Category Archives: arts and entertainment

On Stephen King and Steven Utley

Fantasy and Science Fiction kindly gave me a freebie copy of their upcoming October/November double issue. The most notable story is that of Stephen King, who delivers a short but touching story that isn’t scary, but strange, like a dream that may haunt you for a few days after waking up. The editor likened it to a Twilight Zone episode, which seems like a fair comparison.

The other story in the issue that struck me the most was Steven Utley’s The Sleepless Years. It reminded me in a strange way of H.P. Lovecraft at his best. Utley is a better writer than Lovecraft–he doesn’t overuse terms like “cyclopean” or “blasphemous”–but Lovecraft’s stories have a certain power because there is a fundamental loneliness behind them–which I presume reflects Lovecraft’s own life–and this can lend his tales of madness and a cruel universe a disturbing verisimilitude, like The Whisperer in Darkness.

Mr. Utley reminds me of that aspect of Lovecraft with his sad tale of a man trapped in an experiment. Just as Lovecraft’s loneliness powered his tales, to judge from the story’s dedication, Mr. Utley’s story was semi-autobiographical as well. Sounds like a man who could use a few prayers, if you have a mind to do that.

Not all the stories are sad: Mike Resnick has what can be best described as science-fiction variation of a fairy tale, where a robot scarecrow befriends a lost boy. Albert Cowdrey has a funny story of alien abduction in post-Katrina New Orleans (which is something of an alien environment itself). And I haven’t named quite half of all the issue’s offerings.

The double-issues are fun since there’s just about something for everyone–let me know what you think if you get your hands on a copy.

In Search of Catholic “To Kill a Mockingbird”

I met my wife three years ago in northern Quebec, and at the time she could barely speak English and I could barely speak French. Now that we are both proficient in each other’s language, one of the great joys of our married life has been to introduce each other to the literature of our respective languages. I will never forget the day she finished “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She fell in love that day with the English language and has explored dozens of authors since, from C.S. Lewis to J.D. Salinger to Margaret Atwood.

Now my wife is thinking of becoming Roman Catholic (she was one of the few Evangelical Baptists in Quebec when I met her). She has asked me for books to read that will give her sense of what the RC religion is all about. This has got me asking myself: what is the “To Kill a Mockingbird” of modern Catholic literature–by which I mean the most gripping, readable book that should be every newcomer’s first introduction to the RC faith? She is presently reading Ste-Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul,” which, though excellent, is not exactly Catholic 101. She is already a well-read Christian, and has basically exhausted C.S. Lewis.

Any suggestions?

Sacrifice and the “Dark Knight”

If the world is one big high school dance, then Christians, and especially Catholics, tend to be the wallflowers, while the rest of the world dances away in the center of the gym, usually not respecting the two basketball distance which universally defines chastity.Okay, I exaggerate: there have been some Catholics who got their groove on while remaining good Catholics: St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind, and so does St. Philip Neri.(The latter was the guy who put the bucket of water over the slightly opened door so that it spilled on the principal when he made his appearance.It was all in good fun, though.)

The wallflowers sit out dance after dance with good reason, mind you.There is not much going on at half court which can be done in good conscience.The kids whispering by the foul line have mainly foul things to say.So I don’t blame the wallflowers, let’s be clear on that.

The problem is, the wallflowers have received a command from another man along the wall—the one whose crucified image in fact hangs on the wall of this gymnasium and who unfortunately has to watch the scene unfold too—a command ordering them to cut in and get people to dance to a different tune.But there is always the problem of what to say to the guy or gal whose dance you are interrupting…

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