Brandywine Books
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Upcoming: God of the Fairy Tale
Shaw Books, an imprint of Waterbrook Press which is a division of Random House, has quietly announced the upcoming release God of the Fairy Tale from Jim Ware, coauthor of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings. Ware is a writer, folklorist, and Celtic musician, which are just credentials I wish I had. The book reports to be an examination of twenty fairy tales, retelling them and highlighting their themes. It's the type of thing I would hope any reader could do with their children, but Ware will undoubtedly bring significant insight into the literary analysis. This work probably echoes Tolkien's opinion that myth is not an untrue story, but story which delivers essential, though maybe not factual, truth. The Gospel can be considered a myth, a beautiful story, but one that is true in almost everyway its told. (Should you wonder why I say "almost," I think that Philippians 2 describes the emptying of Jesus which the best of us cannot fully understand and may even interpret incorrectly.) God of the Fairy Tale is due to be on the shelf of your favorite bookseller October 21, 2003.

Speaking of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings . . .
I posted a brief essay on some months ago on the Christian ideas in Tolkien's great work. I plan to copy it to this site, but here is a taste of it now.
I believe that a fundamental reason J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has sold well for fifty years is the story’s Christian roots. Tolkien, voted the century’s best author by British readers in several polls, gives us a solid, profoundly deep, and moral world in this fantasy epic. Scholar Ralph Wood says his students have told him that they feel clean after reading The Lord of the Rings. That isn’t simply because the story lacks sexually immoral references or descriptions (no lewd jokes in the bars and no lusty descriptions). It’s because the goals of the heroes, the character of the times, the whole scope of this wonderful epic is essentially good. I hope you’ll see that in what follows. (More on

Friday, July 25, 2003
Limbaugh praises Gibson's "The Passion"
Mel Gibson has been producing a film adaptation of the final days of the Lord Jesus Christ, called "The Passion." He wanted to visually depict the greatest moment in history more powerfully and accurately than anyone has ever attempted. That’s the reason behind the language barrier. No English is spoken in the film; only Aramaic and Latin. Gibson resisted adding subtitles, but I believe he plans to use them. A trailer for “The Passion” with stills and production photos can be seen on, a movie review site. It can also be downloaded from, if you can find it.

I don’t doubt that movie reviewers will have difficulty writing or talking about this film, and though Rush Limbaugh isn’t a movie critic, he also had difficulty relating his reaction. This afternoon on his national radio broadcast, Limbaugh said that Mel Gibson had screened the currently unfinished film for him yesterday evening, July 24. Limbaugh stumbled trying to describe it and his feelings, finally saying, “It hit me down deep.”

“I was tense during the whole thing and for three or four minutes after it finished, I didn’t move,” Limbaugh said.

Not being a “highly trained broadcast specialist” like Limbaugh, I have only seen the downloaded trailer, but being a student of the Bible, I think the trailer demonstrates profound respect for its material. After showing Jesus’ gruesome death and his followers’ grief, the trailer ends with him stomping a snake’s head. The symbolism is beautiful!

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

Thursday, July 24, 2003
George Grant Blogs on Pilgrim's Progress
In his blog today, Dr. George Grant writes on Paul Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress. He briefly describes the circumstances in which Bunyan wrote, and generalizes on the book's theme and styles. He writes:
For nearly a decade, Bunyan had served as an unordained itinerant preacher and had frequently taken part in highly visible theological controversies. It was natural that the new governmental restrictions would focus on him. Thus, he was arrested for preaching to "unlawful assemblies and conventicles.

The judges who were assigned to his case were all ex-royalists, most of whom had suffered fines, sequestrations, and even imprisonments during the Interregnum. They threatened and cajoled Bunyan, but he was unshakable. Finally, in frustration, they told him they would not release him from custody until he was willing to foreswear his illegal preaching. And so, he was sent to the county gaol where he spent twelve long years--recalcitrant to the end.
The perminant link may be here.

My favorite part of this book is in the Interpreter's House. I don't remember which picture impressed me most at the time I read it, but this one is a good one and illustrates the Interpreter's House section.

Then I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that. So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart: by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire, that is to teach thee that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul. [source]

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Byatt Shouts “Potter Has Little Real Magic” into the Wind
British Author A.S. Byatt, described as the potential “patron saint of bookworms” by, expressed her dislike of Harry Potter 5 in a New York Times book review (excerpt) by saying it was unimaginative and substandard when compared to other children’s classics. Many disagreed. From The Scotsman, “Lindsey Fraser, a literary agent, said of the attack: ‘I was at the Albert Hall with 4,000 kids when the new novel was launched. The kids were so excited, but when JK Rowling came out and read an extract, you could have heard a pin drop. Very few writers have that. I doubt very much that A.S. Byatt would have that effect.’” Ouch.

Do Big Books Mean Lots of Great Writing?
In October 2002, Sarah Crompton wrote an interesting article for London’s Daily Telegraph on whether fat books had twice as much good writing as slim books. She complains, “Their immense heft makes me uneasy, and I find myself asking where has all the 300-page fiction gone? Where is today's book of the length of classics such as The Heart of the Matter, Brideshead Revisited, To Kill a Mockingbird? The answer is, they are increasingly hard to find.” She says editor are reluctant to trim words, even for improved story-telling, which may explain the bulk and comparative sloppiness of Tom Clancy’s most recent couple.

Wordiness and digression were also the complaints given by reviewer Andy Crouch of the 2002 Christy Award winner for contemporary literature, A Garden to Keep, by Jamie Langston Turner. “It is considerably too long, with digressions worthy of Herodotus on matters both personal and literary,” he writes. “But this is a story that keeps its promises. . . . Turner executes a linguistic pirouette with such finesse that I was reluctant even to turn the page for fear that the words might somehow disappear.”
I should probably recant my prediction that Mrs. Clinton’s memoirs wouldn’t sell. Living History has sold over a million at least and has 1.6 million in print. That’s huge, so I suppose either there’s something to her book or the marketing department needs a bonus. In related news, Mr. Clinton apparently has been offered $12M to write his memoirs. Maybe his book will sell as well as hers. There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.
Monday, July 21, 2003
"Milan Kundera once observed, 'The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.'" Taken from "The Token Man," Summer 1999 issue of The Women's Quarterly, discovered while reading "Mere Comments" from Touchstone Magazine
Friday, July 18, 2003
Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) Convention Is This Week
Mark Galli writes a summary of the CBA Convention in Orlando, FL for Christianity Today, July 15. Sadly, it contains no mention of actual books. Marvelling at a poster, Galli exclaims, "The gray background, it turned out, was the text of the Bible. The entire Bible, printed so small that it can be read only with a magnifier—and even then it's pretty darn small!" In related yet still non-literary news, Big Idea, creators of VeggieTales animations, are talking to investors about selling the company in order to recover from financial trouble. It apparantly won't slow down the release of several new animations this year and next.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
USA Today Picks #1 Bestseller as Book of the Month
Forgive me for being cynical, but what's the point of picking a book that's selling so well there are 9 million in print a few weeks after its release? Surely USA Today book editors thought everyone would be reading it or recommending it. Did they think it didn't matter? Or did they pick it because it was so popular? "Everyone will be reading it, so let's get them reading it with us."

What's the point of bestseller lists anyway? News or peer influence? How many bestsellers are sold because readers said, "It must be good if everyone else likes it." That's part of the idea behind this Guardian article by Tim Adams. "The first British bestseller list appeared in the Sunday Times in 1974. Rumour has it that the original lists were at least in part a confection on the part of major booksellers to promote books they had over-ordered, but the lists quickly became accurate and definitive. Their relationship with reviews was less easy to define. If critics try to measure quality, bestseller lists resolutely stick to quantity."
Possibly an Oprah BC Alternant Pick
Standing In The Rainbow by Fannie Flagg came out in paperback last month. My home town recently completed a campaign to encourage the whole city to read Flagg’s book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. In an attempt to help Oprah Book Club readers make it until the next recommendation, I am posting a few alternatives for consideration. (Seriously, I’m trying to help.) If you enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes and would enjoy a light-hearted southern story, look into Standing In the Rainbow. You can begin reading the excerpt at

Also at, an interview with Fannie Flagg in which she describes how she loves her characters, her experience with Tennessee Williams, and the symbolism of the city in her book. Of the real city, she says, “I've read big city reviews of books, movies, plays that use terms like ‘refreshingly meanspirited’ or ‘delightfully vicious’ as though they were accolades. Somehow, I don't think many people elsewhere consider these terms flattering or complimentary.”
New York Art Critic Terry Teachout has started blogging on the Arts Journal to the excitement of several in the blogosphere. He answers a few interesting questions about writing in this post from today at 12:14 a.m. Personally, I think this tidbit is great advice for anyone writing non-fiction. "Not to be cute, but I try to write pieces that are (A) cleanly written enough not to give my editors any unnecessary trouble and (B) personal enough that they sound like me talking. Beyond that, I leave it to the muse."
Sunday, July 13, 2003

Brandywine Books Wholeheartedly Endorses Mars Hill Audio

I want to wholeheartedly recommend the current issue of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, #62. You can view a table of contents here, and order the single issue on this site. On the first of two CDs, Craig Bernthal talks about judgment in Shakespeare, coming off his book, The Trial of Man: Christianity and Judgment in the World of Shakespeare. With host Ken Myers, he talks of natural law and government as seen in Shakespeare’s time and through his plays. Civil leaders “discovered” the moral law; they didn’t create it from their opinions, and a government which faulted on dispensing justice was doomed to failure. “If you wanted to have a healthy kingdom, a kingdom in which God’s laws were obeyed, justice had to be done and justice had to be seen. The fact and the perception all had to line up. The kingdom which wandered far off the path of real justice . . . was a kingdom in big trouble.”
“Violations of the natural law inherently lead to problems, disastrous results. Commentators talk about this in all different kinds of ways in our personal lives. If you’re a patron of any of the seven deadly sins, and I’m sure we all are patrons to some extent, you pay for it. Pride comes before the fall [for example] . . . The violation of natural law has certain obvious effects. One forces causes another force to come into play.”

This is a timely idea, because some of us are arguing that morality is cultural or subjective to mass opinion; so in regard to the Lawrence vs. Texas decision, what reason can be given to ban anything done among willing participants on private property? A natural law argument would be that certain acts are immoral regardless of the participants’ beliefs, and immorality corrodes a society. That kind of reasoning gives morality weight. Being moral is healthy for you and your community. If being moral merely helps you get along with your peer group, then the substance of those morals doesn't matter. Nothing is really moral or immoral; but that is ultimately unlivable. (For a short dialogue on natural law, click this)

Later in the Journal, Alissa Quart, author of Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers, talks about teenagers and marketing forces. She says that some 10-14 year olds are losing their childhood imaginations by having them directed on adult pressures. Stuffed animals and dolls are now offered to those 10 and younger. “Used to be 14 and under,” Quart says. “I actually think that manufacturers and businesses have helped participate in this ‘kids getting older younger.’ One can say there is an element of play in clothes, but I certainly remember that having dolls and stuffed animals as long as possible kind of allowed a relationship to imagination and things in the world that had less to do with appearances and how one was perceived by the outside world. There was an inside world that was allowed to thrive longer.” This cultivation of pure or innocent imagination is healthy and part of an individual’s wellspring out of which he can contribute creatively to his community throughout his life. Imagination is one of the focuses of Brandywine Books, so as well as news and comments on books, writing, and publishing, I plan to give you thoughts like these on imagination.

On the second CD of the Journal, Lilian Calles Barger, author of Eve’s Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body, discusses the problems both men and women have when their romantic imagination, or that which forms their ideas on beauty and desirability, have replaced verbal ideas with specific visual images. It’s one thing to describe several beautiful characteristics of a woman. It’s another to point at a photo of a beautiful woman. The former can encourage her; she’s never thought of herself in those words. The latter prompts a physical comparison, leaving out the most important part of anyone’s personal beauty, the spirit. (Even gorgeous people can become homely as soon as they speak from their heart.)

More interesting interviews are in this edition of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, so consider ordering it and a subscription.

In Other Pseudo-Literary News
An Austrailian news service reports, “A young albino humpback whale that has made mysterious appearances along the NSW coast for the past 10 years resurfaced again off Tweed Heads.” Could it be (que soundtrack) The Son of Moby Dick?

East Tennessee Literary Review
I recently discovered this online quarterly (or maybe e-zine), focusing on aspiring poets and authors in a beautiful section of the southern United States. It's one to watch.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
New Jersey Can’t Get Rid of the Poet, So They Get Rid of His Position
On July 2, New Jersey’s Governor and State Assembly repealed the office of poet laureate because they apparently couldn’t kick the office-holder out of it. According to this article, Amiri Baraka “in addition to insulting prominent African-Americans Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice, accused Israel of knowing that the World Trade Center was going to be attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and that somehow Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was involved in the scheming. Or, as he put it, ‘Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/To stay home that day/Why did Sharon stay away?’” One NJ congresswoman said that to oppose Baraka is not to favor censorship. “I’m not denying this ‘poet’ the right to speak on any street corner, if he so chooses, but he should not speak as a representative of the state of New Jersey.”

Commentator Alan Caruba praised New Jersey poets, but not Baraka. "Let the literary dilettantes proclaim him one of the leading figures of his time, but Baraka is just a third-rate talent who traded on being ... the quintessential "angry" black man. Politics makes for bad poetry."

Market News: Scholastic’s Announcement Disappoints
Scholastic, publishers of the Harry Potter series in the US, announced a lower than expected estimate on their fourth quarter annual earnings. The market had anticipated earnings of close to $2/share and must adjust to the projected $1.45 ballpark. Despite 8.5 million Harry Potter 5 books in print, other business ventures were not working as well as hoped.

Speaking of Rowling’s Potter, are the books fraught with Christian ideas? Take a look at this essay from Apologist John Granger on Rowling’s possible Christian influences. Should you be confused by this recommended reading, let me suggest this essay on magic by the admirable Alan Jacobs of Wheaton College, published in First Things, January 2000. From Jacobs’ essay:
J. K. Rowling . . . simply has that mysterious gift, so prized among storytellers and lovers of stories but so resistant to critical explication, of world–making. It is a gift that many Christian readers tend to associate with that familiar but rather amorphous group of English Christian writers, the Inklings—though the association is not quite proper, since only one of the Inklings, J. R. R. Tolkien, had this rare faculty, and few of the others even aspired to it. Tolkien, however, possessed the power in spades, and gave useful names to it as well: he spoke of the "secondary worlds" created by the writer, and of "mythopoeia" as the activity of such "sub–creation."

Review of Executive Influence: Impacting Your Workplace for Christ
I have the privilege to write book reviews for CBMC, Connecting Business Men to Christ. I recently published a review of Executive Influence, published in January 2003. “In this light, accessible book, Authors Crane and Hamel give us fifteen stories of unique Christian professionals who understand that their business practices can bear a stronger testimony to their faith than their words. Some of them formed their businesses with these convictions; others learned how to apply their faith in the middle of their careers. Each of them have zealously pursued serving God in business and community. Like Merrill Oster says, they now consider it "normal to serve God in every situation." More of the review . . .
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Larry Burkett, Home with the Lord at age 64
Author Larry Burkett died after a long illness yesterday, Friday, July 4, 2003. He has lead Crown Financial Ministries for many years and helped many Christians understand basic principles of stewardship. According to this tribute, he wrote more than 70 books, even a handful of Christian fiction novels and children’s instructional books. This Clarion Ledger article relates a few interesting anecdotes about his life and medical treatment by a doctor in Mississippi.
Friday, July 04, 2003

Summer Reading & Recommendations

The First Lady has a recommended reading list with the launch of her early reading initiative.
It’s geared toward children, both preparing them to read and keeping them interested in reading, but on the White House site, she has a short list of books for adults. Most notable to me are her two selections, Morrison’s Beloved, a impressive book on the spirit of slavery and the human heart, and Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, a wonderful story of the conflicting faiths of three brothers and choices they make based on their deep beliefs. Of course, she has had her critics, as is inevitable for a first lady.

In related news, Mrs. Cheney has also been seen reading. “Earlier this year, the vice president's wife Lynne Cheney created the James Madison Book Award to celebrate authors who write history books that appeal to kids.” The first recipient? Peter Busby’s First to Fly: How Wilbur & Orville Wright Invented the Airplane. “Cheney is underwriting the award through a charitable fund she established with $100,000 in proceeds from her children's book, America: A Patriotic Primer.”

East of Eden Outsells Clinton’s Memoirs
It’s amazing how Oprah’s fans respond to her recommendations. Is it simply faith in her choices? Are these readers reading on their own, more or less satisfied with their own choices? Do they feel as if they are stumbling in a darkened library, hoping their hands will grab a great story out of so many indistinguishable books? Or are they waiting for a trusted source, like Oprah, to tell them what to read? (For some answers, see "Has Oprah’s Book Club changed your life?")

Well, I’m sure hundreds of Oprah’s fans are not scanning Brandywine Books for periodic book news and literary commentary, but if there are a few Oprah Book Club members out there, let me suggest (over the next few days) a few books for you as a way to help you bridge the gap between Oprah’s recommendations. Really, if you are looking for a trusted source to push you in the right direction, you’re in good hands here. Did you enjoy East of Eden? Did you like Jewel, Oprah’s selection from January 1999? Then take a look at these great classics.

Recommended: Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. A moving story of an impure Catholic priest who is struggling with his sinful heart and his divine calling. He is hunted by a Mexican sheriff who hopes to stomp out what he sees as senseless faith among the people by killing all of their priests. I enjoy this novel for its style and final impact, because in the end, the Lord’s grace is all that matters or ever can matter. To read some comments on this from the author, click these blue words.

A few more recommendations will come, but you can always read this list in World Magazine, mentioned below.

A Man Will Profit, Body & Soul, from Reading a Great Book
Thomas Sowell has written an interested two-part column on Eric Hoffer. “If ever there was a walking advertisement for the Great Books approach to education, it was Eric Hoffer.” I like this quote particularly: "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business." More on reading Great Books here.

Have a happy, free, and safe Independence Day!

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