Monday, September 21, 2015

The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert by Marc-Antoine Mathieu

This graphic novel takes us gently down a “rabbit hole” into the museum’s endless subbasements. Which museum?  The answer is a taste of things to come.  Although called by many names, “they say that these names are nothing but anagrams of the museum’s real name, which has been forgotten.” 
Archivist Edeus Volmer and his assistant Leonard arrive on a stormy night to begin an inventory of the sub-basements.  The novel’s panels proceed with beautiful pools and avenues of pale light set within umber shadows that often recede with a cinematic sense of distance in space.  Months, and longer, pass as the archivists travel the basements. In some, a curator entertains us with wit on art and memory. Others provoke us with insights on originality, and creativity.  In the “restoration workshop” experts view their work with small headlamps because, “for restorers light is the enemy of color”, and “darkness preserves colors”.  In the “department of copies” the curator regrets that the practice of copying the masters isn’t fashionable.  “Copying isn’t original any longer.”   In the “department of archives” we watch Volmer and Leonard fly on a rolling book ladder, their coats flapping like superheroes’ capes through the upper stories of a city of archives. 

Finally, Leonard comes to tell Volmer that this “limitless universe” suggests that an inaccessible “essential” exists.  Being inaccessible, limitless paths to travel are all the more important.  I was entertained and captivated by every path.

Review by Ken 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Theology of Space

The Book of Strange New Things
By Michel Faber

The idea of sending a missionary into space is not new. Mary Doria Russell explored the idea of a Jesuit mission to another planet thoughtfully in The Sparrow, which is a book that everyone should read. But while that book includes the thrill of discovery and the subsequent race to be the first to visit the planet, Michel Faber starts his book with a colony firmly established. Our missionary, Peter, simply applies for the job to be the pastor to an alien population.

The decision to leave his wife, Bea, is not easy. First, she is the one who brought him to religion. Second, they've founded a church on Earth that needs minding. But they decide that this opportunity is too good to pass up. How often does a person get chosen to spread his faith to people who have genuinely never heard of Christianity? And so Peter boards a ship and flies off to a community created by USIC, a gigantic corporation who is trying to make a profit off the new planet.

When Peter arrives he discovers that his job is much easier than he'd imagined. The alien race have not only heard of Jesus, but are hungry for a pastor to tell them more. Peter is thrilled at this, but also discomforted at the strange reception of the rest of the staff at the USIC base. They are largely nonreligious, but also uninterested in anything having to do with home. As Peter gets updates from Bea about constant tragedies happening back on Earth, Peter can't get anyone at USIC to care. He's torn between a hugely successful ministry and a feeling that the distance between his wife and himself is growing too great to cross.

This book is about distance, both physical and mental, and what sort of people are best suited to leave everything behind. It's also about the way our environment can shape our faith. What would the belief system on another planet look like? How would the residents react to a new one? For armchair theologians and science fiction enthusiasts, this is an excellent read.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Originally written as a novel and transformed by the author into a play, Ayn Rand's Ideal  tells a story that underscores the need for "ideals" in life and how we turn our back on these if offered the opportunity to live from them. It tells of the events in the life of Kay Gonda, a larger than life movie screen goddess who is wanted for murder. She visits six different fans seeking shelter from police. A  respectable family man, a cynical artist, an evangelist, a playboy, a far-left activist and a lost soul each  have written her heart felt letters about the value she brings to their very existence and who provide Kay with a glimpse of their life. She asks to stay for one night in order to allude the police. All but one of the fans she visits can not or will not help her because she asks more of them than they can deliver. The end has a twist that while expected was not envisioned to be what occurred! It was very interesting to read the novel first and then the play because both literary forms evoke different responses from the reader. As the preface states, "a novel uses concepts and only concepts to present its events, characters, and universe. A play (or movie) uses concepts and percepts; the latter are the audience's observations of the physical actions, their movements, speeches et al.". Leonard Peikoff. The reader can experience each version differently with more activity and involvement in the play than in the novel. As only Ayn Rand can, she speaks for the artist in riveting prose that exites, devastates and challenges....the Idealist.     

Reviewed by Karen