I have read the preface and the first chapter of My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman. I’m not terribly impressed with it so far. Like me, Wiman comes from a fundamentalist upbringing. He seems to be struggling to connect with Christianity. I find his struggles so far not that interesting.
I’m in an emotional space right now that questions banality and ill-informed approaches to both religion and the arts. I’ll probably read a few more chapters before giving up entirely on Wiman. Working for the church these days I find myself simultaneously admiring people who seem devout and committed and at the same time feeling disconnected from simple good-hearted understandings of Christianity.
Last night a few committed members braved the local very bad weather to come to choir rehearsal. We had a good one. Part of my struggle is to choose material that is edifying and also attractive both to those who perform it and those who might notice it in worship.
Yesterday as I was preparing several anthems for the rehearsal at the photocopy machine (legally), I was alone in the office with a parishioner who had come to count the collection from Sunday. He mentioned to me how much he appreciates some of the service music I have written for this community (“The Jenkins Jazz Mass”).
It was encouraging to hear him talk about how the music made sense to him and that he enjoyed singing it. It’s so difficult to strike this balance at a time when people’s tastes and education are so fragmented and unpredictable.
I also started reading Mendelsund’s What We See When We Read recently. I noticed it in a bookstore during the Christmas shopping and then managed to interlibrary-loan a copy despite the fact that it is a new book.
Mendelsund’s bio in the beginning of the book says that he “is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf, the art director of Pantheon books, and a recovering classical pianist.”
This book has definitely been designed by a designer.
It is a pleasure to hold and look at. I was surprised to find Mendelsund using books like To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and Madame Bovary by Flaubert. These are all books I have read and admired. Mendelsund is asking questions about how our minds work when we read.
Plus Chris Ware, one of my favorite graphic artists, gave him a blurb. What’s not to like?
Finally, a big thank you to Rhonda E. for bringing Eileen and me another Christmas gift of the book, tinkers by Paul Harding.
I haven’t started it yet, but this book also fits nicely in the hand and looks very interesting.