Do you ever have something that viscerally brings back you in what feels like a former life? For me, that's Books & Culture, a Christian review periodical. I know it sounds weird. But I guess that's what you get when you've been steeped in literature your entire life.
As a student at Westmont College, I would wait for professors in the small common area in the English building. Among the leather couches, creaking floorboards, and wardrobe items from C. S. Lewis’ estate were always copies of Books & Culture: A Christian Review. The magazine’s articles, including some by my professors, would flit from book reviews to cultural commentary to personal stories. The magazine was like a dance and the editor, John Wilson, was the choreographer. Inspired by all the ideas at play, I'd tuck my own burgeoning binder of poetry under my arm and get to work editing the college literary magazine.
To have a review there last year really felt like I was living into my calling. I may not be teaching in the academy, but I was still a part of it. Even better, at Books & Culture the conversation was wider than the narrow academic halls of esoteric banter.
I was gutted when I heard it was announced it was closing last week. It's sort of like what happens when you realize you've grown up -- not that we've left Books & Culture behind like it was childish because it was by no means, quite the opposite -- but because we've somehow turned a corner and lost something magical that we can't get back.
I think I may have more to say about the development of the Christian imagination and why we can't seem to support great artists (or often even to raise them up in a day of flinging words like weapons). But for now, I have a piece up at ThinkChristian about my own lament for Books & Culture.
In it, I ask some hard questions about what we lose when we neglect good critique and why it's needed. Plus any essay with something from film critic Alissa Wilkinson, C.S. Lewis, and philosopher Jamie Smith has got to be good, right? At any rate, I hope you'll read the rest.
Most of us are not creators or critics; we are consumers. We consume our music, our movies, our books, even our churches. We gulp down content without chewing. Too often, we settle for anything to fill us up, rather than seek out food (actual, intellectual, or spiritual) that is full of sustenance, care, creativity, planning, and presentation, food that makes us feel loved, seen, and cared for. And so we need artists-as-critics who can point us to this food and teach us how to chew it, who can show us again how to delight and what to love.
Read the rest at ThinkChristian.
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