A good book, but a number of flaws keep this from being a truly great book.
The first is that there is simply not enough material about the war time exA good book, but a number of flaws keep this from being a truly great book.
The first is that there is simply not enough material about the war time experiences of Tolkien and Lewis to form the basis of solid book length treatment. Secondly, the book is just riddled with minor errors that will be easily recognizable to any fan of the books, that somehow escaped the editor. Usually these are in the form of misattributions and simple confusion and misidentification, but they are annoying especially when the author is using and perhaps over relying on the text of the books to prove his points. Thirdly, the approach that the author gives to the text is far too loose for my tastes. If you want to say that a piece of text relates to the author's war time experiences, I'd prefer much more solid evidence. Fourthly, at least for my part, most of the book was well covered ground and well known to me. The unusual focus on the little explored portion of Lewis and Tolkien's life proved mainly to instruct that it is little focused on because there is little definite to say about it. Finally, this book is going to be really of no use whatsoever to a non-Christian audience, as it is far too clear that the author is not merely a historian building a literary and historical case, but is also an evangelist that admires the works as sermons and wishes to expand upon them. Even as a sympathetic ear that agrees that the books work as sermons, and has taught doctrine from them, this inability to choose between the unbiased voice of the historian and the passionate voice of the evangelist is a bit jarring.
Still for all that, I can recommend the book to a limited audience of Christian readers that have some knowledge of the works but don't already have a lot of insight in to the minds of the authors who created them. To them, it will likely be a revelation. Even for someone like myself, who have read the works dozens of times, read all manner of unpublished notes by Tolkien, many books of literary criticism and interpretation of the works, and dug into the text in fandom circles to levels that will seem absurd to many, there were still occasionally unlooked for vistas which were like looking out on a well known valley from vantages you'd never seen before.
In particular, I was struck by Loconte's interpretation of the mindset of Tolkien after the great war that lead him to create his work. The idea of Tolkien passing through the great war, seeing the broken state of his nation, weeping and then deliberately and consciously taking up the burden of healing his entire nation by bringing them a myth that reflected to them divine revelation just leaves me in renewed awe. Who does that sort of thing? Can you just conceive what the mind must be like that in the middle of its tears says, "My nation is broken. Their myths about themselves have deluded and failed them, and they have no stories of their own to fall back on. I know, I'll give them a new story, a great story, a light to lead them out of this dark place." My jaw hits the floor. The vision of the Good Professor once again humbles all my understanding.
It is easy to see why he is often imitated, quite often scorned, occasionally mocked, and yet no one has really come even close to equaling his work. ...more
Almost all good English fiction has in some fashion echoes of the voice of the translators of the King James Bible. This book rather successfully echoAlmost all good English fiction has in some fashion echoes of the voice of the translators of the King James Bible. This book rather successfully echoes the voice of the prophetic literature of that work, merging the strange voice of the prophet glimpsing things far beyond his understanding with enough scientific understanding to make those strange things seem real in our minds rather than merely magical.
Overall, it has a few vintage Gene Wolfe moments and is as deep as a desert well, but mostly this is clearly a coda to a story that had been concluded well and didn't need one. I feel it adds very little to our understanding of the story to try to explain it, and Severian if anything is even less likeable as a mature man than he was as a hopelessly naïve romantic young man....more
Prelimenary review really, because I'm still reading. I've been looking for a good bible story collection. This is the best so far, and I like the illPrelimenary review really, because I'm still reading. I've been looking for a good bible story collection. This is the best so far, and I like the illustrations, but I don't like how the stories have been excerpted and tamed. It's not a particularly good paraphrasing, and I find the little sermonette's at the end of each story to be a little annoying. The girls like it alot, though all the stories I've told from it have had alot of ad libbing from me so I'm not sure that's a fair review of the book.
Well, this is the best so far of what appears to be an impoverished genera. But despite the positive elements of the book, I couldn't get past the fact that the stories were poor paraphrases and alot of stories where left out in favor of alot of sermonizing on the part of the author....more
Having never before read A.W. Tozer, I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book, and if I expected anything I'm not sure that thisHaving never before read A.W. Tozer, I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book, and if I expected anything I'm not sure that this was it.
The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life is a study in the unstudiable. It is a scrutiny of that which is inherently inscrutable. It is therefore I think doomed from the start, for the knowledge that it would convey is inexpressible and the wisdom it would impart is far beyond man's understanding. In fact, the book is filled with confessions of this very sort which made me wonder why such a futile project was attempted with such earnestness.
According to the text, Tozer believed that the failure of the church in the 20th century was largely due to a failure to properly conceive God. Tozer spends about 20 short chapters discussing the attributes of God. The real God, Tozer declares, is marked by His Majesty and this majesty is evident from His infinite nature. Whether speaking of God's power, His righteousness, His faithfulness, His knowledge, or any other attribute which is part of the nature of God, the real God is in all things unlike the things of the world in being infinite. The real God, Tozer claims, had been disconnected from the name of God so that when the church spoke his name it no longer reflected the actual God of the Heavens but rather some enfeebled and unmajestic conception of man.
This is actually a subject that I as a computer scientist take a great deal of interest in. Names are fundamentally important to the study of computer science. In computer science we are made aware of the distinction between the name and the thing that is named. The name of a thing is not the thing itself, but rather only a pointer to the thing. A name is valuable only in as much as it continues to point to the right thing. A name can become misaddressed, so that it no longer points to the thing it is supposed to. And, a name can become detached completely from anything, so that when we try to dereference it we find the name empty of meaning. So it is in fact a very real worry that we might still hold on to the name, but find that the name has no power because it no longer addresses the thing that its name is supposed to associate it with. A name that doesn't point to the thing that it labels, has lost referential power and like salt without saltiness is good for nothing.
Nothing is worse than asking directions of a null pointer.
Tozer is certainly right that the name of God can become lost. If it was not so, then God would have never warned us against using the name lightly. But if the address of the namespace of God becomes lost to us, the fault is not with God. God cannot be made null. The fault lies with us, in that we have made His name null within our namespace. But the problem herein is that if Tozer is right, and that the chief problem is that we've lost the address of God and our prayers are thereby null and ineffective, clearly no effort on our part can reinitialize that pointer. God must give us his address if we are to use it.
Which creates quite a conundrum, because how can Tozer expect to by any of his writing reinitialize the pointer to God? If Tozer is right, then all of his intellectuality and all of his logic, intelligence, and study is completely vain - even by his own account. All of the attributes of God are far beyond our understanding. Any conceptions we have of God are necessarily limited and therefore in some measure a false understanding. We cannot hope to contain the infinite within our finite understanding.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Tozer does what is I think the most fitting and valuable part of the work - he begins each chapter with prayer.
It's not so much that I think Tozer says anything that is false. I think he does a fine job reminding the reader how big God is. Or rather, I think he does as fine of job as any mere human can do speaking about the infinite to another mere mortal. This is to say, not very well at all really if the purpose is anything other than a philosopher’s game. From Tozer's writing how can we come away with a pointer to God? If the problem is really that we don't imagine God big enough and don't hold him in awe enough, then what are we to do or how could we ever have any hope of Salvation? If only those that have sufficient intellect to hold the infinite in their understanding shall be saved, then we are all doomed for there is not a one of us so bright that our own strong right brain can save us.
The truth is that we cannot be saved through the completeness of our doctrines, our studies of theology, or the correctness of our thoughts. The problem isn't so much that I disagree with Tozer; it is that I think he gets it completely backwards. The loss of the namespace of God isn't the cause of the failing of the modern church, but a symptom of it. It's not that we are not right with God because we lack a proper conception of him, but rather we have not a proper conception of God because we are not right with God. Tozer is I think trying to treat a symptom rather than a cause.
At times Tozer’s work is shockingly anti-intellectual, even to one such as myself, who can be sneeringly anti-intellectual, and yet I wonder if it doesn’t go far enough. I don’t think there is a thing here which will be convincing to anyone that needs convincing on these points. I don’t think there is anything in the text that will convince the reader of anything he is not formerly convinced of. On a purely intellectual level, I don’t think there are very many Christians who have forgotten the Majesty of God, or His infinite grace, mercy, faithfulness, or love. It’s not that we’ve forgotten how big he is when we engage in these sorts of intellectual conversations; it is that we just don’t feel it really. There is vast difference in the knowing of something in your head, and the knowing of something in your heart. The one enables you to speak eloquently on a subject, and the other empowers you to actually live as you claim to believe.
On the speaking eloquently or correctly on the subject of the unbounded matchless character of God, I think Tozer can be some help. But this is really not much help at all. What I need is some help in getting from a cold leaden too intellectual heart filled with worldly wisdom, toward really feeling the presence of God. But such an instruction manual - if anyone could provide it - never seemed to be in Tozer’s ambition. I can’t say whether or not merely thinking the right things was enough for A.W. Tozer, but it doesn’t work too well for me.
One of the reasons that I don't read short story collections very much is that the stories are generally so uneven. That's particularly true in this cOne of the reasons that I don't read short story collections very much is that the stories are generally so uneven. That's particularly true in this case, as a great many very different writers are brought to gather to make statements about a subject people tend to feel pretty passionate about one way or the other.
I liked only eight or nine of the 25 stories. But I guess by Sturgeon's Law, that means this is a pretty good collection. Bradbury's 'The Man' (2 stars) was just 'meh' and didn't seem to have any high ambitions or challenging statements one way or the other. Jack McDevitt's take on an alternate faith based on an alternate history in 'Friends in High Places' (3 stars), seemed a cut above the usual snideness and self-validation that the theme usually draws. Pulling no punches, Mike Resnick, writing as it were for the prosecution, delivered withi his usual quality a mystical trial in 'The Pale, Thin God' (4 stars). Gene Wolfe, writing elegantly as he usually does for the defence, delivered an orthodox yet quirky parable in 'The Detective of Dreams' (4 stars). This was followed by the challenging ambigious vision of Jorge Luis Borges in 'The Gospel According to Mark' (4 stars), which might have been the best written story of the collection. After that, nothing much, for a long while until 'Murmur's Laws' (2 stars) by Jack Slay Jr. examined humanities relationship to Messiahship with a keen eye. The titular and penultimate story, 'A Cross of Centuries' (2 stars) by Henry Kuttner examine the nature of sin in a story which welded religious mysticism with scientific mysticism in a true sci-fi story. Lastly, the collection is rounded out by Oscar Wilde's beloved and heart warming faerie tale, 'The Selfish Giant' (5 stars).
Several things were lacking for me. For a collection featuring 25 religious stories, it was notable for only having one by an author that would meet the usual definition of piety. This kinda skewed the collection toward irreverance despite the editors apparant intention. Some of the critics, notably Mike Resnick, managed to both air thier grievances and tell a good story at the same time, but most of the writers seemed content to deliver only snide irreverance and highly personal self-validation. I'm no more impressed with this than 'Chicken Soup for the Soul', and maybe less because I bet fewer people will care. A portion of the stories, didn't convey a sense of holding the position of the author with much deep consideration.
Others just weren't that well written.
I was also a bit disappointed by the lack of imagination in the stories. Perhaps I'm pigeon holing the editor based on my exposure to him and the names of some of the authors that contributed, or perhaps I've been spoiled on the subtleties of Tolkien and Wolfe, but I would have thought 25 'imaginative' tales of Christ would have been a little more imaginative....more
I've been avoiding listing this one because there is a part of me that screams, "Why didn't you give this book 5 stars!?!?!" Certainly, that part of mI've been avoiding listing this one because there is a part of me that screams, "Why didn't you give this book 5 stars!?!?!" Certainly, that part of me has a point. I've read this book more than any other book save two - the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Generally, any book I find worth reading more than 4 or 5 times I also find worth giving 5 stars to. And, in terms of the power and sophistication of the stories contained within, the book is probably unmatched as a collection of short stories. Likewise, it offers an unparalleled glimse into the historical past. And, it has probably some of the most stirring passages in all of literature which provingly remain thrilling and moving when translated into any language. Additionally, it is a profoundly deep and philosophical book. Finally, it the core of who I choose to define myself as as a person.
So why just four stars? What compels me in all honesty to give it short marks?
To be fully honest, there are large passages particularly in the first testament - much of Jeremiah, portions of the larger prophetic works, and pretty much all of the minor prophets - that I just find boring and intractably obscure. Pushing through them is a chore, and I seldom find anything I can really chew on. I suspect that to really appreciate these passages I'd have to learn some Hebrew and put in alot more serious study than I have, but really that's not what I want from this book. When I open it, I'm not looking for lengthy vistas (though I'm happy when I find them), but a more pithy and accessible sort of knowledge - as one opening a mechanic's reference or soldier's battle handbook.
It's been a few years since I read this book, and so I won't risk the sort of complete review the book deserves.
I used to hang out frequently in variIt's been a few years since I read this book, and so I won't risk the sort of complete review the book deserves.
I used to hang out frequently in various online Tolkien fan communities to share my love of Tolkien's works with other geek. One thing that always struck me about the conversations which developed in this places was how much fuller, deeper, and well reasoned the arguments were than those I encountered in published works by literary critics and scholars. The average literary critic reading Tolkien is I think, by virtue of his training, left poorly prepared to deal with Tolkien's work, and employs a method of analysis which is wholly alien to the author's nature and technique. For example, Tolkien openly hated overt allegory and metaphor, and eshewed as much as he could employing anything like one to one metaphors between the elements of his text and some real world figure or event. Yet, most scholars persist in seeing simplistic metaphors in his story and build up the most elaborate towers of balderdash about what the books are about despite the fact that such arguments fall apart under even the most cursory scrutiny.
Of all of Tolkien's published critics, I think Wood by far comes the closest to 'getting it' and actually getting at the depths of the text. He's certainly the only one who I think would usefully contribute to a discussion between actual fans of the sort that read the book annually, or continually, or to the point of having lost count of the number of times they've read it. (You know who you are.) Maybe that is because Wood is a fan himself....more