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Archive for the ‘reseña’ Category

51M8EG+gmgLIf you like Dave Barry’s brand of juvenile humor (as I do), you’ll find this a handy compilation of some of the man’s now quite dated columns.

The reader should self-select. Dave Barry Fans, pick up and read. It’s the same-old same-old, which in this case can be a very *good* thing.

Readers who wish to take their first whack at the Miami-based humor columnist’s work might start with a more recent title.

Still, don’t overthink this. Barry’s guy humor never goes out of style. Just enjoy.

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51j-zWJ4EUL._SS300_Evelyn Monahan’s and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee’s And if I Perish is an exceptional—I am tempted to say ‘must-read’—book for two reasons.

First, the story of U.S. Army nurses in World War II’s European theatre is largely an untold tale. Who knew that these women, for whose work almost no forethought paved the way, played such a critical role in the Allied forces’ campaigns in North Africa and Europe? Once told, the story seems both inevitable and obvious. Yet it is alarming how much one can read about and ponder World War II history without ever giving a thought to the nurses who saved so many lives and provided final comfort to those whose bodies could not be repaired.

Second, the story is told in exceptional style. The authors weave in military strategy in unexpected volume, which provides a welcome context for the self-sacrificing labor of this nearly all-volunteer cadre of frontline nurses. One of the book’s virtues is that it is not a ‘soft’ history over against the ‘hard’ history of soldiers and generals. The result is compelling history and a very fine read.

I purchased and read this book as a small means of honoring the legacy of a nurse from my Pennsylvania hometown who died on the Anzio Beachhead. The poignantly tragic way in which Carrie Sheetz and too many others perished is told movingly in these pages.

Others lived, who perhaps reluctantly and nearly always self-effacingly relieved themselves of the burden they carried in late-in-life interviews with the authors.

The Greatest Generation was comprised of both genders. We have grown to know and honor the stories of the generation’s soldiering men. We are only now learning the deep debt we owe to our mothers and grandmothers. Daughters and sisters belonging to that same generation, they are no less great for the shadow in which they labored, sacrificed, died, and healed.

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51-77jM2bAL._SS300_Elizabeth George Speare’s fine novel of a Barbados-born teenager who lands in chilly New England—a bit frosty in more ways than one—makes for fine young adult reading. It was also a treat for this comparative geezer, who will soon live near Wethersfield, Connecticut, the principal location in which this novel’s drama plays out.

I would recommend this novel to any young reader. It packs in enough layers of real life without the added burden of tedious ideological pleading.

Even as it entertains, the book provides a helpful narrative introduction to America’s pre-Revolutionary life in the northeast corner of these colonies and even to some of our once-upon-a-time and enduring political dynamics. Instruction like this goes down sweetly.

 

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511nu60ABAL._SS300_The concluding section of Tori Bortman’s The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Beginners  makes the claim that ‘teaching, bicycles, and writing are Tori Bortman’s passions’. By the time the reader encounters this line, the truth of it has become clear.

Bortman has provided beginner (and, I would say, that face-saving term ‘advanced beginner’) cyclists with a jargon-free, highly readable companion for the first thousand miles on thin rubber tires.

These pages contain no in-house tech talk meant to bolster anyone’s credentials and squeeze the newbies into their corner. Instead, a gifted teacher who really wants her students to love the sport as much as she does builds our understanding from the ground up, step by step, brick by brick, ride by ride.

I’m finishing my first thousand miles and cannot think of a more amiable companion that The Bicycling Big Book for Beginners and the ambitiously empathetic voice it channels to riders whose gasping lungs and pumping legs are just beginning to know their strength.

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51kRhvdn8QL._SS300_Leland Ryken’s Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible (2nd edition) has endured a longer wait on my reading list that any other book I can recall. Unexpectedly, the book did not meet my long-pent-up expectations.

When offering an unflattering comment on a work that is clearly an authorial labor of love, I owe an explanation. It will without doubt be highly subjective.

Ryken was writing at a time when approaching the Bible first (not to say primarily) as a literary work was not ‘the done thing’ in evangelical circles, which is the ambience from which Words of Delight emerges. There is a polemical note against ‘biblical scholars’, understandable in its moment, that now makes Ryken’s line of approach seem quaint. He can hardly be faulted for writing in and for his moment, so this is an observation rather than a criticism.

More to the point, Ryken appears to this reader to have substituted one lens for another as he peers at Scripture. The lens he has largely laid aside is the historical-grammatical lens, with its concentration on the smaller matters of language and the sometimes myopic probing for history that might lie behind the biblical text. The lens he has privileged is the literary lens, which begins with the assumption that the Bible represents admirable if not breath-taking literary prowess and finds confirmation of this assumption in the reading of it.

Removed from the fracas, we can appreciate that these function best as complementary routes of access to the text, rather than one-or-the-other alternatives.

More importantly, Ryken appears to employ his chosen lens with a certain woodenness. He has not moved from reading the Bible through a fixed paradigm to reading it on its own terms so much as he has substituted a literary paradigm that gives pride of place to the canons of literary genres as these began to be identified in classical literature and have been utilized to interpret (Ryken prefers ‘to explicate’) literature in the modern period. I come away finding that this biblical passage or another has, in Ryken’s hands, been forced into the literary forms that are the pillars and the beams of this approach.

Still, I recommend the book. How so?

It dawned on me late in the reading of Words of Delight that the book is best received as the lecture notes of a gifted professor of English, which is what I suspect they were before being polished for publication. Could it be that I have been the genre-bungler, rather than the author of this love’s labor.

Perhaps.

Read in this way, the 23 chapters that comprise the work’s four sections (‘Biblical Narrative’, ‘Biblical Poetry’, ‘Other Biblical Literary Forms’, and ‘The New Testament’) offer valuable counsel for approaching a certain biblical genre or text in the manner of a competent ‘reader’s guide’.

When I allowed myself to relax and read Words of Delight on these terms, my expectations adjusted. I came away believing that few readers would not be helped by accessing the chapters of this book in such a task-oriented way. Indeed, Ryken—a much loved emeritus professor at a high-standard Christian college—allows this kind of reader the occasional flash of brilliant insight, without the crankiness to which I found descending when seeking the more thrilling panorama.

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519W8+BwhcL._SS300_As one of the evangelical movement’s most interesting and fruitful popularizers, Richard Mouw can almost be imagined rolling out of bed and dashing off an intriguing treatment of Isaiah’s sixtieth chapter, then placing it the next day in his readers’ hands. Such is the effervescent ease of his prose. Yet surely a book like this discloses instead years of reflection about what the Christian gospel has to say about God’s final purpose(s) with his world and how that ought to shape human conduct meanwhile.

As a signal of his (and this world’s) destination, Mouw writes early on that …

Isaiah 60 records a vision of a magnificent city. In it the prophet is speaking to the city, calling attention to various aspects of its appearance. His tone is joyful, his mood excited. This city is not like any other that he has seen among the products of human efforts at urbanization; it is a city built by God. Sometimes Isaiah addresses the city in the present tense; at other points he employs the language of future fulfillment. Though the city has not yet been established, he is certain that it will someday arrive. It is clearly a transformed city. Many of the people and objects from Isaiah’s own day appear within its walls, but they have assumed different roles, they perform new functions.

Transformation of what God has made and what has fallen from its intended purpose is a core feature of Mouw’s vision of history’s destiny. His argument broadens out beyond exposition of one chapter of an Old Testament book’s sixty-six to offer a richly traced counterproposal to skinny Christian views of human fulfillment as ‘dying and going to heaven’.

Mouw wants to know—as apparently did the Isaianic tradition—what will become of all of this, not just of me and of people who believe things like the ones I believe.

The result, in this reader’s assessment, is a stirring vision in which all nations bring their best stuff—their cultural, religious and existential product—to the perfecting of a city that is resplendent in both beauty and justice.

Mouw sees the walled but gates-flung-open city of Isaianic vision as something of a metaphor for this world when it has been duly refined, purged—again, transformed. It stands along more familiar descriptions of the same that travel under the title ‘new heavens and new earth’. The author avoids narrow definitions of ‘how things will be’ that fail to recognize the vivid power of imagistic description. Yet for all this Mouw never distances himself from the vision’s concreteness, whether in its beauty, its justice, its joyfulness, or its inclusion of surprising agents and elements.

This delightfully readable book has retained its value since its genesis in the early 1970s and its revision at the onset of a new century. It deserves strong recommendation still, particularly to potential readers who are interested in Old Testament prophetic vision, biblical theology, missional eschatology, or hope in a context of hopelessness.

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51uijBUz+-L._SS300_As this reader approaches the end of six decades and pauses to consider the rescued dogs and cats that have shared his home and made their bed in permanent corners of his and his family’s heart, I wonder if it was because my siblings and I devoured James Herriot’s veterinary tales early in life. (‘James Herriot’ was the pen name of the real Alfred ‘Al’ Wight.)

It wouldn’t surprise. Such was the uncanny ability of Alfred Wight’s eye to capture the immensely rich nuances of man and beast in the Yorkshire hills and dales of the earlier 20th century. Over a re-read that has lasted a year or two, I marvel at the patient and slightly awed love—I think that’s the word—which fuels the gentle, acute conversations that are sprinkled across every page of All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

I’m not sure whether you need to adore animals in order to delight in these books. Perhaps so, but maybe the short chapters work their way into readers’ hearts and turn them into animal lovers. And devoted readers.

I can think of only one tribute to these readable classics that comes even close to giving them their due: I’ll just have to start reading them all over again.

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