Who watches the Watchmen?

A number of my students have been eagerly anticipating last weekend’s opening of The Watchmen . After all, the movie is based on what has been called the greatest comic book of all time. It even made the list of the 20th century’s top 100 works of fiction, up there with Hemingway and Faulkner. But I can’t make heads or tails of the reviews. Some hail it as a landmark, while others deem “The Watchmen” unwatchable. Have any of you seen it? Please give me your take.

I suspect one needs to have read the comic–sorry, graphic novel!–first, since all I know about it is that it is narratively very complicated. In my youth, I was a fan of comic books, and I credit them with starting my taste for good stories and, eventually, good literature. Here is a comic–sorry, graphic novel!– that claims to be good literature, so I guess I should read it.

Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

To mark Ash Wednesday, consider T. S. Eliot’s poem of the same name, which he wrote upon his conversion to Christianity and his baptism. The whole poem, linked above, is very much worth reading, despite its difficulty. But here is a magnificent excerpt on the Word of God as the center of everything, despite all opposition:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

More from de Tocqueville on the end of liberty

Yesterday we contemplated a quotation from the 19th century French observer of America Alexis de Tocqueville on how democracies can self-destruct. Michael Ledeen, author of Tocqueville on American Character gives us some more quotations on how democracies can fritter away their liberty. Read the essay. Here are some of his de Tocqueville quotes:

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…

The nature of despotic power in democratic ages is not to be fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling. . .It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. . . .

That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? . . .

The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. . . .

Servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind…might be combined with some of the outward forms of freedom, and…might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.. . . They devise a sole, tutelary and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people…this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians.

Are we there yet?

Scorsese takes on Christian classic

Anthony Sacramone says that Shusaku Endo’s Silence, the classic Christian novel about the persecution of Jesuit missionaries in Japan, is going to be made into a movie. And the director will be Martin Scorsese, no less:

As Petter Chattaway reports, Scorsese, who has long wanted to adapt this novel about the persecution of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in Japan in the 17th century, is moving forward with the project, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Benecio Del Toro in the leads.

The book is harrowing in its depiction of both the physical and the intellectual tortures the missionaries endure, the struggle to discover God’s will — and his providential care — in their suffering. It also asks the inevitable ends/means questions as they pertain to evangelism and conversion, especially in regard to dissimulation in the pursuit of higher spiritual goals. (What would Rahab do?)

The movie, if done right, has all the makings of a masterwork, one that illustrates a living, thinking Christianity confronting those perdurable Big Questions.

The leap of unfaith & more from Updike

Thanks to Mollie Z. Hemingway for harvesting some other great John Updike quotes from various newspaper obituaries:

”I remember the times when I was wrestling with these issues that I would feel crushed. I was crushed by the purely materialistic, atheistic account of the universe,” Updike told The Associated Press during a 2006 interview.

”I am very prone to accept all that the scientists tell us, the truth of it, the authority of the efforts of all the men and woman spent trying to understand more about atoms and molecules. But I can’t quite make the leap of unfaith, as it were, and say, ‘This is it. Carpe diem (seize the day), and tough luck.”’

. . . . .

“When I haven’t been to church in a couple of Sundays I begin to hunger for it and need to be there,” he said, standing at a podium in front of the altar, against a backdrop of Byzantine-style mosaics and dressed in a gray suit befitting one of America’s elder statesmen of letters. “It’s not just the words, the sacraments. It’s the company of other people, who show up and pledge themselves to an invisible entity.”

. . . . . . .

[From Rabbit, Run, the Lutheran Pastor Fritz Kruppenbach telling off the Episcopal priest, Rev. Eccles, for meddling in other people’s business]: “When on Sunday morning then, when we go before their faces, we must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ,” he tells a disconcerted Eccles. “Make no mistake. There is nothing but Christ for us. All the rest, all this decency and busyness, is nothing. It is Devil’s work.”

Do any of you Updike fans have suggestions for good books of his to start with? The Rabbit series? ‘Month of Sundays”? Are there some that don’t have quite so much, you know, sex? (I’d suggest the short stories.)

Meanwhile, I’m intrigued with “the leap of unfaith.” I have noticed that atheists often describe their moment of rejection in the same terms that Christians often do when describing their conversion.

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.