of December

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders (New York: Random House, 2013. 288 pp) MacArthur “Genuis Grant” fellow George Saunders is the acclaimed author of several collections of short stories, including Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, a collection of essays, a book for children, and a new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University. From Long-Form Narrative to Short Story Over the years, my previously devoted followers—”the devoted few,” might have noticed a trend to my reviewing habits. My reading consumption skews toward the novel. I review a book of poetry here and there, but largely my mental capacity focuses on long-form narrative. Certainly, elements of this focus coincide with my… Read More →

Book Review: High Dive

High Dive: A Novel by Jonathan Lee (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 336 pp) Jonathan Lee is a British writer whose recent fiction has appeared in Tin House, Granta, and Narrative, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the United States. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is an editor at the literary journal A Public Space and a contributing editor for Guernica. Tick Tick Tick The ticking time bomb represents a compelling metaphor. If a story opens the door to a timed explosive, the resulting narratives and character development exist in half-life. How much does it really matter when everything explodes? Some stories establish the time bomb narrative in subtle ways. A… Read More →

Book Review: The Meaning of Jesus

The Meaning of Jesus

The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright (New York: Harper One, 1999. 306 pp) Marcus Borg was a New Testament scholar, theologian, and author. Borg was a fellow of the Jesus Seminar and a major figure in historical Jesus scholarship. Borg attended Concordia College as an undergraduate. He studied at Union Seminary before matriculating at Mansfield College, Oxford, earning an M.Th. and D.Phil. He retired as Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and died in 2015. N.T. Wright is a leading New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired bishop. He earned his B.A. from Exeter College and his D.D. from University of Oxford. After retiring as the Bishop of… Read More →