Raising the Stakes in Stories

In her memoir The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, Laura Miller talks about why she strongly preferred the Narnia books to the Elsie Dinsmore series an aunt pressed on her:  The morality of Elsie Dinsmore was the morality of childhood, where the choice was between obedience and naughtiness. The morality of Narnia was grown-up, a matter of good and evil. A childhood friend echoed her feelings, contrasting Narnia to Oz: There was a certain weightiness to Narnia which really app … [Read more...]

Iceland Wept

This week, police in Iceland shot a suspect who was shooting at them.  This is the first time in Iceland's history that its law enforcement has killed a civilian in the line of duty, and the incident made national news. The Icelandic police department said officers involved will go through grief counseling. And the police department has already apologized to the family of the man who died — though not necessarily because they did anything wrong."I think it's respectful," [news editor] Ar … [Read more...]

The Drunk and the Madmen

I never get tired of Twelfth Night.  Last night, I got to see a boisterous production in NYC that my brother's been working on.  (Runs through this weekend, details and tickets here).   The show began with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek teaching the audience the lyrics for some of their drinking songs, so we can join in during the show proper.  ("Go ahead and take a wife / you still will drink away your life / So drink up! Cause what you really want is more /MORE BEER!").Perhaps because of … [Read more...]

Seven Books of 2013

As the year winds to a close, and you may be starting to wonder what gifts which books to give friends and family for the holiday, I would, of course, like to remind you of the existence of Arcadia, Gödel Escher Bach, Reflections on the Psalms, and the corpus of Sondheim, for this week's quick takes, I'm sharing my seven favorite books I read for the first time this year.  They are in the order I read them chronologically over the last eleven months.Also, if you would like to do me a mitzv … [Read more...]

Must Pity be Hierarchical?

In Laura Miller's quasi-memoir The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia, she talks about her intellectual development in the context of the books she read as a child, with a particular emphasis on Narnia.  But my attention was caught by a later passage, after she's read Orwell's Animal Farm. I don't mean to suggest that Animal Farm isn't moving. Even as an adult, I found the novel terribly sad. I pitied poor Boxer the draft horse, who dies serving a regime he can't even see has b … [Read more...]

Gratitude is to Thanksgiving as Penance is to…

Before Thanksgiving, I visited my alma mater for the Harvard-Yale game, and got to participate in a Liberal Party discussion on "When Should We Experiment on Animals?"  The first speaker opened with a quote from The Brothers Karamazov, and by the back half of the debate, the room full of students (many of whom had worked in animal labs themselves) had drifted onto the topic of how to handle causing harm or suffering even when you believe it is the best course of action.We were right on the c … [Read more...]

A Season Worth Waiting For

The Catholic year is divided up into liturgical seasons, and, yesterday, Advent began.  Advent is, for Catholics, a small version of Lent.  It precedes Christmas, as Lent does Easter, and is a season of waiting and preparing through fasting and reflection.  We are waiting for Christmas, but also the second coming of Christ, His two inbreakings into the world are paired in this season.It's also a very nice excuse for not putting up Christmas decorations or for complaining about overplayed ca … [Read more...]