April 7, 2005

Recent Reading

Category: Literature :: Permalink

While browsing in the public library this past week, I came upon Micah Harris and Michael Gaydos’s graphic novel, Heaven’s War. A glance at the back cover and a quick survey of the contents were enough to convince me to take it home. The story is set in 1938 and involves a bid by Aleister Crowley, the infamous leader of an order devoted to the study of the occult and the practice of black magic, to rule history. Opposing him are the Inklings, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and, in particular, Charles Williams.

The story itself was interesting, though a bit thinner than it could have been and perhaps a bit more dry and didactic than it should have been. The author obviously has done a lot of study, but the reader, unless he has done the same study, is too often dependent upon the annotations at the back of the book. The book’s theology is a bit strange, though Harris is trying to draw on Scripture (as the annotations indicate), but then Charles Williams held some strange views himself. Weaknesses aside, there’s some great stuff here and the storyline is fun, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of the Inklings.

Besides Heaven’s War, I have also recently read Jack Vance’s very enjoyable The Dying Earth (and was struck by the influence of this book on Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun) and G. K. Chesterton’s The Club of Queer Trades, a collection of not-quite-mystery stories: great fun!

The other evening, I also finished William Kienzle’s The Rosary Murders, the first in Kienzle’s series of mystery novels starring Father Koessler. This one was pretty clearly a first novel and not everything flows as well as it should, but the story was gripping enough to make me want to read more in the series.

Now, I’m reading Rikki Watt’s Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark, John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory (still: it’s very slow going), and Vigen Guroian’s Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening. Though I’m not myself a gardener, I do appreciate Guroian’s observations, as he weaves together the Armenian Orthodox liturgy, the church year, and the labors and joys of a gardener.

I have also just started Faye Kellerman’s Day of Atonement, the fourth in her Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series, the first of which I enjoyed more than the second and third. But what keeps me reading the series is not just the mystery and suspense; it’s my interest in watching the development of the characters and in particular watching Peter Decker work out his decision to live as an Orthodox Jew. Some of the differences between Judaism and the gospel of Jesus Christ are obvious here and the more I read the more I delight in the gospel. But it strikes me that there are some parallels between Decker’s sort of conversion to Judaism and his growth as a Jew and a Christian conversion and growth.

I sometimes wonder how Christian readers would react to a novel in which the main characters are new Christians whose sanctification is not immediate (whose is?) and who often fall back into old patterns of sin. Would they think stories like that are sub-Christian, not as “uplifting” as “Christian fiction” ought to be? Or would they say, perhaps with some relief: “At last! Someone who tells the truth about the struggle to follow Christ”? Perhaps Christian writers could learn something from Kellerman.

Last, but by no means least, I’m also reading Michael Bond’s delightful A Bear Called Paddington to our baby in utero, who squirms with enjoyment as I read.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:44 am | Discuss (0)

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