Novel Thoughts blog

Wolfe, Innocence, Literature, and Rock Monsters

April 30, 2015 11:37 am | Leave a Comment


In the past week I’ve ended up saving a number of links to read and re-read, and in the hopes that others may also get some enjoyment and interest from them I’m sharing them with you.

First up, there’s a short piece in the New Yorker about science-fiction writer Gene Wolfe, titled Sci-Fi’s Difficult Genius:

Moments [in his books] have turned many of Wolfe’s fans into something like Biblical exegetes, who dig deep into his texts in the hope of finding clues not only to the plots and the characters but to Wolfe’s larger intentions. Partly what readers are excavating is Wolfe’s Catholicism, which he is quick to say figures into his writing. “What is impossible is to keep it out,” he told me. “The author cannot prevent the work being his or hers.”

Continue reading here.

Over at The Catholic Thing, Daniel McInerney writes about Catholic Literature and the discussion about it between writers such as Gregory Wolfe, Paul Elie, and Dana Gioia. I’m not so sure I agree with his take on it, but it’s an interesting contribution to the discussion. He seems to indicate that the current crop of Catholic writers are been too inclined to write in the current mode; that may be, but isn’t that what Catholics writers have generally always done? In any case, read it and keep on discussing!

People who know me know that I’m a shameless booster of Dorothy Cummings McLean’s Ceremony of Innocence, so it’s nice to come across another perceptive and well-written review. This one comes from Emily Watson at Quadrapheme:

This is a fascinating read with a fast-moving, suspenseful plot, where themes of guilt, repentance and salvation are explored and brought to a mesmerizing conclusion. It seems that if Yeats’ poem foresees a world without redemption, where the “rough beast” is born to reign over a world devoid of meaning, in Cummings McLean’s work the “ceremony of innocence” has the power to save from false ideologies which lead to terror and destruction.

Continue reading here.

Since it was just released on Netflix streaming, I watched the controversial 2014 film Noah. It isn’t perfect, but neither is it the laughable “new-age” travesty that many Christians said it was. It embraces the deeply strange / dark elements of the Old Testament while still pointing toward a New Testament understanding of sin, and takes the struggle of faith far more seriously than almost any other Biblical movie I’ve seen. Certain moments are incredibly masterful, such as the creation sequence. And the way the film treats themes of justice and mercy are also very skillfully handled. Usually in films when the just men of the Old Testament are portrayed, they are shown behaving as men who have received the fullness of Christian teaching. In this movie, Noah is very much a man to whom not all has yet been revealed. This makes his actions occasionally disturbing and strange, but the portrayal feels more real because of that strangeness. And the “rock monsters”, though animated somewhat conventionally—we’ve lost our ability to be astounded by CGI creatures in a world where Peter Jackson and imitators have constantly one-upped each other in that regard—work well in the plot and are given a redemptive arc of their own. For more about the themes in Noah, Steven Greydanus has a number of pieces on his Decent Films site. This one is a good start.

Lastly, Will Duquette at the Cry Woof blog has been making his way through the works of Tim Powers. Here’s a link to all of the posts so far.

Keep reading!

John Herreid

John Herreid

John Herreid is catalog manager at Ignatius Press. In addition to catalogs and ads, he has also worked on the cover design for many Ignatius Press books and DVDs. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and four children.

Tags: Catholic literature Ceremony of Innocence gene wolfe Noah Tim Powers

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