MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 59

Guests on Volume 59: Ron Hansen, on how novelists discover the themes of their writing; Bernard Lewis, on the history of Islamic resentment toward the West; Alan Jacobs, on Michael Chabon's Summerland and Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord; Adrienne Chaplin, on Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts and on the place and responsibility of Christian artists in their communities; Todd Gitlin, on how the torrent of images and sounds overwhelms our lives; and Quentin Schultze, on practical disciplines to live well in the midst of intrusive communications technology.

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Part 1

  • Description

    Ron Hansen on how novelists discover the themes of their writing

    A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction (HarperCollins, 2001)

    "There's a certain appreciation for good artistry . . . The more aware you are of how hard it is to do [the art], the more you can appreciate the effect."
    Ron Hansen

    Author Ron Hansen discusses the art of writing and the characteristics of good stories. Hansen is author of A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction. Good stories give pleasure, delight the readers' senses, tell the truth about reality, and fit together like a well-made table. Hansen describes how stories emerge from his pen, scene-by-scene, as he chronicles the characters and events he feels compelled to record. He notes that themes are often a byproduct of the story being told, and mentions the delight of discovering the intricacies of how a story is crafted.

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    Bernard Lewis on the history of Islamic resentment toward the West

    What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (Oxford, 2001)

    "Their heavens are rather different but their hells are much the same."
    Bernard Lewis

    Professor emeritus Bernard Lewis discusses the similarities and differences between "Islamdom" and Christendom. Lewis is author of What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. He explains that the conflict between Middle Eastern and Western civilizations is possible in part because they understand each other when they argue; they are, after all, both religiously defined civilizations. Lewis traces their differences back to the different historical circumstances in which each was formed. He describes those circumstances and how they influenced each society.

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    Alan Jacobs on Michael Chabon's Summerland and Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord

    Summerland (Talk Miramax Books, 2002)

    Professor Alan Jacobs discusses the playfulness recently resurrected in children's books and the worlds of imagination the books weave. He mentions, as examples, Cornelia Funke's Thief Lord and Michael Chabon's Summerland. Both books provide fun, exciting narratives that—unlike many children's books in recent years—do not try to teach children how to grapple with social issues. Jacobs describes the plots of each book, noting the features that make them particularly charming. He also attends to how Summerland shapes the imagination, lamenting that it depicts a world in which it is hard to imagine that what happens is more important than recounting events.

Part 2

  • Description

    Adrienne Chaplin on Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts

    Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts (InterVarsity Press, 2002)

    "Rather than turning upwards, I think an important function of art is actually getting us in touch with that embodied experience of our environment."
    Adrienne Chaplin

    Professor Adrienne Chaplin discusses art's ability to draw people's attention to this world. Chaplin is co-author of Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts. Often art is recognized as a means of pointing people to the transcendent, to the spiritual. Chaplin explains, however, that art also functions to make people aware of how they experience reality, and to make them more attentive to the matter of creation. She describes, by way of example, abstract art.

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    Todd Gitlin on how the torrent of images and sounds overwhelms our lives

    Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives (Metropolitan Books, 2002)

    "The faster we move, I think the more life we may think we're living, which is the sensation that these images and sounds aim to evoke."
    Todd Gitlin

    Professor Todd Gitlin discusses the ambiance created by media and how it affects people's experience of emotion. Gitlin is author of Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives. Media's use of flashing lights, its rapidly changing messages, and its near omnipresence in society combine to create an environment that appears to be in constant fluctuation. In order to try to remain emotionally stable while negotiating the rhythms of media, people develop a glib attitude towards emotions. Gitlin identifies the sensation this glibness creates.

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    Quentin Schultze on practical disciplines to live well in the midst of intrusive communications technology

    Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Baker Books, 2002)

    Professor Quentin Schultze discusses technologies that people use to communicate with each other and the need to use them with discernment. Schultze is author of Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age. He explains that each new medium for communicating has the potential to either improve communication or amplify broken communication. People, he says, ought, then, to be very deliberate in how they use new technologies. Schultze offers a guideline for those who are attempting to determine the real value of a new technology: if a technology nurtures community life instead of merely serving the individual, then it and the practices that accompany it are valuable.

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    Adrienne Chaplin from the bonus track of the CD edition, on the place and responsibility of Christian artists in their communities

    Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts (InterVarsity Press, 2002)

    "It is precisely the years of mutual nurturing and support and critique which leads to the great artists."
    Adrienne Chaplin

    Professor Adrienne Chaplin discusses artists' responsibility to their communities and emphasizes the importance of community for successful artists. Chaplin is co-author of Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts. Since art is not only a "locus of contemplation," she says, artists should take social responsibility seriously, considering that not all art is appropriate anytime and anywhere. Her advice to artists who hope to be successful is: do not give up; and build a strong, supportive community with other artists and art critics. Artists grow through participation in a sustained conversation about quality of work between their peers, critics, and other community members, Chaplin explains.