Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clive Staples is rolling in his grave.

Wendy and I just returned from watching Prince Caspian on the big screen. It's passable entertainment for what it is, but it is regrettably not Prince Caspian. A more apt title would be Lord of the Harry Potter. Director Andrew Adamson's screen adaptation is a complete travesty. Adamson is a Hollywood-wannabe buffoon whose ham-fisted attempts at "character development" and plot contrivances have betrayed C. S. Lewis' vision and ethos - indeed, the very story of Prince Caspian. I suppose one shouldn't expect serious filmmaking from the creator of Shrek (which was far better than this tripe). And was that a Hannah Montana song at the end of the film?

Oh, by the way, Adamson was also the special effects supervisor for Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin. That was the one with George Clooney. Didn't his Batman outfit feature erect nipples? Ah, that special Adamson touch.

I finished Prince Caspian (the book) recently, which certainly didn't help matters. It's a brilliant story, however. In the next post, I will go toe-to-toe with the cud-chewing simpletons who made this pile of refuse, er, film possible. Bill vs. the Philistines. And they thought Samson was trouble.

Friday, May 23, 2008


I should say at this point that I don't intend to write book reviews in this blog in terms of comprehensive and learned analysis or literary style. These posts consist merely of my unprofessional, personal musings. Most readers' experiences of these books will likely be quite different than mine - so beware!

Book #7: War in Heaven

Charles Williams published his “theological thriller” War in Heaven, his first novel, in 1930, but Eerdmans mercifully reprinted it in 1991. I borrowed the term “theological thriller” from some commentator, I can’t remember who, but it sums up Williams’ novels very well (those that I’ve read, at least). The novel is shrouded in mystery from its very arresting beginning to its mesmeric ending, complicated and somewhat obscure, but it is an action/detective story and packed with adventure throughout. It begins with a murder victim and rushes into a struggle of good against evil and a race against time, but it is swathed in both the myth of the Holy Grail (“Graal” as Williams spells it) and of Prester John. Prester who? Exactly. This is part of Williams’ mythopoeic genius, in my opinion – a detective story of epic proportions.

In War in Heaven, a holy alliance comprised of an Anglican archdeacon and two unlikely allies struggle against a cabal of occultists for possession of the Graal. The bad guys seek to use the Graal for various wicked ends, and the good guys attempt to preserve its sanctity. Williams does a good job of demonstrating the parasitical nature of evil – the paths to God made crooked – and the utter banality of nihilism at the bottom of it all. For instance, the archdeacon’s nemesis and chief antagonist, Gregory Persimmons, owner of an obscure publishing firm in London (Williams himself was a publishing agent in London), conspires to use the Graal as a vessel of spiritual power to destroy the lives of several people and enter the Black Sabbath (apologies to Ozzy Osbourne) hosted by Satan himself. Persimmons craves power, but he also wants to be part of something greater than himself and to enjoy the satisfaction of sacrifice that leads one to the steps of this forbidden fruit. As Prester John explains, Persimmons ultimately and unknowingly desires “the God of all sacrifice and sacrifice itself.” The very same crooked paths that hitherto led away from God, once straightened, lead directly to him.

Persimmons’ sinister cohorts, on the other hand – two mysterious figures from the East – seek nothing less than the destruction of all things, even desire and power themselves. They embody the pure essence of sin and evil, which result in a lifelessness of utter abhorrence. Surely none but the most mindless haters of God and celebrators of evil would find this limpid nihilism attractive.

Speaking of mysterious figures from the East, Prester John is really, delightfully, eerily strange. Not too dissimilar from Sunday in Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.

Williams skillfully portrays the inner experiences of spiritual lives. He was an erudite literary savant who wore his romanticism and mysticism on both his sleeves. It’s no accident that the reader finds the archdeacon reading Julian of Norwich at one point. (I rode my bike to Norwich once, by the way. Great castle and cathedral.) The only other work I’ve read by Williams is Descent into Hell. In both this and in War in Heaven, Williams adeptly illustrates the reality and meaning of the interior lives of his characters. Ironically, it’s this very facet of his work that I think makes his novels prime candidates for translation to the big screen. Trust me on this one, but don’t hold your breath.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Catching Up

Not only did I finish War in Heaven last week, but I just wrapped up Prince Caspian, too - just in time to be severely disappointed by the film. I'm now onto Jack Kerouac's Town & Country. Full commentary to follow.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Getting behind

This post catches me up to speed. I am near finishing this thriller by Williams. He is something of an obscurantist - intentionally difficult prose through which one must wade to catch a cosmic glimpse of meaning - but the denseness adds to the allure for me. I first read this in a wonderful class on C. S. Lewis and friends by the baffling, delightfully eccentric Dr. John Pilkey back in, what, 1996? Wendy read this recently, so I look forward to discussing it with her soon.

Book #6: The Fifth Elephant

I finished Brideshead Revisited shortly before the end of the semester. With finals and the semester-end crunch at hand, I needed something light and uplifting to buoy me through yet another academic endurance test. Terry Pratchett's wildly imaginative humor (or wildly humorous imagination?) was just the tonic. Another Sam Vimes triumph.

Book #5: Brideshead Revisited

I finished this, Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece, about a month ago. Wendy and I then watched ITV's brilliant 13-hour adaptation starring Jeremy Irons on dvd. It took us a while to watch, but it was worth the effort.

Book #4: Brendan

Strangely, I couldn't find a decent-sized scan of Frederick Buechner's terrific novel Brendan. Anyway, I finished it this spring.

Book #3: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

The second and final Dirk Gently novel, and another fall 2007 reading...

Book #2: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Little known Douglas Adams work, in some ways more interesting than Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Also finished this one last fall.

Book #1: The Heart of the Matter

I finished this sometime last fall...

What I read...

...lots of stuff.