Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Margaret Atwood’s “The Heart Goes Last”

Recently I finished Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last (Doubleday). It’s another dystopia, set in the indefinite but near future, after American society has largely crumbled. It’s a society overpopulated with the homeless, where work is hard to find. The novel begins with its protagonists, the married couple Stan and Charmaine, jobless and living out their car in the Pacific Northwest. Recently a corporation has initiated the Positron Project. Under Positron, participants alternately spend a month in a modest home and a month in prison. In prison they provide cheap (free) labor,  building robots and other goods.

Out of desperation, Stan and Charmaine enroll in Positron. But it’s not all they had hoped for. Soon Charmaine is embroiled in a dark plot that includes euthanizing social offenders. And Stan is fantasizing about a woman other than Charmaine. Both want out of Positron, but they have signed on for life.

Atwood’s story is about their eventual escape, which involves espionage, Elvis impersonators, and sex robots. Needless to say, it’s a rollicking story, punctuated with humor. I wouldn’t say it is among Atwood’s best, but The Heart Goes Last is another solid effort from one of our most entertaining and interesting writers.

Favorite Albums of 2015

I do this every year.  It’s never the same number of albums. I just start putting together a list. When I run out of things to put on the list, I usually top it off to a round number. This year I got to about 36. I scrounged around for four more that were good enough.

Requirements for inclusion:

  1. Gotta be on Spotify. That’s about all I listen to any more. Sorry, no Taylor Swift (not likely to have made it even if available) or Adele (a slam dunk had it been made available).
  2. I’ve gotta like it.
  3. I’ve gotta have listened to more than one of its songs more than a few times.

Enjoy.

  • Active Child, Mercy
  • Alpine, Yuck
  • Astronauts, etc., Mind Out Wandering
  • the bird and the bee, Recreational Love
  • Bop English, Constant Bop
  • BORNS, Dopamine
  • CHAMPS, Vamala
  • City and Colour, If I Should Go Before You
  • Disclosure, Caracal
  • Eilen Jewell, Sundown Over Ghost Town
  • EL VY, Return To The Moon
  • Ex Cops, Daggers
  • Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Foals, What Went Down
  • Golden Rules, Golden Ticket
  • Grimes, Art Angels
  • Houndmouth, Little Neon Limelight
  • Howling, Sacred Ground
  • Indigo Girls, One Lost Day
  • Jamie Woon, Making Time
  • Jose Gonzalez, Vestiges & Claws
  • JR JR, JR JR
  • Kelela, Hallucinogen
  • Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  • The Late Call, Golden
  • Lord Huron, Strange Trails
  • The Maccabees, Marks To Prove It
  • Oddisee, The Good Fight
  • Oh Wonder, Oh Wonder
  • Other Lives, Rituals
  • Parlour Tricks, Broken Hearts/Bones
  • Passion Pit, Kindred
  • Patrick Watson, Love Songs For Robots
  • Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues
  • Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell
  • Tove Styrke, Kiddo
  • Until the Ribbon Breaks, A Lesson Unlearnt
  • Vetiver, Complete Strangers
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness
  • The Weepies, Sirens

If you are on Spotify, I’ve got these albums in a list (see below as well). Have a listen around. If something comes out between now and the end of 2015, and it meets the rigorous criteria outlined above, I’ll add it to the list here and on Spotify.

Underneath are the everlasting arms

The thought I find most helpful when the weight of the world tries to perch upon my shoulders is the simple notion that God has not placed the future of creation into my hands. It is not my job to make the world turn out right. God carries that burden and God ensures that “all shall be well.” It is a constant and unspeakable relief to know that God holds creation in his hands and will beautify it.

Runners at AAR/SBL: Last Reminder

All-comers casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail on Saturday Nov. 21st at 7am. Here are the details:

When: Saturday, November 21st, 7am

Where: Meet in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree St NE.).

What: Run on some streets until we connect to the path. Follow path to Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Turn around and head back to hotel. About 5 miles. You can turn around sooner or continue past the planned turnaround spot, if 5 miles is not your preferred distance.

Who: You, me, and anyone else who wants to run before the conference frenzy hits us. Contact me if you need more info: chris[at]wipfandstock[dot]com.

View route map for Freedom Trail From Hotel on plotaroute.com

When the Dead Talk

Some time after my grandfather died years ago, he came to me in dreams. Most often, the extended family was gathered for dinner. We were all busy laughing and eating, reminiscing and storytelling. Then Granddad would walk in. No one was astonished by his appearance, which was not ghostlike. We welcomed him among us. But he never spoke a word in return. He was mute. The dead may be with us, in memory and spirit, but they are mute.

Or are they? I thought about this on the past All Saints Day. Then we remembered all who have gone before us in Christ, not least our loved ones. In my Episcopal tradition—as in the catholic tradition in general—we petition the dead to pray for us. Perhaps they hear our prayers through God, and not directly. But surely it is not too spooky to imagine that our beloved dead pray for us. That is when and how the dead talk—surrounded in glory, praising God, and praying for the full coming of the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven.

In that respect, the communion of (deceased) saints pray ultimately and eschatologically. Like us, they await the day when they will assume their resurrection bodies. They await the descent of the New Jerusalem to earth. They await the healing and consummation of all creation. So, they pray, and in their prayer they talk. The dead’s voice is stilled for us, but it is not mute.

 

 

Carmina Burana

My wife and I belong to the Eugene Concert Choir, and we are practicing to perform Carl Orff‘s Carmina Burana. Since the text is a combination of Medieval Latin and Middle High German, it is like learning to recite fifty pages of tongue twisters. But the music is wonderfully powerful. If you would like to see a terrific performance by full choir and orchestra, see the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and multiple choirs in this video.

Trump and Iowa

Perhaps my favorite line from the current presidential race is Donald Trump’s comment this past Friday. He was told by reporters that he was behind Ben Carson in the polls. And his advisors told him that Evangelical voters have great sway in Iowa. His response to his supporters was that he wasn’t giving up on Iowa, and besides “I’m a great Christian! And I do well with Evangelicals.” He also passed out a 1959 photo of his confirmation. Amazing.

Ryan Gattis’s “All Involved”

In the spring of 1992, the policemen who beat Rodney King were acquitted. Six days of riots, with extensive burnings and widespread lethal violence, followed. Now Ryan Gattis has written a novel—All Involved (Ecco)—of that catastrophic aftermath. Gattis’s novel focuses on the effects of so few policemen trying to police such a wide area. As one of Gattis’s characters observes, “Only 7,900 officers and sheriffs police this city of almost 3.6 million, and county of 91.5 million.” By comparison, there were an estimated 102,000 active gang members in the same area. Says another character, “That is not a statistic, sir; that is an army.”

The turmoil created a cover for gang members to settle scores, to murder practically without consequence. All Involved begins with the killing of Ernesto, himself not a gang member, with a brother and sister who were gangbangers. Ernie is brutally beaten, then even more brutally dragged behind a car. What follows are gang wars to avenge Ernie, and then to avenge Ernie’s killers, and so on and so on. All Involved depicts the spiral of violence with devastating specificity and vivid detail that gives names and faces to the statistics.

Gattis concentrates on Latino gangs, and in the course of the book tells stories of  violence from the perspective of a dozen or so characters. All Involved is heartbreaking and revealing, a book that humanizes despite its gritty and often hopeless subject matter. It is a significant glimpse into a world most of us not inhabit and can barely imagine.

Runners at AAR/SBL 2015

All runners—no matter how fast or slow!—in Atlanta next month for the annual AAR/SBL conference, you are invited to join me and others on a casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail on Saturday morning at 7am. Here are the details:

When: Saturday, November 21st, 7am

Where: Meet in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree St NE.).

What: Run on some streets until we connect to the path. Follow path to Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Turn around and head back to hotel. About 5 miles. You can turn around sooner or continue past the planned turnaround spot, if 5 miles is not your preferred distance.

Who: You, me, and anyone else who wants to run before the conference frenzy hits us. Contact me if you need more info: chris[at]wipfandstock[dot]com.

View route map for Freedom Trail From Hotel on plotaroute.com

I Just Felt Like Running

Over eight years ago I arrived in Eugene with my pregnant wife and a new job. Up to that point in my life I had never been much of a runner. In fact, I actively resisted it, much to my wife’s chagrin (she has had running as a part of her active lifestyle ever since I’ve known her). But my managing editor, and therefore kinda my boss, asked if I’d like to go running with him at trail not far from our new house. He even had some hand-me-down running gear that he gave me. So I started to run every once in a while, again much to my wife’s chagrin (being pregnant she was not able to run much, right at the time I started to take it up!). Something took hold. It was the company for sure, but also the culture of running that is woven into the fabric of Eugene.

Eventually I started to run during my lunch hour at work with my colleague and office-mate Charlie Collier. Charlie had run several races in the past but was looking to pick it back up after some time away. Running with Charlie got to be a pretty regular thing. Two to five times per week we would go out from the gym near our office and make our way to the river path or Pre’s Trail. The first time he and I went on a run together, we followed a route of about 3.75 miles that crossed the river twice. At the second bridge, with about a mile to go, we both were out of gas. We walked across the bridge and then picked up the running from there. We got to a point in our running where stopping was not necessary. Later we were able to push a little further and run a route that stretched to just over 5 miles. After several months (maybe even a year or so), we made it a goal to run that route in less than 40 minutes. It took a while, but we did it. Charlie, having run more than I and knowing the personal milestones for races, suggested we try to run a 5K in less than 20 minutes. And so we started training for my first race. On Valentine’s weekend 2011, Charlie blew by me in the last stretch of the race. (This has become a constant theme of mine. I don’t manage race paces well.) Neither of us broke the 20-minute barrier, but we were only seconds off. From that point on, I’ve been hooked on reaching certain goals. Just last month I finally went below 20 minutes in a 5K! It’s the only goal I’ve reached. I’m still working on under 90 minutes for a half marathon (I need to trim three minutes) and hitting the qualifying standard for my age group for the Boston Marathon. My one and only attempt at a marathon was not fun and I’ve had nagging pains ever since. But now that Charlie has done it, I might have to give it another try some time.

All this to say, I see myself as a runner now. And like Forrest Gump, running with company is not a bad thing. (I miss running with Charlie, by the way, now that he’s moved to Portland.) I know there are several folks who attend AAR/SBL every year who also enjoy running. Last year I organized a run for conference goers. A small handful showed up on Saturday morning to run along the San Diego harbor. It was beautiful! This year in Atlanta I am putting together another Saturday morning run. It will be a casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail section of the larger Stone Mountain Trail. All speeds and abilities are welcome. I’ve mapped out about 5 miles, but the path can be shortened or extended as runners wish. In another blog post to follow shortly, I will provide all of the details. If you are a runner and attending AAR/SBL, set aside Saturday morning at 7am to join us!

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