I turned 38 last month, so in keeping with tradition here are this year's additions to my lists of favourite film, music, and books:
Films that Stuck with me: Catching Hell
It is the story of Steve Bartman, a long-time fan who innocently reached for a foul ball at a Chicago Cubs playoff game and ended up being the scapegoat for their disastrous collapse. Along with it we get the story of Bill Buckner, who missed a routine grounder for the Red Sox and likewise took the blame for their World Series loss. In there you get a whole lot of humanity and as I watched it with my sons we were literally on the edges of our seats. My eldest had his mouth dropped open and even walked out of the room at one point because he couldn't bear to see what would happen. When it came around to talk about scapegoating and showed Buckner's pseudo-redemption it occasioned a brief chat with my sons that I won't soon forget.
Albums I've Lived By: Beach House - Bloom
From Pitchfork: "Filmmakers call the part of the day right before the sun goes down "the magic hour." It's that brief moment when the waning daylight causes everything to take on a holy, hazy glow. It took Terrence Malick about a year to shoot his 1978 movie Days of Heaven because he insisted on filming only during this time of day, but the results perfectly capture and distend that dizzy, overripe feeling of right before something very good ends. Bloom does that, too. "
Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughter-House Five
From The New York Times: "Mr. Vonnegut pronounces his book a failure 'because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre.' He's wrong and he knows it. Kurt Vonnegut knows all the tricks of the writing game. So he has not even tried to describe the bombing. Instead he has written around it in a highly imaginative, often funny, nearly psychedelic story." I call the main character, Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's answer to Dostoevsky's The Idiot. If both feature a Christ-figure, but with different things to say about the "foolishness of the cross", well, if you've read the book you'll understand the despondency of Vonnegut saying "So it Goes."
Gregory MacDonald - The Evangelical Universalist
I could get in trouble for liking this book so much---if one jumps to conclusions about my liking it. But there is an important discussion to be had here, and Robin Parry (originally writing under a pseudonym) guides it well. Other books have recently opened and closed that discussion up in evangelicalism with a high degree of sloppiness, combativeness, and false humility. This does the opposite of that. It opened up windows for me, not only with the case it presented to my inquiries, but with the mode in which that case was made. A very timely, important, well-studied and well-presented book.
as my 37th entry, but I'm changing it to Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World. The former is great, but that was a lean year for me, reading wise, and the latter has been more impactful. I'm still wrestling with Schmemann's book. Not sure what to do with it. A book about the sacraments by an Orthodox scholar really challenges my Barthian sensibilities---in a good way. And it is oh-so beautifully written. Leaves me wonder-ing, in both senses of the word.