Running Heads

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

Tag: reading

Slow and Complicated

Truth be told, I am a slow reader. I suppose this can be a liability for an editor. It certainly makes it difficult to finish books that I pick up for enjoyment or to stay abreast of the scholarship I am interested in. I am questioning my decision, then, to start in on two rather thick books at the same time. I tend to read novels at night and something in biblical studies or theology in the mornings. These are the only times I’ve found to get any personal reading done—after the boys are in bed and before they get up in the morning. A few weeks ago I started reading for intellectual stimulation Francis Watson’s Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (679 pp.) and for entertainment Iain Pears’s An Instance of the Fingerpost (735 pp.). It’s been slow going.

I’m only about a third through Watson’s doorstop. It didn’t take long for me to realize this is an important book. The first part, “The Eclipse of the Fourfold Gospel,” is a thorough introduction to early Gospel studies (from pre-Augustine to the Lessing/Reimarus trajectory). I recommend those first 100+ pages to any and all students of the Gospels. I’m in the middle of Part Two, “Reframing Gospel Origins,” wherein Watson is making the case against Q and will argue for a more literary heritage to Gospel formation. It is not always easy to follow, but on the whole the argument has been convincing. I look forward to the third part (probably in a month or so!), “The Canonical Construct.” Others have completed the book and written helpful reviews. And the publisher has posted a lengthy interview with the author.

I’ve got about a third of Pears’s larger doorstop left. I’ll let Wikipedia summarize the plot for you:

A murder in 17th-century Oxford is related from the contradictory points of view of four of the characters, all of them unreliable narrators. The setting of the novel is 1663, just after the restoration of the monarchy following the English Civil War, when the authority of King Charles II is not yet settled, and conspiracies abound.

Most of the characters are historical figures. Two of the narrators are the mathematician John Wallis and the historian Anthony Wood. Other characters include the philosopher John Locke, the scientists Robert Boyle andRichard Lower, spymaster John Thurloe, and inventor Samuel Morland. The plot is at first centred on the death of Robert Grove but later takes in the conspiracies of John Mordaunt and William Compton (of Compton Wynyates), and the politics of Henry Bennet and Lord Clarendon. Furthermore, the characters that are fictional are nonetheless drawn from real events. The story of Sarah Blundy incorporates that of Anne Greene, while Jack Prestcott is involved in events based on the life of Richard Willis (of the Sealed Knot).

As far as novels go, this one is slower going than most. Pears is an astounding writer. But the story itself and the 17th-century writing style keep the reading at a slower pace. Despite that, I’ve become a Pears fan. I’ll read more of his work, and I recommend this one highly.

It struck me the other day that there is some confluence in my two reads, namely the wrestling with different takes on the same story. It get’s complicated.

In the wake of Newtown

As one might have expected, the atrocity of last Friday has led to a flood of online rantings, many of them woefully ignorant, misinformed, and/or asinine. Too often these past few days I’ve found myself caught up in Facebook discussions filled with these rantings (some of them my own!) and ultimately leading to nowhere except further disdain for those with opposing views. These online and mostly thoughtless jousts have made me especially appreciate thoughtful and sometimes helpful articles, editorials, and commentaries. And since I am at a loss for charitable words on the matter, I offer these online pieces for consideration. They don’t all come from the same perspective. I’ve tried to hear voices I am inclined to dislike.

Our Moloch by Garry Wills

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Misdiagnosing the Culture of Violence by Mike King

If we actually care about addressing the symptoms of what is an exponential increase in mass killings over the last thirty years, we will need to shed some light on the blind spots of the gun control debate and peek inside the closet where we have hidden the history of the treatment of the mentally ill.  The kids who died last week – for no reason whatsoever – deserve that we have a grown up debate about this.

Newtown, Conn. by David Simon

The absurdist argument that more guns carried everywhere — into schools and malls and theaters and restaurants — will produce safety. The pretense that weapons in the classroom — handguns within reach of children; teachers armed and ready for firefights — is some sort of insightful, plausible solution, rather than evidence of moral bankruptcy and a nation in decline.

10 Myths about the Connecticut Shootings by Kevin Yuill

Let us leave the families alone to grieve rather than trotting out prescriptions that are simple and neat but wrong.

Twelve Facts about Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States by Ezra Klein

What follows here isn’t a policy agenda. It’s simply a set of facts — many of which complicate a search for easy answers — that should inform the discussion that we desperately need to have.

The Case for More Guns (And More Gun Control) by Jeffrey Goldberg

A balanced approach to gun control in the United States would require the warring sides to agree on several contentious issues.

But what about the men? On masculinity and mass shootings by Meghan Murphy

In the midst of all this horror, we are, understandably, up in arms, demanding change, grieving all the while. But within all this righteous anger, we are very carefully tiptoeing around the common denominator.

I’m surely forgetting some of the things I’ve read, and I’ve probably overlooked many others. Feel free to offer recommendations in the comments.

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