Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hitchcock

Alfred HitchcockAlfred Hitchcock by Peter Ackroyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alfred Hitchcock created brilliant works of art that revolutionized the filmmaking industry. Hitchcock’s ability to tell a story through what he said and showed, and more so through what he left unsaid and unshowed, has made him a perennial favorite for many, myself included.

Peter Ackroyd has shown himself to be a preeminent biography with his works on Chaplin, Shakespeare, London, Dickens, and more. His short biography of Hitchcock is no different. Ackroyd leads the reader through the story of a life filled with quirk, sorrow, and success. From a child who “never cried” to a young man introduced to his beloved Alma to the young director practical-joking his way out of a less-than-enticing studio contract and many the actress almost out of her mind to the man who produced masterpieces like Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds, Psycho, and Rear Window to a man in his final days, Ackroyd aptly navigates the life and, to a lesser degree, the mind of this flawed-genius. Hitchcock was far from Midas, but he certainly produced a fair amount of gold. Ackroyd examines the great films and the not-so-great, and it is fun to look at them all.

My one main criticism of Ackroyd’s biography of Hitchcock is the abruptness with which we leave the story. Hitchcock is dying and then he is dead and then later Alma dies. It was not exactly as thrown-on-the-brakes as my summary, but it was not far from it. I would have preferred to linger in that moment a bit more—a fade to black instead of a jump cut to the credits, if you will—and I would have liked to have a bit more interaction with Alma post-Alfred. Small quibbles over an otherwise good biography.

**ARC from the publisher for review purposes


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America's Original Sin

America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New AmericaAmerica's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Race is an issue—a big one. Political campaigns and media (both of the traditional and social varieties) over the past few years have made this fact explicit. America has a problem with race relations, and the Church is not immune. Not only does America have a problem with race relations, America has had a problem with race relations since the before “all men were created equal” was canonized in the American ethos as a “self-evident” truth (all the while people of African descent were being bought and sold and Natives were being herded and extinguished). These are just a couple of reasons why Jim Wallis’s recent book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, the Bridge to a New America, is a welcome addition to book store shelves and the national conversation on race.
Wallis looks at the sinful manner in which this nation has historically engaged those of a minority race—from the treatment of Native Americans to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Jim Crow, and the “New Jim Crow.” Wallis does not merely seek to expose the sinfulness of America’s history; he offers a way to move forward with a non-segregated church marked by overwhelming hospitality that can be utilized to bridge a racial divide both within the body of Christ and the nation in which we reside.
This value of this work is felt most acutely in its explanation and anecdotal evidence of certain hot button issues. White privilege, implicit bias (http://implicit.harvard.edu), racism as prejudice plus power, rejection of colorblindness, white fragility, the segregation of churches, New Jim Crow, school to prison pipeline, justice and policing reform, and many other issues. There is definitely plenty to disagree with and/or question, but these topics should be those that Christians, particularly white Christians, are overwhelmingly willing to engage and, more importantly, be engaged by.

I have some concerns about the positive representations of liberation theology and the social gospel. While I would love to recommend a work of equal eloquence and passion in regards to racial reconciliation that maintains a soteriological framework with which I am more comfortable, I do not know of one. The reason for that truth is worthy of debate, but what is undebatable is the necessity and quality of this Wallis’s work. America’s Original Sin deserves a wide reading because we live in a society that desperately needs to hear and heed what the Wallis is sharing.

**ARC from the publisher for review purposes


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Battle of Seattle

The Battle of SeattleThe Battle of Seattle by Douglas Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 I thoroughly enjoy Douglas Bond’s writing. Bond’s historical fictions are immersive and engaging. It is hard to step away from the story, and the likelihood of one of his stories consuming large segments of your time until you make it to the culminating pages is great. In The Battle of Seattle, Bond tells the story of William Tidd who “played a behind-the-scenes role as an express rider carrying dispatches in the Puget Sound Indian War” and his counterpart, Charlie Salitat, who “was known for his daring and tragic midnight ride warning American settlers of the imminent Indian uprising, a ride that earned him the title, ‘Paul Revere of Puget Sound.’”

Bond’s works of fiction have certain consistent characteristics, and The Battle of Seattle is no different. I enjoy the dialogue that Bond creates. It is interesting and seems very consistent with the timeframe he is portraying. Bond also does an excellent job of setting up a space. In this new work, Bond does this from the beginning as he recounts the tale of a main character being tracked through the woods by a Native and this immersive experience continues throughout. This story blessed me. The story of sacrificial friendship crossing racial boundaries has been particularly encouraging during this season of racial conflict that our nation is suffering through (if not full-on embracing). More than anything, I appreciate how Bond roots all of these novels in the greater story of the resurrected Christ without the hint of preachiness or a forced spirituality.

The Battle of Seattle is yet another Douglas Bond book that I heartily recommend. I know that my boys will enjoy these when they have the chance to read them, and I am rather confident that anyone who gives The Battle of Seattle a careful read will enjoy it as well.

**ARC from the publisher for review purposes


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