Small things finished this spring

Not everything read will appear here; the last few months have been a jumbled haze due to work and home. Here are the highlights — more on the way Real Soon Now.

First Things No. 161: Michael Novak’s “The Truth About Religious Freedom” is the highlight of this issue; the rest of the issue, while not awful, is mostly forgettable.

First Things No. 162: A. Jacobs’ “To Be a Christian College” is both timely and interesting, especially for those who have an association with (at least putatively) Christian college(s); “Theology’s Continental Captivity” by R. R. Reno does point towards a new area to be cleared in theology, although it does not grapple with the severely limited ground contemporary analytic thought is willing to cover, and thus the constraints put on thought in the use of analytic philosophy; it is also the case that R. J. Neuhaus’ segment, “The Two-Hundred-Year War”, is worthy of a reader’s time. Other pieces are worth reading, especially a review article by J. Bottum.

The Believer 4.1: Of interest to classicists is G. Strand’s “The Ecology of Empire”, a fine examination of America and oil through the lens of Virgil; I. Grinspan directs us to the less-than-well-known oeuvre of Donald Harrington; S. Schenkenberg shares interesting sentences with us; the reader is taken on a (cut too short) tour of the literal underside of NYC by A. Wilkinson; stock photography is made available; Eminem is noted by R. Christgau as important far more for his self-construction than his art; Peter Singer is given a platform for further fundamentalist-utilitarian ranting in an interview; J. Ladouceur supplies some quite-interesting drawings. Another issue worth the cover price.

The Believer 4.2: The wonders of Costumed Debt Collectors in Spain are shared with us; J. Fort spends time wisely with Kafka; N. Hornby spends more time with books than with his own life (real or imagined), which is good for his reviews; D. Shields fails to convince that “the lyric essay is better than fiction”; an interview with Ed Ruscha does what it should — sends the reader to Ruscha’s work; Robyn Hitchcock is interesting; we discover that Harold Ramis needs to be given more money to make movies. This is a middling issue when all the articles are taken into account, but there are fine pieces to be found here.

Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism, by William Harmless: This book is a useful introduction to the early monastic movement of the East, especially in Egypt. Know that it does suffer from repetition of information and arguments in places (the book appears to have been put together from numerous articles, so the overlap is to be expected) and, especially in the latter third of the book, from poor editing. Poorly written sentences fell past the editor’s notice, and some spelling mistakes should have been found. Other than these flaws, this is a work well worth reading.

The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, edited by Frances Young: Little needs to be said about this volume other than that it is well-edited, well-written, and well-constructed. If one has an interest in the background and general outline of Early Christian Literature, this is the place to start.

The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, edited by David Bagchi: Overall a fine volume, with experts on the various topics and figures of this period writing each chapter. Some choices, however, are odd. For example, in discussing the protestant reaction to Trent, comprehensive works such as Chemnitz’s Examen are mentioned and left to the side, while Calvin’s writings on the council, which stop long before the council itself ended, are used to examine Trent and its proceedings. Such unusual choices are not, however, to be found throughout the book. This would be useful as a companion volume to a Reformation survey class.

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