Thursday, May 24, 2007
David Ray Griffith's Legacy
Yesterday morning, Erika asked me where the Color of Water was. I retrieved if for her because in her defense, my library system is somewhat ridiculous. The reason she needed it was that all the teachers in her school were getting their picture taken with their favorite book. This got me thinking...what is my favorite book?
First, I think the prospect of selecting one book is preposterous (a sentiment I know Erika shares). There is too much out there. Therefore, in the very least, I have to break it down into categories.
-Without a sense of history, I can tell you that my favorite book is The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. I know this is kind of an obvious Lethem pick, but I don't care. For Lethem, I thought Motherless Brooklyn was somewhat weak. Amnesia Moon was a good time, but I've never been a monstrous fan of science fiction, even though I recognize the value of the headier sci-fi authors. But I am consistent. The Sirens of Titan is one of my least favorite Vonnegut books. Which means that when amazing authors write sci-fi, it is always one of my least favorite works. You Don't Love Me Yet was really fun, but not as brilliant. I do love As She Climbed Across the Table a great deal. So I guess Fortress of Solitude wins for the "write-what-you-know" aspect.
-With a sense of history, I guess I would say either the Plague by Camus or The Idiot by Dostoesvsky. I love existentialism very much, especially fiction. I really enjoyed Crime and Punishment, so I guess I brought those positive feelings to the Idiot. As what seems to me to be the absolute contrast to Crime and Punishment, I thought these two went well together. And the Plague cuts into the heart of humanity in an excellent manner.
-Memoir - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Again, the obvious choice, but this beats out the rest because elsewhere Eggers has proven himself to be a literary master in all genres, not just memoirs. This is why I like him better than Sedaris or Burroughs, although I still like them very much also.
-Film - It's gotta be Movie Wars by Jonathan Rosenbaum. This book was extremely formational for me as I was in the beginning stages of taking film seriously. Plus Rosenbaum is a film prophet for our time. This pick is reinforced by his excellent film scholarship and reviews all over the web.
-Theology - Dang, but there are probably two for what they did for current theology. The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. There are other works by Yoder on more specific aspects of peace-making that I may like more, but the Politics of Jesus has the widest audience and seems to have done the most to influence current theologians that grasp the nature of the Kingdom of God. Also, Christus Victor by Gustaf Aulen. Again, this is for what it did for modern discussions on the atonement. Everybody I love owes their theology to Aulen. Although, I guess Aulen owes his theology to Early Church theology. So I guess I'd like to take a moment to thank the Early Church Fathers and Mothers for reading Ephesians and Revelation in the context of the work of Christ. Also Process Theology by John Cobb and David Ray Griffith gets honorable mention for clearing up many of the misconceptions I held about Process Theology.
-Biblical Studies - This is a toughy because my heart has mostly checked out on biblical studies, at least as an academic discipline. So I haven't been reading much outside of thesis work. For that, Men and Women in the Fourth Gospel by Colleen Conway definitely takes first prize. Outside thesis work, there are a couple. Voices from the Margin by Sugirtharajah is a perennial favorite for a few reasons. The writings are excellent and profound. Perhaps more importantly, I think (maybe it's just the circles I'm in) it has made the task of post-colonial biblical studies more widespread. If you've talked with me about biblical studies, you will know that I think the heart and future of Biblical studies lie in two places. Post-colonial and socio-rhetorical criticism. This leads to the second mention. I guess Roman Wives, Roman Widows by Bruce Winter is my pick for this because it combines the insight of socio-rhetorical criticism with women's liberation in current and ancient understandings.
-Philosophy - Metaphysics were always my favorite subject in college and they still are. I don't much care for apologetics, epistemology, aesthetics, ethics, etc. Not that these aren't important (well, except maybe for ethics and apologetics), but I don't like them very much. So, even though a textbook is a lame pick, I will go with Time and Space by Barry Dainton. This was very enlightening for me. I didn't retain a lot from college, but I did retain most of what I learned from Time and Space, although this is probably because I returned to it.
So those are my picks. There are lots of other categories, but I don't think I'm that interested in them, so there. I guess if you gave me the classic Desert Island question, I would go with one of the books out of NT Wright's Christian Origins and the Question of God Series, because a desert island is probably the only context in which I would read every word of one of those, and that would be good for me.