Books, movies, exhibits, food … things we enjoy
Here are some of the wonderful books we’ve been reading at our house.
My Name is Asher Lev. Chaim Potok. Can an artist accomplish the work for which God has gifted him while living within a closely knit, orthodox religious community? When does art pass beyond what a community of faith can accept? Potok’s several fictional accounts of life in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community during the 1930s and 1940s offer insights well worth applying to other communities before and since.
Lay that Trumpet in our Hands, Susan Carol McCarthy, 2003. A novel about 1950s Florida, when the Klan ran up against an immovably ethical family.
La’s Orchestra Saves the World: A Novel, by Alexander McCall Smith, 2009. Lavender has been widowed. As World War II drags on and her small English town and the nearby military training base try to keep their spirits up, she is urged to lead an amateur orchestra.
The Gift, Lewis Hyde, 2007. I confess, I only read the first section, which is a study of the differences between gift-based and exchange-based cultures. This is helpful in understanding, among other things, the relationship between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Sheba arrives at Solomon’s court with gifts in an attempt to demonstrate the extent of her own rule, and is amazed by the wealth he possesses beyond what she has.
The Seven Deadly Sins Today by Henry Fairlie. An oldie but goodie — the 1970s-vintage illustrations are striking, but even more striking is this British journalist’s examination of the traditional understandings of how these sins affect our lives.
From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss Jr., 2000. The early chapters give an excellent picture of life in the kingdoms of West Africa through the medieval period. The descriptions of caravans to Mecca again help to illuminate the relationship between Solomon and Sheba, even though it is centuries earlier.
A Short History of Nearly Everything and A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, These books connect dots you never thought to connect: like the waterproofing of your basement to the development of canal travel or the length of time God spent on the initial formation of the universe (the Big Bang) and the amount of time it takes to make a sandwich (three minutes apiece). The latter gives me tremendous appreciation for God’s “sandwich-making” skills.
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. D.T. Niani, 1995. You can read this as a tragedy of cultural change, which it is. But you can also read to understand how a clan-based society works by rule of relationship, which is very different from how a nation or empire functions by rule of law. Value to Christians: The Old Testament is written to a clan-based society; the New Testament to members and non-members of the Hebrew clan who were followers of Jesus (and lived as a new kind of clan) in an empire.
Art and artists
From the top: the photo above is a detail from one of the contemporary pieces at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. You must go, and you should plan two days. This museum covers three millennia of the history of glass, which in itself requires about eight hours to see, and also gives you the opportunity to blow your own souvenir (approx. $25) — but you have to come back the next day to allow it to cool.
Saw a traveling exhibit of El Greco recently and found a number of remarkable points. The style is extremely unconventional for his time, and yet he was well patronized and popular. Made me wonder at first how that happened … then made me think that maybe some artists had good marketing machines long before the current crop.