Tolkien’s Imagination

Arman J. Partamian has written a fascinating piece entitled “J.R.R. Tolkien and the Catholic Imagination.”  My question:  What is distinctly “Catholic” about what he describes?  Could a Lutheran or an Anglican or Orthodox or other kinds of Christians (at least sacramental Christians) have this kind of imagination as well?  From the post (but read it all):

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a genius. The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece of Catholic literature, and in fact was a big factor in my conversion to Catholicism. The books are rich in the “sacramental imagination” – seeing the extraordinary behind the ordinary. In its deep and complex history and its high symbolism, it beautifully tells the story of our Fall and Exile (especially in the Silmarillion, which contains the creation myth and the ancient history of men and elves), and our longing to return to Eden/Heaven. It is a Christian story that powerfully draws non-Christians into its world, and it does this by concealing its Catholicism. In fact, Tolkien’s genius was to re-tell the Christian story in a hidden way. [Read more…]

I bet I can make you cry

You may be all macho, sophisticated, cynical, and Stoic, but I have found a sequence of words that I predict will cause liquid to well up in your eyes.

It’s a dog story, from that Michael Dirda review of  Mr. and Mrs. Dog by Donald McCaig that we posted about earlier.  Take the challenge, if you dare, after the jump. [Read more…]

Lars Walker’s new Viking novel: free

Lars Walker, who frequents this blog, is a notable novelist who is also a  Christian, yea  Lutheran,  a master of  historical fantasy.  His fiction is generally wildly entertaining, while also being thought-provoking and spiritually edifying.  He has a new book out, a sequel to his wonderful Viking saga West Oversea.  The new book is entitled Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga).  And you can get it as an electronic book for Kindle for FREE if you download it today only, April 16!  Get it here.

I haven’t read it yet, but am anxious to do so.  Here is a reader review by Phil Wade:

This is an absolute ripping yarn, as ripping a yarn as you are likely to find, and unlike some TV series, it’s steeped in solid historical detail. Do want a fun sense of how Vikings lived in 1000 A.D.? Read Lars’ Erling novels.

This one is the fourth, but the first two are combined into one book, The Year of the Warrior. Next comes West Oversea. . . . And here, Hailstone Mountain. brings us the courageous, noble Erling Skjalgsson stepping into the battle of his life. [Read more…]

The end of [fill in the blank]

Carlos Lozada writes about the publishing trend of books that announce “the end” of something.  Here are some recent titles:

The End of America
The End of Sex
The End of Men
The End of Money
The End of Lawyers
The End of Work
The End of the Free Market
The End of Nature [Read more…]

Shakespeare the capitalist

One of the many unfortunate legacies of Romanticism (there were some fortunate ones as well) is the mystification of the artist, as if, say, a literary genius were some ethereal sensitive soul far above the crass material realm of everyday life.  Whereas in reality, actual literary geniuses–like Chaucer, Jane Austen, Dickens–tend to be of solid, down-to-earth middle class stock.  That certainly was true of William Shakespeare.  Recent research into the abundant records of his business dealings show him to have been a rather ruthless capitalist. [Read more…]

Jonathan Swift and the Jesus stompers

You have doubtless heard about the college that had students stomp on the name of Jesus as an exercise in a class on cultural understanding.  I noticed the parallel to something that happened in Gulliver’s Travels in which the satirist Jonathan Swift portrays Dutch traders as being willing to trod on a Crucifix as a way to convince the Japanese that they weren’t Christians so that they could trade with that country.  Of course, the Dutch, being Calvinists, considered the Crucifix to be an idol, so stepping on it didn’t bother them.

I wondered how much of that was true and how much was Swift’s lampoon.  The Dutch were the only Europeans the Japanese would trade with.  Whether that was because they would trod on the Crucifix because of their iconoclastic theology, I’m not sure, but Swift, an Anglican priest, lambastes them.  Anyway, I was glad to see that Anthony Sacramone, who has taken up blogging again, makes that same connection and tells us more about the requirement for blasphemy in the context of Christian persecution, now showing up in a college classroom.

(There was only one student who objected, by the way, and he was a Mormon.  Did the Christians in the room just go along with it?  Surely, desecrating the name of Jesus would bother even iconoclasts whose distaste for physical images never extended to the use of language.)  [Read more…]