Wonder Magazine’s Fall Issue 2019, taken exclusively from the Something New menu option. These are all the original pieces written by our own writers and the generous contributions of other writers.
The Crime of Epilogues
IMAGINE THIS. You’re watching a delightful movie about young love. You have fallen in love with the characters and have been rooting for the inevitable union from the beginning. You come to the end scene – the girl walks down the aisle in white. You’re heart swells, tears form in your eyes.
Out of nowhere, a scene begins with the same girl shouting at her 3-year-old son “ Issac if you don’t get off the potty right now, I’m gonna come up there and smack you!” All the while holding a kleenex to her 5-year-old’s nose. “Are you ever gonna learn how to blow your own nose?” She says, looking down at the thunderstruck child.
Her husband, now sporting a round beer belly, stares at her disheveled appearance with a lost look that resembles how you, the viewers, feel: How the heck did we get here?
This is an epilogue.
Now, there are two types of people in this world. Those who somehow find delight in having the completion of their story disrupted by random facts about the future and those who appreciate that a story has a proper time and place to end. I am the latter. I have caused much controversy in my literary circles about my opinion, but I think it is time to take a stance against this nuisance to society. No longer will I stand to have my books ended with epilogues that destroy the integrity of the entire story. So I will make my case against the dreaded epilogue and ask you to join me in my mission to end this unfortunate literary mishap.
Merriam- Webster defines an epilogue as “a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work.” I would add that this section ATTEMPTS to round out a literary work. There are few occasions where it actually does. (Alright people, Brideshead Revisited is an exception so don’t stone me over that one, but every rule has an exception.) There are three reasons to despise the dastardly epilogue.
- They add to a story which has already ended, disrupting the peace of that ending and oftentimes changing the entire meaning of the beloved story.
- They often are artificially tacked onto the end of a story to give the reader a little more taste of the story like fan fiction for the nerdy soul.
- They allude to a sequel that will never come.
Let sleeping dogs lie and let the end of a story lie where it was. Tell a story to its completion and respect the reader enough so that at the end of the book you give them closure. Let him mourn or celebrate the end of a delicious book without the undue stress of future stories and unrelated ideas. For example, Harry Potter while not great literature was a vastly popular series of books which ended with an epilogue. At the end of the story, the heroes stand together having vanquished the villain. This is an altogether peaceful ending. Goodness has been restored and an evil force has been destroyed. What a lovely place to end at rest, Right? No. Instead, we must venture into the future lives of the heroes to see that they have all settled into cheeky office jobs and have had cheeky children who are also all going to go off to have wild adventures. Is this necessary? Absolutely not. It adds no value to the story itself and instead disrupts the ending to plunge us back into another story altogether. Listen authors, if you want it to be part of the story PUT IT IN THE BOOK. Don’t use the word epilogue because you are unable to bridge the gap between plot and ending.
Next, I understand that we all have characters we love and we would love to see more of them, but let’s not get desperate. This recent barrage of epilogues is because we readers want to consume anything that has our favorite characters! But this consumerism is what encourages our favorite authors to behave like fan fiction writers.
We must have standards. When you find out a guy has a gambling problem, you don’t wait around to see if he wins it all back, you leave the casino, perhaps to ponder the man’s eventual fate. No matter how much you love watching gambling, in this analogy, you still leave when you get wind of his addiction because it is the human thing to do. The same should be said of enjoying the book, or story. When you find out a new novel has an epilogue, get out of there…it’s not gonna end well. The author is toying with you and trying to get you to look past their bizarre fan fiction feel at the end and label it as good writing. It’s unhealthy and I will not stand for it.
The prime example of this? Mockingjay. Another popular series which ends so dubiously you wonder what the hell the point of slogging through three books of almost four hundred pages, each of which are full to the brim with psychological, physical, and even spiritual torture and suffering, was for. The author takes you one step further into her Nihilistic nightmare in her epilogue. She strips her main character of any virtue, love, or honor, she has left and turns her into a lifeless void. Why? Why do this?
Oh, do you want to know another terrible thing about epilogues? There is nothing worse than getting to the end of an epilogue and realizing that you wanted to know more about the epilogue story than their 5-20 pages gave you. Crime and Punishment comes to mind here. Tell me about Sonia and Raskolnikov. Let me see the Redemption from the Crime. Instead, I read for 3 months about this crazy man, his unstable mental health, his grizzly, nonsensical murder, I memorized 140 different Russian names for 40 characters in order to fully understand the plot and at the end of the story, it’s just misery. A mentally unstable man murdered a terrible old woman and her abused daughter for a paltry sum and is sent to a labor camp for it…. But wait, there is redemption! In the epilogue Sonya (the quintessential whore with a heart of gold that Dostoevsky, if not invented, certainly made into the profound literary trope it is today) follows Raskolnikov to his camp and there they grow in love and virtue and the spiritual wealth from the word of God… but we’re only gonna give you a tiny, little taste of it. DON’T BE SUCH A TEASE, DOSTOEVSKY!
Finally, to those authors who feel so compelled to have an epilogue, I’ll give you two options. Either,
- Make the epilogue the last chapter in your book. If it truly is part of the story, then MAKE IT PART OF THE STORY. Or,
- If it is it’s own story, then WRITE THAT STORY. Stop being so lazy by only writing 3 pages of a crappy post story. If it’s not good enough to be its own short story, novella, or novel, then don’t bother wasting it on me. Keep it to yourself.
I will not stand for this anymore. I took too many literature quizzes about these dreaded epilogues in my schooldays and now that I’m out in the real world where things make more sequential sense, I’m done with them altogether.
Colleen Beebe is a co-founder of Wonder Magazine. She is a Customer Service Manager at 5 Stones as well as being a writer, a lover of history, and a marketer for Wonder Magazine. She is a proud wife and mother who lives with her family in Sycamore IL.
room for one more
day to fill one more cup
to drink overflowing spilling running over rainbow
high above happy bluebird song and dancing light
stepping ponies tossing wild abandon sorrow no more
room for it
Karen Beebe has worked and taught at St. Gregory’s (closed, re-branded and relaunched) and Gregory the Great Academies for eighteen years. She is currently a mother of three wonderful children, a grandmother of seven beautiful grandchildren, and still works as an admissions director and teaches high school theology and rhetoric.
Go for the Jugular: Dracula by Bram Stoker
J.R.R. TOLKIEN once cautioned his friend, C.S. Lewis, concerning Mr. Lewis’ skill in depicting evil. Anyone familiar with Uncle Screwtape or Perelandra’s Un-man will know what Mr. Tolkien alluded to. There is an uncanny comprehension of evil in these works suggestive of proximity quite contrary to the dark distance of Sauron. It can be dangerous to depict evil. Accuracy might require getting too close to things best kept at bay. A nodding acquaintance with the foe, while certainly safe, may be sufficient. On the other hand, the enemy must be studied if he is to be subdued. Victory will go to the vampire without the intrepidity to throw open his coffin armed with the knowledge of the stake—but a crucifix is also requisite to maintain due distance.
In his strangely immortal classic, Dracula, Bram Stoker strikes a balance between getting too close to the powers of darkness and remaining too aloof. Dracula hammers home that “it is only when a man feels himself face to face with such horrors that he can understand their true import.” At the same time, it maintains the terrible mystery of the occult: “…there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men’s eyes.” The result is an unexpectedly rich analogy of the spiritual struggle told through a unique epistolary narrative that, like its villain, goes for the jugular.
The occasion for this metaphysical navigation arises, as most adventures do, from a significant collision. The collision in Dracula is significant because it is a collision of epochs. When a young lawyer leaves bustling London behind and arrives at the bleak castle of his client, an ancient Transylvanian count, there is every sense of a man going back to an age where he does not belong. The menace grows increasingly palpable as it becomes apparent that “the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere ‘modernity’ cannot kill.”
Modern readers are thrown off-balance as well, for the everyday expectations of everyday existence vanish in Dracula. Suddenly superstition edges science while religion supersedes superstition, leaving latter-day men cowering before legendary monsters. The only certainty is blood—and it is a coveted commodity. “The blood is the life.” Relearning such primal fundamentals requires the new age to move backwards—for its own good—from science, to superstition, to religion. When faced with ancient evils, modern man “has to go a long way back before he can even get so far as to begin.” This clash of the natural and the supernatural is a striking testimony of the truth, even if Dracula is a tale of terror. Two invisible worlds coexist with the visible world—one that must be followed when we find it, and one that must be fought when it finds us.
Representing this latter world is the demonically vivified, undead corpse of a fifteenth century boyar. This nosferatu, or vampire, rises from the tomb of ancient history with unnatural powers, deadly patience, and the calculation of a warlord. Though Dracula is the focus of the novel, he remains eerily distant, clinging to the shadows where he belongs. Through mere glimpses of him, however, demonic accuracy is achieved: Dracula is an Antichrist. He cannot attack unless willingly engaged. He baptizes his victims in his blood even as he drinks theirs in a sacrifice that gives eternal “life” in animated death. He unites captive souls to his existence, thriving on the unhallowed. He twists scripture to his purpose, lusts for worship… and fears Christ. Dracula portrays evil authentically, but in such a fantastical mode that it sometimes borders on the farcical—rendering the devil his due by both accounts, for he deserves to be a momentous object of mockery. Dracula reflects this orientation by being intentionally serious and unintentionally silly all at once. It can be hilarious when it is not horrific.
The agents of the visible world threatened by this spawn of Satan comprise a community bound by ties of love and loyalty, contrasting the vampire’s hateful solitude. The party’s leader is Professor Abraham Van Helsing, a doctor, scientist, philosopher, metaphysician… and a Catholic. When the effects of vampirism are detected and medical remedies fail and scientific theories crumble, Van Helsing turns to the alternative. “It is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all,” he laments, “and if it explain not, than it says there is nothing to explain.” He festoons doors and windows with garlic until the dispensation is procured to wield the ultimate weapon against “the children of the night”—the Host.
Armed with this, the Sacred Species Itself, the friends drive the fiend over land and sea, foiling his purpose to infect humanity with everlasting corruption. Overcoming the trends of their industrial times, the heroes find that tradition and superstition can, together, provide the basis for something far more potent than science—Faith. Faith grants them the strength to grapple with inhuman powers and allows them to proclaim, “we bear our Cross, as His Son did in obedience to His Will… through tears and blood; through doubts and fears, and all that makes the difference between God and man.”
The men and women of this story suffer bravely under the scourge of an incomprehensible evil so that, in the words of Van Helsing, “the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters… we go out as the old knights of the Cross.” If Dracula captures the essence of the enemy, it also captures the martial attitude of the embattled faithful. Bram Stoker’s masterpiece is grounded in wisdoms that, though not in vogue, are important to remember because they are eternal. If Dracula teaches us anything, it is that antiquity should never be underestimated.
Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.
An Approach To a Familiar Room
The question as I near this door
Is, do I even dare
To enter past it any more,
When ghosts await me there?
Not such as rise from frozen fear
That heroes laugh to scorn,
Nay these, by wearing faces dear,
Draw blood with sorrow’s thorn.
My heart still thirsts in tired quest
For these beloved gone;
Shades born of longing promise rest
But leave me still alone.
Each day I see these visions of
Where it seems they should be,
Faces of those whom I still love,
And yearn again to see.
Ah, ghosts of grief! how can it be
That joys so sweet and pure
Become, as living memory,
Most bitter to endure?
These shades of dear ones ne’er console,
Yet I can’t bid them fly,
For each one’s past bonds with his soul,
Love’s imprint does not die.
My God! this love is all from Thee,
Thy Spirit joined our hearts,
Let Him then all our comfort be
While distance still us parts!
Let Him who brought our bond to birth
Now keep it warm and strong,
Be our communion ‘cross the earth,
Be Thyself us among!
Keep me for them, and them for me,
And make our love, in small,
Thy mighty sun, bright Trinity,
Untouched and over all;
Lord, pain will ne’er us overwhelm
With ghosts of memory,
If in Thy single Heart we dwell
In sweet reality.
Now will I enter through this door,
Be mem’ry e’er so keen,
And should I weep there any more,
God’s light will intervene,
Illumining a landscape dim
To eyes of fleshly ken,
Where all God’s own are joined in Him
Who needs no where nor when.
Sarah Greydanus is a Christendom College alumna of 2016, with a B.A. in English, and a freelance writer and editor. Her poetry, essays, and short fiction can be found on her website, gildedweavings.com.
FROM THE BASEMENT where the casks of Amontillado, are kept, to the second floor of Hill House, to the top of Dracula’s keep, the thrill of horror lurks. In all horror stories, the story reaches a point where a character is trapped by the fateful sequences of the story they inhabit, but before that point, before the horror is insurmountable, there is another point where the reader or viewer wants to say, “Get out, get out now, while you still can!”. Yet, sadly, maybe due to the inevitability built into the genre of the story they inhabit, maybe for lack of clairvoyance of their own perilous situation, they never can or do.
We have all had an experience of befalling something greater yet harmful to ourselves that we have been ensnared by. It is precisely this entrapment within some terrible situation, that makes a horror story a horror story. The horror genre not only gets its thrill, but also its rightful place in literature from this universally experienced reality. The place of horror stories is to tell those stories, that we can all relate to, where evil befalls a character. These types of stories act as a cathartic release to the teller as well as acting as a lesson to the listener, reader, or watcher. But is the thrill which these stories invoke worth the evil they necessarily incur to the imagination?
Let us begin by defining our terms concerning the nature of the horror genre, and following from that, the purpose of horror. Horror is a genre of storytelling that tells about when a common person, more often than not, naively inept and ignorant of the power of evil, experiences it, or falls prey to it, and the story explains what happens to that person, for good or for ill. So, if our generally bumbling protagonist falls afoul of some ghoulish end does that glorify evil and in so doing, nullify the genre?
Hardly so. Art, at its best, imitates life, and in reality, there is good and there is evil and, in the end, good triumphs over evil. For all that, though, evil still befalls all men, it is a universal prerogative of life. Horror stories depict precisely when this truth comes to be in the life of the protagonist in order to demonstrate to all of us the merits or problems of the actions, or inaction, the main character commits in the face of evil. Some of the West’s greatest non-horror stories and works also wrestle with this same concept of evil men triumphing over good men and how the best of us have responded. Boethius argues in his jail cell with Lady Philosophy precisely about this concept in his inimitable Consolation of Philosophy. Socrates makes peace with it in his own cell in the Phaedo when he is unjustly condemned to death and serenely drinks his hemlock. And Christ is silent in the face of Pilate.
It is the place of Horror, when artfully done, to tell the stories that arise, mostly out of those experiences of being trapped with some supernatural evil, and wrestling with the consequences of this occurrence. Whether the story ends poorly or well for the protagonist, depends on the comedy or tragedy of the experience itself, but the genre does not relinquish merit because of the evil its stories possess within themselves. Indeed, the story’s very merit comes from the fact that we the audience learn something real about the nature of evil and in so doing learn how to avoid it or fight it when we experience it in our own lives.
Once a horror story turns into a bloody mess (for the sake of the blood), or any other carnal vulgarity for the sake of shock or showing carnal vulgarity, you are, in my opinion, outside the bounds of true horror and in the circus of pulp or commercial horror for which I find no redemption, and certainly no art. If you find yourself in the midst of mindless gore, you’ve gone too far. Turn around and get out. Mindless gore will get you nowhere except desensitized to actual human suffering, which is not a good place for anyone to be in.
The purpose of the Horror story seems to be threefold:
- As an art form, Horror conveys the mysterious, unexplained, and often spiritual experiences that are inherent to our blended world of spirit and matter, wherein a protagonist is faced with something, generally spiritual, that goes beyond himself and means him some harm. Whether the end result for the protagonist is for good or evil is regardless to the fact that the Horror story reflects that part of ourselves and our experiences, sometimes only within our feelings, which go beyond, or, are rooted in something other than the material world, and we are met with something that we thought couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be; a truly malignant spirit, or person, more powerful than ourselves, who wants nothing more than our destruction.
- This kind of story, besides reflecting a universally experienced truth, also teaches its adherents proper modes of behavior in an ofttimes bent and dissembling world.
- Horror acts as a cathartic cleanser. Catharsis is an emotional process whereby a person purges a negative emotion by plunging themselves into it. Although this doesn’t make logical sense, the emotions operate differently than our other powers, and this process has proven to be effective to our emotional, psychological, and sometimes even spiritual, health. Through the process of immersion, one learns something about the negative emotion they are in, and how to live with that negative emotion, if necessary, or purge it if possible. Thus through catharsis we learn a deeper truth about ourselves, the nature of reality, and how we can live better in a complicated, difficult, and sometimes harmful world. Some people must, much like Dante in his Inferno, travel to the depths of the underworld in order to get out of it.
This is not to suggest that people should go to the horror genre for spiritual cleansing, for they are likely, without discernment, to find the opposite of what they are looking for there. The point is that sometimes in order to get out of a thing you must go further into it rather than simply not touching it at all, doubly so if it has already been foisted on your experiences. Sometimes the only way out is to go further in, but while doing so, one should heed the guiding voice of reason, like Dante did to Virgil.
The Horror genre is perilous, there is no question about that. Its gallery of authors is rife with sadists looking to destroy souls. The stories themselves, if not outright occult, often glorify evil, normalizing it and making it the victor over good. Normal protagonists are more often than not crushed under the weight of its matter, and so are we, the audience, crushed in our emotional state if we are not careful.
Although these things can certainly be said about horror, and they are significant problems, they are also not insurmountable. There are still good horror stories where, if these things happen, something good can still be gleaned. One needs to be able to find those stories yet search for them cautiously, listening to their reason if it tells them they have strayed too far.
The question seems to be, when it comes to Horror, can a greater good come out of its evil? Within the natural state of things the answer is no, but, praise be to God, he is super-natural and through His grace He can bring a greater good out of an evil, sometimes even allowing that evil to exist for that reason. And so can it be with Horror.
In the end, a person should read some Horror stories, but with great caution and by following their reason. One should not enter the mines of Moria lightly without a Gandalf by their side. And remember, though Gandalf fell to his doom, he also rose back out again greater than before, and Dante found his Beatrice. Horror, when done well, can have such an effect on its audience as well. We, too, can emerge from its darkness with a greater grasp of the world at large, a greater grasp of the nature of good as well as the nature of evil, and when we are done with it, we can shake off its cobwebs and plant a surer foot on a firmer earth.
Andrew Beebe is a graduate of Christendom College and has taught at Chesterton and Gregory the Great Academies. He is a proud husband and father and is currently the founder and editor of Wonder Magazine.
The Women of Mansfield: A Character Study
Vanity of vanities, poor Mariah
Beautiful, foolish, esteemed by men
Darling on earth may be eternal pariah.
(Being really the one preferred comforted her)
Julia, weak hearted, quick of temper
Too shallow for friendship, or her cousin
Carried on light currents to safety and leisure.
(It might have been as well, perhaps, if you had been in my place!)
Lady Bertram, perpetually resting
Mysteriously fatigued without exertion
Indolent though duties be loudly calling.
(Fanny, you must do something to keep me awake. I cannot work)
Mrs. Price, equally indolent, without equal estate
Suffers as the poor relation
On wretched servants and good luck to wait.
(Servants are come to such a pass, my dear)
Meddling Aunt Norris in pride repining
Given to service to gain importance
Industriously all other’s business divining.
(She being gone with all the supernumerary jellies)
Miss Crawford determined for worldly security
Careless, flippant, but oh such piquance!
Charming, disarming, and pitifully empty.
(A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of)
Great-souled Fanny, heroine so humble, shy, and surprising
Neither witty, nor hardy, nor with daring glance
Selfless, deep seated strength and love maintaining.
(She was of course only too good for him)
Elizabeth Anderson is a stay at home mother and independent writer. A graduate of Christendom College, she also worked for several years at Population Research Institute. She resides in Michigan with her husband, Matthew, and their four small children.
Summer/Ordinary Time Issue 2019 (This section is taken only from the Something New menu option.)
Evelyn Waugh is portrayed on the left and Herman Wouk is portrayed on the right.
On the Passing of a Great American Author
Alan L. Anderson
It is said the French love their writers. And the Americans? Well, not so much.
Perhaps this explains the relative dearth of attention given in the major media to the passing of a great, if underappreciated, author like Herman Wouk who died on Friday, May 18th at the age 103.
Wouk is best known as the man who penned one of the most iconic characters to ever appear on screen –the paranoid Captain Queeg memorialized by Humphrey Bogart in the movie adaptation of his first novel, The Caine Mutiny. Bogart’s rolling of the three, little metal balls in his fingers, a touch of sweat beading his upper lip, while he nervously explains in his trial testimony, “ah, but the strawberries, the strawberries, that’s where I knew I had them,” will forever rank as one of those moments in film where the symbiosis of human actor and written character produce a startling glimpse into the human condition -in this case the type of person for whom a paranoid mania lies just below an exterior normality but reveals itself in moments of stress. From the exasperated lover pushed too far captured in Rhett Butler’s, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” to the cold soulless-ness revealed in Michael Corleone’s, “It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s just business,” such quotable moments become for a culture verbal touchstones, almost a psychological shorthand for human existential truth within which we can communicate.
Yet, Wouk’s corpus of work extends far beyond and goes far deeper than just The Caine Mutiny. His other two novels inspired by World War II, Winds of War and War and Remembrance, present a sweeping portrayal of two families -the WASP-y Henrys and the culturally acclimated, Jewish Jastrows- caught up in the pivotal maelstrom which defined the 20th century. His second novel, Marjorie Morningstar, is considered the classic depiction of the second-generation, New York Jewish culture of the mid-20th century as the title character, actually Marjorie Morgenstern, sets out to become a famous actress while trying to maintain the practices of her Jewish faith while his third novel, Youngblood Hawke –loosely based on the life of Thomas Wolfe- offers an in-depth exposé of the publishing industry as its title character, born and bred in the coal fields of Kentucky, crashes the elite, literary scene of New York and Hollywood. His later works would include an all-encompassing two-volume work of historical fiction on the history of the State of Israel presented in, The Hope and The Glory; the fast-paced, A Hole in Texas, which offers a plot centered on physics and the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle; Inside, Outside, a multi-generational tale of a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants, several non-fiction works on his Jewish faith, and his final novel, published five years ago at the age of 98 –The Lawgiver, a humorous take on the movie industry.
The above, all-too-brief, synopsis of Wouk’s work makes obvious one of, if not the, primary source for his inspiration –his Jewish faith. In this, the Catholic reader cannot help but be reminded of a contemporary of Wouk’s, the English writer, Evelyn Waugh. Indeed, I have long thought –and no amount of ridicule from the literati could convince me otherwise- that Wouk is to the American-Jewish experience what Waugh was to the English Catholic experience. Both men loved the dominate cultures within which they lived, despite all the faults of those cultures. Yet, each was operating within a beloved sub-culture which forced them to stand apart, to stand somewhat outside, those cultures offering sympathetic, yet sometimes cutting, critiques of said dominant cultures. Nowhere are the similarities and differences more clear than in their individual treatments of World War II. Wouk’s treatment is quintessentially American in its overarching optimism. Waugh’s book, conversely, is imbued with the pessimism of a writer writing as the world he once knew –the world in which the sun never set on the English flag- was crumbling and fading around him.
Wouk’s, War and Remembrance uses the Henry and Jastrow characters to tell the grand tale of America’s rise to world dominance. Waugh’s, Sword of Honor Trilogy, on the other hand, presents a micro look at the war through the eyes of Guy Crouchback, the scion of a once-wealthy English Catholic family. Waugh’s portrayal of Crouchback in many ways captures the seeming despair and futility of war as seen on an individual level while at the same time capturing on a macro level the decline of England as a world power. Again, both men were writing from a religious subculture, yet both men’s writing was conditioned by the dominant culture within which they lived. For American Catholics similarly interested in influencing a dominant culture becoming more and more hostile to the subculture within which we live, these two writers provide something of a literary object lesson on how to do it.
Consider, for example, just one small scene from each of these author’s works which lightly treat on the subject of each’s faith. In Waugh’s, Brideshead Revisited, a young, non-Catholic, suitor comes to call and the younger sister, a bright little thing named Cordelia, offers a series of religious instructions which includes the revelation that Catholics have an alms box at the entrances to their churches and if a person simply places a pound note with their enemy’s name written on it, that person will go to Hell; the advice that one should sleep with their feet facing East, so that if they die during the night they’ll be able to walk straight to heaven; and darkly hints about ‘sacred temple monkeys in the Vatican.’ Blessedly, the young man is eventually set straight.
Similarly, in Wouk’s, Marjorie Morningstar, he presents a bar mitzvah scene with considerable comic elements, so considerable, in fact, that he received more than a little harsh criticism for treating such a solemn occasion so lightly. In both instances what the authors are trying to do is illuminate and humanize their faiths for a dominant culture often ignorant and sometimes hostile because of said ignorance.
John Podhoretz over at Commentary, offering something of an apology for his late-father, Norman Podhoretz’s, early harsh literary criticism of Wouk, has suggested the elites disdained Wouk’s work because while
“[T}he New York literary highbrows may have delighted in the frivolities of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, … they stood at the gates with buckshot at the ready against the philistine hordes of popular culture when the barbarians sought venture onto the turf of the Great Novel or the Great Play.
Maybe. Maybe it simply was a disdain for a writer who sought to offer serious subject matter for the consideration of the unwashed masses. And perhaps it is and was this lack of support from the elites which constitutes the basis for the lack of attention payed to Wouk’s passing mentioned at the start of this essay.
But allow me to suggest something else also may have been at play. As I’ve discussed, like Waugh, Wouk was writing from a perspective to which faith was central. Allow me to suggest that it was this aspect of his writing, this essentially ‘conservative’ (and that’s ‘conservative’ with a small, “c,”) starting point which, if even at a semi-conscious level, prompted them to stand “at the gates with buckshot.”
Nor am I alone in making this argument. David Frum, writing in a piece at The Atlantic some three years ago on the occasion of Wouk’s 100th birthday, makes a similar point. As he notes, “Yet in his own non-ideological way, Wouk is a conservative writer: conservative about religion, about gender roles, and above all about duty, service, country, and warfare.” Like Waugh, in his writing Wouk seems preternaturally drawn to and guided by the notion of transcendental truth, in fact, to put it more accurately, transcendental Truth. And it is from this Truth that there descends ‘religion,’ ‘gender roles,’ ‘duty,’ etc. While it is fashionable to point to the ‘60’s as the time things started going to smash, the seeds for the crack-up we’re already planted and reaching fruition in the elites of the ‘50’s and it was this, as much as a concern for maintaining literary purity, which preempted a thoughtful consideration of Wouk’s early works on their part.
Finally, it is fascinating to consider that both Wouk and Waugh –writing from a context of faith- chose late in their careers to focus, again as they had with World War II, on the same subject –the ephemeral and shallow subculture extant in Hollywood and Southern California. Wouk in his, The Lawgiver, and Waugh in his, The Loved One were drawn –to use a cliché- like moths to a flame in recognizing that a subculture based on fantasy, on a worldview unmoored from reality and transcendental truth, was coming, itself, to dominate the dominant culture. Those “frivolities of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley” about which Podhoretz comments above, had become more than just “frivolities;” they’d become guiding principles enmeshed with a secular relativism. I’ve seen Wouk’s, The Lawgiver described as “comic.” I’d describe it as satiric, every bit as satiric as most of Waugh’s work, and satiric for the same reason, to elucidate and illuminate the tragic in humanity and, thus, hopefully, to educate and uplift.
The subtitle to Frum’s, Atlantic piece cited above, states, “Herman Wouk Deserves More Critical Acclaim Than He’s Enjoyed.” He also deserves, and would probably far more appreciate, more readers.
Review – Culture Making by Andy Crouch
Originally published in 2008, Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, remains a compelling book more than a decade later. The argument therein is Crouch’s challenge, more an exhortation to his readers to make. From the very start of his introduction, he begins in earnest in stating that his desire for Christians to do and recall is how we engage in culture rather than simply “warring with it” or “standing alongside it.” Crouch wants Christians to not only stand in the midst, but to create culture, pulling from the deep roots of the religion that has the largest following in the world. There is no reason for Christians to stand on the sidelines or to even believe in being opposed to culture.
Crouch begins defining his terms, which of course starts with culture. There’s more than a little wriggle room, and Crouch knows this, since he stridently states that “culture is not optional.” Culture is a thing that is shared amongst others. In fact, it only exists when shared in a public. Nothing too controversial or strange from Crouch’s account, other than the way he lunges headlong into this cultural analysis. “But culture is not changed simply by thinking (64),” is how he closes one chapter that deals with technology and change. It eludes to his title that the “making” emphasis is not by accident, but obviously a deliberate choice. The praxis is as key as understanding what to make for Crouch and too much of Christianity has forgotten this.
This making though, is not centered on artists or those who make more explicit cultural artifacts. It is centered on anything that Christians do in order to impart the deepest meaning of their lives, which Crouch affirms is Christ. He moves on quickly from his definition of terms and analysis of culture as a phenomenon, to how Christians must interact with culture in order to create, which is by cultivation. He briskly examines consuming, copying, and critiquing culture. While, he does not throw these actions entirely out he considers, “The only way to change culture is to create more of it (67- emphasis his).” Crouch affirms that no one can create anything from “outside” culture, since we are all creatures formed within a specific cultures, starting with our family. Any artist, cook, mathematician, or farmer comes from an already formed value system within an established culture. So, in order to become better people of faith and to “make more culture” Christians must cultivate. He admits the concept may sound dated, but goes on to support his term by the comparison to farming and the extreme work that cultivation takes in both a physical sense, such as it does in farming, and in the mental space of disciplines, which are highly specialized forms of cultivating culture.
Moving further into this work, Crouch shifts his perspective from looking at culture to looking at scripture for support of how the Bible and Christ interact with culture. In fact, the largest part of his argument deals with “Jesus as Culture Maker.” For this, Crouch begins with drawing a human portrait of the God man, placing Him in context as a young Middle Eastern man. He then moves on to point, with New Testament N.T. Wright’s help, that Jesus was directly in conversation with his culture, pointedly engaged with Israel’s occupation and the possible liberation of God’s chosen people. He did not simply come for humanity’s sake, but came during a point in history that grounded Him there in a way that we still cannot fully comprehend. Yet, scripture tells us he was meant for that historical time.
Taking these sections in stride, Crouch builds to the final argument of culture making, which centers on the Christians place amongst the material and spiritual realities put before them. He is well aware and honors in fact, that each Christian has a unique and singular calling that God has created for them and that it is up to the individual to enact that calling via the gifts they are given. Crouch has already outlined what these can look like in previous chapters and here he particularly focuses on how we get to that place of culture making. It is also here that we must recognize that culture making is how we participate in God’s plan for us. “Culture making becomes not just the product of clever cultural strategy or the natural byproduct of inherited privilege, but the astonished and grateful response of people who have been rescued from the worst that culture and nature can do” (227). It is these actions that not only benefit ourselves and others, but they actually help save us from our fallen nature and lift us up to be with the original Creator. As Crouch says in other places throughout this work, culture making, while for others is also itself a gift to the person.
Culture Making, is a welcome introduction and analysis of culture through the lens of scripture and Christian grace. Crouch has laid out the first stepping stone that Christians must start with in order to reclaim and retain their cultural identities. Rather than warring with culture or seeking isolation from it, even just standing in the midst of a society that cries out for authenticity. Christians must make and take part in the act of creating as a primary role for humanity and Christians. It is up to us to move forward and Crouch seems cautiously optimistic that Christians will accept this calling of culture making. Over ten years later, it seems his hopes may have been partially misplaced, but there is surely still time and seeds that were planted then may yet still bear fruit.
A Paradox, A Question
A golden box serves as your house,
Fit for a king and no one else.
Your blood it pools in a grandiose cup.
We kneel before you as he lifts you up.
Your image is housed in beautiful frames,
Heads bent before you and put to shame.
But where is it you want to be?
Is it true – consumed by me?
You choosing my heart as your home?
Instead of leaving me all alone?
No longer bread, no longer wine,
And still you’re asking me to dine?
Body, Body, Soul, and Divinity
Lord, by me strength, be my serenity.
Top 5 Bingeworthy Shows for the Summer
Summer is upon us and while many of us will spend hours outside enjoying the sun, those hot days sometimes provide a time for even the most outdoorsy of us to hunker down and binge on your shows! While we here at Wonder appreciate the higher arts of culture, we can’t help but relish in the guilty pleasure of television. Even if you don’t care for the show, each program on this list has true artistic merit, but each show also has some moral demerits. If the demerits are too much for you, then skip, but if you can look past the moral failings of these shows and their writers, then push on! For the busier among us, we have taken the liberty to let you know what seasons are the best to watch (in case you can’t binge the whole series)! So make that popcorn, skip on over to the bar (LINK THE PAGE TO THE BAR) to find a cool refreshing summer drink, and settle in for a great summer show!
Band of Brothers
This HBO mini-series follows the lives of the 101st Airborne during World War II. From boot camp to D-Day and beyond, this show gives you a look at the ragtag group of men who weathered trial, tribulation, and pain together as brothers, to fight the Nazis and defend the free world. Even if you’re not into history, you will fall in love with the characters in this mini-series and wait with bated breath to see who survives one of the most cataclysmic events in human history.
Merits: Band of Brothers gives you a deep look into the soul of a soldier. More than most current pop culture, you will see natural masculine virtue played out on screen. Most importantly, Band of Brothers shows true heroism and masculine camaraderie in a way that is awe-inspiringly beautiful!
Demerits: Much like World War II, the show can be quite graphically violent. In sticking to reality, these men aren’t perfect. Each struggles with their sins – lust, gambling, drinking, etc. I wouldn’t recommend idolizing these men (unless you’re willing to take up smoking Lucky Stikes unfiltered!), but their virtues come out all the same.
What to Watch: The show is only one season long, so I recommend the whole thing!
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime or HBO Now
Friday Night Lights
Whether you’re a fan of football or you just like great drama, this show is sure to please. Friday Night Lights follows the story of a football coach, his team, and his family. Each character is well-developed and struggling to do the right thing. The main character, Coach, is one of the most realistic portrayals of a football coach I’ve ever seen. He is a good man with a good relationship with his family, particularly his wife! Take a step back into some High School drama and enjoy the development of this man and the kids who look up to him!
Merits: At first, it may appear that each character is a high school cliche – the bad boy, the jock, the nerd, etc., but as the series progresses each person shows who they are. It is a well- written plot, filled with complex, yet beautiful characters! These small town situations feel so real, yet enjoyable to watch.
Demerits: Ok, folks, this show is about high schoolers, so you guessed it, there’s some sex! That’s right, high-school boys having and talking about sex. There are a few other sexual situations beyond just the high school stuff, but for the most part, they are few and far between.
What to Watch: The first three seasons are the best, but once you’re in it, you probably won’t want to stop!
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime or Hulu
Parks and Recreation
We all need a little laughter in our lives. Parks and Recreation OR Parks and Rec for short delivers delightfully witty comedy with relatable and ridiculous characters. This show has been popular for some time for a reason. It’s characters and situations live with you and you’ll start to quote them in daily situations!
Merits: Each character grows quite substantially throughout the series. They mature, become more selfless, and become more virtuous as the seasons go on. Despite the moral shortcomings of each character, through a series of wildly funny situations, they become good men and women who truly care about each other and the world around them.
Demerits: With comedy always tends to come a variety of sexual humor so be aware of that. The show also tends to promote the homosexual agenda especially in the later series.
What to Watch : Skip the first two seasons. The show’s creators were not quite sure what they were doing. You can always go back to watch, but the best seasons are really 3-7.
Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu
Skip the action movies this summer because with 24 you’ll have enough on your plate. 24 follows the actions of the elusive Jack Bauer, a counter-terrorist unit agent. With a great ensemble of writers, this show is filled with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Merits: Jack Bauer is your ultimate hero. He will stop at nothing to save the world. Plus it’s just full- blown entertainment and will be sure to have you racking your brain as to what could happen next.
Demerits: The show’s philosophy is all off. Jack Bauer is the epitome of Neitzche’s ubermeinsch and is a BIG believer of the ends justify the means! The show is also graphically violent including some torture and few moments of sexuality.
What to Watch: Seasons 3-5 are the best! Then seasons 1-2. Seasons 6 on will satisfy that craving for Bauer hunger, but they tend to get repetitive and a little ridiculous.
Where to Watch: Hulu
You don’t have to be British to enjoy this telling of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s reign. The subtlety of this British production is highly dramatic and will have you sipping tea within no time. With great writing and acting, the human drama of an aging monarchy in a highly progressive world comes to life in this beautifully filmed drama.
Merits: Beauty, beauty, beauty. The Crown is intelligent, beautiful, and a great experience of human drama in marriage, family, and royalty.
Demerits: Their British…. So you’re dealing with a lax Anglican theology and a very progressive theme. There are a few moments of sexuality, but since they are British it’s very delicately handled!
What to Watch: There are only two seasons out right now and I would highly recommend them both!
Where to Watch: Netflix
Easter/Spring Issue 2019 (This section is taken only from the Something New menu option.)
5 GOOD BOOKS TO READ
(for Spring or Summer)
I started this with a list of ten books to read but ten books always seems like such a daunting list. When there’s a reviewed list of ten books you end up wanting to read some of them but for whatever reason you end up reading none. So I trimmed it down to five. Here are five fun books that are as easily read in a hammock as under the covers, or even on a quiet beach. All of them are a pleasant and a very amusing read.
1. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (Warning: A little bit of british humor but not obnoxiously so in this reviewer’s opinion) The only problem with the book from an American standpoint is it begins stuffy. Like any slow party, though, once the drinking starts, the book really gets rollicking. This book is a small, quick read. Sporting only about 250 pages, it has academic drinking adventures galore, is hilarious, gets pretty dark, only to let the sun back in and show that the darkness was merely a passing cloud over the sun. Well written and a good read, it deserves a solid 8 out of 10.
2. Anything by Betty Macdonald but especially The Egg and I. Another quick read of about 250 (actually 287) pages,The Egg and I was Betty Macdonald’s first book and introduces the characters and the family that travel with her throughout the rest of her collection. Told with a biting wit and sweeping anthropomorphic scenery that would make any writer jealous, it tells the story of a woman who gets married and goes to start a chicken farm with her husband in the untamed Pacific Northwest in the early 1940’s. A hilarious read and perfect for when you’re in between books or if you’re trying to get back into reading. 9 out of 10
3. All Creatures Great and Small or anything else by James Herriot. This is a fascinating read that sets you right down in northern England at the beginning of the last century. You really get the feeling of what it was like to live back then, a time when community life still meant warmth and generosity and a sprinkling of annoyance but mostly a careful empathy for your fellow Man. Told in individual and grouped vignette style chapters, with some standing alone, but most backing the plot, this memoir tells the story of young James Herriot fresh out of veterinary college who finds a post, many characters, and many more adventures, some hilarious, some poignant, but all of them worth reading about, in and around the quaint little village of Darrowby, England. This is one you can come back to again and again and it always remains fresh. A pretty solid 10 out of 10.
4. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. (Warning: This one gets inappropriate at times and most men like it and most women don’t) The author crafts the modern day Don Quixote who battles the inconsistencies and problems of the modern era with all the ferocity and luck of the great Don himself. And like the great Don, when the protagonist is fighting, though he is not always triumphant, he never loses himself. This might be the funniest book on this list if you can stomach a great fat protagonist who thinks he is smarter than everyone he meets because, for the most part, he is. Just as Don Quixote loses his mind from reading too much “noble” literature and becomes nobler than everyone he meets, yet his lack of understanding the situation for what it is gets him into so many troubles, so Ignatius J. Reilly is smarter and better read than everyone he meets but his lack of caring for his surroundings gets him into so many misadventures. Such a funny book. 9 out of 10.
5. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. It was between this and Brideshead Revisited, which remains by far the best thing Waugh ever wrote, but I chose this one for three reasons: one, because it’s a little further off the beaten path, two, it’s short (only 164 pages) and three, it’s a lot more sardonically humorous than Brideshead Revisited. A true satire, this little book pokes fun at a real American mortuary practice outside Hollywood which richly deserves the gibe and whose physical peculiarities match the description in the book. Complete with a mortician sending a nurse he has a crush on smiling corpses while pursuing her, and then frowning corpses when the nurse doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, this book is a must read for any fan of Waugh or black humor. 8 out of 10.
An Open Letter to Brides, Both Old and New
Congratulations on becoming a bride! The road to bridehood began when your wonderful husband popped the question. It felt more real at your bridal shower… then, the big day! The day you are a bride. However, your bridehood does not end on that day, it begins. From that day forward you will always be a bride. My parents have been married 36 years now and my father still calls my mom his bride. The day you become Mrs. So-and-so is the day you begin a bridal life. I’ve thought about this concept a lot, being a newlywed myself, still. There are so many bridal characteristics and symbols that come to mind as my husband and I grow closer and I’d love to share these thoughts with you, if you don’t mind, my dear friend.
Brides are pure
We’ve spoken often of wearing white on our wedding days and what that color symbolizes. We’ve thought of the meaning of saving ourselves for marriage, which is beautiful and true, but not what I wish to speak of. Beyond sexual purity, there is purity of heart, purity of will, and purity of intention, that plays into the daily interactions of marriage. I think for brides, new and old, there is a temptation to cloud marriage with manipulations, games, and passive aggressiveness. Brides are called to something higher than those deceptions. We are called to be true and clear. We are called to keep the stains of lies and bitterness out of our white marriages. While a bride wears white on her wedding day to symbolize the purity of her past, it must also symbolize the purity of our futures.
Brides are beautiful
On your wedding day, you are the most beautiful woman in the world, in your heart and in how you look. Everyone knows that there is nothing quite as beautiful as a blushing bride. She is soft, romantic, gentle, and filled with love. This external characteristic of beauty glorifies God, but, in marriage, he calls us to a deeper beauty. He calls us to remove the warts of sin and attachment to anything that makes us spiritually ugly in order to make our souls as beautiful as we ourselves are on that day. Throughout marriage, Christ gives us many, many, opportunities to be soft, gentle, romantic, and filled with love through the little daily things: going to work, doing the dishes, cleaning, cooking, and constantly giving of ourselves to our husbands and our children when the time comes. These sacrifices are true bridal beauty, even when they may not feel like it.
Take a look at the ring on your finger, the ring that marks you as a bride. What shape is it? A circle, right? No beginning, no end. O It just keeps going around. A brides love is lifelong. Just like the circle, her love cannot end. She perseveres through the good, the bad, and the ugly. In her perseverance, she must possess true feminine strength. Like the gold and diamond of your ring, brides must withstand intense pressure while at the same time shining forth love and femininity. It is not an easy task, but being a bride is never easy!
Brides are hopeful
The only thing that holds more hope than a bride is a newborn baby. Brides cannot see the future but with every vow they say, they hope in God. They hope that God will give them graces to love in richer, in poorer, in sickness, in health, in good times and in bad. Keeping that promise to your husband revolves around putting your hope in God. When times get rough, as they do for every couple, that is the time for bride and groom to re-enter the sanctuary and once again offer their lives over to Christ. When you say, “‘til death do us part” you are making a great Act of Hope that God will give your marriage lifelong grace.
Brides are Marian
“Something borrowed. Something blue.” Why do we add to subtle flair of blue to our white ensemble? To remind us of Mary. Mary, who was the perfect bride and mother, is our guide. She who loved her son so perfectly, helps us to love our children perfectly. Specifically, Mary shows brides how to be lowly and compassionate. She responds to God the way every bride should in her glorious Magnificat. She accepts and follows God’s will in every moment of her life, humbly and faithfully. Mary perfectly understood and lived compassion. The Latin root of compassion is, “cum passio”, meaning literally, to suffer with. Mary walked the Passion with her son, suffering with him. How often brides are called to suffer with their husbands and children! Isn’t it also fitting that, out of compassion, Mary intercedes on behalf of a bride at the wedding of Cana? Mary, a bride herself, has always been a friend to brides.
Brides are Eucharistic
Now, this may seem a little extreme, but hold with me here. Receiving the Eucharist is one of the first things that Catholic married couples do after their vows. What a beautiful moment where you and your husband unite yourselves as a new family to Christ! Brides throughout their whole lives must unite their families to the Eucharist. Like Christ giving fully of himself, so too brides must offer their whole bodies up for their children, feeding them and loving them. Since Eucharist comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving, it makes sense that right after receiving this vocational sacrament, we receive the sacrament of thanksgiving. Brides are called to give thanks to God their whole lives. The best way to offer this thanks is by bringing your husband and children to the Eucharist.
Brides are Ecclesial
Finally, brides are like the Church for the Church is the Bride of Christ. On your wedding day, you life was changed in and by the blessing of the Church. We build the domestic church in our homes to be part of the Church as the Bride of Christ. The Church is ever faithful, consistent in her teachings, merciful, and always at her husband’s side. We, too, must emulate these qualities in our marriage. The church you were married in is a strong structure, created to lift the members of its’ family to God. So too, is the calling of a bride.
My dear friend, I think I have gone on for long enough. I’m so proud of you. Send all my love to your husband and remember also to enjoy your bridehood.
The Spaces In Between
The silence of a thought destroys
Those paper dragons dreams employ
To scour skies in feral flight,
Seeking specters, bursting bright:
Illuminate but never find
Which shades escape the colorblind,
Pupils drenched as serotonin
Lifts away the moment.