September 21, 2004

Recent Reading

Category: Literature :: Permalink

Frequently on this blog, I mention things I’ve been reading. It’s been a while since I did that. I still want to say something about Charles Williams’s The Place of the Lion and about Alexander Schmemann‘s Introduction to Liturgical Theology, and maybe I’ll get to that in a little while.

More recently, I read David James Duncan’s novel The Brothers K, which, for the most part, I enjoyed greatly. It’s largely the story of the four Chance brothers, Everett, Peter, Irwin, and Kincaid, and most of it is narrated by the youngest, Kincaid. The story spans several years, from 1956 to 1980, but the bulk of it takes place in the sixties.

I said that I enjoyed the book for the most part. The Chance boys’ mother is a strict Seventh Day Adventist, and the Adventist church doesn’t come off too well in the book. Now perhaps Duncan gives an accurate portrayal of this sect at that time (or even today), but at times I suspected he was straying across the border into caricature. As well, there are places in the book in which the narrator’s voice is too didactic (even places where the narrator declares that he isn’t going to draw moralistic conclusions and then goes on to do just that).

But the story as a whole is very good and there are passages which are deeply moving. It’s well worth reading, and I’ll probably track down some more of Duncan’s work.

After Duncan, I went on to read Ramsey Campbell’s The Darkest Part of the Woods, which was a bit of a letdown: the suspense toward the end of the novel didn’t make up for the overwriting all the way through. Campbell wants us to get the sense that there’s something wrong and even evil about the woods near his main characters’ home, but he tries to give us that sense of impending doom by describing the woods over and over again and by comparing everything to some aspect of the woods (e.g., the hands on a clock are like twigs). “Enough already!” the reader cries. “I get the picture. There’s something spooky about the woods.”

And now I’m reading Agatha Christie’s The Murder at Hazelwood, along with Doug Wilson’s My Life for Yours, Jakob van Bruggen’s Jesus the Son of God (which surprisingly has no interaction whatsoever with N. T. Wright‘s work on Jesus), and The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, edited by James Jordan. The latter is from the early ’80s and some of the essays are tiresomely Reconstructionistic, but a few of them do look helpful. Oh, yes: I’ve also been dipping into short story collections by Avram Davidson, P. G. Wodehouse, and most recently Bernard Malamud.

There. That’s what’s in my reading pile these days. What’s in yours?

Posted by John Barach @ 10:28 pm | Discuss (0)

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