Friday night at North Wind Manor we hosted the venerable Michael Card for an evening of discussion about the Gospel of John. Andrew Peterson both kicked off the evening and closed it with a song (one of them brand new), and in the intervening 90 minutes Michael kept the room spellbound as he talked about his approach to the gospels and researching his commentaries on each of them. He has a way of talking about Scripture that kind of blows my mind. His knack for putting things in context and enabling the listener to see the story come alive in new and exciting ways is something I’ve rarely experienced. Here’s hoping he’ll be back for more in the months to come.
But enough about last Friday night. Tonight kicks off the first of what we hope will be a long-standing tradition: The Local Show. It’s at The Well Coffeehouse in Brentwood (right off I-65) and each show will feature a different line-up of songwriters and special guests. Tonight we’ve got Don Chaffer (of Waterdeep), Randall Goodgame, Eric Peters, and Sandra McCracken. They’ll be playing in the round and having a blast starting at 8pm. Doors open at 7pm and you’re invited. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door (Rabbit Room members can flash their cards at the door to get in for only $5).
Tonight at North Wind Manor we’re delighted to be hosting Michael Card. Mike, who Andrew affectionately dubbed the “Gandalf of Nashville,” has just published the last of his Gospel commentaries, this one on the Gospel of St. John. He’ll be at the Manor tonight to discuss the book, and more importantly the Gospel. Seats are filled for this event. If you RSVPed, don’t forget to bring a snack to share. The event begins at 7:00pm.
Join us at The Well coffeehouse in Brentwood next Tuesday for the first of what we hope will become a long-running tradition: The Local Show. This first show will feature Don Chaffer, Eric Peters, Randall Goodgame, Sandra McCracken, and at least one special guest. The Local Show will take place every other Tuesday in September, and then we’ll ramp it up to EVERY Tuesday night in October. You never know who’ll show up, so you may as well come every chance you get. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 at the door. If you’re a Rabbit Room member, just flash your card at the door and you can get in for only $5.
Jonathan Rogers has just unveiled a writing seminar he’ll be leading called “From Memory to Story.” It takes place on Thursday October 10th from 10am-3pm so if you’re coming to Hutchmoot this is a golden opportunity to come a little early and get a little more out of your time in Nashville. Here’s how he describes the course:
“You have a story to tell–many stories, no doubt. You need to tell your story, not only to be understood, but in order to understand yourself. In this one-day seminar on the short memoir, Jonathan Rogers will help you find your voice and shape your memories into written stories.”
David Bruno fears he may have permanently scarred his children by exposing them to Les Miserables a few years too early. But might some scars be worth carrying? We should clarify that we’re talking about the theater production here; No one will ever be old enough to avoid being scarred by the movie abomination—and those are definitely not the sort of scars you want to be saddled with. Read the entire affair in “Comic Parenting Guilt.”
We had an excellent guest post from Shannon McDermott in which she discusses how the Wingfeather Saga has taken old superstitions about names and naming and used them for better ends. The piece is called “A Superstition Transformed” and it’s a worthy read. Sadly, however, it does not address why my wife has forbidden me to eat any animal we’ve named (our chickens for instance—good thing we don’t name the eggs).
Russ Ramsey has taken a step into true manhood by committing an entire year of his life to the music of the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Not only does Russ now have more hair on his chest, he’s also got a little gravel in his throat, and way more hats hanging out of his back pockets. He’s written this great post about the experience, and I have it on good authority that he plans to dedicate next year to Lita Ford.
Sarah Clarkson, student of Oxford University, was in London recently when Britain observed the anniversary of their entrance into World War One. This post about her experience at a concert that evening is extraordinary. Don’t miss “Light Eternal in London.
Next Thursday, Joseph Pearce, renowned biographer of Christian literary figures such as Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton, is giving his inaugural lecture as Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College. The lecture is entitled “The Evangelizing Power of Beauty: Converting the Culture,” and it will rely heavily on the work of both Lewis and Tolkien.
Sounds like interesting stuff, and it’s free to the public. We hope to see some of you there. For more information about the lecture, visit the event page at Aquinas College’s website.
The big news of the week is the announcement that renowned author and poet Luci Shaw will be our featured speaker this year at Hutchmoot 2014.
By way of introduction, Andrew Peterson wrote up a post featuring some great quotes from Luci about the imagination and how it intersects with our faith. If you aren’t familiar with her work, I encourage you to read a couple of her books (Breath for the Bones is a good place to start) and check out her website. We also marked the occasion by releasing a few more tickets to Hutchmoot. If you got one, congratulations! If you missed this last chance, don’t worry, we’re sure to moot again next year.
That wasn’t the only big announcement this week. We also pulled back the curtain on the re-release of Jonathan Rogers’ long-out-of-print The World According to Narnia. Rabbit Room Press is issuing a new edition that will be available in early September. Click here to read an excerpt from the most excellent introduction, and you can pre-order the book here.
Heidi Johnston, our resident resident of Ireland, brought us a reflection from her studies of Deuteronomy and Lamentations in the form of a post called “The Inevitable Plot Line.” Much like the Israelites of old, Heidi knows what it’s like to stand, filled with expectation, on the cusp of the Promised Land, only to find herself later weeping in its empty streets. Beautiful post. Read it here.
And a couple more quick notes:
1. Congratulations to Ben Shive on a whopping THREE Dove nominations!
2. Congratulations to Lanier Ivester and Sarah Clarkson on being accepted to Oxford University!
3. Mark August 29th on your calendar. That’s the date for the next live event at North Wind Manor. More on that next week.
Have a great weekend.
The fall of 2005 was a big time for the Time Warner media empire. On the movie side of things, they put out the Dukes of Hazzard. Time Warner Book Group, meanwhile, was publishing Jonathan Rogers’ book, The World According to Narnia: Christian Themes in C.S. Lewis’s Beloved Chronicles. The excitement, apparently, was more than Time Warner could handle. The very next year, Time Warner sold its book division to Hachette Book Group, and shortly after that The World According to Narnia ceased to exist as a paperback book. (The Dukes of Hazzard, on the other hand, seems to be doing just fine).
But Time Warner’s loss is the Rabbit Room’s gain. We are happy to announce the new, Rabbit Room Press edition of The World According to Narnia. We are now taking orders, to be shipped in early September. If you order now, you will be helping to fund the first print run. We appreciate all orders, of course, but pre-orders help us order bigger print runs and save per-unit.
To give you an idea of what to expect from The World According to Narnia, here’s an excerpt from the introduction. If you like what you read, order here.
Introduction: Imagining Reality
C.S. Lewis once received a letter from the mother of a nine-year-old boy named Laurence. Laurence was afraid the Chronicles of Narnia had led him into idolatry: he felt he loved the Great Lion Aslan more than he loved Jesus. What, the mother wanted to know, should she say to her son?
We’re in the process of lining up another event at North Wind Manor and we hope to announce it next week, so look for that news soon. We’ve also got another big announcement coming up regarding this year’s Hutchmoot special guest, and if you missed out on getting a Hutchmoot ticket, you’ll want to pay special attention to the blog next week. There may be some new…opportunities. More on that next week.
Elsewhere in the Rabbit Room…
In Nashville earlier this week, Stephen Trafton performed the latest of his “Living Letters,” this one entitled Encountering Colossians. We had a good turn out and and Stephen put on a great show. His ability to shine new light on scripture in this way is pretty incredible. If you get the chance to see one of these shows, do not miss it. And I bet Stephen would love to talk to you about performing at your home church. Visit his website for details.
From the “bench at the bend in the trail” Andrew Peterson delivered a post called “Digging Tunnels,” both literal and metaphorical. “Something about having a few acres wakes up the survivalist in a man, which is part of why I so enjoy gardening nowadays. The less I depend on the machine the more connected I feel to the remnants of Eden shimmering at the edges of the natural world. Before you think me too hippie, I should remind you that I’m writing this on a computer, and I enjoy my Netflix account.” Read the entire post here.
Chris Yokel popped up last week to stir the Hobbit pot. He’s one of those oddities who think the second Hobbit movie wasn’t awful (yes, I’m serious), but despite that strike against him, he’s got a good discussion going on about the nature of adaptation and the expectations we bring to such things. Read the post here and join the conversation. We’d love to know what you think.
This past Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s death. Far be it from O’Connor maven (yes, maven) Jonathan Rogers to let such a day go unobserved. His post, “Beyond the Region of Thunder,” sums of a good deal of what made O’Connor so complex, so fascinating, and so unique. It also contains some of Dr. Rogers best writing, and if you haven’t read his O’Connor biography, The Terrible Speed of Mercy, you’re missing out on a great book. Read his post here.
Thomas McKenzie tackled The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the One Minute Review. This is my favorite movie of the year so far, and I agree with Thomas: Get thee to a theater. Movies this good don’t come around very often. Hail, Caesar. Click here to watch the review.
August 4th marked another notable literary date: the 100th birthday of Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, which is Lanier Ivester’s favorite book. She celebrated the day with a post called “O, Cavalier,” and treated us to a poem of her own dedicated to Sheldon “Van” Vanauken. Read the post, and the poem, here.
Andrew Peterson is in the studio this week re-recording a bunch of old favorites for his forthcoming best-of album, so we featured an old AP favorite as the Song of the Week. Here you can listen to a rare live recording of “Canaan Bound” and get a coupon code to use when buying the album (Appendix A) in the Rabbit Room store.
Jill Phillips is also working on a new record and Matt Conner interviewed her about the project. The album will be out later this year and here’s part of how she describes it in the interview: “It’s been bittersweet, sad to watch people struggle, sad to watch people die, sad to watch things happen that you don’t want to happen to people that you love. At the same time, my faith has been increased a hundredfold. So that’s where I want to write. I want to write in that place, the place that a good friend of mine calls the “both/and.” The honesty of the struggle and the hope.” Read the entire interview here.
And finally, Jamin Still gave us a little taste of what he’s been painting lately: a set of Christmas cards—one of which is a snow-covered rabbit topiary. What’ll be next? I’m putting in my vote for a T-rex. Click here to read the post.
There’s been a lot going on for the past couple of weeks and I’ll cover it all, but first let me urge you to circle August 4th on your calendar. Stephen Trafton, whom many of you will remember from his performance of Encountering Philippians at Hutchmoot 2012, will be back in Nashville to perform his new show, Encountering Colossians, at the Church of the Redeemer. The show starts at 7pm and the event is open to everyone. It’s also totally free, but we will take up a love offering to help support Stephen in his ministry. Please help us spread the word through Facebook and Twitter, as well as the more traditional grapevine. Hope to see you guys there. You’ll be glad you came. Click here for the Event page.
Speaking of Rabbit Room events—last week we held the first-ever house show at North Wind Manor. Son of Laughter (Chris Slaten) played to a packed house (literally) and I think it’s safe to say that we all had a grand old time. I especially enjoyed the chance to hear the new songs Chris has been writing for the new full-length record that he and Ben Shive are working on—it’s going to be great. After the show, folks hung around until almost midnight to chat on the porch, visit with friends in the library, and snack on desserts in the kitchen. It made me and Jennifer happy to see so many people enjoying the house and the fellowship. We’re hoping to host a monthly Rabbit Room event at the Manor, so keep an eye on the Rabbit Room website to find out what we’ve got planned for August.
Tuesday was the big day for The Proprietor (Andrew Peterson) who released the final volume of The Wingfeather Saga into the world. There was a release party for The Warden and the Wolf King at Parnassus Books in Nashville and the place was jam-packed with people of all ages, many of whom were dressed up as characters from the books. There were Flabbits, and Sara Cobblers, and Florid Swords, and Podos, and Rockroaches, not to mention Toothy Cows. Oskar Nos Reteep even made an appearance and made wild claims in his mad attempts to cast doubt on the true authorship of the Wingfeather books. If he and Andrew ever meet in person, I expect there will be fireworks.
The Warden and the Wolf King is now available wherever great books are sold. Look for Pembrick’s Creaturepedia, hardback editions of The Monster in the Hollows, and full-color maps of Aerwiar to be available soon.
Rebecca Reynolds wrote a couple of remarkable poems last week, and nothing I say about them is going to be as useful as simply going and reading them. You should do that now. Great job, Rebecca. Click here for “Glory Be (I)” and here for “Glory Be (II).”
The newly wed Chris and Jen Yokel have been moving into a new apartment and making it their own, and in Chris’s latest Rabbit Room post he discovers the poetry inherent in the everyday work of bringing color, shape, light, and life into an empty space and making it a home. Click here to read “The Making of a Home.”
Barbara Lane recently took a sabbatical at a monastery in New Mexico, and while there, she found herself pulling up weeds, both literal and metaphorical. In her post, “Gonna Take a While…” she learns that a fruitful garden isn’t grown in a day.
Matt Conner flexed his music journalism muscles this week and nailed an interview with none other than the Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz. They talked about the Crows’ new album (coming out in September) and the unique sense of hope in one of the new songs, “Possibility Days.” We also learned that Adam is a fan of Sunday in the Park with George, which is kind of awesome. Read the entire interview here.
And yesterday, Lanier Ivester posted a recollection of her experience with the first Hutchmoot and how that has in many ways shaped her perception of what it means to be an artist. The post is called “Waiting for the Artist” and you can read it here.
And speaking of Hutchmoot, look for an announcement about our special guest speaker next week. We think you’ll be pleased.
At Hutchmoot 2012, one of the most memorable parts of the weekend was Stephen Trafton’s one-man performance of Encountering Philippians (yep, that’s Jennifer Trafton’s Broadway-veteran brother). His Living Letters series is a project that Stephen has developed over the last few years that’s designed to bring Scripture to life in a way that audiences almost certainly haven’t experienced before. It’s a dramatic performance, a piece of genuine theatre, and it casts you, yes you, in the role of a first-century Christian hearing for the first time a letter that Paul has addressed directly to your local church family. Stephen sets the scene, introduces the characters, and delivers Paul’s letter in one seamless performance.
Speaking personally, it’s a powerful experience. When Stephen first told me about the show, I admit I was skeptical. I thought it sounded a little Sunday-schoolish. But boy was I wrong. Hearing and seeing Paul’s letter delivered (in a way very like it might have been to the first-century Philippians) moved me in the best ways; it shifted my perspective on the text enough to let me see in it new colors, new angles, new life. I think it’s kind of like poetry—it’s one thing on the page, read silently in your head, but often quite another when it’s made vocal and visual, enacted bodily. It makes for great theater, as well as great Bible-study.
Since that memorable performance at Hutchmoot, Stephen has performed Encountering Philippians for thousands of people all over the country, and now he’s developed a new show centered on another of Paul’s letters. On Monday night, August 4th, at the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, you’re invited to join us for his performance of Encountering Colossians.
The show will run about an hour and I’m pretty sure Stephen will hang around afterward to talk with folks and answer questions. Hope to see a lot of you there. There’s no admission fee, but we will take up a love offering for Stephen after the show. Spread the word. Bring a friend or a fellow Rabbit. It’s going to be a fun night.
When: August 4th @ 7pm
Where: Church of the Redeemer, 920 Caldwell Lane, Nashville 37204
Admission is free
Last year, Chris Slaten (Son of Laughter) delivered a roundhouse kick to my brain with his EP The Mantis and the Moon, and I’m pretty sure his performance at Hutchmoot brought a full Van Damme down on quite a few other brains as well. Since then he’s been all over the country playing house shows and raising money to record his first full-length record (for which he’s already written all the songs).
Part of our vision for North Wind Manor is that it be a unique house-show venue, and we’ve asked Son of Laughter to be our inaugural guinea pig. With that in mind, we’ve been working hard to get the house and grounds in order. Rooms to paint, weeds to pull, air conditioning to install, flowers to plant, screen doors to fix—the list is enough to make me tired just thinking about it. But we’re looking forward to having a big group of all of you out next Friday night to put the place through its paces.
Tickets are just $5 (free to Rabbit Room members) and we’re limiting the show to 40 people. We also ask that you bring a snack or side dish to share. We’ll provide the drinks. The event begins at 7:30pm and you’re welcome to stick around and enjoy fellowship with friends after the show. We will also be taking donations for Chris, which will go toward funding his new record.
We think you’re in for a real treat. Here’s what another house show host had to say:
“Chris Slaten’s songs . . . reminded us of longings and hurts and loves we had not known how to voice . . . He provided for us a space and a common language in which to reveal our lives to one another.” —Dr. Tim Basselin, Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Worship – Dallas Theological Seminary
And here’s a taste of Son of Laughter’s particular genius in the form of a song from the current EP, The Mantis and the Moon. It’s called “The Fiddler” and . . . well . . . just listen.
Click here for tickets. We’ll see you at the door.
[Note: If you aren’t able to make the show at the North Wind, Chris has another show the following night at the Riverside Assembly Hall, also in Nashville. Click here for more information on that show.]
It took us a little longer than expected to get the new mugs sent out to all of our members, but they are finally in the mail. Here’s a look at the new design and color (the brown actually has a bit of a purple fleck in it which is hard to capture on camera). These are available exclusively through Rabbit Room membership (which you can find out about here).
First things first: Happy birthday to my wife! She’s an amazing thinker and writer, a beautiful woman, and a wonderful person to share life with. Yes, I know that sentence ended in a preposition, but “with which to share life” is just too cumbersome—she’s also a great editor. Happy birthday, babe. I’ll buy you some baby chickens later today.
Now, on to business…
All pre-orders for The Warden and the Wolf King have shipped and should be showing up in your mailboxes any time now. We’ve got a huge load of orders that have come in since the unofficial release on Tuesday and we’re working to get all caught up on those by the end of the day today. So hold tight, readers, we’re working as fast as we can.
We haven’t had a recap in a couple of weeks so I’m going to cover a lot in this post. The biggest news is that the Rabbit Room has moved its physical location. We were sad to leave Baja Burrito (our former neighbor) behind, but we’re super excited that the office is now located at our new property, which we’ve named North Wind Manor (I’m sure any George MacDonald fan can illuminate the etymology of that name for you). We’ve got a lot of hopes and dreams for this old place and it won’t be long until we’ll be inviting you out for our first Rabbit Room event in the new place. More on that in the next week. Andrew wrote a post about how we ended up here and you can read that for more details.
Rebecca Reynolds wrote a fantastic piece called “Providence” in which she digs into her childhood memories to recall her grandparents. Rebecca’s writing is always a joy to read and this essay is an exceptional example. She’s got a great eye for telling detail. Read the post here.
Melanie Penn released a new album a couple of weeks ago and if you’ve heard it, you’re probably in love with it. Melanie stopped by the Rabbit Room with a post about one of her favorite songs from the record. The song is called “Before a Fall” and you can listen to it by clicking the play button below. Pick up the record in the Rabbit Room store.
If you’re heading to the movies, Thomas McKenzie has a couple of recommendations. Click here to check out his One Minute Reviews of The Edge of Tomorrow and X-men: Days of Future Past. Hint: they are both pretty darn great, and it’s hard to go wrong with Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, and Emily Blount.
In a post called “A Difficult Generosity,” Sarah Clarkson ruminates on the the nature of art and creativity and the way in which we approach our gifts. Good reading. Excerpt: “. . . the artists and storytellers and makers of song offer the inner vision they have known as a sign of hope to the hungering world. They invite us into the sacred, inmost rooms of their minds and let us stand at the windows of their own imaginations where we glimpse, ah, wonders we might never have dreamed alone.”
Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible is out the gate and currently taking the world by storm, and now the Slugs & Bugs: The Videos Vol. 1 DVD is joining it. The DVD features a whopping 17 animated videos of Slugs & Bugs songs like “Tractor Tractor,” “Bears,” “Mexican Rhapsody,” and “Who’s Got the Ball,” from the entire Slugs & Bugs library and is available now in the Rabbit Room store.
Last week, Andrew, John & Janna Barber, Matt Conner, Arthur Alligood, Andy & Alison Osenga, myself, and about 2500 of our Nashville neighbors got to see Toad the Wet Sprocket and the Counting Crows at the Ryman Auditorium. The show was one of my person bucket-list items and the bands did not disappoint. Toad has been a huge influence on Andrew and his music and he tells us why in his post “Toad the Wet Sprocket: An Appreciation”—which Toad retweeted a couple of times, sending it spiraling across the entire internet. Awesome.
Anyone who’s worked as a substitute teacher should have an almost unlimited number of stories to tell. Barbara Lane is no exception, but she’s got more than just a story, she’s got a great essay on the power and importance of stories and words themselves. It’s called “Every Life’s Telling” and here’s an excerpt: “To articulate and share our own stories, to encourage and receive the stories of others—this is vital to our sense of self, of community, and of belonging. Simply and emphatically put: Your story matters.”
The Warden and the Wolf King doesn’t go into wide release until July 22nd, but we’ve decided to make it available now in the Rabbit Room store. Maps, Creaturepedias, and other goodies from the Kickstarter campaign will be available soon. “Prepare to have your heart stirred by Peterson’s bittersweet and sweeping finish to the Wingfeather Saga.” -N. D. Wilson
And finally, Lanier Ivester has poked her head up once again and delivered another piece of stunning poetry called “Sonnet II.” Isn’t she awesome? Yes, yes she is. Just wait until you read the ghost story she’s writing for this year’s issue of The Molehill.
Well, we’ve got a couple of hundred more orders to pack and ship (and I’ve got to get to the doctor for a steroid shot to save me from poison ivy), so have a great weekend. We’ll see you on Monday.
[If this post is rife with typos, I apologize, but I’m about to be late for my doctor’s appointment!]
To date, we’ve shipped out 1496 boxes of Wingfeather books to Kickstarter backers. We’re all a little tired and stiff (including Mike, our local postman), but we’ve still got 713 to go before we’re done. If you didn’t back the project on Kickstarter, you may be pleased to know that The Warden and the Wolf King is now available for pre-order in the Rabbit Room store. We’ll start shipping pre-orders on June 24th, so you’ll have it a month before it’s available anywhere else. Once we finish up with Kickstarter rewards, we also expect to have a few spare maps, Creaturepedias, Monster in the Hollows hardbacks, and signed/numbered art prints, which we’ll make available once we have a solid inventory of what’s left. Here’s what’s going on elsewhere in the Rabbit Room:
David Bruno looked in the rearview and discovered he was the target of the maniacal road rage festering in the car behind him. What he did to incur the wrath aimed his way is still a “Mystery Unsolved”—but we suspect it was either Barbara Lane or Rebecca Reynolds.
Melanie Penn’s Wake Up Love is still one of our favorites. Her second album “Hope Tonight” was released this Tuesday—and there was much rejoicing. Ben Shive once again produces, and once again outdoes himself. The record is beautiful, unique, and perfect for the great weather we’ve been having. Here’s the title track. Check out the rest in the store.
Sam Smith’s kids have been in Jennifer Trafton’s online writing class for the past six weeks and have loved the experience. (Full disclosure: Jennifer is my wife.) On Wednesday, Sam took the time to discuss some of his observations of the class, and he commends it highly (he was neither paid nor asked for said commendation). Enrollment for Jennifer’s fall classes will open sometime in the next couple of months.
Warden and the Wolf King illustrator Joe Sutphin has launched a contest called “Create Your Own Cloven.” Don’t know what a “cloven” is? Better grab the first book of the Wingfeather Saga and catch up. Contestants are invited to illustrate their own creations and submit them via Instagram. Three winners will receive a copy of The Warden and the Wolf King signed by Andrew, and doodled in (and signed) by Joe. And take heart, judging will not be based only on skill alone. Both kids and adults are welcome to enter. The deadline for entries is June 20th. Have fun!
Speaking of online writing classes, Jonathan Rogers will be hosting his own creative writing class this summer based on last years Hutchmoot session, “Writing Close to the Earth.” I expect Jonathan will pop up next week with some more information about the course.
There’s still time to grab a ticket for Blackbird Theater’s new original play based on John Updike’s novel, Roger’s Version. Don’t miss this great chance for a challenging and thought-provoking evening at the theater. Admission is free to Rabbit Room members, and, by this special invitation only, is just $5 for non-members. This special price is only for the private performance on May 29th. We’ll see you there.
If you recall the epic awesomeness of the Light for the Lost Boy tour, you’ll remember that half of that awesomeness was thanks to the band Caleb, who backed Andrew for the tour. The band has changed its name to Colony House and is just about ready to spring their new album on the world. They just released a video what I assume is the first single. Beware, you’ll have a hard time getting this one out of your head once you’ve heard it. Here’s the video.
As of yesterday, there’s a new Tolkien book in the world. Tolkien was one of the 20th century’s most knowledgable scholars on the Old English epic Beowulf, and Tolkien’s own translation of the tale is finally available in print. The book contains Toller’s (prose) translation of the poem along with commentary and a couple of other previously unpublished works, “Sellic Spell” and “The Lay of Beowulf.” The book is a beautiful hardback and is now available in the Rabbit Room store.
And finally, here’s Thomas with his review of the new Spiderman movie.
In the past few years we’ve developed a great relationship with Nashville’s Blackbird Theater. They first invited the Rabbit Room audience to their production of G. K. Chesterton’s Magic, then Greg Greene and Wes Driver (the creative team behind Blackbird) led a theater session at Hutchmoot, and following that they’ve invited us to other productions like Amadeus, Red, Oleanna, and Man and Superman—all plays that reckon with powerful ideas and perspectives on art, faith, ethics, and philosophy.
This year, John Updike’s estate gave Wes permission to develop one of his favorite Updike novels, Roger’s Version, for the stage. That’s a great opportunity for Wes, and I’m super excited that Blackbird has invited the Rabbit Room audience into their theater once again.
The show officially opens on May 30th, but you (yes you, Dear Reader) are invited to a special invitation-only performance on Thursday, May 29th. Better yet, the show is free to Rabbit Room members (click here if you’re not yet a member), and only $5 to non-members. The only caveat is to be aware that it’s a show intended for adults; it contains some strong language and adult situations (no nudity)—solidly PG-13.
If you’re like me, you may not know much about John Updike or his novel, but I sat down with Greg and Wes a couple of weeks ago to talk about the production and it sounds like it’s right up my alley. Below is Wes’s director’s statement about the play, which will give you a good look at the ideas and themes he’s tackling. As I’ve come to expect from Blackbird’s productions, the show should provoke thought, ask big questions, and leave me pondering the performance long after the lights have dimmed.
We’ll be there, and I hope you will be too. Click here for tickets (no need to buy a ticket if you’re a Rabbit Room member—your name will be on the guest list.)
“There are plenty of stories that entertain you. Fewer that genuinely move you. And then there are those very rare ones that, for some reason or other, cut you to the core—or seemingly raid your psyche—expressing your most deeply felt passions and perspectives. The characters are so vivid, you feel like you know them. Intimately. Because, truth be told, they seem to be reflections and extensions of yourself. That’s what Roger’s Version is to me.
Roger’s Version is one of John Updike’s lesser known novels, though no less acclaimed. Renowned more in religious circles than literary, it’s a fierce battle between beliefs, a theological bloodbath. And when I first read it—more than ten years ago now—I wanted to put the thing on stage. Updike’s works are not known for making easy transitions to other media, but so much of this book already played like great drama: the frank unflinching dialogue, the fiery ideological conflicts. To me, it cried out to be staged, to be incarnated. What a privilege that the Updike estate has let me do just that.
It’s an idea-rich, character-driven drama, where Christian history meets modern technology. Where science and religion butt heads and bare teeth—in such surprising ways, too: science is represented by a zealous believer; religion, by a less-than-pious divinity professor. A complex, intellectually demanding look at religious conviction, explored through the lives of damaged, desperate people. Simply put, it’s about faith and infidelity—and, despite conflicts (of beliefs and in our social affairs), that common quest for truth and meaning.” —Wes Driver, Director, Blackbird Theater
Yesterday, I saw someone on Facebook mention that they’d sent the final draft of their manuscript off to the publisher after having rewritten and revised it so much that they had come to hate it and could stand to look at it no longer.
I know that feeling.
When I sit down to write, one of two things happens. The first possibility is that I have a great idea, know exactly what I want to write and how I want to write it, and I bang it out in a whirl of clacking laptop keys. When I’m finished I triumphantly hammer down the save button and go away feeling satisfied with myself.
The second possibility is that I sit and stare at the screen for a while, eventually writing an awful sentence, then deleting it, then writing another but maybe deleting only half of it because the first part wasn’t quite as bad as the last, then staring at and loathing even that until I delete and rewrite it twelve more times. This continues for an hour or two until I’ve got a few hundred words cobbled together that I can no longer stand to look at. I close the laptop and walk away feeling a little sick and a lot like a complete hack.
To be fair, there’s a third possibility—a hybrid of the other two. I’ll have a great idea, and I’ll know exactly what I want to do with it, but when I sit down to write, nothing comes together.
The interesting thing, though, is what happens the next day.
First things first, I just got an email confirming that The Warden and the Wolf King has been shipped from the printer. That means that Monday afternoon we’ll be unloading thousands of books in the rain—which is bound to be just as fun as it sounds! Pembrick’s Creaturepedia is scheduled to ship either this afternoon or first thing on Monday morning. That means that if all goes as planned, we’ll begin shipping Kickstarter rewards next week! I can’t wait for you guys to see (and read) these books. Now, on to the weekly review . . .
Monday morning, Chris Yokel gave us a post that explores some of the themes at work in the Lego movie, like teamwork and creativity. Here’s an excerpt from “The Power of a Building Block”:
“We need the boring stability of the everyday, the organized structure of the plan. We need the wild, think-outside-the-box creativity of the charismatic individual. These things are not opposed to each other, but are designed to work in harmony The structure provides context for the artist, and the artist provides fresh meaning and perspective for the structure.” Read the post here.
Tuesday saw the long-awaited release of Jeremy Casella’s new album, Death in Reverse. The record was inspired by N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, and if that’s not enough to recommend it, the track below should do the trick nicely. The album is available in the Rabbit Room store.
“Letter to an Old Friend”
by Jeremy Casella
from Death in Reverse
Matt Conner was supposed to be working this week, but instead he was sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on strangers. The result is a post called “Coffee Shop Symphony” and, thankfully, it’s not as creepy as it sounds. In fact, it’s kind of beautiful. Read the post here, and be careful what you say if you’re sitting beside Matt at Starbucks.
And finally, in my ongoing mission to write a short story each month this year, I submit to you the latest of my Tales from an Unremembered Country. This one’s called “The Oracle of Philadelphia,” and it takes place mostly in the Arctic. There’s even a frozen shark, a whale, and a hypothermic polar bear. No lie. Read more about it here, and pick it up in the Rabbit Room store (PDF and ePub) or on your Kindle (or Kindle app) via Amazon—it should also be available in the iBookstore any time now. Oh, and you can click here to read a preview. Enjoy!