Today, we continue our new semi-regular series called Between the Pages, where we feature books our Grindhouse Theology team is currently reading in their free time. In this edition, we have some selections from our regular contributors Caleb Stallings, making his second appearance in BTP, and Jared Wheeler.
The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain H. Murray
Growing up both Reformational and Baptist, Charles Spurgeon has always been somewhat of a folk hero in my life. First when I was a teenager, as sort of a renegade Baptist preacher who had a penchant for smoking cigars and offending Victorian sensibilities. Then later in college, for his brilliant recapitulation of the most compelling streams of both Calvinism and Puritanism. And now as a post-seminary pastor, for his astonishing poetic imagination in preaching and moral and social conscientiousness, both of which are sorely needed in 21st century American Christianity. Iain Murray’s work, originally published in 1966, presents Spurgeon as a serious thinker and churchman for the first time in nearly a century. And this 2012 reprinting has aged well. Murray presents a titanic theologian of Reformational Christianity—one who battled a lifetime of depression and doubts—but whose rhetoric in the pulpit was only matched by his care for London’s poor and orphaned. A thrilling and life-giving account of a wonderful and flawed saint.
Swamp Thing – Volume 1: Raise Them Bones by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette, and Marco Rudy
Back when DC rebooted their entire line of comics with 52 brand new titles, I saw this as a perfect opportunity for me, a longtime fan but sporadic reader, to jump aboard. In retrospect, DC’s initiative had more than a fair share of serious problems with spotty storytelling leading the pack in fan complaints. But in all the chaos (most of which I still thoroughly enjoyed), a few unexpected gems were unearthed, Snyder’s and Paquette’s verdant but nightmarish run on Swamp Thing being among them. Part Carpenter-esque body horror, part traditional superhero shtick, and part 21st century ecological myth, Swamp Thing exploded out of a literary bog with prophetic fervor, signaling not only the character’s triumphant return to DC’s gritty underbelly, but also a promising future for his twisted scribe, Scott Snyder. This volume is the first in a series of arcs that intersect masterfully with Jeff Lemire’s (at the time) contemporary Animal Man series; both culminating in a breath-taking finale, proving these issues to be some of the meanest (and greenest) horror comics to hit the shelves in decades.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
This month’s book club pick gave me a chance to finally check out a novel by an author I’ve been meaning to read for quite awhile, and I was not disappointed. The book, set in a dystopian mid-2020s America where society has all but collapsed due to income inequality and drastic climate change, feels even more prescient and pressing now than when the book was published in 1993. Lauren Olamina, the book’s young protagonist, has “hyperempathy,” a condition which causes her to experience the pain or pleasure felt by people around her. Coming of age in a tight-knit, walled community where her father is both pastor and chief protector against the chaos and evil that surround them all, Lauren finds little comfort in his Christian faith or in his hope things will get better. Instead, she begins to prepare herself to survive what she feels is the inevitable destruction of her home, and to develop a faith of her own, organized around this central tenet:
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
Butler, through Lauren, is a such a fantastic voice in this book. She does what all the best science-fiction does: Opens a window onto basic truths about humanity and the world we live in now, but at the same time her unique perspective is so welcome in a genre where I have rarely encountered one like it, or for that matter (let’s be honest), been diligent in seeking it out.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
I decided about a year ago that I should make a concerted effort to be more literate in the world of comics and graphic novels, and the journey so far has been extremely rewarding. I’m particularly glad I decided to finally read this mid-80s masterpiece and experience its deconstruction of the superhero genre myself. I can’t recommend it enough, even if (or maybe especially if) you’ve seen the 2009 movie version, which despite a slavishly-literal devotion to adaptation, ultimately failed to capture the spirit of this seminal work. The way it builds the world and weaves its story through not only panel-to-panel illustration and dialogue, but also newspaper clippings, excerpts of non-existent books, and a comic-within-the-comic is so untranslatable to the screen that perhaps Snyder’s most significant failure was in not adapting it more to that very different medium. In any case, this is undoubtedly one of the most significant cultural products of its time, and I highly recommend it.
Until next time, enjoy life Between the Pages…