Fox picks up the next Narnia movie

As we blogged before Christmas, Disney had dropped its plans to produce the next Narnia movie, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” But now 20th Century Fox has taken on the project, in partnership with Walden Media, which owns the rights to the C. S. Lewis classics. The plans now are to shoot the film this summer and release it around Christmas, 2010.

John Updike & the Secret Things

Novelist John Updike died of lung cancer at age 76. One of the most acclaimed of contemporary American authors, Updike was raised a Lutheran. An active church member all of his life, he had sojourns in the Christian existentialism of Kierkegaard and the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth, attended a Congregational church, and ended up an Episcopalian. His early catechesis stuck, though, as he kept returning to the themes of God’s grace, Christ, and the Sacraments. This was mostly as a counterpoint to his overall subject of middle-class, suburbanite angst. (Read this account of Updike talking about his faith.)

Some of Updike’s work is overwhelmingly powerful in its exploration of Christian truth. (See, for example, his Easter poem below. His short story “The Music School” haunts me to this day.) And yet, although he might be seen as the culturally-engaged, sophisticated, critically-acclaimed Christian artist evangelicals keep calling for, most Christians stayed away from his work and never claimed him.

This is because he wrote so explicitly and descriptively and vividly about sex! He is such a good, evocative writer that his sex scenes, while not pornographic, are unsettling to the chaste imagination.

Updike has said that he wanted to explore “the three great secret things”; namely, sex, religion, and art.

To see the connection and what Updike did with these subjects–including his explicitly Christian works, see George Hunt’s study, entitled, appropriately, John Updike and the three great secret things: Sex, religion, and art.

So what do you think about this? Should Christians not read about or write about sex? Are there other things that Christians should not read or write about? Why are sex, religion, and art “secret”?

Updike on the Resurrection of Christ

Seven Stanzas at Easter

by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Campaigning in poetry; governing in prose

The British newspaper “The Independent” reminds us of an adage that both conservatives and liberals would do well to remember:

“An old American aphorism has it that politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. We can be sure that the poetry will continue to flow from an orator as gifted as President Obama. But now begins the difficult task of getting the prose right too.”

Or do we need to govern in poetry too? I’m thinking that I reject the dichotomy.

“Rumpole’s” John Mortimer dies

In yet another death in our declining stock of truly creative people, the British lawyer and author John Mortimer has died. He was best known for his series of comical mysteries featuring the curmudgeonly barrister Rumpole of the Bailey and his formidable wife “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” (English major that I am, I enjoy especially Horace Rumpole’s non-stop flowery literary allusions, such as his wife’s pet name. Can you identify where that comes from?) Those books are nearly perfect for pleasure reading, comprising as they do two immensely enjoyable genres: the mystery novel (and Mortimer plays by all the rules) and the comedy of character (that classical type going all the way back through Ben Jonson where what is most funny are the characters themselves).

Mr. Mortimer, who sounds Rumpole-like himself, drew on his own legal career. Here he is on why he would rather take on a case involving murder than divorce:

“Matrimonial clients hate each other so much and use their children to hurt each other in beastly ways,” he once said. “Murderers have usually killed the one person in the world that was bugging them and they’re usually quite peaceful and agreeable.”

Here is Mr. Mortimer, along with Leo McKern, who perfectly played his creation in the BBC rendition of Rumpole of the Bailey:

John Mortimer & his creation

What are the Great Christian Books?

Chris Bryans suggests a worthy project and blog topic:

I read your article “The Secular Canon” in October’s Tabletalk and was fascinated by your statement “A collection of the Great Christian Books would be worth assembling.” You’ve given me an idea – As a teacher in a Christian school, I am toying with the idea of structuring an English course around this very theme. I’d be interested to know what you would include in such a canon of Great Christian Books. Perhaps this would also be an excellent blog topic (unless I’ve already missed it since this is my first visit to your blog). Thanks for your ministry!

What books would you include?

Let’s set some parameters. A classic has been defined as a book that continues to speak to readers after 50 years. So, since it will take us at least a year to set up this publishing project, let’s set 1960 as our latest date.

And let’s include the whole spectrum of Christian history: the church fathers; the middle ages; the Reformation era up through the 1600’s; the 1700’s; the 1800’s; the 20th century up to, again, 1960.

And let’s include not just theology but poetry, fiction, essays, the whole gamut of literature. We’ll define Christian book as not just a book by a Christian but a book that is somehow explicitly about Christianity.

We must continue to realize, however, that Christianity embraces all of life and that in vocation it swallows up the seemingly ordinary and secular. That means that Christian authors, such as Jane Austen, do not have to write about or even mention Christianity for their works to reflect a profoundly Christian worldview and sensibility. This is why projects like this are harder than they seem.

Still, it’s worth trying. What works should be in our collection of the Christian Great Books?