Volume 17

Guests on Volume 17: Alan Jacobs, on the seafaring fiction of novelist Patrick O'Brian; Barry Sanders, on the deeper dynamics of literacy; Mark Slouka, on bizarre Gnostic temptations in cyberspace; Alan Ehrenhalt, on how valuing choice hurts community; Geoffrey T. Holtz, on twenty-somethings and the shape of family life; Mardi Keyes, on dubious assumptions about the nature of adolescence; W. Bradford Wilcox, on tradition and belief; Glenn Loury, on race and relationships; and John Hodges, on the influence of Russian Orthodoxy in the music of John Tavener.

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Part 1

  • Description

    Alan Jacobs on the seafaring fiction of novelist Patrick O'Brian

    Patrick O'Brian's novels are published by W. W. Norton and Company

    Literary critic Alan Jacobs considers the author Patrick O'Brian, whose work was virtually ignored until 1991, as perhaps the best historical novelist ever. O'Brian's novels, set in the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, leave readers drawn into the physical world and experiences of the characters, but also into their moral world. Jacobs comments on O'Brian's use of music in the series, his use of technical language about sailing, and the qualities that make O'Brian such an effective historical novelist.

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    Barry Sanders on the deeper dynamics of literacy

    A Is for Ox: Violence, Electronic Media, and the Silencing of the Written Word (Pantheon Books, 1994)

    Barry Sanders, author of A is for Ox, discusses teaching in the age of technology, the effects of literacy on society, and the links between illiteracy and violence. Sanders believes literacy is impossible without an oral phase of community of memory, from which the memory, conscience, and sense of self develop.

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    Mark Slouka on bizarre Gnostic temptations in cyberspace

    War of the Worlds: Cyberspace and the High-Tech Assault on Reality (Basic Books, 1995)

    Mark Slouka, author of the novel War of the Worlds, believes the Internet creates Gnostic utopias and realities, where it is possible to create an idealized world where the grubby nature of the body can be abandoned. Slouka does not believe these types of cyber-realities are far-fetched and began a polemical diatribe in the form of this novel. He sees people who desire these Gnostic realities as tapping into social trends like the collapse of community structures. When crucial parts of the community fail these alternative realities which have no conflict, self, or gender become more and more desirable.

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    Alan Ehrenhalt on how valuing choice hurts community

    The Lost City: Discovering the Forgotten Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950s (Basic Books, 1995)

    Alan Ehrenhalt, author of The Lost City, gives various examples of the interplay between authority and choice in the building of communities. According to Ehrenhalt, choices should be balanced or curtailed by authority, or there will be no cohesion within a community. Ehrenhalt discusses how institutions that have taken all limits off choice can reinstate authority in order to reinstate or preserve community. He overviews the historical place of authority and community in order to draw conclusions about the present generation and its views of community.

Part 2

  • Description

    Geoffrey T. Holtz on twenty-somethings and the shape of family life

    Welcome to the Jungle: The Why Behind "Generation X" (St. Martin's Griffin, 1995)

    Geoffrey T. Holtz, author of Welcome to the Jungle, details the the experiences of the members of "Generation X." Generation X, according to Hotlz, was forced to act in a more independent manner because of the prevalence of two parent working families and the decline of the accessible extended family. Holtz also details the impact of professionalism and birth control on Generation X, and suggests that communitarian life may be one effect of the odd-upbringing.

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    Mardi Keyes on dubious assumptions about the nature of adolescence

    Mardi Keyes co-authored the 2000 book Women and the Future of the Family with Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, and Stanley J. Grenz.

    Mardi Keyes of the L'Abri center in Massachusetts believes segregating adolescents into a separate social category can cause difficulties for youth and their parents. Adults often feel isolated from their children and thwarted in their attempt to pass on wisdom to their children, and church youth activities based in consumer and entertainment activities only exacerbate the problem. Keyes offers her suggestions for what parents and teachers can do, if they begin early, to resocialize their children into mainstream culture. The desegregation of age-groups is essential for a healthy culture, Keyes says.

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    W. Bradford Wilcox on tradition and belief

    Wilcox recommends The Evangelical Forfeit: Can We Recover? (Baker, 1993) by John Seel

    W. Bradford Wilcox, editor of Regeneration Quarterly, believes Generation-X is disconnected from the cloud of witness in the Christian past. Wilcox says that many people his age believe that saints from the past do not speak into their lives today; more significantly, people feel that they do not owe anything to the past. Paradoxically, Wilcox says that as the culture continues to become more secular many in his generation are seeking more orthodox beliefs. Highlighting gender and family issues, Wilcox analyzes the pendulum trends away from and toward orthodoxy.

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    Glenn Loury on race and relationships

    One by One from the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America (Free Press, 1995)

    Glenn Loury, author of One by One from the Inside Out, speaks about the significance a theological understanding of the human person has for the making of public policy. Loury examines the failure of political policy (both liberal and conservative) to teach the moral expression which might be had through a personal relationship. Politics, Loury says, are mistakenly replacing personal ministry. Loury stresses an understanding of personhood in order to solve racial problems: individuals are made in the image of God and gain their importance because of their relationship to Him apart from any political classification.

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    John Hodges on the influence of Russian Orthodoxy in the music of John Tavener

    John Tavener (b. 1944)

    The English composer John Tavener, born in 1944, cites his conversion from Anglicanism to Russian Orthodoxy as the central biographical influence on his work; his style and content are heavily shaped by the Russian liturgy. Music professor John Hodges addresses the criticism of Taverner as a composer whose works lack musical development, and details the contributions Tavener has made to the world of contemporary sacred music. Tavener's major works include Orthodox Vigil Service, Akathist of Thanksgiving, and The Protecting Veil.