I haven’t been blogging much this week because, to tell the truth, sometimes I have to put stuff in to put stuff out.
In other words, I have to spend time reading as well as writing. With the kids flying the nest I recently moved my study and all the books from the little back room which was my cave to what was the family room and I have a lovely new library which is just great for sitting and reading surrounded by my books and stuff.
So I’ve been re-reading C.S.Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. What a knockout. I think when I read it before I skimmed over all that talky bits about philosophy and cosmology and myth and went for the main plot line, and I remember coming away thinking that it was unsatisfactory. The climax was kind of forced and hurried. Now I realize that Lewis was probably much more interested in the cosmology, myth, theology and apologetics in the book than he was in the plot line.
That’s okay, and I recommend if you haven’t read the book to read or re-read it. One of the main themes is Lewis’ attack on the utilitarian, technocratic, atheist and demonic scientism. The book (like most dystopias) reads more like a prophecy. In the midst of Lewis’ attack it is interesting how much he focusses on sexuality as being the answer. What he promotes is not the false “healthy sexuality” of promiscuity, but a healthy and robust approach to marriage. In a hearty way he echoes the creator, “Be fruitful and multiply!”
I’ve also re-read Tom Howard’s Chance or the Dance. I should say I re-skimmed it. Ignatius Press has just come out with a new edition with a foreword by Eric Metaxas and an afterword by Tyler Blanski. Tom Howard taught my sister years ago at Gordon College and I had the privilege of meeting him and his wife at one of Stratford Caldecott’s Oxford conferences. It was a pleasure to sit with him at high table at Christ Church listening to a lecture by Dorothy Sayers’ friend, colleague and biographer Barbara Reynolds.
Strat had managed to rent the great hall at Christ Church for our closing dinner. It was magical to be there after a conference on Narnia and Middle Earth and Lord Peter Wimsey. I had done a presentation on Campbell and the Hero’s Quest and Tom had spoken about Lewis and Narnia. It all combined with the fact that the Great Hall had been used to film Harry Potter scenes and on the wall was a portrait of Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame–who was a don at Christ Church. Outside was “Mercury” the famous fountain into which the hearties had thrown the aesthete Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.
That summed him up. He has a delightful sense of humor, a super sharp mind and a droll sense of self mockery behind his bow tie and spectacles.
Chance or the Dance connects with That Hideous Strength in echoing the same themes, albeit from a different angle to start with. Howard also laments the cruel, meaninglessness of the modern world and argues his case from the meaning of literature and art. One needs to slow down to follow the arguments, and perhaps Tom was somewhat wordy, chattering away in his delightful way, but the wordiness is sparkling nonetheless and it is a cracking good read as it was the first time. Like Lewis, Howard brings it around to sex, and points out how our sexuality is what gives meaning and direction to our lives because it is our participation in the creation of life, and when that is taken away sex as well as everything else becomes empty and meaningless.
Artificial contraception, it could be said, has made everything artificial and destroyed all conceptions.
Tyler Blanski’s connection with Tom Howard’s book connected with the arrival of Tyler’s conversion story in the mail. Also published by Ignatius, An Immovable Feast is one of the better of a new crop of conversion stories by the younger generation. Blanski is a very gifted writer, who styles his story from the heart as well as from the mind. I hope he will continue writing because, as a younger convert he will speak more readily to his own generation who are seeking all that is beautiful good and true. I read his story first in a preview copy to offer a cover blurb and I highly recommend it. Buy the book, read it, then give it to a young intellectual-ish Evangelical friend. Go ahead. Do it. Go here.
I’m researching my next book which I’m calling Crybaby Bullies: Where They Came From and What You Can Do About It. To research this I’ve been reading Max Scheler’s Ressentiment, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality and Schoeck’s Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. The problem with the research stage is that there is too much information to process and one book always leads to another.
There are other books crying out for mentions and reviews…some fiction from Wiseblood Books, Jennifer Fulweiler’s new book and I’m still trying to complete Daniel Mattson’s Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay. I’m going to try a more thorough review of this book along with Fr Schmitz’ book on sexuality when I get a chance. Both are terrific and provide in depth and compassionate answers to this pressing problem–much in contrast to the sentimental and insidious position of Fr James Martin and New Ways Ministry.
Finally, if you’re reading, I need some feedback from you please. I’m spending a fair bit of time preparing and recording my twenty part series on church history. I can always check my blog readership statistics through Google Analytics to see if I’m hitting my target. It is not so easy with podcasts because they are available through multiple channels and most of them do not post the number of downloads and listens.
So if you are listening to the podcasts could you drop me a line and give me some feedback? If no one is interested I’ll cut the whole thing short, but if there are a good number of listeners I’ll keep on going for all twenty episodes. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org