Art – For His Renown http://jimhamilton.info That the glory of the Lord might cover the dry land as the waters cover the sea Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:03:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 20992324 It’s Not a J. K. Rowling Novel http://jimhamilton.info/2016/08/03/its-not-a-j-k-rowling-novel/ http://jimhamilton.info/2016/08/03/its-not-a-j-k-rowling-novel/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 15:43:05 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=5191 The title of this post says what you need to know about this play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, bearing the ascription, “based on an original new story by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne; a new play by Jack Thorne.”

Here are my complaints, as they come to me:

  • The characters are flat and boring and say the kinds of dumb things we say in real life with all our cliches and banality. These hacks have the same names, but they are nothing like the surprising, funny, noble, sincere, honest, endearing, real characters in the Rowling novels. One of the bad guys in the novels tells Harry that if he’s going to use an unforgivable curse, he has to mean it. These characters don’t seem to mean it.
  • The plot fails to grip. The book arrived on my doorstep last night. We got the kids in bed, and I started reading around 10pm. At the end of Act 1, I went to bed. It was about 11:30. And I had done other things than read in that hour and a half. If this were a J. K. Rowling novel, I would not have been able to put it down to do other things, and I would not have gone to bed at 11:30. I likely would have read into the early morning, unable to stop until I simply couldn’t read any more. But this isn’t a Rowling novel.
  • The plot fails to convince. In a Rowling novel, the spell is cast convincingly and both the story-world and the events that take place in it so fit that we never pull up from the book and say to ourselves: that would never happen. Or: there’s a simpler fix for all this. Or: this is preposterous. Or: I don’t think these characters would act in these ways. Everything in a Rowling novel is right and feels inevitable. She does the necessary work to set us up, and she does it in a beautiful way. But this play by Jack Thorne isn’t a novel by J. K. Rowling, so I repeatedly found myself broken out of the weak spell of its world, unconvinced by the unnecessary events, the dumb solutions, and the trite words and actions of the characters.
  • Whatever has been said about him since the end of Book 7, Ron Weasley is a great guy in the Rowling novels. He’s a big enough person to be normal around the boy who lived when he first meets him, and then at the end of the first story sacrifices himself for his friends. He is funny, principled, heroic, and true to the right. His barbs toward enemies have teeth, and his dialogue is sharp and witty. In this stupid play Ron is a worthless doof of a loser. That’s not fair to him, and I don’t know why J. K. Rowling signed off on letting this be done to someone she cared so much about as she wrote those magnificent novels. She should have had more dignity. She should have loved Ron now as she loved him then. And she should not have let her name appear on this new play by Jack Thorne. She should not have let Jack Thorne and John Tiffany do this to her creation. And if it’s her fault it’s the way it is, she should have let the creation stand as it was rather than risk ruining it with this failed add-on.
  • Even worse than Ron is the way Harry is presented in this play. If he’s going to be such an incompetent father in this disappointment, why not just leave the hero alone and the story untold? I simply do not believe that the Harry Potter of those seven great novels would be as bad a father as this play tries to make him. The Harry Potter in this play never could have done what the Harry Potter in the novels did: The play-Harry could not have loved people, understood what was at stake, been taught by Dumbledore, and sacrificed himself the way the novel-Harry did. If he could have done all those things, he wouldn’t be the loser-dad the play-Harry is. So even though the play-Harry has the same name as the novel-Harry, they are not the same character.
  • Please. The adult novel-Harry would never say to Dumbledore-in-the-portrait: “I have proved as bad a father to him as you were to me.” I’m just not buying it. Adolescent Harry who didn’t know or understand the whole story could have blown up at Dumbledore the way he does when he throws a fit in his office. But then the rest of the story happened, and the characters both matured through their experiences and came to understand the necessity of everything that happened in the novels. In this play, the main characters are childish, even though they’re presented as adults. And these characters went through too much in those seven novels to be childish adults. Adults in our culture are childish, but adults in our culture haven’t been through what Harry, Ron, and Hermione went through, nor have they stood up the way the threesome did.
  • If J. K. Rowling wrote the lines of these characters in this play, she didn’t begin to approach what she achieved in the dialogue of the novels. So I’m inclined to think that either she didn’t write the lines and someone without her genius is responsible for the tripe, or that she’s too busy now, or that she failed to enter into this new story with all her emotional range and creative power. Because the dialogue stinks.
  • This play is a sappy, uninteresting attempt at sentimentality that fails to convince and just leaves me disgusted that someone would attempt to manipulate my emotions rather than earning the right to move me with real goodness, deep beauty, and high truth.

To sum up, the difference between reading a J. K. Rowling novel and reading this new play by Jack Thorne is like the difference between watching LeBron James play basketball and watching yours truly attempt the same. The one is dynamic, mesmerizing, awesome in his physical prowess and dominating presence. Thousands gather every time LeBron takes the court, and even more tune in for the spectacle. The other is the attempt of a guy in his 40s to get some exercise, not something even friends and family would have any reason to show up to watch.

Maybe Cursed Child is better on stage than read as a script, but I doubt it. Shakespeare’s plays do just fine when you read the script instead of seeing them enacted. Not this one. This is no J. K. Rowling novel. There’s no magic here.

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Great Books Selections for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 http://jimhamilton.info/2016/01/18/great-books-selections-for-fall-2015-and-spring-2016/ http://jimhamilton.info/2016/01/18/great-books-selections-for-fall-2015-and-spring-2016/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 17:31:48 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=5169 When I was choosing which books to assign for Great Books at Boyce College this year, I googled the topic and surveyed the choices others had made. Teaching Great Books has been a joy to my heart. I was an English major, and I wish I could talk about these books like my teacher, the eloquent Skip Hays.

Here are the books we covered in the Fall of 2015:

Homer, The Illiad.
Pre-Christian violence and nobility in poetry that has been studied for thousands of years now, inspiring offshoots and firing imaginations as it supplied the straw for not a few bricks of literary metaphors, similes, and illustration. The Illiad shows that the adultery of Paris and Helen leads to the smoking ruin of Troy surrounded by its blood-soaked fields, Hector dead and Achilles hopeless.

Shakespeare, Macbeth.
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through fog and filthy air.” Brave Macbeth cannot maintain his resolve to “do all that may become a man” and no more, and his false face hides what his false heart knows. Temptation. Ambition. Marriage. Murder. And in the end we see the triumph of the faithful and the downfall of the traitors.

Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment.
Old Fyodor was well acquainted with the dreamers who thought they could bring about a better world if only they could bring themselves to accomplish the worst crimes. All the “progressive” attempts to rationalize evil for the greater good are set forth in this 1866 masterpiece. And the harlot and the murderer find life together as they read the eternal Book. Lazarus, come forth!

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
I agree with John Granger: the chronicle of the boy who lived is the shared text of this generation. Rich with biblical imagery and themes, laced with imagery and allusion to the western literary canon, the weak who love goodness, truth, and beauty overcome the strong who know only power and love only themselves. Love is the true magic, and the only person who really finds the Philosopher’s Stone is the one who seeks it to serve and benefit others.

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
A flying Ford Anglia, a book within the book, and a hero who descends to the underworld to stab the snake in the head to save the girl. These stories get better page by page, book by book. As the characters grow the plots deepen in color and texture. Rowling’s seven volume accomplishment is unrivaled.

These are the books we will, Lord willing, consider this spring semester of 2016: 

Beowulf.
The noble champion defeats the seed of Cain and then slays the dragon as his disciples, that is, fellow-soldiers, flee the scene. Douglas Wilson has proposed an intriguing chiastic structure as well as a convincing explanation of the author’s apologetic art.

Shakespeare, Hamlet.
Another tale of another murder of another king. The Bard shows that those who kill to get what they want never succeed. Many think Shakespeare was a closet Roman Catholic in officially Anglican England, but Hamlet is a thorough protestant–studies in Wittenberg, even.

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
This novel gives a better feel for what life was like in Paris during the reign of terror than a history book ever could. The romance of resurrection shows the power and the glory of the love than which there is none greater, when a man lays down his life for his friends.

Tolkien, “Leaf by Niggle.”
Tim Keller discusses this short story in his book Every Good Endeavor. Tolkien depicts the frustration of work in a fallen world followed by the fulfillment of all our efforts in the new heaven and new earth. To be read repeatedly and slowly, pondered and treasured.

O’Connor, “The Displaced Person.”
How will the world treat a helpful Jewish servant? Harrowing, convicting, and thought-provoking. Vintage Flannery.

McCarthy, The Road.
A father and son on the road in a post-apocalyptic world. Headed toward hope, carrying the fire, enjoying the small things, and there is nothing the father won’t do to protect his son from roving bands of cannibals. McCarthy’s prose is a thing unto itself.

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Had to put volume three of the Potter series at the end of the semester so that students could read books four through seven over the summer. Because they will want to.

Happy reading!

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Don’t Try to Learn History from the Movies http://jimhamilton.info/2015/02/21/dont-try-to-learn-history-from-the-movies/ http://jimhamilton.info/2015/02/21/dont-try-to-learn-history-from-the-movies/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 14:28:49 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=5138 Edward Rothstein asks, “Whose History Is It, Anyway?” in the Wall Street Journal, and don’t miss this important section on the recent movie “Selma”:

“Selma” is more complicated. You might conclude from the film that President Lyndon Johnson’s staff was untrustworthy on civil rights, while Johnson himself was actually nefarious, regardeding Martin Luther King Jr. with nasty condescension. “You listen to me!” he scolds King. “I am sick and tired of you demanding and telling me what I can and can’t do!” As punishment for King’s uppityness, he sics J. Edgar Hoover on him.

None of this is true. And this is not a negligible distortion. King’s conversations with Johnson are crucial: Legislative success justifies King’s strategy. So why is Johnson turned into a near villain, seeing light only when King forces his hand? “I wasn’t interested in making a white-savior movie,” Ms. DuVernay has said. “Black people,” she has asserted, “should tell their own stories from their own perspectives.” She wanted a history in which African-Americans determined their own fates instead of seeming like passive recipients of Johnson’s good will. So instead we have Johnson’s bad will. Ms. Du Vernay alters history in order to control it; we hear the gears clanking, nearly undermining the powerful history she gets right.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor . . .” (Eph 4:25).

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Andrew Peterson: My Love Has Gone Across the Sea http://jimhamilton.info/2014/11/15/andrew-peterson-my-love-has-gone-across-the-sea/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/11/15/andrew-peterson-my-love-has-gone-across-the-sea/#respond Sat, 15 Nov 2014 16:06:47 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=5060 Andrew Peterson’s The Monster in the Hollows has this lovely lyric embedded within the wider story:

My love has gone across the sea
To find a country far and fair
He sailed into the gilded west
And lo, my heart will never rest
Until my love returns to me
Or I set out to find him there.

Come home, come home! I sing to thee
My love, come home and rest thy head
I’ll watch for you the winter long
And sing for you a summer song
And if you can’t return to me
Then I will sail to you instead

Through tow’ring wave and shriek of gale
I’ll aim my vessel ever west
And steer it by the cord that bound
My heart to yours, until you’re found
And should you find my body pale
And wrecked upon the loamy shale
Rejoice, my love, and call me blessed!
In death, my love, I loved you best

You can read his explanation on the Kickstarter page for The Warden and the Wolf King, and you can see his daughter sing it with him here:

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Their Finest Hour http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/29/their-finest-hour/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/29/their-finest-hour/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 20:54:17 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=4991 The incomparable Winston Churchill:

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

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Reading a Chiasm Helically http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/27/reading-a-chiasm-helically/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/27/reading-a-chiasm-helically/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 15:08:04 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=4984 In his brilliant and thought provoking book, Deep Exegesis, Peter Leithart writes (167):

“In a book happily back in print, John Breck argues that chiasms are not ‘balanced structures, but instead are dynamic literary devices. He suggests that chiasms should be read ‘helically,’ moving not just from A to B to C to B’ and so on, but from A to A’, B to B’, C to C’, and so on. Read in this way, the text has a centripetal pull toward the central section. The corresponding sections, Breck argues, are related in the same ways that the strophes of a verse of Hebrew poetry are related. He says there is a ‘what’s more’ relationship between the corresponding lines: A and, what is more, A’.”

[the Breck book to which Leithart refers is The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond]

This idea of reading a chiasm “helically” (from “helical: of or shaped like a helix; spiral”) is exactly right.

I have argued that chiastic structures function this way across the books of Revelation and Daniel, and in my forthcoming book on the theology of Daniel, I suggest that Daniel’s chiastic structure influenced the choices John made in structuring Revelation chiastically.

This helical function can also be seen in the chiastic structure of 2 Samuel 21–24 (see GGSTJ, 174–75) and is likely at work anywhere you find a chiasm in the Bible.

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All the world’s a stage http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/23/all-the-worlds-a-stage/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/23/all-the-worlds-a-stage/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 17:16:14 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=4982 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, scene 7:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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Shelby Foote on Hard Work http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/22/shelby-foote-on-hard-work/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/05/22/shelby-foote-on-hard-work/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 18:12:06 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=4980 In a letter to Walker Percy, Shelby Foote exhorted Percy to get to work on his desire to write fiction, saying something that is true about any craftsman pursuing any craft:

“But the most heart-breaking thing about it is: the better you get, the harder youll have to work–because your standards will rise with your ability. I mentioned ‘work’–it’s the wrong word: because if youre serious, the whole creative process is attended with pleasure in a form which very few people ever know. Putting two words together in a sequence that pleases you, really pleases you, brings a satisfaction which must be kin to what a businessman feels when he manages a sharp transaction–something like that, but on a higher plane because the businessman must know that soon he will have spent the dollars he made; but those two words which the writer set together have produced an effect which will never die as long as men can read with understanding.

So much for execution. I cant even begin to speak of conception–it comes from God.”

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The Stone by The Gray Havens http://jimhamilton.info/2014/04/08/the-stone-by-the-gray-havens/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/04/08/the-stone-by-the-gray-havens/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 10:00:27 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=4886 Just in time for Easter, check out this creative lyric video from The Gray Havens:

Available at Bandcamp (where they would prefer you get it) and Amazon.

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“The Legend of the Sunken Mountains” by Andrew Peterson http://jimhamilton.info/2014/03/20/the-legend-of-the-sunken-mountains-by-andrew-peterson/ http://jimhamilton.info/2014/03/20/the-legend-of-the-sunken-mountains-by-andrew-peterson/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:43:09 +0000 http://jimhamilton.info/?p=4867 We’re fans around here of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, and in the run-up to the real release of Book Four, The Warden and the Wolf King, we are reading back over the first three volumes. We just finished volume one, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, which includes this poem, “The Legend of the Sunken Mountains.” The rhyme scheme is clear, there are internal rhymes, and the meter is well paced and fits the message.

Along with its technical competence, this poem captures that haunting, suggestive quality. It’s a bit mysterious, hinting at a back story, tantalizing the reader with the suggestion of an old story high and beautiful. The poet novelist has intrigued us with his first three volumes, and we’re eager to read the fourth. Without further ado, here’s

“The Legend of the Sunken Mountains” by Andrew Peterson

Come forth from sunken mountain calls the sundered summer moon
The eyrie’s fallen dragon king hath groaned his grievous tune
The halls that rose in cloudy steeps now lie beneath the waves
And Yurgen’s fallen kingdom sleeps in bouldered ocean graves

Yurgen’s son, the dragon fair, met Omer son of Dwayne
And so the knight and Yurgen’s heir did battle in the rain
And lo, the dragon wounded lay from Omer’s mortal blow
The knight, in grief, did haste away to save his mortal foe

And Omer, bent with sorrow, bowed in Yurgen’s mountain hall
And told the ancient dragon how his only heir did fall
So Yurgen, mighty dragon king, atop his mountain keep
Asunder tore the glistening and rocky mountain steep

He summoned every dragon for to burrow through the ground
And find at last the fabled ore that makes the maiméd sound
But Yurgen’s heir was cold and killed, and buried in the mount
As dragons tunneled deeper still below the ocean fount

And then at last with thund’rous din the misty mountain climbs
Collapsed upon the beasts within the darkness of the mines
From ocean then did Yurgen rise to seek his dying son
But where his mountain once arrayed a half-moon golden hung

His dragon kingdom moldered, his dragon scion slain
King Yurgen’s sorrow smoldered and he sank away again
The halls that towered in cloudy steeps now lie beneath the waves
And Yurgen’s fallen kingdom sleeps in murky ocean graves

The summer dusk hath split in twain the gilded summer moon
And all who come shall hear again the dragons’ lonesome tune

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