Artist of the Month: John Leax
John Leax - "Jack" to anyone who knows him - is a poet and creative nonfiction writer whose writing has many moods, from irony so dry you could towel off with it to a deep, almost Franciscan sense of nature as guide to the soul. Whether he is writing about being out for a walk in the hills of upstate New York or penning hilariously bizarre poems that riff on the subconscious fantasies embedded in the tabloids, Leax is always a keen observer and a deft commentator. He's also been something of a pioneer. With only one or two others at his side - Luci Shaw comes to mind - he has worked, quietly but persistently, to promote both the creation and appreciation of serious, challenging, edgy writing from within evangelical institutions. He's been the thin end of the wedge: the result is an ever-widening openness to real literature from those evangelical institutions. (Is there a medal for achievements like this?) But don't get the wrong idea: there's nothing religious about his writing, if you take our meaning. It's about life, the hard and consoling truths of daily experience. There's even a political dimension to his writing, never blared, but strongly, prophetically present. Go out walking with Jack Leax: you'll make a friend for life.
To read more about John Leax, go to our Artist of the Month feature.
The Image Forum: Don't Be Shy!
So, most of you have received the special e-mail announcing the debut of the Image Forum. It's just that. . .well, how can we put this?. . .a couple thousand of you still seem to be too shy to register and join the conversation! The Forum is off to a great start, with over a hundred members and posts, but for those of you who may be shy about jumping in, we'd like to offer you a bit of advice from Garrison Keillor: eat some Powdermilk Biscuits, "a wholewheat treat that gives shy people the strength to do what has to be done," and participate in our Forum!
Eighth Day Books: Miracle of Wichita
American cities have lots of great independent bookstores. Long may they live. But Eighth Day Books in Wichita, Kansas, is different, even from other lovingly run independents. And thanks to their website and free catalogue, you don't have to be in Wichita to shop there. "Eclectic but orthodox," Eighth Day's inventory is carefully selected to bring patrons books of timeless interest that shed light on ultimate questions. There's great fiction, theology, poetry, science, history, sure-but Eighth Day also has sections like "The Athletes of Prayer" and "Theology and Patristics." Writes Warren Farha, the store's wry and profoundly wise owner: "Reality doesn't divide itself into 'religious' and 'literary' and 'secular' spheres, so we don't either. We're convinced that all truths are related and every truth, if we pay attention rightly, directs our gaze toward God." So naturally they've got Fyodor Dostoevsky, Flannery O'Connor, and the rest, but the intelligent and opinionated catalogue is a great way to find great new writers you've never heard of. If Image were a bookstore, we hope it would be just like Eighth Day.
Shop on-line and order the free catalogue at www.eighthdaybooks.com.
Octavo: Digital Rare Books
The mission of Image is to focus on contemporary art and literature that engages the Judeo-Christian tradition. To maintain that focus, we keep a pretty strict editorial policy, which might be summed up in the delightful conceit of the 1970s comedian Flip Wilson: we're interested in "The Church of What's Happenin' Now." And yet some things come along that are just too cool. We recently received a review copy of a CD by a company called Octavo. Their motto is: "The Future of the Past." The CD from Octavo contained a well-organized Adobe Acrobat file containing the Horae Beatae Mariae ad usum Romanum (Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary following the Roman use), a hand-painted book created in France in 1524. Every single page of this rare book was visible in exquisite detail - you can actually magnify any page to 300% of its original size without losing graphic quality. (This is irresistible when you are checking out wonderful, tiny details of the illuminations.) There is also expert commentary on illuminated manuscripts from two scholars. As it turns out, books with religious or liturgical use are only a fraction of what Octavo does: they also do Shakespeare's folios, scientific classics by the likes of Copernicus, Galileo, and Harvey, art by Holbein, Palladio, and Dürer...and, well, a lot more. Since very few of us will ever hold these books in our hands, the screen's the next best thing.
by Frederick Buechner
Although Frederick Buechner is best known for his novels and autobiographical writings, in recent years he's published a set of "alphabet books," volumes that provide brief explanations of spiritual words listed from A to Z. The books-Wishful Thinking, Peculiar Treasures, and Whistling in the Dark-have been loudly praised. Readers love Buechner's fresh handling of age-old subjects. Now, in his latest effort, Buechner has consolidated those three books' entries, along with nineteen new ones, into one text called Beyond Words. The collection is the closest thing you'll see to a spiritual encyclopedia for the literary thinker. Entries range from the humorous (Televangelism is "about as inspired as a commercial for dental adhesive") to the koan-like ("Eternity is not endless time or the opposite of time. It is the essence of time"), but each is thoughtful and uniquely profound. Buechner's broad spectrum of terms also makes for some interesting juxtapositions: for instance, in the D section you move from Delilah to Denominations, then right into Depression. The book's just as deep as it is broad; each brief meditation invites the reader into further contemplation. The book's reference-style format encourages such piecemeal reading, so whether you take on one page at a time-or a hundred-Beyond Words makes a solid investment for any bookshelf.
For a review of Beyond Words, click here.
Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Etienne Gilson
by Francesca Aran Murphy
Truth in advertising: if you are not seriously interested in philosophy, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you're at all interested in modern Christian philosophy, this book is a rich, satisfying experience. Etienne Gilson was one of the two great neo-Thomist philosophers of the twentieth century (the other was Jacques Maritain). There's an ancient myth that followers of St. Thomas Aquinas write dry, abstract tomes. While some of his followers may have been guilty of this, Maritain and Gilson never were. For example, far from being isolated in a world of abstractions, both these thinkers cared deeply about modern art, literature, and music. They had friendships with the likes of T.S. Eliot, Georges Rouault, and Igor Stravinsky. They wrote incessantly about art and aesthetics. Murphy's intellectual biography of Gilson stresses his absorption in art in its title. This book is a three-dimensional portrait of Gilson's thought, putting it not only in the context of his own time, but also considering its impact on subsequent philosophy.
To learn more, click here.