"The Magicians": If Harry Potter was Doubtful

Reviews of Lev Grossman’s new novel The Magicians have touted it as a version of Harry Potter that adults can read without embarrassment (lesson: many book reviewers must keep sad company if most of the adults they know are indeed ashamed to be caught reading Harry Potter). Most of the novel may occur at a place called Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy and may contain playful references to “welters,” a magical game played by teams of students—but don’t be fooled: this is no romp … [Read more...]

'Bright Star,' Dim Characters

“A Poet is the most unpoetical thing in existence because he has no Identity,” wrote John Keats in an 1818 letter to a friend. This certainly seems to be the case in Jane Campion’s Bright Star, based on the real-life romance between Keats and Fanny Brawne—only, in the film’s case, this particular axiom is true not only of poets but of most of the characters in the film, poets or no. This line itself is borrowed for the film’s dialogue and inserted into a conversation in which Keats … [Read more...]

Conference on Christianity and Literature: The City (Part 2)

This past weekend, I attended the Midwestern Regional Meeting of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, held at Wheaton College (which also happens to be my alma mater). The theme of the conference was “The City,” and over the course of three days, panelists and attendees discussed both the representation and the influence of the city in literature, from ancient works to post-9/11 fiction. I’ll share here a few of the insights gained from my fellow panelists and speakers. Some of … [Read more...]

Conference on Christianity and Literature: The City (Part 1)

This past weekend, I attended the Midwestern Regional Meeting of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, held at Wheaton College (which also happens to be my alma mater). The theme of the conference was “The City,” and over the course of three days, panelists and attendees discussed both the representation and the influence of the city in literature, from ancient works to post-9/11 fiction. I’ll share here a few of the insights gained from my fellow panelists and speakers. Some of … [Read more...]

Podcast #60: The Pop Culture 180

The Pop Culture 180 experiment was a week devoted to giving up our most loved media activities (reading/playing video games) for less appreciated activities (social networking/reading). In our last chapter of the Pop Culture 180, Ben and I Rich commiserate and debate the experiment, touching on what we learned, the ways the experiment changed us, and things we love and hate about the mediums we devoted ourselves to for a week. (program note: please forgive Ben's low volume and quality. We'll … [Read more...]

Pop Culture 180, Part 6: Twitter Vs. Books… No Contest

This is the sixth (and final) post of the Pop Culture 180 experiment, in which I gave up reading books and other print media and replaced them with social networking for more than one week. For more information, read this introduction post. Then, read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Maybe I approached this a little different from Rich. Experiments are great, but the simple fact is that they are hard to control. This one was no exception. Rich is right that it imperfectly measures our responses to a … [Read more...]

Pop Culture 180, Part 5: Video Games Vs. Books… a Fight to the Death?

This is the fifth (and my final) post of the Pop Culture 180 experiment, in which I will gave up video games and replace them with reading for more than one week. For more information, read this introduction post. Then, read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. Let's be honest about this: our little experiment didn't really prove anything. It was rife with flaws. Going without video games and replacing them with reading confuses the question of whether the lack of video games or the binge reading is what is … [Read more...]

Pop Culture 180, Part 4: I Can't Quit! And Do Meanlingless Comments Represent Real Relationships?

I am absolutely addicted to reading. The withdrawal symptoms are clear. Within 6 hours of our Pop Culture 180 start time, I was wandering the shelves at Barnes and Noble, looking at titles I could not allow myself to open. I think about books at least twenty times per day. I keep looking at my hands, whenever I have a spare 5-20 minutes, thinking, "shouldn't they be holding something?" I sit down in my work break room, then stand up again- I have no reason to sit there if I cannot read. I … [Read more...]

Pop Culture 180, Part 3: I Told You I Could Quit… But Now I Dislike People.

This is the third post of the Pop Culture 180 experiment, in which I will give up video games and replace them with reading for more than one week. For more information, read this introduction post. I am pleased to announce that as far as I can tell, in the midst of my endeavor I have not found myself to be a video game addict. Though many anticipated typical withdrawal symptoms, I have suffered nothing of the sort. I haven't even found myself beginning to pick up the controller out of habit. I … [Read more...]

Pop Culture 180, Part 2: Giving up The Great Conversation to tell you what I had for lunch.

My relationship with books is an old one. I’m told that I learned to read at age four.  Somehow the world of words captured me and I never looked back.  Once I asked my father whether my siblings and I were hard to control, and he said, “Well, you were normal kids, except that if we wanted you to be quiet we would just pull out a book.  You would immediately sit down and become completely absorbed in the story.” This continued as I grew older.  One of my earliest and clearest memories … [Read more...]