Monday, 27 April 2015

Ian Fleming, "Casino Royale" (1953)

On a lark, I acquired the entirety of Fleming's James Bond novels. I have never read any of these, and have watched only a few of the movies. Nonetheless, I really like the 2002-2003 Penguin release retro covers designed by Richie Fahey. Looking for something light and distracting for bedtime reading at the end of a busy term led me to Bond (James Bond).

This earliest Bond novel surprised me in several ways:
1) Fleming's regular references to Bond's service in the Second World War were a revelation to me. Perhaps it's the cinematic lens (har har) that I was viewing Bond through previously, but I associate him with a more recent type of Cold War modernity than a somewhat grim, post-war emerging hostility between Communism and the West. Casino Royale is definitely set in the latter.

2) I was taken aback by Bond's rather virulent misogyny. Casino Royale's Bond is not the Hefner-esque international playboy heartily enjoying the pleasures of the sexual revolution. He is a lonely, isolated, insecure, suspicious and bitter misogynist. The cinematic Bond is often a suave character who at his core seems generally likeable, if a bit of a hound.

The Bond of Casino Royale oscillates between calling his female counterpart (Vesper Lynd) a 'bitch', then wanting to ask her to marry, and then by the end of the book, returning to his original position even though she had confessed her love for him. Although he admitted a physical attraction to Lynd, he initiates a sexual relationship with her largely to test whether the torture he'd experienced had left him impotent.

3) While concerned with 'products' - quality and exceptional pleasure - the Bond of Casino Royale is not the brand-conscious clothes and technology advertisement of the film franchise. His consumption is more oriented towards 'types' than 'brands' - a particular mix of drink, a style of food, a sort of clothing… not a particular manufacturer or label.

4) I was somewhat shocked by how short the novel was. Perhaps I am unfairly comparing the book to the academic writing I normally read, but this book flashed by in about three nights' reading. It was nice, but left me feeling like there was a lot of depth missing from the story.

Quotations will be posted eventually.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Christopher Nuttall, "The Invasion of 1950" (2013)

Just finished this self-published alt-history (allohistorical) work...

I heartily enjoyed it; worth the time, although it could use some editing. I did approach it, however, as pure escapist entertainment and not alternative history grounded in plausible variation of historical facts. More comments soon.

In the interim, travel over to the author's blog for more info.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Jarrid Wilson, "Jesus Swagger" (2014)

Wilson offers similar advice to that of many evangelists before him: live a more rigourous Christian faith, grounded in the Bible as the word of God. So… what makes his work unique, more effective, more compelling? Firstly, of course, he represents the 'new wave' of youthful Christian thinkers that embrace an appearance and demeanour that does not smack of one's "Sunday best". It should be noted, however, that many of these youthful evangelists also carry themselves with a youthful idealism and absolutism that can be off-putting and alienating for those of us who are a (little) older and a little more tired or jaded with the world.

Secondly, Wilson takes several trends within contemporary, 'new' Christianity to task. He chides many of his peers for not approaching their faith, or more accurately - their God - with more reverence. So, for instance, he critiques the idea of popularizing slogans such as 'Jesus is my homeboy' as diminishing awe and respect for a God that both loves and rules. This is a position that is not without problems (see the Klopping review linked below).

Thirdly, Wilson also chides some components within the evangelical movement who exhibit hateful, intolerant, aggressive means of attacking those whose actions and beliefs they oppose. Here I am thinking about groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church (although I don't recall that Wilson actually mentions the church by name, he does refer to persons who picket the funerals of gay persons, which Westboro is well-known for). He advocates instead that Christians who live their faith must strive to offer the same kind of Christ-like loving grace described in the Bible, and to find means to open lines of communication with non-Christians as a more effective means of leading by example rather than by proselytizing through fear.

Amanda Pettit Klopping offers some astute criticism of the book, over at her blog A Large Cup of Tea.

Some notes from the book:
1. Poser Christianity
James 2:19–20 states, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”

5. Jesus Isn’t Hiring Part-Time Disciples
Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (NASB). There is vital truth to what this verse states. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you. Meaning, it’s no longer about your agenda, your desires, and your needs. If you call yourself a Christian, your agenda is now filled with an all-consuming calling from Christ himself.

Don’t let culture be what changes your relationship with God. Do feel free to let your relationship with God help you change and contribute positively to culture.

6. Be the Change
...remember, God is with you through all. The right time to do the right thing is right now. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

7. I Got 99 Problems But the Holy Spirit Ain’t One

...why do so many ignore him? I think people are afraid. We are afraid of what might happen if we allow his power into our lives—we’re afraid of what might have to change, or what we might lose, not thinking of what we might gain. Many of us put our fear of the unknown in front of the power and potential of the Holy Spirit. It’s sad to think that we could be turning from the Spirit’s prompting due to a wall of fear. Fear is a liar, and the Spirit brings us the truth (John 16:13).