The Christmas stories of Connie Willis & her favorite Christmas movies

Connie Willis, MiracleConnie Willis is an award-winning science fiction author and a deft satirist of contemporary foibles.  (Read her novel Bellwether.  Never again will you take seriously fashions, trends, or being cool.)  She is also a Christian.  (For more on her biography, go here.)

She has published a collection of short stories about Christmas–gift idea!–entitled Miracles and Other Christmas Stories.   I’m reading them as part of my Advent and Christmas observance and enjoying them greatly.  Some of them are of the Miracle on 34th Street-type warm-hearted type, only funnier, others are darker but thought-provoking, and some are about the True Meaning of Christmas.

Also of value in that volume is her introduction, in which she discusses the genre and gives her favorite Christmas stories. She then discusses Christmas movies.  After a gentle critique of It’s a Wonderful Life and an illuminating reading of said Miracle on 34th Street, she gives her favorite movies, most of which you will probably never have heard of.  So we dug up three of them that I’ll tell you about after the jump. [Read more…]

Gift idea:  Christianity Today’s 2017 book awards

Christianity Today has announced its 2017 book awards.  The list of winners in all of the different categories might give you some good ideas for Christmas presents.

I like book editor Matt Reynolds’ introduction to the list.   He surveys how, thanks to the new printing press, Luther’s Reformation in 1517 was tied to the reading of books.  Reading popularized the Reformation, and the Reformation popularized reading.
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Reproduction as resurrection

baby-1414531_1280Peter Leithart gives a splendid reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3, in which he is trying to persuade his “fair young friend” (contrary to the homosexual readings of the sonnets) to get married and have children.

Leithart shows how Shakespeare and his age thought of what it means to have children, including the connection of sexuality to nature (for example, the link between “husband” and “husbandry”) and the notion that the reproduction is an image of resurrection. [Read more…]

“What good is a road if it doesn’t lead to a church?”

LaurusRod Dreher has interviewed Eugene Vodolazkin, the author of Laurus, which we posted about yesterday.  Read what he has to say.  Sample:

During the perestroika period, we had a great film, Repentance, by the Georgian director Tengiz Abuladze . It’s a movie about the destruction wrought by the Soviet past. The last scene of the film shows a woman baking a cake at the window. An old woman passing on the street stops and asks if this way leads to the church. The woman in the house says no, this road does not lead to the church. And the old woman replies, “What good is a road if it doesn’t lead to a church?”

More after the jump.

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An epic Christian novel

LaurusI’ve just finished Laurus, a novel by the Russian author Eugene Vodolazkin, an Orthodox Christian, and I’m still savoring the experience, which is one of being immersed in the medieval mind.

The novel is the story of Arseny, who as a lad is apprenticed to his grandfather, a physician.  Arseny has a gift of healing that goes beyond his expertise in herbal remedies.  A love story ensues, which sets him on a quest for atonement, both for himself and for the woman he caused to sin.  Arseny becomes a “holy fool.”  Then, accompanied by a western Catholic who has visions of the future, he sets off on a long and perilous pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Then he becomes a monk.  Then an anchorite.  And, overall, a kind of saint.

The book is “immersive”–that is, wholly involving, so that reading it creates the illusion of entering the mind of someone who inhabits 15th century Russia, an amalgam of earthiness, superstitions, visionary experiences, medieval lore, intimations of eternity, and open-hearted piety. [Read more…]

Tom Wolfe takes on Darwinism and its failure to explain language

Tom Wolfe is among our best contemporary writers.  The founder of the New Journalism, which uses novelistic techniques for the purpose of non-fiction, and a novelist who employs real-world research like a journalist, Wolfe is also an iconoclast of contemporary culture.  (See, for example, his send-up of wealthy leftists in Radical Chic, and his mockery of the trendy art world in The Painted Word.)

Now Wolfe takes on the biggest icon of modern thought, the one thinker who must not be questioned and the one  sacrosanct idea:  Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Wolfe’s book, The Kingdom of Speech, is a lively history of Darwin’s theory and its continually demonstrated inability to account for human language.  It also gives us a portrait of Charles Darwin and his nemesis Alfred Russel Wallace, who beat him to the theory of natural selection.  Wolfe also takes on Noam Chomsky, the leading linguist of our day and a leftwing activist, and his nemesis, Dan Everett, a former missionary who disproves his theory on the innateness of language.

Though Wolfe is neither, from what I can tell, a creationist nor an Intelligent Design advocate, he shows how science is made–by human beings, with ambition, politics, and social pressures all playing their part.  The book is informative, funny, and stimulating.  And it is ultimately a tribute to the transcendent Word that underlies all things. [Read more…]