When it comes to favorite art, I have an ever-growing list of guilty pleasures, a term which usually refers to some kind of light-hearted or even redeemable creation: Unfortunately, here, I’m not going to write about redemption in Taylor Swift’s new album (“It’s fun though…”). I’m more interested in the less redeemable batch, even art that remains thoroughly, maybe explicitly, un-Christian. Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, for example, traces the loss of religion in a young man’s life but simultaneously remains truthful and affecting. Or, let’s talk about James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, which authentically details…
If you don’t know Humans of New York, it’s one of the few creative things worth following on Facebook. It is curated by a guy named Brandon who simply collects quotes and photos of the people he meets (mostly in New York City), posting them on his blog and social media. He has a huge following. I was struck by a recent post. It’s a down-to-earth presentation of a theology of the Cross versus one of glory:
“I’ve written so many stories and novellas that nobody will look at, plays that I can’t get produced, screenplays that will never be made. Everything is so branded these days in the art world, it’s so hard for an outsider to get work.”
“In what way would you consider yourself an ‘outsider?’”
“I’m interested in failure, so those are the themes that I like to explore. But we live in a society that celebrates triumphalism. A society wants art that reaffirms itself. We want to read about characters that win.”
“What was your lowest moment as an artist?”
“I worked on a screenplay for two years, and it had just been turned down by the fifth theater in a month, and I remember walking down 5th avenue in the middle of winter, tossing the pages one by one into the slush, vowing never to do it again. It was just a few blocks from here, actually.”
It’s hard now to sort through too much Christian media without hearing moving and grandiloquent talk about “cultural engagement.” It’s the trendy thing now, and it seems like the Christian para-academic establishment prepped the ground for an overdue reaction against the isolationism and confrontationalism of now-octogenarian culture warriors. But the talk often seems inversely proportional to the engagement itself. One framework: affirm the good, critique/subvert the bad, discuss redemptive possibilities. (We here tend to omit the latter two.) Talk about talking about culture, and the Evangelical Church is your best conversation partner; talk about a spectacular Game of Thrones battle…
When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…
Instagram enhances Facebook’s most essential quality.
Facebook allows you to keep in touch with old “friends,” but keeping in touch means subjecting yourself to climate-change rants from that girl who failed biology in high school, college football highlight videos from that guy who never went to college, and (if you’re friends with me) shameless plugging of Mockingbird blog posts. But we subject ourselves to this cacophony for one reason and one reason only: So we can see their pictures.
Their pictures allow us to establish our place in the hierarchy. Her kids are cuter than mine, but mine are way cuter than his….
To be honest, I didn’t even know Thomas Kinkade was dead. That was until I read this fascinating piece on Kinkade, America’s favorite sentimental “Painter of Light,” from The Daily Beast by Zac Bissonnette: “The Drunken Downfall of Evangelical America’s Favorite Painter.” I also had no idea Kinkade was (a) an Evangelical Christian and (b) an alcoholic. The story is at once alarming, yet not surprising, and ultimately really sad. Thus, I can’t help but explore it here.
(Before I move on, I should preface this essay by noting that Kinkade died on Good Friday two years ago, so I was probably distracted…
The time has come to post four rather astounding quotes from the 1993 interview that Larry McCaffery conducted with David Foster Wallace. It first appeared in Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the second paragraph will be familiar to those who attended last week’s conference:
I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves….
I was recently introduced to this rare bit of hipness by my friend and fellow seminarian, Susan Sevier.
An early attempt at cultural relevance, Pastor John Rydgren’s circa-1967 Silhouette radio shows are so much fun. Rydgren was serving as the head of the TV, Radio and Film Department for the American Lutheran Church at the time he produced this series. With his hip, rhythmic baritone jive, Rydgren was seeking to connect people with the Gospel message in fresh and down-to-earth ways, and he was doing so in the midst of the cultural upheavals that characterized the Summer of Love.
Talk about dramatic parables! Can…