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Book Corner March 2011
Fast Food for Thought:
Short Book Reviews While on Internship
by Joshua K. Warfield
The Care of the Earth by Joseph Sittler
This book is a collection of sermons and writings. The sermons do not seem appropriate for the contexts, for instance, a sermon to a Christian camp was one of the most academic of the sermons presented. That said, Sittler’s writings are still very powerful. I found the book to be a lot more academic than his other writings I’ve read. A lot of the book seemed to be frustrations with contemporary culture and modern Christianity. Still, a good read.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
An excellent memoir that imparts the journey of recently divorced Liz as she explores pleasure, prayer, and balance as she journeys through Italy, India, and Indonesia. While Gilbert's take may appear to be just another of the many new-age self-help books emerging on the market, her book actually dives much deeper into the concepts of self and of the divine. However, I do have one criticism: Gilbert's pilgrimage is one of privilege, having the resources and time to afford such an extravagant trip, one which is inaccessible to most women and men. Yet, Gilbert does try to steer away from calling her journey a universal journey, recognizing in the preface that everyone's journey looks different and may take them down different paths than her own.
Nevi'im Part 2: The Latter Prophets (Lutheran Study Bible)
The latter prophets are full of promise and violence, in fact, I would suggest that those are the two most prevalent themes throughout. Many of the prophets, such as Isaiah, Joel, Micah, Haggai, and Malachi, are full of beautiful images of hope and comfort, yet, they are still interspersed with violence towards the enemies of Israel, and even often promises of violence towards Israel if Israel does not abide by the covenant relationship with God. Yet, these warnings tend to take on a social justice approach—treat your neighbors, and the strangers in your midst, with compassion and all will be well, if you do not, well then you will be punished. I feel that the study notes given here were the most wanting so far. There seemed to be little interpretation of the judgment passages (both to Israel and to neighboring countries); however, this is not always the case, as seen in the notes to Isaiah and Ezekiel, in which the commentators deliberately rose up some of the troublesome passages and asking thought-provoking questions about why the writers of the text included such hard judgment. Overall, though, the prophets are a very unique, diverse, and interesting portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the passages devoted towards social justice and promise of God's redemption of God's own people (and, indeed, the entire creation).
The Yellow Leaves: A Miscellany by Frederick Buechner
This is a collection of essays, short stories, and poetry. Buechner says in the introduction that he no longer feels he has the energy to write longer works, but, “I decided maybe [these unfinished works] has enough life in them to warrant inclusion in a volume like this. A story, some reminiscences, a handful or poems about my family, a scene from a novel—they are the yellow leaves that hang upon these boughs that are not so bare and ruined but that they still dream from time to time of the sweet birds' return.” Buechner's prose is simply gorgeous, and his poetry is full of rich meaning. Yet, they certainly are a miscellany, which may be distracting or off putting to a casual reader. But to one who loves Buechner's creative storytelling and deep prose, this is certainly a must-have.
While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut
This is a posthumous publication of previously uncollected short stories written early in Vonnegut's career. Dave Eggers writes in the introduction that these are a collection of moral stories. I disagree, Vonnegut in my mind is a folk writer, which brings a hefty serving of soul to any story. And these stories certainly have soul. One of the most fitting of these stories is “Mr. Z,” the tale of a seminarian who is introduced to a young woman who has fallen in with a bad crowd. The seminarian tries to sway her with gospel, but realizes that no one has ever loved her enough to speak to her with law and it is only when the seminarian gives her some good ol' law-heavy preaching out of love is she able to change her ways. While some of these stories are certainly gems, they do show an earlier Vonnegut that is more unsure of his voice than the later Vonnegut who wrote such amazing folk tales such as Cat's Cradle or Slaughter-house Five.