Saturday, January 17, 2004

Books & Culture has a very interesting and informative review of a new book on Flannery O'Connor, but I came away not liking it much. I read this site now and then and I think I like the idea of it more than the reality, and this review is an example of why -- it's too clubby. It preaches to the choir. What do you expect, of course, it's Christianity Today. But it's like reading New Left Review or National Review; doctrine rules. A few years ago I would have added "Unlike The New Republic, which tests every idea," but that's not really true anymore in their book pages (although it's still true in their political content) -- although, God knows, I'd still love to write for them if they said okay. But Leon Wieseltier and James Wood, who run the joint, both affect this churlish, cranky atheism; Wood, in particular, seems to read everything for echoes of what he already thinks. Every novel he reads seems to either be about the death of God or supports his classical ideas about the novel -- toward that end he's always on the lookout for a new Messiah and every now and then he finds one, like Norman Rush or Monica Ali, both of whom he praises far in excess of their gifts, or that big bag of wind Saul Bellow -- adoration of whom seems to be a bit of an English fetish (e.g., Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis).

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