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How I Became a Nun by César Aira My rating: 1 of 5 stars I greatly enjoyed the first Aira novel I read, An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, giving it four stars out of five. But I thought this one was horrid. View all my reviews Continue reading
Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen My rating: 5 of 5 stars This book challenges our self-understanding by exposing how America is viewed from abroad, particularly taking aim at "American exceptionalism." View all my reviews Continue reading
Our Love Luke 6:27-38 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 24 February 2019 This Epiphany Season we have explored what it means for us to be Children of God. When we are baptized, we are marked by God in a special way, as we commit ourselves to follow Jesus. What are the implications for our identity and our ethics? One implication we have explored is that we must live an ethic of “covenantal neighborliness,” to use Walter Brueggemann’s term. Here in today’s passage, part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, we get the most radical... Continue reading
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers My rating: 4 of 5 stars What I admired most about this novel was the way McCullers evoked a setting. You are drawn into the small world she creates for her characters in this story of adolescent angst at small town living. The characters, the scene, the atmosphere, the inner moods, all are richly developed. And while not much happens plot-wise, what does unfolds carefully and with more attention to emotion than detailed events. I was left puzzling over how this compares and contrast to To Till a Mockingbird as story of... Continue reading
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles My rating: 2 of 5 stars It seems that many people really like this novel a lot. I'm puzzled as to why. None of the characters is compelling (mostly reprehensible) and there isn't much of a story for most of the book. View all my reviews Continue reading
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann My rating: 4 of 5 stars What a fascinating read. I knew a very little of this story, being a native Oklahoman, but none of the details. View all my reviews Continue reading
The LA Times points out dangerous developments in recent dissenting opinions of Clarence Thomas. Continue reading
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier My rating: 4 of 5 stars I devoured this book, fully caught up in the characters and story and the storytelling, despite having seen the film. This is one of those books that leaves me mesmerized at the author's ability to imagine characters and then fully portray them in sentences. Du Maurier also richly describes her settings. And the storytelling is mesmerizing, as you don't fully like or trust your narrator. View all my reviews Continue reading
Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke My rating: 4 of 5 stars A good introductory text to biblical and theological issues of trans inclusion. I particularly liked the way he structured the book with each chapter exploring a topic through the lens of the personal story of a trans person of faith. Hartke is a good writer; we can look forward to his future projects. I also liked the point made in his 11th chapter, "Life beyond Apologetics." One of the annoyances I encountered first in writing and then later in publishing my recent... Continue reading
Our Discipleship Luke 5:1-11 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 10 February 2019 In his commentary, The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel, the Jesuit scholar Brendan Byrne writes about this story that, “The context of the call is humanity thirsting for life. The disciples are to become Jesus’ apprentices in the project of drawing people to the hospitality of God.” We are disciples of Jesus—those who follow on the Way. And that Way is about extending God’s hospitality to all people, because all people are thirsting for abundant life. Byrne continues, “The... Continue reading
Our Truth Luke 4:21-30 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 3 February 2019 One of the things I enjoy about pastoring this church, is its rich history. Fortunately, generations did a great job of archiving what they were doing and telling stories, so that you can learn about the past. I particularly like reading about the pastors who proceeded me, most of them gifted leaders with vision and innovative thinking. Harold Janes was the pastor here from 1946-1958, in that post-World War II boom era for Mainline Christian churches. One of our history books describes... Continue reading
Our Baptism Luke 3:15-22 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 13 January 2019 One of my favourite political and cultural commentators to read is David Brooks, one of the conservative columnists for the New York Times. Back in 2015, Brooks wrote a column entitled “What is Your Purpose?” in which he discussed the lack of conversation in our society of meaningful discussion of how to live a good and worthwhile life. He wrote, Public debate is now undermoralized and overpoliticized. We have many shows where people argue about fiscal policy but not so many on... Continue reading
Our King Matthew 2:1-12 by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones First Central Congregational Church 6 January 2019 If you want to fall down an internet rabbit hole, go searching for information about the Magi. I know, because I did that this week. This story and these mysterious figures from the East have fascinated people for two thousand years. And the accumulation of myths, traditions, art, and music about them, their gifts, and the star are fascinating. Magi is originally a Persian word referring to the priesthood of the Zoroastrian religion. These priests were internationally known for their close observations... Continue reading
A fascinating video watches a newt as it develops from a single cell. Continue reading
A very nice reflection on C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Lev Grossman (whom I met once). An excerpt: But I bristle whenever fantasy is characterized as escapism. It’s not a very accurate way to describe it; in fact, I think fantasy is a powerful tool for coming to an understanding of oneself. The magic trick here, the sleight of hand, is that when you pass through the portal, you re-encounter in the fantasy world the problems you thought you left behind in the real world. Edmund doesn’t solve any of his grievances or personality... Continue reading
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich My rating: 5 of 5 stars Alexievich interviews Soviet women who fought in the Second World War. Apparently many women did, in all sorts of roles. These stories had not been widely told before she set out to capture these stories in the 1980's. This edition, which came out in 2017, includes material censored in the original publication. This book was initially difficult for me to get into, in a way that her Voices from Chernobyl was not. But it soon became difficult to read. I have taken longer to read it... Continue reading
American Primitive by Mary Oliver My rating: 4 of 5 stars Today I had the day off, so I spent the day reading a wide array of things, including this early volume of Mary Oliver's poetry. As always, there are some great lines and passages ("Joy is a taste before it's anything else"). And I admired where the homoeroticism was strong in this work and puzzled how even with that she was America's favourite poet for so many decades. Her ability to describe wild nature--in the outside world and in our own bodies--is exceptional. We'll be doing a four week... Continue reading
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō My rating: 2 of 5 stars As we were preparing this year's Lenten worship theme Kondo's show was all the rage, so we decided to draw on some aspects of it--tidying up, sparking joy, etc. I've read the book in preparation for Lenten worship and have found some handy tidbits to quote. And a few ideas to put into practice in my own life. But I can't see how this ultimately could work in a busy life, in a marriage with two people with... Continue reading
An article at The Guardian argues that Americans have a false map of the nation in their heads and need to include all the territory the US controls. Continue reading
Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard M. Rorty My rating: 3 of 5 stars Some essays deserve five stars, for their engaging and witty explorations of pragmatism. A few essays deserve one star. In particular I disliked "On Heidegger's Nazism." I have a negative view of Heidegger to begin with, but was open to being persuaded by Rorty. Not only did his argument not persuade me to change my mind about H, it confirmed my pre-existing opinion and made me think less of Rorty. Reading Rorty I feel disabused of errors, but also left with very little. His social hope... Continue reading