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Tenants, Traps, Teaching, and the Meaning of Melville’s “Moby Dick”

In Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick, a massive white whale named Moby Dick has bitten off Captain Ahab’s leg. In response to this, Ahab commits himself to killing the whale Moby Dick.

Captain Ahab bears the name of an idolatrous king of Israel.

Captain Ahab refuses to accept what has been done to him by a higher power.

Rather than accept the loss of his leg and move on with his life, Captain Ahab vows revenge and seeks to take it.

Melville is showing us how people who refuse to submit to God Almighty engage in a hopeless attempt to kill God and have their own will be done in life.

Melville has one character identify the whale as God incarnate. Ahab rebels against his fate and seeks vengeance for what has happened to him. Along the way Melville shows that Ahab’s quest has ruined him, destroyed his ability to enjoy life, and left him a boiling cauldron of hatred.

The story is Melville’s dramatic depiction and exposition of what life is like for those who refuse to submit to God and seek to establish their own will in place of his.

In the parable of the wicked tenants in Mark 12, Jesus tells a story that summarizes Israel’s history and explains why he is being rejected by the religious establishment. The religious establishment is like Melville’s Captain Ahab – they don’t want the Messiah God has given to them, so they declare war on the Lord and his Christ like Ahab trying to harpoon Moby Dick.

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees both try to trap Jesus.

The Pharisees come with a question about whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. These guys are more outmatched than a first year law student trying to take on Antonin Scalia. It’s like they’re trying to outrun a motorcycle on a tri-cycle.

The Sadducees come to Jesus with an argumentum ad absurdum that will show how ridiculous belief in the resurrection is. Jesus shows the fallacy of their argumentation on two points. First, he shows that there are factors about the resurrection they have not considered. What they think is a problem is not a problem because things will be changed in such a way that the problem goes away. Second, Jesus shows that the Torah, which they accept, implies the resurrection.

Jesus then answers an honest question about the greatest commandment, and the discussion of loving God and neighbor is a stark contrast with the traps Jesus has evaded. The Pharisees and Sadducees are like King Ahab of Israel, rejecting God’s Lordship and rebelling against him, seeking to establish their own will rather than submit and obey. And they are like Melville’s Captain Ahab, refusing to accept the Messiah God has given to them and instead seeking to harpoon Jesus.

You try to harpoon the whale, to kill God and take the vineyard for yourself, and you will ruin your life and destroy the lives of all around you. Melville depicts this as Captain Ahab’s quest for the whale results in the whale attacking the ship and the death of the whole crew—with the exception of the one named Ishmael (a name of one who did not partake of God’s covenant with Israel).

Mark 12 then concludes with Jesus teaching on the Christ, hypocrites, and sacrificial giving.

On Sunday, June 5, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Mark 12, “Tenants, Traps, and Teaching,” at Kenwood Baptist Church.

Don’t play Ahab’s part. Don’t go to your grave with his bitter words to the whale on your lips:

“to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

I had a great time listening to Moby Dick, and if you’d like to beguile a little less than an hour with my sermon on Mark 12 it’s here.

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Whittaker Chambers on James Joyce

In the conclusion of his review of Finnegan’s Wake, Whittaker Chambers wrote this telling description of James Joyce,

“Nono. In appearance Joyce is slight, frail but impressive. He stands five feet ten or eleven, but looks as if a strong wind might blow him down. His face is thin and fine, its profile especially delicate. He wears his greying, thinning hair brushed back without a part. Joyce reads and writes sprawling in bed or on a couch but he does not like it known. He is very formal in public, in restaurants prefers straight-back chairs in which he sits bolt upright.

He dresses with conservative elegance, never goes out without a slender walking stick, which he manipulates expertly, accenting the delicacy of his beringed hands (he has a passion for rings). His voice is soft, rich and low with a gentle, melancholy brogue. He is rather vain of his tenor, which he likes to join with his son’s bass at small family celebrations.

Joyce’s curious glasses give him a somewhat Martian appearance. The left lens is so thick it is almost a hemisphere, and to focus it is necessary for him to throw back his head slightly when looking at people. Ten years ago, Joyce could not see with his left eye at all, and a cataract was beginning to form on the right eye. Every operation on the left eye caused a hemorrhage. Finally Dr. Alfred Vogt of Zurich succeeded in making an artificial pupil for the left eye, set in below the position of the normal pupil. The cataract on Joyce’s right eye has meanwhile developed. He has had eleven major operations on his eyes, all without anesthetics, faces another soon. But he sees far better than he did ten years ago.

The Joyce family consists of amiable Galway wife Nora, née Barnacle; a son, Giorgio, 33; a dancer-illustrator daughter, Lucia, thirtyish. Giorgio, who married American Helen Gastor, has one son, Stephen James, lives in a Paris suburb where Joyce and his wife frequently visit him. Grandson Stephen is adored by his grandfather, calls the author of Ulysses “Nono.”

Among Joyce’s closest friends are Eugene Jolas (editor of transition), Paul Léon, his secretary, and Stuart Gilbert, who wrote an exhaustive exegesis of Ulysses. With Eugene and Maria Jolas, the Joyces dine every Saturday night.

Joyce is constantly jotting down overheard phrases, is especially interested in dialects, Midwestern American, British colonial, newspaper jargon. He speaks Italian as smoothly as English, flawless French, fluent German, knows some dozen other tongues, including outlandish Lapp. At present Joyce is not writing. His wife is trying to get him started on something, because when he is not working he is hard to live with.

Though he has been away from Ireland since 1904, returning only briefly in 1912 to start a motion-picture house, the Volta, which quickly failed, Joyce has an unrivaled knowledge of Dublin and its current life, keeps his recollections green by subscribing to Dublin newspapers, pores over their gossip and chitchat.

But no observer of his life and works can fail to note that James Joyce is a typical Irishman. Born in Dublin, he remains as Irish in Paris or Trieste as he was in the city of his birth. His friends believe that nothing short of a European war could drive him back to the “little brown bog” and the haunting Liffey.”

The Whole Thing.

 

 

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The Monster in the Hollows, by Andrew Peterson

It was a lovely May morning under the arbor on our bricked back porch. We love family time. We love being out in the morning before the sun has climbed high and grown hot. And we love a good story.

We had been waiting for this story for months. To our great delight it finally arrived, and there in the early cool of the day we read its final pages. Our hearts were thrilled with the song of the stones, the terrors of the deeps of throg, a family fighting through affliction, heroes and villains, friends and foes, laughter and tears.

There’s much to ponder in The Wingfeather Saga, much about the way the Maker moves, about the way it’s always too early to quit, about the way the Maker takes a failure and makes a flourish, about how singing for love rather than power will make a bent song beautiful, and on and on . . . And this isn’t just a book for the kids to think about, though think on it they should and will.

The Monster in the Hollows isn’t what you think, but it is Book Three in the Wingfeather Saga. Reading these stories as a family has been made more fun as we follow Andrew Peterson’s progress on his blog and twitter updates, as we see the way other readers react in song and form to the tales he tells, and as we pray that the Lord will continue to cause his gaze to pierce into the way things really are.

Andrew Peterson is a lover of language, a poet with a heart full of melody. And hope. And joy. And faith. And love. More than once as I read this book aloud to my boys my voice choked with emotion. More than once I paused to read and re-read lines for their loveliness. And as we slowly savored the sorrow and joy, the triumph and tragedy in those final pages of the book, I found it more beautiful than I had hoped it could be. In the night, hope lives on. We read those final pages slowly, then read them again, and again.

What would it have been like to have read The Chronicles of Narnia as old Clive Staples finished them? What would it have been like to read along with Tolkien as he produced The War of the Ring? We won’t know, but if you jump in right now, you can read along with Andrew Peterson as he moves toward the completion of The Wingfeather Saga, and you can join us in asking the Maker to bless Andrew as he seeks to be used to seal the song in the soul, to write the word on the heart, and to fill the sight with the form of the beauty of a better world.

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Dante Says Love Built Hell

Consider the warning on hell’s gate in Inferno:

“Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of Power divine,
Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

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Ishmael Describes the Pulpit

As Ishmael, the narrator of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, describes the Whaleman’s Chapel, he says this about the pulpit:

Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the likeness of a ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on the projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed beak.

What could be more full of meaning? – for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

Melville’s Moby Dick is free on Kindle.

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Hear Flannery O’Connor Read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

I saw this on Andrew Peterson’s twitter page, and even though I think I re-tweeted it I felt it warranted a post.

At this link you can hear Flannery O’Connor read aloud her short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” This is a tale worth pondering.

I recommend you do the save as thing to this link and put it on your mp3 player to have a listen.

Enjoy!

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The Chiastic Structure of Revelation: Limited Time Offer

And here is the fifth and final Table from God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology that will be posted here. This one lays out the chiastic structure of Revelation. I think this structure is key to understanding the book. My sermons on Revelation are here, my Preaching the Word commentary on the book will appear, Lord willing, early in 2012.

Here’s the Table: “The Chiastic Structure of Revelation.” [Link Removed]

This is going live on Thursday, April 28, 2011, and it will be removed on Saturday, April 30, 2011.

I welcome your comments, questions, objections, or critiques!

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The Chiastic Structure of Psalm 38

In Psalm 38 the righteous sufferer calls on and hopes in the Lord to deliver him. Note that this Psalmist is righteous not because he is sinless but because he confesses his sin and repents of it. The one in whom the Psalm finds typological fulfillment bears the sins of his people but has none of his own (cf. Isa 53:3, 7).

Psalm 38

1–2, Do Not Discipline

3–7, No Soundness Because of Sin

8–10, Groaning to the Lord

11–12, Abandoned and Opposed

13–14, Not Responding

15–16, Trusting in the Lord

17–20, Weakened by Sin

21–21, Do Not Forsake

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The Hero Story (The Messiah in the Old Testament)

This essay appears in the spring 2011 issue of Southern Seminary magazine, The Tie. I am grateful to post it here by permission. Click through for a free subscription to The Tie.

Have you heard the ballad of the hoped for hero? Ancient prophecies foretell his coming. Not altogether clear, shrouded in mystery, but enough to kindle hopes and keep the flickering flame alive. Everything depends on his coming. In fact, if these prophecies aren’t realized, there is no final defense against evil. No ultimate hope. No redemption. No restoration. Curiously, some think that the veiled and wispy nature of the intimations that he will arise amount to nothing at all. If they are correct, is there any basis for the claims that the prophecies have in fact been fulfilled?

The sprawling, ramshackle narrative of the Old Testament is the one true hero story on which all the others are based. Oh sure, it may not always seem that the texts are concerned with the hoped for hero, but these books can only be understood in light of the back story that informs them. The hero is the driving force of that narrative undercurrent, so even when we are not reading prophecies about him or statements of hope that he will come, we nevertheless read authors who portray a world and a people whose future depends on the promised champion.

The true story of the world is the prototypical work of art that has been imitated by all myth-makers and storytellers. Did you read of Heracles slaying the Hydra? The mighty deliverer achieved expiation by smiting the snake. Then there’s Odysseus coming in wrath at the end of the Odyssey to rescue his bride. It’s positively apocalyptic. We could go on and on with such examples. If a myth is an archetypal story that explains the world and provides hope, this hero story is the world’s one true myth. Justin Martyr said that the demons had salted the world’s religions with tidbits of the true story to inoculate people against the world’s one cure. And in stories influenced by Christianity you have imitations and approximations of it: Beowulf slaying first the one who descends from Cain, Grendel, and then the dragon. St. George, too, kills a dragon. These are but reflections and refractions of the light of the world, the ancient hope for the prince of life who comes to crush the head of that ancient serpent, the dragon, who is the Devil and Satan.

When we consider the Messiah in the Old Testament, our minds are confronted with the answer to the world’s questions, the fulfillment of all yearnings, the satisfaction of the universal desire for beauty and joy and peace and, and well, everything. You could say it’s Hitchcock’s McGuffin—something everyone wants, needs, and looks for at all costs—but the McGuffin may not be profound enough to capture the weight of this, the real thing. Jesu joy of man’s desiring. Indeed. Jesus is the ultimate object of C. S. Lewis’s Sehnsucht—he is the one who fulfills the inconsolable longing for we know not what.

Swathed in cryptic hints and echoes from the distant past, hidden in shadows and faintly perceived from whispers subtly woven through the Old Testament. Soft impressions seen through a glass darkly, the trace of an outline, the kind of thing that almost has to be pointed out before you see it clearly, but then once you’ve seen it, you can’t see anything else. You don’t want to see anything else.

The promises of the coming seed of the woman all partake of a haunting, hopeful melody, to which the Old Testament’s composer returns again and again. The delay between these prophecies only increases the pathos, adds to the beauty so pure it’s painful. The next oracle almost sneaks up on us, and at points we only recognize it after it has passed us by. Suddenly the words ignite and we read and re-read the promise of a seed who is a lion who wields a scepter who will be a son to the Most High. Each hook and loop in the interweaving of prophecy and pattern comes like a familiar rhythm, or a restrained suggestion, hearkening us back to something earlier in the music. The artist who orchestrates the living production in real time threads the line of promise lightly—but thoroughly—through the whole symphonic poem of the Bible.

Those with eyes to see and ears to hear are ravished by a beauty better than all else they might desire. They lean in close, straining to hear and see, longing, yearning, hoping, as they earnestly attend to past promise, and watch for what they hope will be reiterations and expositions of it. The shadows may be long and the clouds thick, but a conviction has seized them that the heavens will be rolled back when the star shines out of Judah.

Then come the “experts.” They huff and snort that there is no theme that has been resumed. They deny that this rhythm sounds like that one. They insist that when these notes in this melody are taken apart, they bear no relation to one another. They explain that this beat cannot possibly be related to that one, and that the meaning some heard in that first syncopation was never there in the first place.

But we’ve heard the music, and for all the seeming intelligence of their explanations, we know what the music does to us. Those notes may be nothing in isolation, but in aggregate they form a song more lovely than the lectures of learned scoffers. We know this melody is meant to evoke earlier ones, and as soon as we hear the music again, the denials of the little men behind the microphones lose all power to compel. The strains of hope and longing that we have heard awaken faith and conviction and boldness, even as the academics drone on in their boring refusal to enjoy the music.

The one who wrote the music and conducted the orchestra came, and still people refused to hear his song. They did not recognize the one who was foretold, whose pattern was prefigured, whose destiny it was to unlock the door to life, lay the foundation for faith, design the theater for God’s glory, and build the temple of the Holy Spirit, but the hoped for hero really has come. And he’s coming back. He came the first time as a man of sorrows to be acquainted with grief. When he comes again his robe will be sprinkled with the blood of his enemies who lie trampled beneath his feet. He will accomplish God’s purpose and fill the lands with God’s glory like water fills the seas.

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The Chiastic Structure of Psalm 37

Psalm 37:1–11, Outcomes

Psalm 37:12–15, Violence

Psalm 37:16–20, Provision

Psalm 37:21–24, Giving

Psalm 37:25–31, Provision

Psalm 37:32–33, Violence

Psalm 37:34–40, Outcomes

—-

David expresses faith that the wicked will be cut off and the righteous will be blessed and inherit the land.

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The Writer’s Sanity and Taste

John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, 201:

“Sanity in a writer is merely this: However stupid he may be in his private life, he never cheats in writing. He never forgets that his audience is, at least ideally, as noble, generous, and tolerant as he is himself (or more so), and never forgets that he is writing about people, so that to turn characters to cartoons, to treat his characters as innately inferior to himself, to forget their reasons for being as they are, to treat them as brutes, is bad art. Sanity in a writer also involves taste. The true writer has a great advantage over most other people: He knows the great tradition of literature, which has always been on the cutting edge of morality, religion, and politics, to say nothing of social reform. He knows what the greatest literary minds of the past are proud to do and what they will not stoop to, and his knowledge informs his practice. He fits himself to the company he most respects and enjoys: the company of Homer, Vergil, Dante, Shakespeare, and so forth. Their standards become, in some measure, his own. Pettiness, vulgarity, bad taste fall away from him automatically, and when he reads bad writers he notices their lapses of taste at once. He sees that they dwell on things Shakespeare would not have dwelled on, at his best, not because Shakespeare failed to notice them but because he saw their triviality. (Except to examine new techniques, or because of personal friendship, no serious apprentice should ever study second-rate writers).
To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one’s work may be dying, or have some loved one dying; to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write, as Shakespeare wrote, so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on. . . every writer should be aware that he might be read by the desperate, by people who might be persuaded toward life or death.”

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This Is How Biblical Intertextuality Works, Too

John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, 192–93:

“It is this quality of the novel, its built-in need to return and repeat, that forms the physical basis of the novel’s chief glory, its resonant close. . . . What rings and resounds at the end of a novel is not just physical, however. What moves us is not just that characters, images, and events get some form of recapitulation or recall: We are moved by the increasing connectedness of things, ultimately a connectedness of values. Coleridge pointed out, stirred to the observation by his interest in Hartleian psychology, that increasingly complex systems of association can give a literary work some of its power. When we encounter two things in close association, Hartley noticed, we tend to recall one when we encounter the other. Thus, for example, if one is standing in a drugstore when one first reads Shelley, the next time one goes to a drugstore one may think of the poet, and the next time one encounters a poem by Shelley one may get a faint whiff of Dial and bathsalts. The same thing happens when we read fiction. If the first time our hero meets a given character it occurs in a graveyard, the character’s next appearance will carry with it some residue of the graveyard setting.
The effect can be roughly illustrated this way. Let a represent a pair of bloody shoes, first encountered at the foot of a willow tree, b; let c equal an orphan home, first encountered in a thunderstorm, d; and let e represent a woman’s kiss, experienced on a train, f. If a (the bloody shoes) is mentioned later in the story, it draws with it a memory of the willow (b . . .). In the same way c produces [d] as an echo, and e produces [f]. . . . Compared to what actually happens in fiction, this . . . is simple and crude in the extreme . . . Even at the end of a short story, the power of an organized return of images, events, and characters can be considerable. Think of Joyce’s “The Dead.” In the closing moments of a novel the effect can be overwhelming.”

My own opinion now: I think the best novelists are in many respects copying what the biblical authors have done.

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Errors and Defects in Authors of Fiction

John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, discussing “Common Errors” authors make:

“Diction problems are usually symptomatic of defects in the character or education of the writer” (101).

“Let us now turn to three faults far graver than mere clumsiness–not faults of technique but faults of soul: sentimentality, frigidity, and mannerism. . . . Faults of soul, like faults of technique, can be corrected. In fact the main work a writing teacher does, and the main work the writer must do for himself, is bring about change in the writer’s basic character, helping to make him that ‘true Poet,’ as Milton said, without whom there can be no true Poem.

Sentimentality, in all its forms, is the attempt to get some effect without providing due cause. . . emotion or feeling that rings false, usually because achieved by some form of cheating or exaggeration. . . . no reader who’s experienced the power of real fiction will be pleased by it” (115–16).

“The fault Longinus identified as ‘frigidity’ occurs in fiction whenever the author reveals by some slip or self-regarding intrusion that he is less concerned about his characters than he ought to be–less concerned, that is, than any decent human being observing the situation would naturally be. . . . the writer has forgotten that his characters’ situation is serious; he’s responded to his own imagined scene with insufficient warmth, has allowed himself to get carried away . . ., and, momentarily forgetting the scene’s real interest . . . the writer snatches at (or settles for) a detail of, at best, trivial interest. . . The writer lacks the kind of passion all true artists possess. He lacks the nobility of spirit that enables a real writer to enter deeply into the feelings of imaginary characters (as he enters deeply into the feelings of real people). In a word, the writer is frigid” (117–18).

“Mannered writing is writing that continually distracts us from the fictional dream by stylistic tics that we cannot help associating, as we read, with the author’s wish to intrude himself, prove himself different from all other authors” (119).
“Whereas the frigid writer lacks strong feeling, and the sentimental writer applies feeling indiscriminately, the mannered writer feels more strongly about his own personality and ideas–his ego, which he therefore keeps before us by means of style–than he feels about any of his characters–in effect, all the rest of humanity” (120–21).

“Mannered writing, then–like sentimentality and frigidity–arises out of flawed character. In critical circles it is considered bad form to make connections between literary faults and bad character, but for the writing teacher such connections are impossible to miss, hence impossible to ignore. . . . To help the writer, since that is his job, the teacher must enable the writer to see–partly by showing him how the fiction betrays his distorted vision (as fiction, closely scrutinized, always will)–that his personal character is wanting” (121).

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Is Fiction Christian? The English Language, Too?

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers:

“English, like most languages, is covertly male chauvinist. It is also, as the novelist Harold Brodkey points out, covertly Christian. Nearly all our most resonant words and images carry a trace of Neoplatonic Christianity. Even so innocent a word as ‘friend’ has overtones. in feudal times it meant one’s lord and protector; in Anglo-Saxon times it meant the opposite of ‘fiend.’ We can of course read a book about friends without ever consciously invoking the undercurrents of the word; but where the friendship grows intense, in this story we’re reading, we are almost sure to encounter images of light or warmth, flower or garden imagery, hunger, sacrifice, blood, and so on. The very form of the story, its orderly beginning, middle, and end, is likely to hint at a Christian metaphysic” (88).

And again:

“A novel is like a symphony in that its closing movement echoes and resounds with all that has gone before. . . . Toward the close of a novel, the writer brings back–directly or in the form of his characters’ recollections–images, characters, events, and intellectual motifs encountered earlier. Unexpected connections begin to surface; hidden causes become plain; life becomes, however briefly and unstably, organized; the universe reveals itself, if only for the moment, as inexorably moral; the outcome of the various characters’ actions is at last manifest; and we see the responsibility of free will. It is this closing orchestration that the novel exists for. If such a close does not come, for whatever theoretical reason, we shut the book with feelings of dissatisfaction, as if cheated. This is of course tantamount to saying that the novel, as a genre, has a built-in metaphysic. And so it does. The writer who does not accept the metaphysic can never write a novel; he can only play off it, as Beckett and Barthelme do, achieving his own effects by visibly subverting those traditional to the novel, working like the sculptor who makes sculptures that self-destruct or the composer who dynamites pianos. I am not saying, of course, that the artist ought to lie, only that in the long run the anti-novelist is probably doomed to at least relative failure because we do not believe him. We are not profoundly moved by Homer, Shakespeare, or Melville because we would like to believe the metaphysical assumptions their fictions embody–an orderly universe that imposes moral responsibility–but because we do believe those assumptions. . .” (184–85).

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Volume 2 in the Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin, The Gift

Last fall at ETS I picked up Bryan Litfin’s first novel, The Sword. I loved it, and interviewed Bryan on it here.

At that point he was just finishing the second novel, The Gift, and he asked me about endorsing it. I enthusiastically received the PDF, and here’s what I said in my endorsement:

I finished this book within 24 hours of receiving it! Thrilling action, sound theology woven into the narrative, church history set in the future, a damsel in distress rescued by a warrior-scholar–what more could you ask from a novel? But there is more: this is a book of cruciform hope. It is cruciform as both the hero and the heroine lay down their lives for each other–no greater love. And the book builds hope as time after time when the night seems darkest, light bursts from the eastern sky like resurrection from the dead. This book caused me to feel deeper love for my sweet wife, more gratitude for my children, and a renewed sense of God’s mercy in the gift of Christ, the Bible, the gospel, and a chance to hope and become like Christ in his death, that we too might attain to the resurrection from the dead. Enjoy!

I am so happy for you that The Gift releases this month, April, 2011. If you haven’t already done so, you should buy and read The Sword, which I’m confident will make you want to buy and read The Gift.

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We Pre-Ordered ‘The Monster In the Hollows’, Did You?

If you haven’t already done so, high thee to the Rabbit Room to reserve for thyself a signed copy of what promises to be a beautiful and funny, inspiring and exciting, surprising and hope-building narrative of no little silly seriousness.

Here’s the description:

The Monster in the Hollows

Sneakery. Betrayal. And the Deadly Secret of Chimney Hill.

Janner Wingfeather’s father was the High King of Anniera. But his father is gone. The kingdom has fallen. The royal family is on the run, and the Fang armies of Gnag the Nameless are close behind. Janner and his family hope to find refuge in the last safe place in the world: the Green Hollows—a land of warriors feared even by the Fangs of Dang. But there’s a big problem. Janner’s little brother—heir to the throne of Anniera—has grown a tail. And gray fur. Not to mention two pointed ears and long, dangerous fangs. To the suspicious folk of the Green Hollows he looks like a monster. But Janner knows better. His
brother isn’t as scary as he looks. He’s perfectly harmless.

Or is he?

Join the Wingfeathers on a new adventure filled with mystery, betrayal, and sneakery in a land of tasty fruits. There’s a monster in the Hollows and the truth lurks in the shadows.

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Is There Truth in Fiction?

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, 79:

Fiction seeks out truth. Granted, it seeks a poetic kind of truth, universals not easily translatable into moral codes. But part of our interest as we read is in learning how the world works; how the conflicts we share with the writer and all other human beings can be resolved, if at all; what values we can affirm and, in general, what the moral risks are. . . . Some bad men write good books, admittedly, but the reason is that when they’re writing they’re better men than when they beat their wives and children.”

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Authors of Fiction Exercise Meticulous Sovereign Control

“As in the universe every atom has an effect, however minuscule, on every other other atom, so that to pinch the fabric of Time and Space at any point is to shake the whole length and breadth of it, so in fiction every element has an effect on every other, so that to change a character’s name from Jane to Cynthia is to make the fictional ground shudder under her feet.”

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers (46).

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What Makes Fiction Interesting?

“. . . nothing can be made to be of interest to the reader that was not first of vital concern to the writer. . . we care about what we know and might possibly lose (or have already lost), dislike that which threatens what we care about, and feel indifferent toward that which has no visible bearing on our safety or the safety of the people and things we love. . . . the moment we stop caring where the story will go next, the writer has failed, and we stop reading.”

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, 42, 55.

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