Thursday, February 19, 2009
Title: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
How it was obtained: I purchased it for 10 cents from the library. The book was in good shape, and I thought it might possibly be interesting to read.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: About a year.
Days spent reading it: 4 days.
Why I read it: I often peruse the used book pile at our library. Sometimes a nice looking book shows up, so I buy them. Yes, as I've stated before, I will buy a book based on its cover. More importantly I will often read (or not read) a book based on its font readability. This book's pages and fonts were in great shape. Totally readable. So I read it.
The Pilot's Wife was a fascinating novel about some huge themes. Loss permeates this book as the main character, Kathryn, learns about her husbands death and the subsequent aftermath. Shreve tackles other themes such as death, life, love, betrayal, family and she tackles them with wonderful prose.
Kathryn is awakened at 3 am with news that her husband's plane has crashed. Her husband was the pilot (hence, The Pilot's Wife). Shreve slowly shows us as Kathryn's world unravels around this watershed moment in her life. Kathryn's heartache and loss are felt from the first page. However, the story continues as Kathryn learns about a secret life that her husband has been leading. I would not dare spoil the plot for you, all of this can be found on the back cover. Needless to say, this book unveils slowly a world that was not as it first appeared.
I think Shreve does a wonderful job with her characters. They are complex, they grow, change, and develop with the story. I found her writing smooth, I could just take it in all day. Her conversations are understated, but perfect. They are conversations that went deeper than the words that were uttered. Like every word was important. Shreve says in one sentence what some writers struggle to express in paragraphs. I enjoyed this book until the end. However, I was confused by the last paragraph. If anyone reads this book, and wants to explain to me what the author is trying to say in the last paragraph, please let me know! I just could not "get it."
I would definitely recommend this book to other readers. At first I was afraid that I had picked up a "girl book" and probably would not like it, I just had to press ahead. Instead I really enjoyed it and believe it is a great novel that can be savored by those who decide to pick it up and allow it to take you on a journey about love and loss.
Favorite quote: "If you never suspected someone, she realized, you never thought to suspect."
Stars: 4.5 out of 5.
Final Word: Intriguing.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Title: Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends edited by Kevin Vanhoozer, Charles Anderson, and Michael Sleasman.
How it was obtained: I used a gift card my parents gave me for my birthday to buy it from CBD.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 2 years.
Days spent reading it: 4.
Why I read it: I have heard great things about Kevin Vanhoozer, who teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity. So I was interested in reading some of his work. I am also interested in how Christians should interact with our culture. This book seemed to be a good fit.
Everyday Theology is a collection of essays that attempt to interpret culture through a multifaceted analysis. The basic grid is that we need to understand is called "the world behind, of, and in front of the text." The text is whatever element of culture we are looking at. "Behind the text" is the background information. "Of the text" is how does the text itself promote the message it is conveying. Like how hardcore music sounds angry, so it conveys this sense through aggressive rhythms, etc. (At least that is how I understand this point, its a little murky to me in the book). "In front of the text" refers to how we will respond to the text, I have to appropriate a response. For Christians this step would include taking the text and comparing it to a Biblical response.
If this sounds a little daunting, it can be, but it is also important if Christians want to be culturally savvy agents.
In this book, each essay takes one aspect of culture and analyzes it through this grid. For example there are articles on film (Gladiator), music (Eminem), political movements (UN Declaration of Human rights), as well as social movements (designer funerals, weddings, blogging).
I think Everyday Theology gives a solid grid for Christians to interpret culture through. However, I felt at times it was overly technical (I was certainly put off by some of the jargon). My interest level also rose and fell with different articles. If it was something I was interested in (i.e. Gladiator) I would be more interested than in something I barely encounter (i.e. designer funerals). And, as in any collection, some authors were clearly better at communicating their ideas than others.
The best chapter in the book was the final chapter. It actually walks us through the process of interpreting culture by analyzing something we all know--weddings. This chapter easily could have been the second chapter in the book (after the introductory essay by Vanhoozer that sets up the methodology used throughout the book) and would have served the reader better there because it gives a first hand account of how to interpret texts and trends. The other articles do not walk us through the process in such a step by step approach.
I would recommend this book to people who are interested in how Christians should interpret culture. This book is a little more academic than I was expecting, but does give good examples of how to evaluate culture and how we should respond to the culture we are interpreting. I would not suggest this book for the casual reader interested in Christians and culture, it might just be a little too dry for them.
"The ultimate goal of cultural hermeneutics is to live redemptively in response to cultural work. We find ourselves in a world in decay and yet with the shadow and promise of glory, a world that God is reconciling to himself. Part of our ambassadorship for Christ is to imagine how he should shape our lives in light of the influences of the texts and trends around us. Only if we practice cultural agency have we truly done cultural interpretation and fulfilled our responsibility to acquire wisdom."
Stars: 3.5 out of 5.
Final Word: Relevant.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Title: Faerie Lord by Herbie Brennan
How it was obtained: I bought it for Susan last Christmas, knowing I would probably get to read it one day too.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 1 year.
Days spent reading it: 4 days.
Why I read it: To finish up the Faerie Wars Chronicles. I was very impressed with the last 3 installments, and this is the concluding chapter.
Faerie Lord is the final installment of the Faerie Wars series. I loved the first three books and looked forward to this concluding episode. I wrote about Herbie Brennan in my review of Ruler of the Realm. I generally enjoy his style. It is very quick flowing and has tons of great plot twists.
Unfortunately Faerie Lord was not as coherent or creative as the previous installments in this series. The basic plot revolves around a sudden epidemic of a time disease. The disease was interesting, it basically stole the future of the person who was infected a few years at a time. It is a little more complicated than that, but I'm having trouble explaining it, so I won't. How will Henry and the gang respond to this epidemic? Will they be successful or will the entire realm be infected and die in a few years? Only time will tell.
This book had twists, but they were not very smooth. The overall plot came together, but was not well developed in my opinion. I think Herbie Brennan can be a great writer, I read a review that said this book felt rushed. That's exactly how I felt once I saw those words. There was much more that could have been done to make this a great book. Instead, it was only a decent conclusion to a great series.
I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed the series, but don't expect it to be as good as its predecessors. It does give a solid conclusion to the series, but has enough open holes that if Herbie Brennan wanted to write more in the series he definitely could. If you haven't liked the series through the first three books, this book will not change your mind.
Favorite quote: "He was doing something, which was always better than talking about doing something."
Stars: 3 out of 5.
Final Word: Unpolished.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Title: Wyrms by Orson Scott Card
How it was obtained: From the library for 50 cents. How awesome is that?
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: About a year.
Days spent reading it: 3 days (give or take a day).
Why I read it: I have enjoyed some Orson Scott Card, most notably Ender's Game (which I HIGHLY recommend) so I figured I'd give this one a chance. Even though the cover of this book looked really cheesy (see cover above), I thought I might give it a try because it was cheap and I enjoy Card enough to give him a chance. I sometimes do judge a book by its cover. Its hard not to when its so hideous.
Wyrms is a strange novel. It is about the quest of Princess Patience to find her destiny in the layer of her enemy/lover Unwyrm. She is drawn to him by his constant calling. Patience wants to destroy Unwyrm, but is also attracted to the monster. On her quest she picks up a number of followers who help her prepare for this ultimate showdown. Its a standard quest story. Good guy has ultimate goal, sidekicks help out, bad guy wants to destroy world, etc, etc.
This book is a little quirky. Its not terrible, but its not great either. For some reason this book was not as compelling to read as some of Card's other works. Card does have an interesting plot about how the different sentient beings came to exist on this planet through genetic alteration. He plays with some of the same idea a little in some of his Ender novels. He obviously is fascinated with genetics and the practical implications of mutation and adaptation.
I would not recommend this book to just anyone, but a bored sci-fi reader might enjoy it for its story line and strange characters. Susan, my wife, read it and liked it up until the end, which is admittedly a little strange. Not a book for the casual reader (sorry Susan), but maybe for a fan.
Favorite quote: "We used to pity you humans for your solitude. Well, I pitied you, and he despised you. But now, well, he keeps telling me that solitude is the foundation of true wisdom, that all the brilliant thoughts in this house come as the desperate cry of one human being to another, saying, Know me, live with me in the world of my mind."
Stars: 2.5 out of 5.
Final Word: Unreal.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Title: Oedipus the King by Sophocles (also known as Oedipus Rex) translated by Bernard M. W. Knox
How it was obtained: I think I inherited this book from my parents. Thanks mom and dad!
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: Probably a year or so.
Days spent reading it: One afternoon while getting the oil in my car changed.
Why I read it: I read this play in high school and was interested in reading it again. As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy Greek plays. Especially tragedies.
The story of Oedipus is well known to us today. Oedipus unknowingly kills his own father, marries his own mother, and in the process becomes King of Thebes. What I found interesting in the reading the introduction to this play was that all Greek plays would be fairly well known to the audience. The playwright would be honored for skill in telling the tale and in their poetry. And in the case of Oedipus some of the greatest artistry is in the dramatic irony of Oedipus's words.
What I love about Oedipus the King is the constant struggle of Oedipus to reveal the truth of who his father's murder is (and eventually his own history) and his stubborn refusal to accept the truth when it is told plainly. The first major conversation Oedipus has with Tiresias captures this conflict perfectly. Oedipus asks Tiresias to tell what he knows. Tiresias understands who Oedipus is and what he has done. So Tiresias refuses to tell Oedipus. Oedipus promises it will be alright, just tell the truth. Tiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus is the killer of the previous King, Laius. Oedipus rejects the truth, and rejects Tiresias. Over and over again, Oedipus wants the truth, but rejects it until all the evidence cannot be ignored any longer.
The other element of Greek tragedies that I have long enjoyed is the idea that in attempting to avoid our destiny we fulfill it. For example, Oedipus left his "home country" to avoid killing his father (who he thought was the king of Corinth, Polybus). So he wanders to Thebes and kills a man at a crossroads. Who is, of course, his own father. Classic.
I enjoyed reading Oedipus the King. It was a short read, but it has some profound moments in it. I look forward to reading some more Sophocles once I get through some more of this list. Oedipus continues his story in Oedipus at Colonus. And we hear about his daughter in Antigone (which I read in High School). If you enjoy tragedy, this is a must read!
"Time, which sees all things, has found you out." -Chorus
Stars: 4 of 5.
Final Word: Sobering.