‘A Really Stinky Book’ (2011)

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I read this book, and a couple other clangers, in preparation for an interview. I think it was with Joshua’s uncle, Kevin, on his internet radio show. I look back with amazement that any published book could be this bad.

A Really Stinky Book!

Sometimes when adults write about teenagers, they come off as space aliens trying to write about human beings without having the slightest understanding of humanity, they might as well be writing about catfish. A book like this is an insult to every poor devil who ever tried and failed to get published. A monkey could write a better one, if you gave him a keyboard.

You owe it to yourself to give this book a wide berth.

‘President Trump and Our Post-Secular Future’ by Stephen Turley

President Trump and Our Post-Secular Future: How the 2016 Election Signals  the Dawning of a Conservative Nationalist Age: Turley, Dr. Steve:  9781981807154: Amazon.com: Books

Do we really have a post-secular future? From Dr. Turley’s pen to God’s ear!

https://chalcedon.edu/blog/president-trump-and-our-post-secular-future-a-book-review

He makes quite a few strong arguments, which I’ve touched on in this book review. For him President Donald Trump epitomizes a world-wide conservative, nationalist, religious, and traditionalist blowback against the bashaws and mandarins of secular globalism.

There must be, has to be, millions and millions of people who’ve had it up to here with political correctness, open borders, lousy trade deals, and ruling class arrogance–who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

But first we have to overcome the existential threat posed by mail-in voter fraud…

Wisdom from Dorothy L. Sayers

The Inkling Who Wasn't There: Dorothy L. Sayers - VoegelinView

Dorothy L. Sayers, best known as one of the best mystery novelists of all time, was at one time in her career called upon to defend Christian writers in Britain in particular, and Christianity in general, from blistering attacks by atheists. Yes, they were doing it back then, too–in the 1950s. You know: after God raised up Winston Churchill to deliver Britain from an enemy that was stronger than she. But they proved no more thankful to Churchill than they were to God.

In 1953 one Kathleen Nott published a book critical of Sayers and other Christian writers. How did Sayers answer it? Like so:

“No one can say that ‘the Church’ as a whole has ever stood for truth and… charity.

“Well, the church does in fact lay a good deal of stress, not only [on] truth, but on love and charity… But it is no use talking as though love and charity were easy. You cannot buy them in the market and slap them on a situation like plasters [band-aids]. If Miss Nott were here now, she and I could establish the Kingdom of Heaven between ourselves immediately–that is, we could if we could. It is quite simple: she has only to love me as well as she loves herself, and I have only to love her as well as I love myself, and there is the Kingdom. It is as simple as that–but would it be easy? Acknowledging myself to be worm-eaten with original sin, I acknowledge that I might find it difficult; and although Miss Nott is presumably without sin (since she does not admit the existence of sinfulness), it is conceivable that for one reason or another she also might encounter a little difficulty. Yet it would be useless for her to protest that one cannot love an unlovable object, since charity is precisely a readiness to love the unlovable. That is the trouble with the Christian graces–that without Grace they are impossible.”

[From Dorothy and Jack, by Gina Dalfonzo, Baker Books, 2020–a wonderful book about the friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis]

Works of the flesh are relatively easy. Works of the spirit are hard. But we have a God whose own Spirit works in us that grace may abound. Works of the flesh do not build the Kingdom of Heaven, but works of the spirit do.

 

Back to Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia, 7 Volumes: Full-Color Collector's Edition  -     By: C.S. Lewis
    Illustrated By: Pauline Baynes

Lately I’ve been bumping into quotes by C.S. Lewis in unexpected places. I took that as a sign that it was time for me to revisit his Chronicles of Narnia.

Aaah! That’s fine! The book we had is falling apart, so we ordered a boxed set (the one pictured above: you can find it at amazon, or Christianbooks.com) with colorized illustrations by Pauline Baynes. I was quite surprised by how heavy the box was, until I discovered the high quality of the books: strong, glossy paper.

But it’s what’s inside the books that counts. I’ve just finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a parable in which the great Lion, Aslan, stands for Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine there’s anybody here who’s totally unfamiliar with these books. Suffice it to say that these are Christian books, truth brought out through fantasy, that are just as well-loved now as they were when they first came out in the 1950s. They have stood the test of time; and if our civilization survives, they’ll be part of it.

Really, you have no idea what a relief it is to put away the nooze and pick up a Narnia book. I’m in The Magician’s Nephew now, watching in delighted astonishment as Lewis uses a mere few words to mow down all the self-important self-anointed bogus intellectuals who ever lived. Gee, I originally typed that as “self-imported.” Now I think I ought to let it stand. Self-imported they certainly are.

I love these books, and they have inspired my own. If you haven’t read Narnia yet, there’s a treat in store for you.

‘Another Literary Crime’

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There are many things a writer can do to wreck his own work. One of them is to make the reader think that you think he’s a dunce who can’t tell good from evil.

Another Literary Crime

Why else would the author continually editorialize about his characters? How badly do we need to be told that the villain is a bad guy? Page after page after page?

And yet we see this, sometimes in fantastically successful best-selling books. Never mind that those books will be forgotten someday, while better books live on. For the time being, they’re selling like hotcakes.

I think it’s just further evidence that we’re living in a fallen world.

This Book Inspired Me

Dorothy and Jack: Dalfonzo: 9780801072949: Amazon.com: Books

Sometimes–well, really, a lot of times–I find myself saying, “I am not a better person for having read this book or seen this movie.” It gets tiresome after a while: two or three of those in a row is hard to take.

But here’s a book that I think I really am a better person for having read: Dorothy and Jack, by Gina Dalfonzo (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI: 2020), the story of the friendship between C.S. Lewis (he liked to be called Jack) and Dorothy L. Sayers. The one discovered Narnia. The other gave the world Lord Peter Whimsy. And both did even more important work than that, although Narnia and Whimsy are what they’re best known for.

They addressed each other as fellow dinosaurs. They read, critiqued, and encouraged each other’s work. Each acquired a profound understanding of the other: their friendship never stopped deepening. And both were one of a kind–true originals, if not eccentrics.

Both loved God with all their hearts and put their trust in Jesus Christ. Both were attacked for doing so. You and I, Sayers once said, in a letter to Lewis, “have committed the two unforgivable sins: you believe in God, and your books sell” (pg. 136). Even back in the late 1940s and early 50s, the academic world was hostile to Christians. Oxford University repeatedly denied Lewis promotions that he richly deserved. For a man who loved Oxford as passionately as C.S. Lewis did, it was a hard trial to bear.

How I would have loved to know these two! Dorothy and Jack spend a weekend at the shore with Patty and Lee–what talks we’d have!

Both knew how to stand against the tide. Both knew how to endure tribulation, of which there was plenty in their lives.

I can’t help wondering whether they would’ve liked my books. What I’ve read here suggests that yes, they would.

Alas for our culture and tradition, letter-writing is practically a lost art. Both Lewis and Sayers were assiduous, prolific letter writers: it’s from their collected letters that Ms. Dalfonzo gets much of her information. C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers, both master writers in their own respective fields, were also masters of the art of letter-writing. Future scholars who want to write about the 21st century–presuming that there are any–will be denied this resource. Unless they settle for Collected Text Messages of Cher.

These two stood up against all the baloney that this fallen world could throw at them: stood up for themselves, for each other, for art, for scholarship–and for Jesus. First of all, Jesus.

Can I stand up and cheer for a book?

‘So How Do Bad Books Get Published?’ (2015)

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Stephen King once bragged that he could get his laundry list published, if he wanted to–a singularly insensitive comment, given the heartache of so many struggling authors who can’t get published at all.

But the fact of the matter is that a lot of cow-flop does get published.

So How Do Bad Books Get Published?

This is fantastically frustrating to those who are still trying. We rack our brains over it: how does litter-ature like this wind up in print, and why in the world does anybody buy it?

Well, that’s what we’ve done to our culture, isn’t it?

A Lame Excuse for a Literary Lapse

michael_gothard_archive | Ivanhoe: screencaps

Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe will last forever as a literary classic. Even so, there’s one little clinker in it that makes you wonder if Scott was quite sane at the time.

To show the futility of any dream of ousting the Normans and putting a Saxon noble on the throne of England, Scott gives us a lout named Athelstane as the last remaining repository of that hope. Although descended from Saxon royalty, Athelstane’s main interest in life is eating. You could put him in a stall with a feed-bag, and he’d be happy.

Toward the end of the story, Athelstane gets killed in a battle. The larders of England breathe a collective sigh of relief. The reader promptly forgets there was ever such a character as Athelstane–

Until, in Chapter XLII, Sir Walter Scott brings him back to life.

Now, this was not like Conan Doyle being forced by public outrage to bring back Sherlock Holmes after drowning him in the Reichenbach Falls. Why bring back Athelstane, a clod? Let’s let Sir Walter himself answer that question, in his own footnotes to Ivanhoe.

“59. The resuscitation of Athelstane has been much criticised, as too violent a breach of probability, even for a work of such fantastic character. It was a ‘tour-de-force,’ to which the author was compelled to have recourse, by the vehement entreaties of his friend and printer, who was inconsolable on the Saxon being conveyed to the tomb.”

That’s his excuse–an inconsolable printer? Well, it’s feeble enough to be true. What a soft-hearted fellow Sir Walter must have been! The return of Athelstane was unnecessary, unwanted, and preposterous; and you wonder how a literary giant could have taken such a fall. It’s like Hamlet’s pants splitting with an audible riiiip! in the middle of “To be or not to be.”

Note to aspiring authors: Don’t think you’ll ever get away with a honker like this.

Revisiting ‘The March of Folly’

I read Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly when it came out in 1984 and have never forgotten it.

For a public policy or action to be classed as Grade A Folly, Tuchman set out four conditions: 1) It has to be contrary to self-interest; 2) it has to be the policy or actions not of an individual, but of a group; 3) it must not be the only policy available, and is chosen over many wiser policies; 4) decision-makers have to persist in their folly in spite of warnings and demonstrable failures.

Our Really Smart People, in addition to world-class, civilization-threatening follies like communism and socialism, have saddled us with any number of follies. Just to name a few: encouraging millions of people to come here illegally; purposely fomenting racial strife, in hope of political gain; shutting down the whole economy because of the coronavirus; using a massive, incredibly costly education establishment to “teach” things that are manifestly untrue; the Green New Deal–but you can think of many others on your own.

What I remember best from Tuchman’s book is her chapter on how the British managed to lose their American colonies: every step they took was a wrong one, practically guaranteeing failure.

It’s only by the grace of God that our country still exists.

‘The United States of Socialism’

United States of Socialism: Who's Behind It. Why It's Evil. How to ...

Here’s my review of Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The United States of Socialism.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/the-united-states-of-socialism-by-dinesh-dsouza-a-book-review

It’s really something, how “helping the poor” always leaves “the poor” just as badly off as ever, while big-name socialists grow fabulously wealthy. But then virtually everything these people do is a contradiction in terms.

They’re Intellectuals, but their program is just plain stupid and has never been anything but a failure, anywhere. They’re “nicer” than capitalists–but who’s more likely to use violence to crush dissenting views?

D’Souza does a thorough job of exposing these hypocrites and thieves for what they are and always have been.

If this information doesn’t convince you that America needs serious re-Christianizing, I don’t know what will.