Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Summer Reading -- a Bonanza

I received my issue of World Magazine yesterday, and read it from cover to cover. It was the summer book issue. This issue is a must read -- even if you've never picked up World before (you can usually find it at Barnes and Noble). Here's what I found that I liked:

Reviews of a whole slew of books about posthumanism. This is a topic that keeps popping up on my radar of late: Utne Reader featured a series of articles about trans/posthumanism and the dangers/possibilities involved. Simply the fact that two publications from such opposite ends of the spectrum are wrestling with this issue tells me that they're on to something. Then, several weeks ago on the web blog Boing Boing, I saw an article about "the singularity" (note this is not a link to the article I read -- which i could not find -- rather, a link to an earlier article -- wikipedia also has good information on the singularity). According to Vernor Vinge's 1993 speech on the singularity, it is the moment when technology accellerates beyond our ability to control it. Think The Matrix, think Sky Net -- this is the dystopian view of the singularity.

In the back page commentary on these topics, Marvin Olasky has some right on observations from a Christian Worldview:

"Prospects for deeper changes are all overrated, I suspect. If Christ does not first return, will artificial intelligence be in the saddle, riding mankind? No—computers will still be glorified calculators. They will be able to imitate humans and leave a person reading a transcript unable to know whether computers or humans are speaking, but they will still be responding to software and without the spark of life that is God's gift."

Olasky does point where he sees the real dangers -- read the commentary for more.

So, while I'm geeking out over this teriffic content, I find the next set of reviews -- books about CS Lewis and the upcoming release of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe". Now, you who know me know that I love CS Lewis -- I've read just about all of his major books, and much of his more obscure literary criticism (careful readers of this blog will note that The Eagle and Child was the Oxford pub where Lewis would often converse with his colleagues: Tolkein, Williams, Barfield, etc). But I'll be honest, I don't relish reading another literary analysis of the Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis has become something of a cottage industry, and I believe that he would rather us spend time reading his books and talking about the God he describes there, than reading books and talking about Lewis. That said, World recommends some good authors -- Leland Ryken is one of the best on literary analysis from a Christian worldivew.

The icing on the cake was Lauren Winner's article on mysteries with clergy protagonists. Winner is one of my favorite new voices on the Christian scene -- she writes with pungency and clarity, without a lot of self absorbed claptrap that I see in much contemporary spiritual writing. Her article alterted me to new trends in mystery writing that I've missed out on (largely because I've been away from the genre for about 4 years now) -- and she pointed my attention once again to the great works of GK Chesterton: his Father Brown Mysteries.

All said, it was a great issue worth your time. I am sad that they didn't mention Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which I think was one of the best books of 2004. This story of fathers and sons, estrangment and reconciliation, and learning the past to understand our future, struck a deep chord. It is worth a read and then an immediate re-read. I recommended it to our congregation in my summer reading list, and I recommend it to you.

So, buy the magazine, order some books (or check them out from your library), and happy reading!

Soli Deo Gloria