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!
You may recall that I’m on a mission to write a short story each month this year. I started in February, and that story was released in March—The Timely Arrival of Barnabas Bead is available here. I know, I know, I’m already running behind, but the next one is finally ready to go. It was written in March and April and not a sentence of it came easy. Like squeezing blood from a stone, I tell you, but such is the work of writing.
This one’s called The Oracle of Philadelphia, and it revolves around an expedition into the Arctic Sea. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated with polar exploration. Annie Dillard’s “Expedition to the Pole” is one of my favorite essays of all time (it’s found in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk). Josh Ritter’s song “Another New World” has some of the most magical lyrics in this or any world, and, like a moth to a flame, I’m drawn to any book or documentary about the Shackleton expedition. Heck, I’ll even thrown in John Carpenter’s The Thing as a reference (that movie scared me to death when I was a kid). So consider this my humble entry into the hoary canon of polar literature. Hope you enjoy it, and I assure you, it’s much lighter fare than any of the aforementioned works.
Special thanks to Daniel Sorensen for providing an illustration for this month’s story. Check out his website. He’s a talented guy.
(Note: the observant reader may spot direct ties between this story and Fiddler’s Green.)
Big news! Not five minutes ago I confirmed our featured speaker for Hutchmoot 2014! We’ll make an official announcement soon, but I have no doubt that you guys are going to love her. Let the rampant speculation begin.
We also received a bunch of boxes this week filled with giant, full-color maps of Aerwiar. So for those keeping track, here’s what we’ve got so far: Monster in the Hollows hardback—check; Giant maps—check. Still to come: Pembrick’s Creaturepedia—delayed at the printer, expect them to ship next week; The Warden and the Wolf King hardback—delayed at the printer, expected to ship May 15th.
We’re really disappointed about the delays, but they are beyond our control. Unfortunately, this sets the Kickstarter shipments back a couple weeks. Don’t worry, though, we’ll start shipping you the books just as soon as we have them in hand.
Here’s what else is going on in the Rabbit Room this week.
Sitting down to create something out of nothing can be one of the most intimidating things in the world. Anyone who’s ever gone to the creative well and then gone back for more has experienced the fear that when they get there, it might just be empty. Andrew Peterson knows exactly what that fear is like. Time has given him some perspective, though, and he shares some of what he’s learned in a post called “Process: Starting from Scratch.”
If you’ve looked at many of Jamin Still’s paintings, one thing you’re sure to notice is that they tend to hint at larger stories lurking just beyond the frame. This week, Jamin explains why that is by taking a close look at one of his works and walking us through its development. Check out “Ellen and the Peacock, or ‘What If?'” for details.
In her essay “The Present Eternity,” Jen Rose reminds herself, and the rest of us, of the importance of the present moment, and how neglecting it can have eternal consequences. C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape shows up in a supporting role: “The humans live in time, but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”
And finally, 2014 Rabbit Room Memberships are now available. Membership is primarily a way to support the Rabbit Room and all the books, music, and events we create, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with some rewards. This year’s membership benefits include exclusive mugs, access to the 2013 Hutchmoot audio archive (nearly 18 hours of audio), store discounts, a free Molehill, and more. Thanks for your support. We love what we do and couldn’t do it without you.
People often ask how they can best support the Rabbit Room, the work we do, the content we create, and the people involved. The first and best answer is to support the authors and musicians we feature and the books we publish. By purchasing those works through the Rabbit Room store, you can be sure that the artist is receiving the lion’s share of the profit, and the rest helps offset the operating expense of the Rabbit Room itself.
Many people, however, have asked how they can contribute in a larger way, and that brings me to Rabbit Room membership.
I’m expecting a truck to pull up any minute and start unloading hardback editions of The Monster in the Hollows for Kickstarter backers. Maps and The Warden and the Wolf King should be here early next week and Pembrick’s Creaturepedia shortly thereafter. I’m not sure where we’re going to put all these books, but we’ll figure something out. Let me see if I can get this Friday recap done before the truck gets here.
Going back to Good Friday, I reposted one of my favorite passages from The Supper of the Lamb. If you haven’t read the book, then you must. My wife likes to say that if G. K. Chesterton and N. T. Wright got together to write a cookbook, this would be the result. And reading it during Holy Week is a traditional worth keeping . . . this passage especially.
Then on Saturday, Jen Rose and Chris Yokel showed up with some Lenten poetry. Chris wrote a trio of poems fittingly called a “Lenten Triology,” and Jen’s, “How it All Ends,” specifically commemorates Holy Saturday. Let the poets know what you think.
On Monday morning, David Bruno decided to put together the two most disparate subjects he could think of. The resulting post puts Wendell Berry and space travel together for the first time and asks you for your opinion. Check out “Garden Tomatoes and Rocket Ships” and join the discussion.
Andy Osenga’s life is changing in a big way. He’s turning in his guitar for a desk—okay, that’s just me being dramatic, but it’s also partly true. He broke the news this week in a piece called “New Beginning.” I know Andy’s really excited about this new direction in his career, and I can’t wait to see where it takes him. Read the full post for the scoop.
Matt Conner checked in with the Monday Music Update (he was late, and it almost became the Tuesday Music Update, which isn’t nearly as alliterative). Read the post for news about Don and Lori Chaffer (Waterdeep), Randall Goodgame (Slugs & Bugs), Andy Osenga (Stage-It show), Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive (covering Rich Mullins), and Chris Slaten (Son of Laughter).
On Wednesday, Barbara Lane delivered a post of, in this editor’s biased opinion, impeccable literary taste and insight. The piece,“Ink Between the Lines,” takes a look at one very real way that Barbara has turned pain into beauty in her life (and in her arm). Luci Shaw and Fin Button make welcome cameo appearances.
I think I heard a truck full of books pulling up outside, so I’ll leave you with a couple of songs that Ben Shive wrote and recorded for his church during Holy Week. Enjoy.
by Ben Shive
“Into Your Hands”
by Ben Shive
As I sit here and wait for a truckload of Thomas McKenzie’s book, The Anglican Way, to be delivered, let me recap the week.
On Monday, Heidi Johnston delivered a post called “The Pursuit of Community,” and it hit close to home for a lot of people, me included.
“Community is part of who we are. In its purest form it is a beautiful reflection of the intimate relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in whose image we are made. We have good reason to hope and long for it. The problem is that the practice of community can be a lot less romantic than the theory. The perfect ideal sits in tension with the fact of our brokenness so that life in relationship rarely works out the way we have pictured it.” Read the entire post here.
A couple of years ago at Hutchmoot, we asked for essay submissions. We got a lot of great entries, but Alyssa Ramsey’s stole the show. This week she’s here as a guest contributor with a beautiful post called “Tremble – A Lenten Reflection.” Take a few minutes this Good Friday and check it out.
I saw Noah on opening weekend and really enjoyed it, but I decided to put off a discussion of the film until the ugly firestorm of controversy died down. This week I posted my thoughts about the movie, and some good discussion has followed. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts as well. It’s definitely a thought-provoking film—and that’s a good thing. I’ll also commend to you this short video that was brought to my attention by Aaron Alford; I think it hits the nail on the head.
Yesterday, illustrator Joe Sutphin checked in with a behind-the-scenes look at his work on The Warden and the Wolf King. In the post (“How Andrew and I Introduced Each Other to a Boy Named Janner” —2014 recipient of the Longest Post Title Award), Joe discusses the approach he took to developing the appearance of one of the book’s main characters, Janner Igiby.
The Warden and the Wolf King is being printed as we speak, and it, along with all the other Kickstarter rewards, will be delivered to us here in Nashville in the next week or so. We hope to start shipping them out to all of you before the end of the month! We’ll soon be sending out a Kickstarter survey to collect shipping addresses.
This isn’t a movie review, I’ll leave that to Thomas, but I do want to talk about my impressions of the film and hopefully start some (civil) discussion. It’s undoubtedly a film that challenges expectations and a lot of the comments and reactions I’ve seen online tell me that there are some who aren’t sure what to do with those challenges. If you ask me what I do when a movie like Noah unsettles me, here’s my answer: think about it (calmly and rationally), and then talk about it (calmly and rationally).
To begin with, let me tell you I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The script has a few clunky spots and some things work better than others, but overall it’s fascinating and packed with good performances, rich visual storytelling, and complex human characters behaving in often surprising yet understandable ways. Yes, the Nephilim are giant stone “ents.” No, that doesn’t bother me—in fact it really excites me. Yes, the story goes some strange places that aren’t factual. No, that doesn’t bother me either, especially considering that the story remains biblically accurate in its essentials. The film certainly embellishes the tale in imaginative ways, but I consider that a good thing, especially because in doing so it raises some thought-provoking questions. In fact, as I sit here and ponder it, I can think of almost no other “biblical” film that has been this interesting, this thoughtful, or this artful (though that’s more a critique of “biblical” films than it is a praise of Noah).
In order to have a meaningful discussion, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie. If you haven’t, or if you’re on the fence, it’s definitely a movie to see in the theater (don’t wait for the DVD). I’ll also say that you should leave young kids at home; this isn’t your Sunday School Noah’s Ark story.
If you don’t want to know the details, now’s your chance to stop reading. As River Song would say: Spoilers!
First things first: Tomorrow morning at 11am, bring the family to Logos Bookstore in Nashville for the double-feature of Jonathan Rogers’ re-release party for the Wilderking Trilogy and a Slugs & Bugs sing-along with Randall Goodgame. Good times. Good folks. Hope to see some of you there.
Kicking off the week, Matt Conner brought the Monday Music Update. Click here to check out news from Ron Block (and Jeff Taylor and Rebecca Reynolds), Andrew Osenga, Rain for Roots (Ellie Holcomb, Flo Paris, Sandra McCracken, Katy Bowser), Waterdeep, and Ben Shive (and Kelly Rae Burton).
In addition to taking pictures of fine imbibables (pretty sure I made that word up, but it definitely needs to be a word) and doodling, Barbara Lane also teaches English as a second language. This week she wrote a post called “Wordlessly” in which she talks about the ability of words and stories to build bridges between people.
A while back, Doug McKelvey began a series of posts called “Subjects With Objects Unplugged,” in which he shares a behind-the-scenes look at his method of extracting meaning from (or possibly imparting meaning to) Jonathan Richter’s paintings. I LOVE these posts, and this latest one, in which he waxes eloquent on the nature of materialism, is one of my favorites.
Chris Stewart is the last of our new contributors to enter the Room. He’s an illustrator and a graphic designer (you may recognize his work from The Molehill covers or the Hutchmoot 2013 poster), and he debuted this week with a post about procrastination and the importance of trusting in the process of the creative act. But wait! It’s a double-whammy and turns out to be a great post about Easter and New Creation as well. Nicely done, Chris.
And finally, Jason Gray’s new record, Love Will Have the Final Word, was released a few weeks ago, and here he is with a short breakdown of the album, a look at how it came together, and a few other good words about the project.
Have a great weekend. We’ll see you tomorrow at Logos Bookstore.
The biggest news this week was the more or less instant sell-out of Hutchmoot 2014 tickets. Once again, we wish there was room for everyone who wants to come, but it just isn’t so. For those who snatched up a golden ticket, we’ll see you in October. For those who weren’t so lucky, you’re welcome to shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll add your name to the waiting list—and neither is that an empty hope; each year we’ve gone all the way through the waiting list trying to fill last minute vacancies. Here’s what else has been going on lately:
Eric Peters recently sat down with Barry Dunlap of the Twelve-Minute Muse to discuss music (including his new EP, Counting My Rings), books (including the Book Mole), painting, metaphor, inspiration, and a whole passel of other things (including LSU football). If you’ve got 12 minutes (or so) to spare, check it out here, or just hit play below.
Allow me to make a confession. I’ve never heard any of Gungor’s music. Chris Yokel has, though, and his post last week about their new film, Let There Be, sounds fascinating. I suppose I’m going to have to get out of the old folks’ home and go listen to some of that new music. We’ll see. Where’s my cane?
The cat-maligning Sam Smith poked his head out of the Story Warren with a few words of wisdom about introverts and . . . Star Trek. Can a bizarre Patrick Stewart meme be far behind? All joking aside, it’s a great post. Sam never ceases to amaze me with his ability to shine light on things and speak with gentle wisdom. If only he’d stop hiding all that good stuff behind his raging cat-hatred.
Ben Shive is working on lots of new projects these days, and one of them is a record from a young artist you probably haven’t heard of, Kelly Burton (check out her Kickstarter campaign here). I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Ben and Kelly working in the next room, and I’m really looking forward to the finished album. Ben wrote a great article this week about the processing of co-writing. If you’re a songwriter, or really an artist of any sort, and you’ve found yourself in the sometimes-awkward position of collaborator, this is definitely worth your time. Good stuff. Check out the link to listen to a rough cut of one of the tracks Ben co-wrote for Kelly’s record.
In cooperation with Rabbit Room Press, Jonathan Rogers has finally put his long out-of-print Wilderking Trilogy back into readers’ hands. The books look great and you can order them in the Rabbit Room store, or anywhere else great books are sold. In commemoration of the release, Andrew Peterson wrote a post this week about his introduction to Jonathan and his work. Read it here.
David Michael Bruno dropped in with a post called “Good Middle,” which happens to be great from beginning to end. He writes about relationships, both between each of us and between us and God, and illustrates the importance of making sure “there’s some good middle happening.” Strangely, the subject of jelly donuts is not addressed. Confused? Don’t be. Read his post.
And last, but definitely most, Andrew Osenga gave birth to a new EP this week. Heart is the first of his four-EP project, Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone. He wrote up a song-by-song analysis of the record for us and you can read it here, along with previews of each track. Good stuff. Thanks, Andy.
Andy Osenga kickstarted a project to record four EPs this year. He called the project Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone, and each EP is to feature a different style of music. Today marks the public release of the first of those EPs, Heart. What style is it? Heart. Okay, that’s not so helpful. How about we say it’s very much in the style of my favorite of his solo records, Photographs. Those of us who kickstarted the project have been listening to the new EP (and loving it) for a couple of weeks. Now let the rest of the masses join in. The EP is now available in the Rabbit Room store. Here’s a sneak preview.
“Out of Town”
by Andrew Osenga
Later this week we’ll have a song by song breakdown of the record straight from the horse’s mouth.
Hutchmoot 2014 will take place on October 9-12th, and tickets will go on sale next week. We’ll have more details in a couple of days, but I wanted to let everyone know in plenty of time. There are 140 tickets available and the price will be $295 per person. I can’t wait for you guys to see what we’ve got planned. It’s going to be a great year.
First of all, I want to point out that Andrew Osenga’s new EP went out to Kickstarter backers this week and I love it. Fantastic job, Andy! The EP, Heart, will be released to the public in the next couple of weeks and will be available here in the Rabbit Room store.
Lanier Ivester’s post on Monday, “Love Begets,” kind of shocked me with how good it was. I suppose I should have learned by now—if Lanier writes it, it’s going to be awesome. Go read it, and don’t be fooled, it’s about much more than her dog. “Fear is a taste of hell because it cuts us off from the ever-offered rest of God’s love. And fear cannot do one damn thing to avert the thing feared. Sorrow, on the other hand, is a kind friend, and when it comes, grace comes, too, and all the tender mercies of God.”
This week in the Monday Music Update: Chris Slaten (Son of Laughter) is taking a break from teaching and heading to the Northeast to mount a spring tour. Almost all of these dates are linked to Rabbit Room folks and it looks like a lot of them are shaping up to be “mini-moots.” Check out his tour schedule here to see if there’s a show in your area.
Also in the update: Jill Phillips began recording this week for her new album due out this fall, and Ron Block and Jeff Taylor are still hard at work recording their new album in collaboration with Rebecca Reynolds. Check out the complete music update here.
Dr. Rogers pulled another priceless anecdote out of his seemingly bottomless well of them. This one’s called “A Tricycle, A Leg Trap.” With a title like that, does it really even need a story? I’m not going to spoil anything, but every time I read one of these things, I thank God that there’s someone out there like Jonathan Rogers to write them down. This stuff is too good not to be true.
Barbara Lane made her Rabbit Room debut yesterday with a story about an encounter with a hitchhiker—which sounds like a set-up for a Jonathan Rogers anecdote but isn’t. The post is titled “Lend Me Your Eyes.” Read it and welcome Barbara to the Rabbit Room. We hope to hear much more from her in the months ahead.
My own project this year is to write a series of short stories, one each month. The process began in February and this week the first one is available. The series is called Tales of an Unremembered Country and maybe somewhere down the line I’ll explain that a little. But for now, I’m proud of this first tale called “The Timely Arrival of Barnabas Bead,” and I hope you enjoy it. It’s available as a PDF in the Rabbit Room store and on Amazon via Kindle (Amazon reviews are much appreciated!).
And finally, Ed Stetzer invited Thomas McKenzie onto his show, The Exchange, to talk about how Christians engage our culture through filmmaking and film-watching. It’s a great discussion that asks some hard questions. Check out the video below. Well done, Thomas.
This tale, “Timely Arrival of Barnabas Bead,” is about a hapless colonel and his long-suffering lieutenant, who are reassigned to a Confederate outpost in the Appalachian Mountains. The road they take to get to their new garrison, however, might just lead them somewhere else entirely. If you’ve read the Fiddler’s books, you may recognize some parts of the world in which this is set. I’ll leave it at that.
The story is available as a PDF in the Rabbit Room store (you can read a sample here), and in the Amazon store via Kindle (Amazon reviews are much appreciated!). This month’s tale includes an illustration by Jonny Jimison, and I hope to involve a variety of illustrators in these stories throughout the year. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll have another for you next month.