Brandywine Books
Sunday, February 27, 2005

From the People's Poet

Trust no future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, act in the living present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

from A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose birthday is on this day in 1807, as Sherry notes. My encyclopedia says, "He wrote some of the most popular poems in American literature, in which he created a new body of romantic American legends." Dana Gioia said it was Longfellow whom people quoted most to him when they learned he wrote poetry. They would walk into his office (he was a vice president of General Foods) and spout off a few lines of Hiawatha or Miles Standish.
Saturday, February 26, 2005

Better Than King Lear

When I wrote a review for The Inimitable Jeeves for Collected Misc., I found a 1999 article by actor Hugh Laurie, who played Bertie Wooster in the Grenada TV series based on Wodehouse's stories.
The first thing you should know, and probably the last, too, is that P. G. Wodehouse is still the funniest writer ever to have put words on paper. Fact number two: with the Jeeves stories, Wodehouse created the best of the best. I speak as one whose first love was Blandings, and who later took immense pleasure from Psmith, but Jeeves is the jewel, and anyone who tries to tell you different can be shown the door, the mini-cab, the train station, and Terminal 4 at Heathrow with a clear conscience. The world of Jeeves is complete and integral, every bit as structured, layered, ordered, complex and self-contained as King Lear, and considerably funnier.
I want to say that I have not laughed hard at anything than two stories in this book. I respect two men, whom I've met online, who tell me "Uncle Fred Flits By" is the funniest story in the English language, and I loved it; but was it funnier than Bertie's triumph over Aunt Agatha, a cosmos anomaly itself, or the riot of a children's Christmas play Bingo Little managed to produce?

Study Says You Won't Breathe Easier by Writing

In case you had heard that people with asthma could breathe easier by writing about their stress, a recent study say they can't. Reuters Health reports "writing doesn't help asthma." If you have asthma and want to try writing as a stress reliever, I say don't let this stop you. Creative expression in writing, painting, strumming, drawing, or photographing can be great for your soul and perhaps affect your health indirectly, scientific evidence aside. Include spiritual expression, such as praying, meditating on and reading the Scripture for enhanced results.


From Library Journal's Most Borrowed List
From USA Today's Bestseller List, The Top Seven
  1. Honeymoon, James Patterson, Howard Roughan
  2. Bob Greene’s Total Body Makeover, Bob Greene
  3. Juiced, Jose Canseco
  4. The Broker, John Grisham
  5. Your Best Life Now, Joel Osteen
  6. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
  7. Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
From Publishers Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List
  1. Honeymoon, James Patterson
  2. The Broker, John Grisham
  3. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (also #8 in the illustrated ed.)
  4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
  5. State of Fear, Michael Crichton
  6. The Forgotten Man, Robert Crais
  7. Survivor in Death, J.D. Robb
Thursday, February 24, 2005

Look! Up in the Sky! It's ... It's ... What is that?

Tonight, ABC aired a two-hour special in which Peter Jennings supposedly gives us the facts about UFOs. The Chicago Tribune reports that nothing in the show will be news to anyone familiar with UFO history. "More to the point, given all the pressing issues facing our world today and the shrinking budgets of many network news operations, the idea that ABC News and Jennings would devote two hours to this rather lightweight subject is the most mystifying thing about it."

Something closer to the truth can be obtained from Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men by Hugh Ross, Ph.D. with Kenneth Samples and Mark Clark. In it, they say, "Approximately 95% of all UFO sand alien sightings can be explained as natural or man-made. 5% of these sightings cannot be explained, defying the laws of physics, making a natural explanation irrelevant." The evidence for the 5% points to occultic delusion or supernatural manifestation.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Perhaps you've seen that Terri Schiavo is in the non-literary news again. In short, her parents want to rehabilitate her and her husband wants to starve her. I had not wanted to blog on it, because Brandywine Books is a literary and coffee blog, not one where I point out all the news that breaks my heart. But I want to pass on a good comment from Denise on World Magazine's blog. She says:
Whatever happened to her rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," as an American? And since when does an American husband OWN his wife? If there are others willing to take on the responsibility of her care (her parents, in this case), I don't see how a judge can order her death just because her philandering husband wants it! What crime did this woman commit that would make her deserving of the death penalty, and isn't starvation a cruel and unusual punishment anyhow? This country is becoming a scary place to live.
Sometimes, it does look scary. The country and the world. But for some of us, this place is not our home. There's only so much we can do as responsible neighbors, and this is where literature can help us understand each other. In this mechanized world, we may separate issues and ideas from living. We may claim to believe what we do not follow. The thoughtful novel, play, or poem can shine a light on our natural hypocrisy, if we have eyes to see.

Like Claire Barshied in an article subtitled, "How a Book Taught Her to Reimagine Sex," we can understand our position on difficult matters, like bioethics, and miss the life, the happiness in sexuality. I think some Christians pursue this compartmentalization in earnest. For these honest, decent believers, sex is "between a man and a woman" in marriage. Stop. They have nothing else to say, except perhaps that the Song of Solomon is all allegory, so when it says
Your stature is like a palm tree,
and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its fruit.
it doesn't mean that and shouldn't you be reading Lamentations. Barshied says she read an anthology called Being Human, and "I have been surprised to find some of my long-held assumptions being transformed." The book comes from the President's Council on Bioethics for the promotion of "the full range of human goods ... what it means to be human and what good things humans prize."

While dwelling on a poem by Galway Kinnell, Barshied asks, "Do we miss some of the good gifts of marriage, sexuality, and family by stripping out the procreative mystery of sex? The poem portrays a family flourishing through connections that are greater than themselves; its spirit is one of awe and gratitude, the very opposite of the need for control we so often require."

The need for control in a world born in mystery--how often is this the spot where we go wrong? Perhaps that's the root of Terri's legal battle.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Drink It While It's Hot

I'm on a hot chocolate kick right now. I should make/buy/acquire/pilfer some sometime. Maybe this weekend. Perhaps, I'll follow one of these recipes, reprinted in the Portsmouth Herald.
We only have one rule: don't let it cool.

Looking Up

Poet Fredrick Langbridge wrote:
"Two men look out through the same bars;
One sees the mud, and one the stars."

quoted by Shrode, in "Why Does Theology Have to be so Boring?"

Think the Words,, and More Chocolate, Please

To everyone who visited Brandywine Books while I was away, thank you very much. I appreciate your interest and feel just a little obligated to give you readable material. I'd like to say, like Limbaugh says, that this blog is all about what interests me, if I thought that would make a readable blog; but really it's about what you like of what interests me. You aren't subscribers in the old-fashioned sense, and I'm not making any money from this. Still, your interest is important to me, so I persevere to blog. With miles to go before I sleep.

And now the news

Have you seen the Visual thesaurus by Thinkmap? It's like a brainstorming graph with definitions, synonyms, and types linked to your search word. You can try a demo or use their wed-based tour. It reminds me of the reference cloud thinking which went into That site is apparently defunct, but it was impressive a few years ago.

The New York Times Company has purchased for $410,000,000. They claim the human-driven search engine and reference guide reaches 22,000,000 individuals every month and has "the largest archive of original online content, which provides significant advertising opportunities."

Remember when Starbucks released its "Chantico," a rich, chocolate drink which many have erroneously labeled 'sinful'? Well, the bakery Au Bon Pain has loosed two drinks under the banner "Choco Bon Loco: A Crazy Chocolate Experience." The president of Chocolate Marketing sees a growing trend in comfort food.

Sherry talks a little about carelessness in reference to The Great Gatsby. Hey, Sherry! Did you notice that George Washington's birthday was yesterday, February 22? That's probably old hat to you; but did you also see that W.E.B. DuBois' birthday is today? That's a contrast, for those of you in the peanut gallery.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Literary Advice from the Grumpy Old Bookman

Last Friday, Michael Allen of Wiltshire, U.K. (a.k.a. the Grumpy Old Bookman) published a lengthy PDF on the perils of publishing. He calls it "On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile."

He writes, "Some years ago I came to the conclusion that success for writers and publishers is governed by randomness to a far greater extent than is generally recognised. This conclusion has recently been echoed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, with his work on 'black swans' (random events) in the arts."

I wanted to mention this after I had read or scanned the essay, but I'm slow and this is a busy week. The introduction is on his blog. Here are some things I can repeat without thinking.

A black swan in the arts world is a work like Rowling's Harry Potter. No one thought the series would become the bestselling juvenile fantasy over the past several years (it was rejected by several publishers and purchased finally for a modest sum), and I don't think anyone can definitively quantify the reasons why it has. Taleb calls it "a piece of work that, unexpectedly, captivates interests, spreads like wildfire, and dwarfs other contributions."

That reminds me of a bit of advice from an old Writer's Digest I still have. Author Gay Talese says, "Never write anything that you think is 'bestseller' material, because nobody really knows what makes a book a best-seller--and no good writer ever cares whether or not his book is a commercial success. What is important is always to do your best work." I don't know about the "commercial success" part, but I'm sure he's right about the selling part. Well, it isn't an idea that can't bare a dash of salt, but it's true enough.

But back to the Grumpy. He quotes from John Nettles, who quoted a friend saying, "Nothing is more common today than successful men with no talent. Success and celebrity do not necessarily depend on talent in these dog days and it is a good thing you never ever believe they do, otherwise you might miss out on the joke of the century." I believe that's the gist of the essay, though he gives advice on how to work the random in the writer's favor.

Here's a line I wonder about. "One point to note is that every writer, and every novel, is at some point in someone's slush pile. With absolutely no exceptions." Is that true? Was P. Diddy's autobiography in the technical slush pile at some point?

But that's enough from me. I want to read something else now.

Are There Too Many Books?

Simon Lipskar in a couple posts on BookAngst 101 says, "On the topic of 'too many books,' I'm struck by the fact that the authors preaching the gospel of the sheer overabundance of titles seem to take for granted that they'll be exempted from this new ethos. It’s those other undeserving books that would get snipped – not their own, nor those of authors they like and admire."

This is precisely the thought I have when I am tempted to suggest publishers should cut back the flow of books. Which books will they cut back? Will it be the ones I write or those of writers I know?

I Fear

Terry Teachout describes Arthur Miller in terms of one of my own fears: that I will only pretend, never be real, and never know it.

"For me, that was Miller's biggest flaw. He was, literally, pretentious: He pretended to have big ideas and the ability to express them with a touch of poetry, when in fact he had neither."
Monday, February 14, 2005

What Do You Read, More or Less?

The Morning News' Tournament of Books has asked each of its judges what type of books "you tend to read frequently" and which type you "rarely read." Judge Margaret Mason's answer to the first question is a good one for me as well. She said, "I read mostly older fiction. The kinds of things teachers assign in high school and college." What I rarely read is biography, best-sellers, and horror fiction.

What about you? What do you read frequently? What do you rarely, if ever, read?

On This Day: Wodehouse

On this day in 1975, P.G. Wodehouse, 93, died in a U.S. hospital. Patrick Kidd in today's Times of England begins:
And while the bores at the Romantic Novelists' Association have this week predictably nominated Pride and Prejudice as the greatest novel of all time, surely P. G. Wodehouse is long overdue recognition as one of our finest romantic treasures.

No writer, not even Shakespeare, has mastered the simile with the power of Wodehouse. Consider such brilliant descriptions as "A tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and forgotten to say 'when' ", or "She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built around her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season".
Thus begins my Wodehouse tribute post for Collected Misc. You may continue reading over there.


In Terry's almanac, Josef Pieper is quoted: "Leisure implies (in the first place) an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence . . . [it] is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative attitude, and it is not only the occasion but also the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation."
Sunday, February 13, 2005

Philippians 2:3

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."

I will be away most of this week. As usual, there are posts I failed to get to, but I can direct your attention to a few of Tingle Alley's posts on Garrison Keillor’s anthology Good Poems, of which Dana Gioia said, "Keillor is a deft and original entertainer with a genuine literary gift, especially for a brand of satire so decorous and gentle that it blurs into nostalgic romance, but he is not a writer given to the lyric extremes of powerful emotion so often essential to poetry."
Saturday, February 12, 2005

Mourning for Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

Playwright Arthur Miller, 89, died this week at home. W.W. Norton Exec. Editor Robert Weil told Reuters, "I always felt it was a deep tragedy that he never won the Nobel Prize." But Miller did when the Pulitzer and many other prizes.

Author Salman Rushdie said, "Writing meant, for him, an effort to locate in the human species a counterforce to the randomness of victimization." The AFP quotes Rushdie and other writers in an article posted today.

The Gates in Central Park

In non-literary news, a 16-day public art display was unveiled this morning in New York's Central Park. Here some photos. The AP reports, "The weather was windy and cold as the first fabric dropped from one of the 7,500 16-foot-high gates, creating what the artists billed as "a visual golden river" along 23 miles of the park's footpaths. More than 1 million square feet of fabric was used by the artists." A student is quoted, saying, "It's a waste of money, but it's fabulous." Yeah, that's art, isn't it? Exactly what is A Waste of Money? I can't find it in my dictionary.

Update: James Panero of Armavirumque criticizes The Gates and compares them to Thomas Kinkade. Yes, he does. "[Christo's] is an art for everyone and for no one. The Gates may be art, but art of the most debased design. The Gates is ultimate kitsch offered up as high art. One criterion separating the two is the ability to criticize the latter but not the former on aesthetic grounds, and on aesthetic grounds (like the spectacles of old Bulgaria, one imagines) 'The Gates' go beyond critique. Let's then compare Christo to an artist we can all recognize as pure Kitsch. Thomas Kinkade, the best-selling artist in America, combines Norman Rockwell with Tony Robbins." Read on

Friday, February 11, 2005

Kiss for Valentine's Day

Here's a holiday word for the philologists in your family. Kiss: "A small, mound-shape, baked meringue, which often contains chopped nuts, cherries or coconut. The texture of a kiss is light and chewy." Taken from The Food Lover's Companion, listed on I assume this is a culinary application of the common word kiss, which everyone knows comes from the Old English cyssan.
Thursday, February 10, 2005

New Lovecraft Anthology Coming

USAToday reports that The Library of America has asked Author Peter Straub "to compile 22 of Lovecraft's short stories into Lovecraft: Tales."
Lovecraft died at 46, before his writing received acclaim, so he never knew the extent of his influence in literature and pop culture. Since his death in 1937, a huge fan base has evolved around what he called the "Cthulhu Cult" and is now known as the "Cthulhu Mythos."
A non-profit publisher, The Library of America "is dedicated to preserving the works of America's greatest writers in handsome, enduring volumes."


Thoughts on Alex Haley's Roots

On this day in 1992, Author Alex Haley died of a heart attack in Seattle, Washington. Haley's research into his family history inspired the fiction accounts in Roots. Economist Thomas Sowell doesn't think that was such a good thing. Read a little more on it at Collected Misc. Haley won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for Roots. His childhood home in Henning, Tennessee is a historic site.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Born February 9, 1923: Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan (1923-1964) was an Irish playwright who gave his tongue liberty flap freely. I believe Behan is the man who gave us such memorable lines as:
He also quoted as saying, "I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer." And "New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment ... a place where you're least likely to be bitten by a wild goat."

Roger Kimball on the Future

When I grow I up, I want to write like Roger Kimball.
History is not a form of prophylaxis. But knowledge of history does acquaint us with the permanent moral and political alternatives that mankind confronts in its journey through time. It reminds us, for example, how regularly tyranny masquerades as virtue, how inhumanity is apt to cloak itself in the rhetoric of righteousness. Above all, perhaps, knowledge of history can serve to temper our presumption.


Consider only that marvelous phrase "the foreseeable future." With what cheery abandon we employ it! Yet what a nugget of optimism those three words encompass. How much of the future, really, do we foresee? A week? A day? A minute? "In a minute," as T. S. Eliot said in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "there is time/ For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

So much of life is a juggling with probabilities, a conjuring with uncertainties, that we often forget upon what stupendous acts of faith even the prudent conduct of life depends. Had I been asked, on September 10, 2001, whether New York's Twin Towers would continue standing for "the foreseeable future," I should have answered "Yes."
He also quotes Wodehouse, but I should expect that by now.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Well, They Aren't Printing It in a Rubber Cover

World Magazine has taken its opposition to Zondervan's new version of the Bible, Today's New International Version (TNIV), to the blogosphere. is dedicated to rants and exposes of a translation which claims to use "gender-accurate" language. An old website,, lists dozens of Bible scholars and some denominations who have lined up against Zondervan's translation, the New Testament of which is due out this month.

The opposition does not stem from the gender-inclusive word choices alone, because at least a couple other Bibles, such as the New Living Translation, use such language without causing a fuss. Scholars and Christian leaders oppose certain textual obfuscations and the broken promises on the way to publication.

This article explains the history of the TNIV and how Zondervan and their translators agreed to concerns raised a few years ago and pledged to cease working on the TNIV. I think the only way to describe that agreement is that the TNIV people lied.

As for obfuscations, you can read short and long lists here. (And to clear the record, I really don't care about the cover. It's just a tease.)


Edgar Awards List

I learned from Sarah W. that 2005 Edgar Award nominees have been named. This year's award honors "the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2003." Sarah remarks on the novels, the first novels, the original paperbacks, and other picks in her posts yesterday. California Girl, nominated for best novel, was reviewed by Mr. Thayer on Collected Misc. a couple days ago.

I Prefer to Call It, "Thoughtful Writing in Regards to Great Literature, Sundry Important Ideas, and Silly Things"

Bud Parr of Chekhov's Mistress has a good post on what it's like to be lit-blogger in response to a Guardian article declaring "Our pick of the best the online books community has to offer," a top-ten list. He says it's like being the bridge in the Mona Lisa. "If you've never noticed the bridge in the Mona Lisa, then you know exactly what I mean."

Note also this interesting post on The Paris Review.

On the Treasure and the Tragedy of Living

I posted a note on The Morning News' Tournament of Books this afternoon over on Collected Misc. and because of it, I feel compelled to quote from a post I saw on Touchstone's blog, Mere Comments. Take a look at the note above with these thoughts in mind.

From a book of essays on Chesterton comes this Gilbert quotable: "There is the tragedy that is founded on the worthlessness of life; and there is the deeper tragedy that is founded on the worth of it. The one sort of sadness says that life is so short that it can hardly matter; the other that life is so short that it will matter for ever."

From Budziszewski's book on keeping the faith during college, he describes sex as tape. It sticks well to the first thing it contacts and if you remove it, it will tear a little and leave some stickiness behind. "Sex can't help it; that’s what it's for. But if you don't like who you're sticking to and you try to rip yourself loose, there's going to be damage. Something in your heart will tear, and something will tear in the other person too. And when you do get yourself loose, your sexuality won't be as sticky as it was before . . . and eventually it won't stick to anyone at all."

This is one reason why I believe that novels which depict heartbroken characters in rampant immorality are depressing and hollow. Life is too short for its brief pleasures to be treated so carelessly.
Monday, February 07, 2005

The Real McCoy, Perhaps

February is Black History month, so I was delighted to see this post on World's blog about Elijah McCoy a turn-of-the-century engineer and inventor. It links to this article by, I assume, a Princeton student on black contributors to the sciences. She says McCoy invented a lubricator which could be used while the machine was running, thus cutting out down-time.
The term "real McCoy" refers to the oiling device used for industrial machinery. His contribution to the lubricating device became so popular that people inspecting new equipment would ask is the device contained the real McCoy. This helped popularize the American expression, meaning the real thing. His other inventions included an ironing board and lawn sprinkler.
I love etymological stories like this, but apparently, it isn't true, or at least it's in doubt. Evan Morris one guess is as good as another. "I'm going to vote for the theory that traces the phrase to a bootlegger named Bill McCoy, who during Prohibition became very popular smuggling Canadian liquor into the U.S."

Michael Quinion says most people go with the stories of a boxer, named Kid McCoy, who apparently had many impersonators. While the boxer was real, Quinion says the stories of imitators are "entirely apocryphal."

Is it possible that a few Scottish references to "the real Mackay" are evidence of a linguistic predecessor to our phrase? Again, there isn't enough evidence to close the argument.

February Book Drawing from

Study Bible

Each month, Tim Challies offers autographed books from recommended authors. This month, R.C. Sproul has signed his book and the winner receives it with a hardcover of The Reformation Study Bible (ESV). A great prize, just in time for International Pancake Week. And yes, that is a non sequitur. Thank you for asking.
Saturday, February 05, 2005

Briefly Noted

1. Booksquare points to an article in the London Times and agrees that authors need royalty payments for used book sales.

The Times reports “Authors fear that the ease with which readers can find second-hand copies is shortening the shelf life of new books.” I know you’re shocked, but did you know you can pick up A.S. Byatt’s Possession from an English bookshop for 70 pence? That ain’t right. Only dead authors should sell well-used copies for so little. Well, maybe authors who should be dead can sell for that little too. Living authors should be rich, rich, rich, just for selling 15,000 copies of anything. I mean, for goodness' sake, let’s get realistic. What has Bill Gates done that Beverly Lewis hasn’t? I mean, for money.

2. Jared has learned that Zondervan is claiming that "nowhere is it in print that Lewis said the Narnia stories were Christian allegories or that Aslan was supposed to be Jesus." I agree that with Lewis’ view of fantasy and allegory, he would not have said Aslan was Jesus or that the stories were allegorical. BUT in a letter dated August 6, 1960, he wrote, "Suppose there were a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing, and the Son of God went to redeem, as He came to redeem us. What might it, in that world, all have been like?" Also, note the quotes in an article Jared wrote on this subject last year.

In a 1954 letter to fifth graders, Lewis wrote, "I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia'; I said 'Let us suppose that there were land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen."

Also, though not a quote such as the publisher is denying, David Mills, writing about Tolkien’s fantasy, points out that “Aslan, an obvious Christ-figure, tells the children that they were brought from earth to Narnia so ‘that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’”

3. Did you know that Margaret Atwood has worked up a prototype device for remote book-signing? It’s called Unotchit. Sarah has the story of its demonstration and the detractors. Abebooks users don’t like it. "'We quite understand the idea behind Margaret Atwood's invention because, as she says in interviews, she is an old-age pensioner [who doesn't want to face the rigours of book tours], but the intriguing thing we found is that it's not so much the signature that fans care about, it's meeting the author in person, that's the real thrill,' said Richard Davies, a spokesperson for," reports Canada's Globe and Mail.


Another Silly Quiz

I'm sure I have taken this before and received a different result. I won't add it to my resume.

You're Cat's Cradle!
by Kurt Vonnegut

You believe quite firmly that free will deserted you long ago and far away. As a result, it's hard to take responsibility for anything. Even though you show great potential as a leader of a small 3rd world country, the choices are all made ahead of time. You're rather fond of games involving string. Your fear of nuclear weaponry is trumped only by your fear of ice.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


Tolkien Understood Men and Marriage

J.R.R. Tolkien had an excellent perspective on sexuality, as Dr. Albert Mohler reveals on his blog. Drawing mostly from letters to Tolkien’s sons, Mohler shows how Tolkien understood masculinity.
"This is a fallen world," Tolkien chided. "The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been 'going to the bad' all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the 'hard spirit of concupiscence' has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell." This acknowledgement of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the 20th century.
Mohler shows that Tolkien believed men are not naturally monogamous, but that a faithful marriage provides the most fulfilling sex one could want. This he believed in contrast to the sex-as-liberation idea emerging in his day.
Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. "Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him--as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial."

. . .

In a letter to his friend C.S. Lewis, Tolkien advised: "Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance--in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure . . . ." In the face of a world increasingly committed to sexual anarchy, Tolkien understood that sex must be respected as a volatile and complex gift, bearing potential for great pleasure and even greater pain.

With deep moral insight, Tolkien understood that those who give themselves most unreservedly to sexual pleasure will derive the least pleasure and fulfillment in the end. As author Joseph Pearce, one of Tolkien's most insightful interpreters explains, sexual temperance is necessary "because man does not live on sex alone." Temperance and restraint represent "the moderate path between prudishness and prurience, the two extremes of sexual obsession," Pearce expands.
Friday, February 04, 2005

Winter in The Paris Review

The latest issue of The Paris Review is available. It’s cover has a dead man on it, but I’m sure the quality of its content is as lively as ever. (“Lively as ever”-- is that cliché-ish or just poor writing?) You may remember that the magazine’s founding editor, George Plimpton, passed on in 2003. The current chief editor, Brigid Hughes, will leave her post at the end of March. The president of the Paris Review board of directors gave no reason for dismissing her, and she said she didn’t know she failed to meet any expectations.

From the AP:

But although [Board President] Guinzburg said the magazine's finances were "solid," he added that the informal managerial style under which the Paris Review long operated no longer works. For a start, the Review is seeking to move out of Plimpton's home, a townhouse on the Upper Side East.

"We're desperately trying to get out of that pit," Guinzburg said. "It's so overcrowded, because you have the staff and a bunch of interns and there's no room. When we move I'm sure we'll find wonderful things under all that rubble."

Guinzburg said it was time to "act a bit more like grown-ups" and indicated the foundation was considering some business practices that "would horrify George," although he declined to offer details.

That sounds like the setting for P.D. James’ Original Sin. Speaking of James, she was interviewed by the magazine in 1995. The full interview is scheduled be released in June, but James has this to say in the excerpt:

I thought of those splendid women who were the first to graduate from [Somerville College, Oxford] and whose portraits are hung on the walls, and I thought life could not have been easy for them. If they came back today, they would be horrified to see what kind of society we live in. I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism. The only way to react is to get up in the morning and start the day by saying four or five vastly politically incorrect things before breakfast!

I see that Tingle Alley, if not others, suggests that the technical glitches in the magazine’s DNA of Literature section of their website may be related to Hughes departure. That would be terribly trivial for the magazine staff, wouldn’t it? Besides the site design and archives have been paid for by an NEA grant. I hope trivial actions like what was suggested are not the source of Guinzberg’s call for the staff to act more like grown-ups.

Update: Earlier I missed this Tingle Alley post in which she reports on emailing The Paris Review and learning that they didn't know anything had messed up. Further, I misunderstood her post entirely, so the greyed text above can be ignored.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Do They Offer a Glow-in-the-Dark Edition Yet?

I love the English Standard version of God's Holy Word, and their new compact Tru-Tone editions are beautiful. My sister received one for Christmas. But have you seen the TruGrip editions due out next month? Heh, heh. We are a prosperous country, aren't we? The publisher describes the cover as "a durable rubber-like material with a unique textured pattern?-perfect for backpacks." Available in lime and orange.

There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but it makes me laugh. At least, it's better than the Bible-as-fashion-magazine which Zondervan publishes.

In other Bible news, NavPress is offering a commemorative edition of The Message in order to raise funds for tsunami relief organizations. The Message: A Benefit For Tsunami Relief will be available at and promoted by artists such as Rebecca St. James, Michael Card, CeCe Winans, and Jaci Velasquez.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Most Borrowed Books keeps track of the Library Journal's Most Borrowed Books lists so we don't have to subscribe to another expensive magazine. These lists run close to yesterday's bestseller lists, from what I've seen. This month, Cornwell's Trace, Brown's Da Vinci Code, and Roberts' Northern Lights as well as Clinton's My Life, Kelley's The Family, and Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Also, the Bookreporter blog has an idea for a new game. Buy a few specific things in a chain bookstore in fifteen minutes. The inspiration comes from blogger Carol Fitzgerald, who relates a challenge she had in a multimedia store. She tried to find a DVD in the topical DVD section, gave up, and found it elsewhere under a sale display.

"I am feeling rather guilty about one thing in all of this," she says. "When I put the Season Five copy of Friends on the stand-alone display this meant there are NO Friends DVDs at all in the DVD/TV/COMEDY section. There is a part of me (the too much do-right Catholic school training part of me) that wants to march over there today and take one of each season and move it to DVD/TV/Comedy. Another part says --- let the games begin! Another part says ---!"
Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Book Design

I published a couple news pieces on Collected Miscellany this afternoon. One was one font designer, Michael Harvey. Not much to read there--the more interesting of the two posts deals with T.S. Eliot's private letters. But about book design, there's an interesting blog on that topic called Forward. They remark on design issues regularly. If you weren't aware of it, design issues are everywhere, even on the box of your Morton's Salt. Recently, Forward linked to a new blog which briefly comments on the covers of books reviewed in the NYT Book Review. If he asks me for blog advice, I will tell him to let himself go in his entries, perhaps even push a little. Comments like this, "Cute. Not crazy about the placement of the author's name, however," barely illuminate the subject.

What is Fiction?

Responding to an essay in the NY Times Sunday Book Review about Orthodox Jews in fiction, Sara Irvy of says that fiction "is invention, after all, not a sociological inquiry or an educational primer. Readers turn to it to gain entry into other worlds, real and unreal. Unlike Orthodoxy, fiction encourages rule breaking, and its consequences can be sublime." The essay by Wendy Shalit complains, "Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism -- or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with -- have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light." Shalit believes these stories give outsiders the wrong ideas.

"There will always be people who fail to live up to their ideals," she writes, "and it would be pointless to pretend the strictly observant don't have failings. But before there can be hypocrisy, there must be real idealism; in fiction that lacks idealistic characters, even the hypocrite's place can't be properly understood."

Cuban Coffee

Let me take this moment to say that the coffee, Cuban coffee, served at The Columbia Restaurant is great, and their St. Augustine, Florida, location is beautiful. I know you were curious. No, no, thank you.
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