I’ve been making my way through Conversations with David Foster Wallace, and as expected, it’s chock-full of interesting exchanges. You also get to witness a certain evolution in his thought. Anyway, three favorite quotes thus far would be the following. The first comes from an interview with Salon in 1996, post-Infinite Jest:
“It seems to me that the intellectualization and aestheticizing of principles and values in this country is one of the things that’s gutted our generation. All the things that my parents said to me, like ‘It’s really important not to lie.’ OK, check, got it. I nod at that…
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Thanks so much to volunteers, speakers, and attendants of our 2014 NYC Conference! Recordings and videos should be coming soon, but for now, here’s our conference book table, which doubles as a recommended reading list from Mbird. Titles with asterisks are either new or new to us:
-W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays
-Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King (Penguin Classics)*
-T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
-George Herbert, Herbert Poems
-Mary Karr, Lit: A Memoir (P.S.)
-Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome: Poems
-C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale*
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
-Reynolds Price, A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing
-J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
-Oscar Wilde, De Profundis: The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Writings
-Thornton Wilder, Theophilus North: A Novel
-Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing: Poems
CHRISTIANITY / THEOLOGY
-Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation
-Todd Brewer and David Zahl, The Gospel According to Pixar
-Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace
-Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus
-Gerhard Ebeling, Luther: An Introduction to His Thought
-Gerhard Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (Theology)
-Gerhard Forde, Where God Meets Man
-Bo Giertz, Hammer of God
-John D. Koch and Todd Brewer, Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F. M. Zahl*
-Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Luther Classic Commentaries)
-Martin Luther, On the Bondage of the Will
-Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
-William McDavid, Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis*
-Jim McNeely, The Romance of Grace
-Sean Norris, Judgment and Love
-Ashley Null, Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love
-Ethan Richardson, This American Gospel: Public Radio Parables and the Grace of God
-Ethan Richardson and Sean Norris, The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)
-Ethan Richardson, The Mockingbird (Magazine)*
-Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense
-Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free
-Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World
-Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
-Paul F.M. Zahl, Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody
-Paul F.M. Zahl, The Merciful Impasse
-Paul F.M. Zahl, PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion*
-Paul F.M. Zahl, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life
-Paul F.M. Zahl, Who Will Deliver Us?: The Present Power of the Death of Christ
-Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
-Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Vintage)
-Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing: Essays*
-Dorothy Martyn, Beyond Deserving: Children, Parents, and Responsibility Revisited
-Walker Percy, Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
-Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life*
-Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought
-Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
-Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine, Love and Mercy*
-High Street Hymns, High Street Hymns
-High Street Hymns, Love Shall Be Our Token
I’m not a cultured enough moviegoer to give you a list of the best films of the year; my only qualification for a “good” movie is if I can watch it in 3-D. I’m nowhere near up to speed on current music to talk about the best artists or albums of 2013. If you want to know the top books of the 12th or 16th century, well then, I’m your girl. The only books I’ve read this year are theological ones, mostly Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. But books of 2013? I haven’t got a clue. Let’s not even talk…
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In keeping with our year-end tradition, here is a list of the top Mockingbird theology books of 2013 – and I must say it’s been quite the year! For fun, I’ve categorized them according to the most fitting high school stereotypes.
The Jocks (Books by Superstar Scholars)
Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking A Pauline Theme by Stephen Westerholm – A great introduction to the recent debate on the doctrine of Justification (specifically the New Perspective on Paul). Westerholm looks at several prominent figures in the field (Stendahl, Dunn, Wright, Campbell) and provides a stirring defense of a “Lutheran” Paul.
Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the…
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Before the clock strikes 2014, we wanted to give you a brief update from the Mockingworld. 2013 was quite a year for our little organization. To name just a few milestones, we hosted our largest conference, produced our most substantial publication, The Mockingbird Devotional, launched The Mockingpulpit Podcast, and overhauled the Resources section on our website. Moreover, our online audience grew by more than 30%, from roughly 380,000 unique visitors in 2012 to over 500,000 in 2013.
We have some great projects on tap for 2014: In addition to our annual Spring in New York City (4/3-5), the Texas conference we postponed this past Fall has officially been rescheduled for 10/17-18, 2014 at St Thomas Episcopal Church in Houston. February is also shaping up to be a busy month, as we help lead the What Would Jesus Tweet? mini-conference in Louisville, KY (2/7-8), and play a significant role again at the Liberate gathering in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (2/20-23).
We could not be more excited about our publications slate for this coming year:
- First and most importantly, late January sees the launch of our brand new print magazine, The Mockingbird! An outlet for longer-form writing and interviews, The Mockingbird will feature the same mix of personal, theological, and cultural reflection (and playfulness) you find on our site. We are so excited about how it’s come together that we are planning on sending free copies of the first issue to everyone on our physical mailing list.
- In time for our April conference, we hope to have both The Fundamentals by Jacob Smith and The Mockingbird Companion to Genesis out. If all goes swimmingly, the summer may even see the release of a companion to Romans as well.
- For real this time: David Zahl is hard at work on an expanded collection of his Mbird pop-culture work, entitled These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty, that should make its debut at the Houston conference in October.
- Finally, stay tuned for an announcement about Kindle versions of Grace in Addiction and The Mockingbird Devotional.
As for our website, aside from keeping the daily content coming, we will be giving the homepage a significant facelift and creating an inviting section for “newcomers.” Suffice it to say, 2014 will not be boring!
How You Can Help
Like any non-profit or ministry, Mockingbird relies on the generosity of individual donors and churches to fund its operations. Our budget for 2014 is $195,000–for info about where the money goes, go here–and two easy ways to help might be:
- Mbird currently has about 55 supporters who give automatically every month, anywhere from $10 to $1000/per month. We would love to see that number increase! To that end, anyone who signs up for monthly giving (any amount) by Jan 10th will receive a complimentary copy of the Mbird publication of their choice. If everyone who reads our site gave even $5/month, we wouldn’t have to think about money ever again!
- Right now there are a handful of churches that support us every year with money from their mission/outreach budgets. Others give via discretionary accounts. If you attend or work at a church that is benefiting from our ministry but maybe hasn’t considered getting behind Mbird “officially” yet, please be our advocate! We’re happy to fill out applications, make presentations, phone calls, offers that can’t be refused, etc – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any leads.
To donate to Mockingbird, or to sign up for monthly giving, visit our Support page.
P.S. Earlybird rates for the NYC Conference expire on January 1st!
Here’s what I consumed (and what consumed me) in 2013, a good deal of which has already been covered in embarrassing depth elsewhere on this site.
Favorite Musical Discoveries
1. Phantom of the Paradise – Paul Williams. I’ve always loved Paul Williams for his Muppet (rainbow) connection but never delved too deeply into the recordings he did under his own name. It took ueber-fans Daft Punk roping him in for their new record–and admitting in an interview that PW inspired their helmets–for me to finally take the plunge. Yet as good as some of those albums are, the soundtrack to Brian DePalma’s…
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2013 was a little tricky in terms of television–I can’t remember the medium ever being so dominated by a single show like it was by Breaking Bad. In this instance, that was a very good thing; even the year-end backlash that we’re currently seeing can’t obscure the conclusion of what was for all intents and purposes a Great American Novel. But there were plenty of signs of life elsewhere, including a number I’m sure we didn’t catch. But here are a few.
Top Twelve Television Series of 2013
12. Parenthood. Because even if it’s faltering, we can’t not include the most consistently…
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My good friend, Jeff, and I are on the eve of a six-year project–all the brainchild of Jeff, but with my full participation. Most hip-hop heads place the golden era of the genre between 1988 or 89 to 1994. So we are celebrating 1989-1994 hip-hop by listening to and reviewing every album that came out during those years in real time. In other words, the album(s) that came out in the first week of January 1989 will be listened to and reviewed on the first week of January 2014 and so on. We will be listening to everything from genre-defining…
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It probably won’t come as a surprise that my personal favorite book of the year, which actually came out in 2012, was Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing. A collection of essays on everything from Busyness and Friendship to Identity and Politics and Family to Death and Books (sometimes in the same paragraph), it’s as funny as anything I’ve ever read, grounded in personal experience (much of which is anything but funny), and unified by Kreider’s unwavering knack for gazing behind the curtain of everyday life (esp his own). If I had to describe his perspective, I’d borrow a phrase from…
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I happily come across more pieces of culture than I know what to do with each year (or month, or week, or day) that speak to the Christian Message. This is a good problem to have–it means a blog like Mbird or a preacher like me will never run out of new material. Not using it can feel burdensome though, because I want to talk about it all—and sometimes I just procrastinate and never get around to it. I lumped some highlights together here in truncated form, keeping this list limited to the top ten (maybe 11) things I wanted to…
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Alright, kemosabes, we decided to put together a gift guide this year. Apologies in advance for not straying terribly far from our books/movies/music wheelhouse:
For the cousin who’s been asking you where to start with all this grace stuff: One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian
For the un-/underemployed recent college graduate or Teach For America burnout: Breaking Bad: The Complete Series
For the millennial son/daughter with a good sense of humor who keeps trying to shock you with his/her cynicism (but deep down just wants some love): We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider or Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
For the Star…
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In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, critic Christopher Orr asks, “Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?” He kicks off by quoting well known rom-com producer Lynda Obst, who recently claimed that this year has been “the hardest time of my 30 years in the business.” As an outspoken fan of the genre, I can’t say that I hadn’t noticed the decline in both quantity and quality these last few years. Normally February is chock-full of solid if formulaic romantic comedies, but the pickings are particularly slim this cycle. In fact, when The Onion published its fake headline earlier this…
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The following is a list of my top Mockingbird theology books of 2012 (in no particular order).
- Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian
Tchividjian does it again. Thoughtful, provocative, and deeply encouraging, “Glorious Ruin” places suffering at the heart of the Christian life and what we understand about God, but probably the biggest virtue of this book is its personal and accessible tone. Suffering is never spoken of in cold abstraction from its down-to-earth reality. It’s no wonder this book has gotten so much attention on this site.
- Justification Is for Preaching edited by Virgil Thompson
A much needed book for preachers and…
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Just under the wire, a few more assorted lists and accolades from this past year. Here’s what I consumed (and what consumed me) in 2013, most of which has already been covered in embarrassing depth elsewhere on this site.
Favorite Discoveries of 2012
1. “St. Matthew” – The Monkees. Still boggles my mind to think of all the connections. There so clearly is a God (and his name may or may not be Dylan).
2. The Kinks’ Preservation Act 2. I had always stayed away because of the bad/intimidating reviews, and they were right about one thing: it is incomprehensible. But if you…
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