Tag Archives: writers

C.S. Lewis Drank Three Pints of Beer in The Morning — A Letter From Tolkien

In a recent post, David Russell Mosley tries to understand why evangelicals love C.S. Lewis so much—when so much of C.S. Lewis was not evangelical.

After reading the following excerpt from a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Christopher Tolkien, I not only laughed out loud (for seven years I was a beer columnist for a weekly newspaper), I also found myself a bit amazed at Lewis’s physiological capabilities.

“Lewis is as energetic and jolly as ever, but getting too much publicity for his or any of our tastes. ‘Peterborough’, usually fairly reasonable, did him the doubtful honour of a peculiarly misrepresentative and asinine paragraph in the Daily Telegraph of Tuesday last. It began ‘Ascetic Lewis’–––!!! I ask you! He put away three pints in a very short session we had this morning, and said he was ‘going short for Lent’.”

Wow. Three pints in the morning, and that’s giving up some for Lent.

I wonder if that makes for a jolly day. I’d probably need a nap around lunchtime.

Anne Lamott: ‘Jesus Didn’t Ask The Blind Man What He Was Going To Look At’

From an Anne Lamott Facebook post in which she exhorts us to practice “…love force. Mercy force. Un-negotiated compassion force…” in response to recent horrific events:

“Jesus didn’t ask the blind man what he was going to look at after He restored the man’s sight. He just gave hope and sight; He just healed.”

I think she’s right, and I appreciate her drawing attention to a wonderful point.

I’m really bad, I know, but I wonder if that’s the same mentality behind free Wi-Fi at Baptist retreat centers.

“We’re just going to give you free Wi-Fi and not ask what you’re going to look at.”

Surprise—it’s not the same mentality. I once tried to finish a freelance column on beer at a Baptist retreat center, and a few years later at the same place I was trying to do some freelance editing work on articles about marijuana policies in the U.S. I am here to report some web browsing was blocked. And that’s within the rights of the center’s administrators.

Like I said, I’m bad, but on a better note, you can read the entirety of Lamott’s Facebook post—which reads like a short newspaper column, a cool use of Facebook for some authors—here:
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAnneLamott%2Fposts%2F894203970709247&width=500

The Late Pat Conroy on God & the Inklings

Margaret Evans, writer and editorial assistant to the late novelist Pat Conroy, within her column “That’s So Conroy:”

Did you know Pat had lately become enamored of fantasy fiction? He was fanatical about George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, and compared Martin to Shakespeare. He had also discovered C.S. Lewis late in life, and was so enthusiastic about him – and his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien – that he ran the idea by me, about a year ago, of getting a group together to travel to an Inklings weekend in Black Mountain, NC. (How I wish we’d done it.)

You might not know that Pat was very interested in God. Though he didn’t go to church much, he still considered himself Catholic, and he wrestled mightily. During our chats about the Inklings, he once told me he wished he had a writers’ group like that of his own. “Wouldn’t it be great?” he said. “For those guys, the question of God was always on the table. Maybe you struggled with the idea of God. Maybe you rejected it altogether. But the question was always on the table. It mattered, and it mattered a lot. So many writers I know today don’t even address the question. They’re not even God-curious. I still think that’s the difference between a great writer and a merely good writer. Great writers – whether they’re believers or not – are God-haunted.”

Pat Conroy was God-haunted. Maybe you didn’t know….

While out walking in the Cypress Wetlands last week – thinking about Pat, and how he adored this season – a cardinal zoomed across my path at warp speed, eye level, so close to my face I felt the wind on my cheek and heard its whoosh. His feathers may even have brushed my sunglasses; I’m still not sure. It was all so swift and sudden, so frightening and wondrous, I was left shaking as I watched the red bird disappear into the rookery.

They say a cardinal encounter is a visitation from a loved one who has passed….

 

Marilynne Robinson on ‘The Accidental’ as a Basis For Interpretation

In her book Absence of Mind, in the essay “The Strange History of Altruism,” Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson reviews some of the popular books about science. In the excerpt that follows, she makes an interesting observation about the consequences of two outlooks. I’m guessing most of my readers will agree with her point of view, but even those who won’t agree could see something valuable in her take:

“The comparison that is salient here is between the accidental and the intentional in terms of their consequences for the interpretation of anything. In the course of my reading, I have come to the conclusion that the random, the accidental, have a strong attraction for many writers because they simplify by delimiting. Why is there something rather than nothing? Accident. Accident narrows the range of appropriate strategies of interpretation, while intention very much broadens it. Accident closes on itself, while intention implies that, in and beyond any particular fact or circumstance, there is vastly more to be understood. Intention is implicitly communicative, because an actor is described in any intentional act. Why is the human brain the most complex object known to exist in the universe? Because the elaborations of the mammalian brain that promoted the survival of the organism overshot the mark in our case. Or because it is intrinsic to our role in the universe as thinkers and perceivers, participants in a singular capacity for wonder as well as for comprehension.”

Food for thought.

Meanwhile, Robinson has written an interesting analysis of Donald Trump for the Guardian.

Related:

Marilynne Robinson on ‘the felt life of the mind’ and beauty and strangeness

Marilynne Robinson’s Calvinism is an alternative to The Gospel Coalition’s Calvinism

 

‘For God’s sake, be a storyteller’

Acclaimed author Walter Isaacson on the late, great writer Walker Percy:

“I had a friend of the family, an uncle of a friend, Walker Percy…

“He was a kindly gentleman. From his face you could tell he had known despair, but his eyes still smiled. And he had a lightly worn grace to him….

“He would say that two types of people came out of Louisiana, preachers and storytellers. He said, ‘For God’s sake, be a storyteller. The world’s got too many preachers.’

“He thought that too many journalists, and writers in general, feel they have to preach. He said it was best to do it the way the best parts of the Bible do, by telling a wonderful tale, and people will get the message on their own.”

I realize I’ve been guilty of preaching, too.

‘The Spirit of Abstraction’

“As soon as we accord to any category, isolated from all other categories, an arbitrary primacy, we are victims of the spirit of abstraction.” — Gabriel Marcel, in Man Against Mass Society

Gabriel Marcel was a French philosopher and playwright.

I have Marcel’s book Creative Fidelity, an essay collection that I’ve wanted to read for years, but when I dip into it, I rarely get very far due to fatigue or interruptions. I found the above quotation here, in a clear, interesting, and I might even say theological, article on Marcel’s life and work.

Marcel’s work is rich, but here I decided to focus on “abstraction” because it is precisely what I was worried about when I was thinking through the rhetoric and points of reference used by some evangelical leaders to address or comment on ministerial scandals during the past two years.

(I attempted a concrete example of such abstraction from Christianity Today editor Andy Crouch in this post written in the early days of the Mark Driscoll scandal. The above quotation from Marcel would have fit nicely in the post.)

If you’re as curious about Gabriel Marcel as I am, you might like these web portals:

Rockhurst University in Kansas, Mo., has a Gabriel Marcel Society.

Neumman University in Aston, Pa., is home to Marcel Studies, an online, peer-reviewed journal.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Henry Ransom Humanities Research Center has an online Gabriel Marcel inventory of materials available at the center.

I might as well end with another good Marcel quotation, this one challenging my affinity for Stoicism — and, more importantly, reminding us that hope is communal, that hope takes place in community. From his book Tragic Wisdom and Beyond:

“No doubt the solitary consciousness can achieve resignation [Stoicism], but it may well be here that this word actually means nothing but spiritual fatigue. For hope, which is just the opposite of resignation, something more is required. There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral.”

What a great way to think about a genuine community: hope embodied, a choral hope.

From ‘The Art of Fiction No. 135, Don DeLillo’ in Paris Review

“Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them.”

via Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 135, Don DeLillo