Given that I’ll be talking about The Lion’s World—a book by a former Archbishop of Canterbury that discusses The Chronicles of Narnia from a Christian perspective—I feel it is only fair that I say at the outset that I am sympathetic and receptive to theistic arguments and apologetics. In particular, I am sympathetic to the sensitive accounts of religious experience provided by people like Francis Spufford (and, yes, C. S. Lewis), as well as to Terry Eagleton’s contention that the particular brand (and I say “brand” for a reason) of atheism popular at the moment tends to be philosophically vacuous and socially complacent. Those are fighting words, I know, but I’m not trying to start an argument; in fact, I have absolutely zero interest in discussing this, since it’s the kind of thing that tends to generate ill will all around. I simply want to lay all my cards on the table so readers know where I’m coming from.
Onwards. Continue reading
Dear Committee Members is a book for anyone who has ever taught at, studied at, or been within five miles of a university. The latest novel by writer (and University of Minnesota faculty member) Julie Schumacher, it chronicles a year in the life of Jay Fitger, a professor of creative writing at a (fictional) small research college. Like their real-life counterparts, Payne University’s administrators are seeking to cut costs in some areas in order to spend lavishly in others. Unfortunately for Prof. Fitger, the posh digs provided to lucrative programs, the extravagant amenities designed to lure in unsuspecting undergraduates, and the (one assumes) well-padded pockets of the administrators themselves come at the expense of the English Department, which has had its budget repeatedly slashed and is currently being chaired by a sociologist. To add insult to injury, the building that houses the department is currently undergoing renovations for the benefit of the economics faculty, who have been evacuated until the restoration is finished. Not so the English faculty, and the warning about “particulate matter” leads Fitger to playfully hypothesize that “the deanery is annoyed with [the English faculty’s] request for parity and, weary of waiting for [them] to retire, has decided to kill [them].” Continue reading
Note: I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury USA (via Netgalley) for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review in any way.
A Slant of Light is a novel about the aftershocks of violence—but not, perhaps, the violence that you’d expect, given that it’s set in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War. The gruesome double killing that opens Jeffrey Lent’s latest novel is an act of domestic violence. It is also the tragic explosion of resentments (and injustices) that have been festering for years. So perhaps, in that respect, Lent’s novel is as apt a depiction as any of the wreckage left behind in the wake of a cataclysmic civil war. Continue reading