About Carrisa Smith

Called to Account by David Foster Wallace: The Pale King Wins the (CaPC) Pulitzer!

When the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes were announced on April 16, many readers, writers, and publishers were shocked to learn that there would be no winner in Fiction for the first time since 1977. Here's how the process works: the jury of three read over 300 entries and make a recommendation of three finalists to the board, who then vote on the winner. This year, the board could not achieve a majority in favor of any one of the three finalists: Karen Russell's Swamplandia!, Denis Johnson's Western n … [Read more...]

The Televangelists: In Praise of Sherlock & its Co-Creator Steven Moffat

Each Friday in The Televangelists, one of our writers examines the met and missed potential of television.I don’t watch much TV these days. Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones have all been tried and found wanting, to the universal consternation of my peer group. I will, however, watch anything and everything written and/or produced by Steven Moffat. The three episodes of the second season (or series, if you want to be properly British) of Sherlock, the contemporary re-vision of Sh … [Read more...]

The Hunger Games, the Movie, and the Problem of Film Violence

After a particularly emotionally exhausting day last week, I asked my husband to tell me something that would comfort me.“In a few days you get to see kids kill each other on screen,” he promptly replied.It’s true that I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Hunger Games movie for weeks, if not precisely for that aspect of it—but the patent ridiculousness of the statement made me laugh, which was the desired effect. Yet this exchange illustrates one of the biggest dilemmas for The Hunger Games fra … [Read more...]

Our Favorite Five Books of 2011

Throughout January, we'll be looking back on 2011 and unveiling our favorite things. This week, Carissa Smith shares an idiosyncratic list of the best five books of 2011--each presented as an entree with a bonus pairing.Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding Chad Harbach’s debut novel, The Art of Fielding, records the rise of college shortstop Henry Skrimshander, along with his near-derailment by performance anxiety. Henry’s struggle stands in as a metaphor for both “What am I supposed to do after c … [Read more...]

The Magician King: Enduring the Loss of Eden

Back in 2009, when I reviewed Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians for Christ and Pop Culture, I called it “one of the most painful books I have ever read.” So, naturally, I bought a copy of the sequel, The Magician King, as soon as it was released last month. The Magician King is certainly emotionally draining, though in a different way from its predecessor. Gone are most of the Harry Potter parallels of the first book, but The Magician King continues Grossman’s loving-yet-cynical engagement with … [Read more...]

'Divergent': Derivative Dystopia?

A good friend—who also happens to be a good writer—recently asked me to read the first chapter of the young adult fantasy novel she’s currently working on. In the opening scene, a boy gives a loaf of bread to a poor, hungry girl he finds behind his parents’ restaurant. Now, keep in mind that my friend hasn’t read The Hunger Games; those who have, however, will instantly recall the scene in which Peeta, the son of the town baker, gives a loaf of bread to starving Katniss behind his parents’ bakery … [Read more...]

The Vampire Defanged: An Interview with Susannah Clements

Carissa Smith recently conducted an email interview with Susannah Clements (Associate Professor of English, Regent University), author of The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero (Brazos Press, which kindly sent us a review copy). The book traces the vampire's evolution in pop culture, from its Christian roots in Bram Stoker's Dracula, through its postmodern iteration in Buffy, and finally to the sparkly undead of Twilight. Carissa: What, beyond the … [Read more...]

Of Gods and Men and the Surprising Drama of Spiritual Discernment

Even though the French film Of Gods and Men—which won the 2010 Grand Prix at Cannes—is based on real events that took place in Algeria in 1995 and 1996, one particular scene may have even more contemporary resonance for viewers. The Algerian military has called Brother Christian, the prior of a small Trappist monastery, to identify a dead man believed to be the leader of a jihadist group that terrorized the area, even leading a raid on the monastery. A military official proudly tells Brother Chr … [Read more...]

Eat Your Vegetables . . . and Ponder the Global Consequences

Each week in Eat Your Vegetables, Carissa Smith shares the benefit and appeal of some more high-brow culture we should be consuming.This week I have for your consideration a literal vegetable, the South American "superfood" quinoa, readily available to U.S. consumers in the upscale supermarket of your choice. Quinoa, which resembles something like a nuttier, crunchier couscous in flavor and texture, is easily mistaken for a grain but, as I learned from this article, it “is actually a chenopod, … [Read more...]

Repent, for the Stupocalypse is Nigh!

I have a confession to make: I am prone to doom-and-gloom scenarios regarding the future. I’m not talking about 666 or the moon turning to blood. I experience existential despair over a future in which commas roam free over the fields of independent clauses, in which people define themselves by corporate slogans, and in which face-to-face contact with other human beings is optional. In other words, I am old and cranky, and I fear the coming of the stupocalypse.When a fit of curmudgeonliness c … [Read more...]