Brandywine Books
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Hallmark has a women's magazine
Hallmark has published it’s own women’s magazine and quietly released it to hundreds of stores. It will focus on relationships, according to the editor’s letter in the first issue. “It's about seizing the day. Celebrating the moment. Expressing your feelings.” All while maintaining your priorities.

They may have a market for this gentle material among the women who buy most of Christian fiction; but when compared to the headlines on the covers of prominently displayed women’s magazines in the grocery store, their focus may be a refreshing alternative. June’s Elle magazine is their sex and body issue. Cosmopolitan has researched “99 Sexy Ways to Touch Him.” InStyle has the latest “Summer Chic,” which appears to be belt-low neckline from the cover photo. Redbook recommends some sexy movies along with advice on looking younger. And what did Hallmark offer again? Something about a mothers being like daughters?

Online Book Donation through the Earth's Largest Bookstore
The Oakland Public Library has made an Amazon wish list in order to acquire needed books without overspending their very tight budget. Over 300 other libraries have followed suit, though they are not all stuck with a governor who proposes cutting a $31M budget back to $1M, according to the AP report. itself made news by releasing new web services aimed at helping its affiliates list and sell their books on their websites. “One added feature in the new release is syndication technology allowing Web site maintainers to embed's shopping cart technology into their own sites.”

Before You Ask, Let Me Apologize
This week, I discovered a bookstore named Brandywine Books in Orlando, FL. I suppose I was naïve enough to think that Brandywine was a Tolkien creation and few people would use it as a name. Little did I know . . . For the record, this blog has nothing to do with Brandywine Books in Orlando or anywhere else. Not Brandywine, PA.
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Regarding yesterday's article on book reviewing, let me add this cliche. Critics talk about how it should be done, but can't do it themselves. I know, the real cliche is more colorful than that; but that's the gist of it, and it rings true to me. I understand how professional readers can add substantially to a writing discussion; but if the critic cannot compose a story at the level by which he judges others, he ought to critique with humility. If readers cannot write creatively themselves, they ought to expose the flaws in a writer's work with grace and humbleness. Maybe that's just a general appeal for virtue, which you won't find so described in this book.
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Reading Literature for Life and Freedom
The Atlantic has published a great interview this month called, "The Fiction of Life: Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, on the dangers of using religion as an ideology, and the freedoms that literature can bring." It's about how the Western Canon of literature educated and provided emotional release for many Islamic women in Tehran. I was drawn to it by part of the subtitle, “the dangers of using religion as an ideology.” As I understand the words of that phrase, I could reword it like this, the dangers of using a system of beliefs about God as a system of beliefs about life. Now shouldn’t our religion form the basis of our ideology, if they aren’t essentially the same? Conversely, if our beliefs about God have nothing to do with our beliefs about life, then as St. James said, how can we prove that we really hold those beliefs about God?

The article clarifies that it means the Iranian government’s way of shunning opposing ideas and demanding outward conformity. What Author Nafisi describes as ideology is a set of Islamistic political rules which aren’t open for debate, rules which are based in Islam or worded in religious language, but are not the natural outworking of the faith. That government is tyranny wrapped in the Islamic language. As such, her comments on freedom and the life-giving qualities of fiction apply to any tyrannical society, those cloaked in religious language and those opposed to it. (But then, even secular tyrannies define themselves in religious terms. God is not non-existent; the state has taken his place.) Nafisi praises the freedom of ideas, saying that Western literature, such as Austin and Nabokov, exposes readers under oppression to inconceivable stories of freedom and hope.

Turning Freetime into Books
(first seen on The Boston Globe reported on Massachusetts resident Francis McInerney who is’s #7 reviewer. He began writing reviews a few years ago in his free time and has become influential among some editors. At least, I assume he has some influence with those editors who send him advance reader copies and galleys.

Quoted in the article, Elizabeth Taylor, literary editor of the Chicago Tribune, said, ''I tell reviewers that a review should be a letter to a very smart friend. It should be rigorous, intellectually enterprising, artfully written, persuasive, and the reviewer should be clear about any conflicts and about point of view.'' That reminded me of something George Grant said about the books he reviews. He said that after he had read a few chapters, he could usually tell whether the whole book would be worthwhile and if it was, he usually praised its merits. If it wasn’t, he stopped reading. That’s why, he said, most of his reviews were positive. He didn’t want to waste his time or his readers’ by reading and reviewing an avoidable book. World Magazine Editor Marvin Olasky made a similar comment regarding the books he reads while on his treadmill.

That’s as it should be, isn’t it? What purpose is served by negative reviews in general? Steve Almond, who had a short story collection published in 2002, wrote an article on the pain of negative reviews in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (also seen first on It supports my notion that book reviews in general ought to be positive. The existence of the review draws attention to the book being review, and some believe that no publicity is bad; so why do some books warrant a special warning for the hapless reader? I think I understand negative reviews of bestsellers. Books on the Top 10 lists attract attention, and if a particularly bad book makes it there, professional reviewers may feel obligated to warn their trusted readership against it, as does David Prather of the Huntsville Times in his review of the best-selling “The Da Vinci Code.” He wrote, “How much dreadful writing can [readers] accept to follow an interesting plot?” But of course, a bestseller must have something going for it or it wouldn’t be a bestseller—or maybe, it wouldn’t be a bestseller for weeks on end. But for those books which receive a lot of hype, like Mrs. Clinton’s upcoming, deserve honest reviews from a professional.

A Life Worthy of Review
Speaking of reviews, here is one from the Mobile Register on a biography of the great Southern writer Peter Taylor. Reviewer Thomas Uskali summaries the book by Hubert McAlexander by writing, “McAlexander covers every year of Taylor's life, but in a manner that bogs down in details gleaned from interviews, letters and other research. Taylor himself told McAlexander that he didn't consider his own life worthy of a biography, and while it is absolutely certain that Taylor's life warrants one, it is also clear that there is much richness that gets overlooked in the barrage of minutiae.”
Monday, May 19, 2003
Though I intend to update this blog on a weekly basis, I will occasionally throw out a simple thought. This is for the King James Version only crowd, who probably won't be reading this space. "For my generation I must have the oracles of God in fresh terms." -- Jim Elliot (1927-1956)

This quote comes from a simple, encouraging service available at called Christian Quote of the Day.

Want a meatier quote? Here's the one emailed on May 1. "We should be very sure that the ruined soul is not one who has missed a few more or less important theological points and will flunk a theological examination at the end of life. Hell is not an 'oops!' or a slip. One does not miss heaven by a hair, but by constant effort to avoid and escape God. 'Outer darkness' is for one who, everything said, wants it, whose entire orientation has slowly and firmly set itself against God and therefore against how the universe actually is. It is for those who are disastrously in error about their own life and their place before God and man. The ruined soul must be willing to hear of and recognize its own ruin before it can find how to enter a different path, the path of eternal life that naturally leads into spiritual formation in Christlikeness." -- Dallas Willard (1935- ), The Renovation of the Heart
Do critics of Bill Bennett miss the point?
Joel Belz of World Magazine writes in the May 17 issue that both critics and defenders of Moralist William Bennett miss the point. He says the point of Bennett’s disgrace is that the message transcends the man. Truth is applicable to everyone, no matter who reports it; The message transcends the man. So, to the critics, Bennett has not disgraced virtue itself; he will simply be less credible. To the defenders, Bennett has indeed brought shame on himself and all who ally with him, because his gambling was not a petty thing. Not with that kind of money.

Book Burning and Ray Bradbury’s writing habits
The blog by David Mills of Touchstone magazine is wonderful reading. Earlier this week, he linked to the Wall Street Journal’s article on Bradbury and his 50-year-old book, Fahrenheit 451, Mills' comments on Bradbury and writing are an interesting addition to the Journal article. Also notice the announcement which follows this entry on A Hidden Presence: The Catholic Imagination of J. R. R. Tolkien. (To read these entries, you will have to scroll down passed the Wednesday, May 14 header. Sorry, no bookmarks.)

Climb that mountain? Are you crazy?
In a review of three Mt. Everest books, Australia’s The Age states an idea I’ve scratched my head over many times. “The modern media world is the amazing number of books that can be produced in the twinkling of an eye about any particular subject and for any anniversary.” That anniversary is May 29, 1953, when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay mounted Everest’s peak. If that piques your interest (Look at that! Two puns in a row), reviewer Simon Caterson writes, “These three sumptuously illustrated books contain all the information that any general reader could possibly absorb on the subject of the mountain and the history of attempts to climb it.”

Southern Bookstore of Interest: Booked Up
From Chicago, Reporter Dean Schott brings us this feature on a small Texas town with a large book selling operation. “Five bookstores [named Booked Up] occupy space near the century-old stone courthouse,” all of them owned by Larry McMurtry, author of Pulitzer-prize winning Lonesome Dove. The stores occupy a single city block and named numbers 1-4 with the 5th housing an independant press.
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