Hiatus!! (or Through a Book Project Darkly)

For the first time in my five-plus years writing the weekly Film Forum for Christianity Today Movies, I’m going on hiatus.

The lovely and talented JOSH HURST will be piloting the craft while I’m gone, and I’m sure I’ll be humbled by his zeal and competence.

I’ll return to that “desk” in June.

Right now, every spare moment is focused on my book about faith and film: Through a Screen Darkly.

The toughest challenge with the book, I’m finding, is that I have so many stories I want to tell, so many movies I want to review and recommend, so many humbling experiences when a film showed me how little I really understand, so many memorable conversations with moviegoers and artists, that I’m having trouble compressing it all into a 65,000 word volume. The story of how Christians engage with the big screen is more like a story the size of War and Peace.

This process of cutting out pieces that you love is a process some writers call “killing your darlings.” I find that inaccurate. These “darlings” aren’t dead. No, they are not at all silent when you cut them out. They cry out from the Recycle Bin, scream and yell, indignant, saying, “Put me back in! What are you thinking? You’re going to let this experience just go to waste?” They’re like the old man being hauled out to the death cart in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I’m not dead! I feel happy! I think I’ll go for a walk!”

But I’m negotiating with myself on the matter by cutting out chapters I love and setting them aside as “online exclusives” for those who enjoy the book and want to read more… although it’s a bit presumptuous to think that anyone who reads a whole book of my ramblings about movies would actually want MORE. We’ll see.

I’ve told these stories in classrooms and seminars so many times now, I thought it would be easy to get them down on paper. But man, when you put it on paper, there’s a different kind of pressure… You can’t gesture or change your tone of voice as easily. You have to write it in such a way that ANY audience could get your point, not just those who can get the in-jokes. And well it’s going to be so PERMANENT when it’s on paper….

June 1st is coming very quickly, and there’s still so much to do. My new schedule: Up at 4:30 a.m. Work on the book. Go to my SPU job at 7:30 a.m. Work until 6 p.m. Go home. Eat dinner. Spend some time with Anne. Work on the book. Catch a few hours of sleep.

And on June 2nd, you’ll hear a cry not unlike Mel Gibson’s at the end of Braveheart: “FREEEEEEEEEEEEEDOM!!!”

(And then it’ll sink in that the sequel to Auralia’s Colors is due to the publisher in November.)

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Nate

    Rosenbaum is a formidable writer with no qualms about being politically subjective in his reviews, but this latest piece is pretty useless as film criticism. It’s so much easier to quote people like Thomas and Lopez (conservatives who don’t generally write about film) and pass judgment on them.

    WTC did not demonize the terrorists. The movie simply wasn’t about them. Rosenbaum’s response was both predictable and inevitable. (Though in a way, it’s also comforting knowing that he’ll always be there second-guessing the status quo.)

  • jasdye

    rosenbaum is every bit as much a social critic as a film critic. for him, media representations and his view of reality (often socially-constructed, with one type of people pitted against another – usu. rich v. poor; american military industry v. the world; etc.) are well-integrated.

    i don’t think he avoided the subject(s) of the film at all, nate. he wasn’t pleased, saw it as more of the same american jingoism by an ‘auteur’ he severely disagrees with and looked at different readings of the film by some cultural critics. Lopez’ essay was particularly damning of an Amero-centric view that is slowly eating our soul away.

    the men and families studied in ‘world trade center’ may be heroes, great men and women who fight for every stretch of life given them. but the attitudes taken by many to demonize ‘the others’ (i.e., non-Americans, in Lopez’s vocabulary, “them” v. “us”), is anything but heroic. it’s cowardly and anti-
    christian. Ms. Lopez was right.

  • Nate

    It’s clear that WTC wasn’t the movie Rosenbaum wanted it to be. So he whines about it, pulling quotes from several non-film critics and virtually avoiding the subject of the film itself. Irritating.

    Care to comment on it, Jeffrey?

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Wow, I’ve been quoting that Kubrick line in discussions about Oliver Stone’s film, and I almost cited that line in my own review of it.

  • Josh Hurst

    Allow me to paraphrase the statement Jon Stewart made when they announced that he had been asked to host the Oscars: As a writer, I am humbled and honored to be asked to write “Film Forum.” As a long-time “Film Forum” reader, though, I can’t help but be somewhat disappointed.

    Best wishes as you continue on this sojourn, Jeffrey. If along the way you find your spirits needing to be lifted, I commend to you this here new Bruce Springsteen album. Don’t waste time with the library, either– one listen to this thing and you’ll just HAVE to own your own copy. It’s that good.

  • Sara Z.

    November? Have you started it? I hope you’ve started it. That’s about when my book #2 is due in final form; am turning in first draft around the 15th of this month.

  • RC

    That’s very cool…it sounds like an excellent book and I would be very interested in it…it’s better that your throwing out content than throwing in content for length.

    (I feel that way with most CDs…3 or 4 good songs and a whole bunch of fillers).

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  • wngl

    We’ll have proof that there is power in prayer when you are saved from having your intestines removed by a horse… which is not only a bizarre Braveheart reference but also the sensation that closest approximates writing under a deadline.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Many, many thanks, Kool.

  • wngl

    We’ll be praying for you, Jeff!


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