Posted by: Dan | August 6, 2010

July Books

Well, managed to finish off a few… not the ones I expected to finish (damn you, Barth!) but still a couple of good reads.

1. Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished by Brigitte Kahl.

This is an exceptional book.  Over the last half dozen years, I have spent an ever increasing amount of time following the discussion that has revolved around counter-imperial readings of Paul’s life and letters.  This recent contribution from Brigitte Kahl (published by Fortress Press in the excellent “Paul in Critical Contexts” series) is amongst the very best.  There are several things that make this an important work.

First, Kahl’s focus upon the letter to the Galatians is exciting because this letter tends to receive much less attention from those invested in counter-imperial readings of Paul and much more attention from those who are apathetic about or critical of those same readings (Justin K. Hardin’s important work on Galatians and the imperial cult is a significant exception here).  Thus, through her rigourous contextualization of Galatians, Kahl amply demonstrates how fully this epistle fits into the broader counter-imperial project of Paul (and some of his interpreters).

Second, Kahl engages in the necessary exegetical work required to sustain assertions that have been made by others regarding the central issue of Paul and the law.  Before her, scholars like Neil Elliott had tentatively asserted that Paul’s assault on the law was an attack against the Roman law (and not the Jewish law).  Similarly, Theodore Jennings had made this argument about Paul and the law in general while reading Paul in relation to Derrida.  However, Elliott never really backed up his claims, and Jennings wrote in a way that may convince philosophers but was likely to leave biblical scholars, or the wider Christian audience, saying “prove it [based on the texts]!”  Well, this is precisely what Kahl does.  Better than any other, Kahl demonstrates the total opposition of Paul’s gospel to the law and order of Rome.

But, really, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  This book is exciting and full of insight about the context of the Galatians, the ideology of Rome, and the (embodied) theology of Paul.  If you read one book about Paul this year, read this one.

For another glowing review, published in the Review of Biblical Literature, see here.

2. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez.

I loved everything about this book except the beginning and the end.  The beginning was very well written, and drew me into the story but it creates a plot thread that is never resolved.  It’s almost as if Márquez began by writing about one character, got interested in the others and forgot about the first.  But this is more of a minor quibble.  The same goes for my thoughts on the ending.  I thought it was too happy of an ending and didn’t do justice to the wonderful path Márquez explored between joy and sorrow, love and loss, life and death, throughout the rest of the book.

That said, Márquez writes like a poet (and like one of the very few poets whom I enjoy reading).  He does a fine job of speaking about love in a way that captures its beauty and glory, without losing track of the realities of daily life and the multitude of disappointments we experience (in relation to ourselves and our lovers).  Recommended reading.

3. Kleinzeit by Russel Hoban.

I am writing a lengthier post responding to this book as a part of a discussion group over at AUFS so if anybody is interested in my thoughts, you can follow the discussion there.  In short: a decent enough book, but written in a style I struggle to appreciate.  Probably a lot more fun to write than to read.

4. John Dies at the End by David Wong.

Still searching for something well-written within the horror genre, I noticed that John Dies at the End was billed as a mixture of Douglas Adams and Stephen King.  It was also said to be a genuinely scary book.  Oh, and I liked the title… thought it had potential and all that.

Unfortunately, while it is comparable to King (who has a good imagination but writes very poorly), it did not remind me of anything close to what Douglas Adams wrote (specifically, the “trilogy in five parts” which I enjoyed quite a bit back in the day).  Furthermore, the book wasn’t scary.  Actually, I’m beginning to wonder if horror novels can ever be scary, after a person has been exposed to horror films.  Some writing, like this article on Monsanto, can be very scary but that’s a different sort of scary than the effect that horror is supposed to create.  Oh, and the title is a damn lie.  Sorry to spoil things, folks, but John does not die at the end.  Wong decides that he wants to make a sequel/brand/series/more money out of this venture, so John is very much alive and well at the end of this book.

Anyway, I think I’m going to give up on this genre for now.  Maybe I’ll try to flirt with it again at some point down the road, but for now I’ve got some other titles calling my name.

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Responses

  1. Hi Dan, Kahl’s book sounds exciting – to your knowledge is there(/does she make a case for) any support in the early church fathers for her proposition?


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