5 reasons I love the scholastic “question”

These days, anyone familiar with the medieval “question” format has probably met it through the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas.  To the modern eye it seems stuffy or even pretentious, with its stilted language and logical distinctions and its appearance of completeness.  We prefer the humble “essay,” a word that means an “attempt,” an effort in the right direction.

But over the years I have come to love the “question” format.  Each “article” within the “question” is a dehydrated debate.  Just add imagination, and you have a rowdy crowd of objectors who even disagree with each other and an enthusiastic team of supporters whose support is sometimes as embarrassing as the objections, and in between them the master whose mental agility alone can keep order.  Here are just a few of the things I like about the “question” format: Continue reading “5 reasons I love the scholastic “question””

Share Button

Fantasy vs. fantazy

Reading C.S. Lewis’s autobiographical Surprised by Joy, I was reminded of a useful distinction between two meanings of the word “fantasy.”  One is the meaning I outlined in a previous post, namely a kind of literature that brings one into contact with the Other.  The second is the self-indulgent fantasy we turn into the verb “fantasize.”  Lewis draws the distinction nicely: Continue reading “Fantasy vs. fantazy”

Share Button

The Power of Positive Thinking

I saw a fellow suffer such a crushing blow
as would have forged a saint out of a lesser man,
and yet he would not suffer, would not cry, or bow.

He kept his head erect, maintained a steady hand,
and sailed away with stolid cheer the sea to cross
and leave a matching wreckage in some other land.

He gave us one glimpse only of his inner gloss,
a single lifting of the curtain: as he turned,
he shook his fist at all behind who mourned his loss.

Share Button

X-Ray Reads: for the voracious teen reader

If you have a teenage reader, you have had this problem.  All through their childhood you have fed them good books, fended off junk and inappropriate material, and maybe even previewed library books they wanted to read.  But one day they show up with a stack of Young Adult books, each one three to five hundred pages long, none of them familiar, and all of them so—so teen.

And you realize you just can’t do it anymore.  You can’t keep up. Continue reading “X-Ray Reads: for the voracious teen reader”

Share Button

The difference between fantasy and science fiction

Last Tuesday, I gave a lecture to the Wyoming Catholic College community about “the Christian dignity of story.” In the Q&A session, a young man asked my opinion about the difference between fantasy and science fiction: after all, they both make up not only plots and characters but even universes, so they seem to operate at a similar level of abstraction from reality.

At the time, I had to confess that I didn’t have an answer. But later, with some help from Joseph Susanka, I reached a point of clarity worth sharing. Continue reading “The difference between fantasy and science fiction”

Share Button

Thomas Aquinas, Batman, and the Brutality of Grace

Around the turn of the year, I asked myself:  If my circumstances were to change dramatically—if I suddenly lived somewhere else and did something else—what would I regret not having done with my time here in Lander, Wyoming?  The first thing that came to me was:

Not having spent time with irreplaceable friends.

So it was that yesterday I had lunch with Joseph Susanka.  We were roommates in college for four years, we talked each other through the ups and downs of courtship, and we have now worked at the same place for seven or eight years, and yet we hardly ever see each other.  How dumb is that?  Shortly after the new year, we agreed to get together every second Thursday for lunch and a conversation.

Topics are all over the place.  Combining a classical education at Thomas Aquinas College with two years of film school in Los Angeles, Joseph loves movies and all the fundamental elements of film:  photography, music, and story—and when you think about it, that’s a huge umbrella.  His online movie reviews have acquired something of a following.

Last year, Joseph was invited to give a talk in Gallup, New Mexico about movies, and in a single, tightly-structured lecture he covered:

  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Joan of Arc
  • The Batman trilogy
  • “No Country for Old Men”

It’s a penetrating piece with many implications.  I highly encourage both of my readers to to check out www.josephsusanka.com in general and “The Brutality of Grace” in particular.

Share Button

Poems for the Feast of the Holy Innocents

When I pointed out this morning that our baby Matthew would have been killed had he been in those villages near Bethlehem, my fifteen-year-old daughter Bernadette was thoughtful.  This evening, she gave me a set of poems she had written, and I want to share them here:

The Mother

Have you ever seen a baby’s smile light up the room?
Seen sheer happiness for no more reason than a laugh?
Have you ever heard a baby’s song without a tune?
Or, playful, fought him for your bread, at least a half?

Continue reading “Poems for the Feast of the Holy Innocents”

Share Button

Update on the novel writing

For those of you tracking my adventure in novel writing, the word is in.  At a writer’s conference last June the owner of a literary agency invited me to submit my work, and a few days ago I got this note:

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you for allowing me to read your submission for THE ROBOT’S MAKER. I really enjoyed your engaging narrative voice as well as the light touches of humor throughout. However, I unfortunately didn’t quite fall in love with the story in the way I would need to to offer you representation. Therefore, I do not think we would be the correct agents to market this project in today’s competitive book publishing industry.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to read your work. I wish you the best of luck with THE ROBOT’S MAKER and your future endeavors.

All best,

Shira S. Hoffman

Now isn’t that about the sweetest rejection letter one could ask for? I’m truly grateful to have achieved my first goal, which was to get a rejection letter from a literary agent.

Continue reading “Update on the novel writing”

Share Button

New Advent CD from Wyoming Catholic College

Last year I had the honor of reporting that my poem “David’s Town,” set to music by Peter Kwasniewski, was performed by an ensemble in Scotland.  This year I am happy to announce that “David’s Town” has been included on Wyoming Catholic College’s new Advent CD.  It is a special song, because it is the only hymn to my knowledge that devotes one stanza to each of the “three comings” celebrated in Advent:  the first coming in humility, the second coming in mystery, and the third coming in glory.

The new CD is beautifully done, recorded by a special student ensemble led by Kwasniewski.  You can find lyrics, information, and a way to purchase the CD here.  Take a look!  We’re doing an important work at WCC, and every CD purchase helps us keep the lights on both literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile, to give you a sense for the quality both of the performance and the recording, here is the “David’s Town” track:

Share Button

There Are Ticks in the Woods

Today’s offering, a silly poem I wrote for my children and recited at one of those glorious Friday family poetry-fests.  It is to be read (a) out loud, (b) briskly, and (c) with a straight face.  See if you can manage all three:

There Are Ticks in the Woods

There are ticks in the woods!
There are ticks in the woods!
They are flying to get fixins
For to make their wicked tixins
For to bite the juicy children
Who would walk in the woods.

There are tocks in the woods!
There are tocks in the woods!
They have shoes and put their socks in
For to make their evil toxins
For to bite the juicy children
Who would walk in the woods.

Now the ticks with their tixin
Dug a pit and threw some sticks in,
While the tocks with their toxin
Made a trap and put some rocks in.
But a tick fell on the rocks
And a tock fell on the sticks,
So the tick was sick with toxin
And the tock was socked with tixin.

So beware of the woods!
Beware of the woods!
Clever traps could draw a fox in
To the ticks that now have toxin,
So beware, all juicy children
Who would walk in the woods.

Share Button