From Shame to Sin (book review)

Well, The Movie Snob set out to see Black Panther today, but the movie theater had some technical difficulties and it just wasn’t to be.  So here’s a book review instead…

From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, by Kyle Harper (2013).  How’s that for a grabby title–subtitle combination?  Harper is associate professor of classics and letters at the University of Oklahoma, and he puts his knowledge of ancient Roman literature to good use as he explores—well, the Christian transformation of sexual morality in late antiquity.  He starts with the state of affairs in the pagan Roman Empire in the first centuries A.D., and it is a pretty squalid state (by Christian standards).  As he repeatedly emphasizes, it was a world built on slavery and the exploitation of slaves.  Christianity had a revolutionary effect on many aspects of life, in sexual morality of course, but also in recognizing that every person, regardless of social status, has the ability and the duty to choose between good and evil.  I thought it was a very interesting book.

Advertisements

The Mountain of Kept Memory (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Mountain of Kept Memory, by Rachel Neumeier (2016).  My cousin Rachel has written another winning fantasy novel.  This one centers on a brother and sister, Gulien and Oressa Madalin.  They are the children of Osir Madalin, the remote and ruthless king of Carastind.  But the kingdom is beset by enemies, and it seems that Osir has lost the support of the Kieba—a mysterious sorceress who lives in a mountain far to the east and who formerly aided Carastind in times of need.  Osir seems disinclined to try to heal the rift, so Gulien and Oressa—who are young adults but sheltered and inexperienced in the ways of the world—take it upon themselves to seek the Kieba’s aid.  This is an exciting tale, and Neumeier keeps the reader guessing about some of the main characters’ true intentions and agendas.  Highly recommended for lovers of fantasy and magic!

Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays, by Joseph Epstein (2016).  I’ve sung Epstein’s praises in this blog enough before.  I just really like his writing style and observations about life, literature, and everything.  The pieces in this collection, with only a couple of exceptions, are extremely short—like two pages long.  Many of them, I believe, came from Epstein’s contributions to the “Casual” feature in The Weekly Standard magazine, so I had probably read many of them before.  Still, it was a pleasure to read them again.  If you enjoy good writing, you owe it to yourself to give Epstein a try.

Commonwealth (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (2016).  A more descriptive title for this recent novel might be “Divorce American Style,” but maybe that didn’t have quite the same ring to it.  I was thoroughly engrossed by it.  In the first chapter we meet two families, one headed by a cop named “Fix” Keating and the other by a prosecutor named Bert Cousins.  Bert meets Fix’s beautiful wife Beverly at a party after the baptism of Fix and Beverly’s baby girl Franny, and things go from there.  After the opening chapter, the other chapter bounce around quite a bit chronologically (over several decades) as we see how the Keating and Cousins kids (six in all) fare after their parents’ bad behavior throws them all together.  I enjoyed the writing and the story, and I highly recommend it if it sounds like it might be your cup of tea.

Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (book review)

A book review by The Movie Snob.

Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, by Anthony Esolen  (Sophia Institute 2014).  I found this book a let-down.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but I think I was hoping for something like a legal brief.  Something that would say, “Here are the principles of Catholic social teaching, and here is how we derive them from the more fundamental principles of the Faith and from the Bible.”  But that’s not what this is.  It’s largely a survey of the social writings of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903).  Esolen’s style isn’t logical and precise; it’s literary and emotional and reminds me a little of G.K. Chesterton.  In sum, I didn’t find it particularly helpful.

Acceptance (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer (2014).  Well, I thought this final volume of The Southern Reach Trilogy was a bit of a letdown.  The first two books (reviewed here and here) were pretty entertaining, in a mysterious and slightly creepy way.  In the near future, some strange, possibly alien, presence has set up shop on Earth (in an area that sounds like Florida).  Scientific expeditions occasionally go into the zone, known as Area X, but they don’t always come back.  Readers expecting all the weird goings-on around Area X to be explained in Acceptance are bound to be disappointed.  There are hints and flickers of explanations, and there’s lots of backstory fleshing out some of the characters we already met in the first two books, but I didn’t find the “resolution” of the trilogy particularly satisfying.  Oh well, the destination wasn’t great, but the journey wasn’t bad.  And the first book in the series, Annihilation, is being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman as The Biologist.  Check out its IMDB page.