December 2011

Speaking Christian

Marcus J. Borg: Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How they Can be Restored (New York: Harper Collins, 2011)

Borg - Speaking Christian
I have read quite a few of Marcus Borg’s books, and I am tempted to describe this book as a “watered down” version of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Borg and I share some similar theological perspectives, and it is always good to read words with which I agree, but this book seems like a repetition of themes that Borg has explored in other books. He is accurate in his etymologies of words, but he doesn’t seem to make a very strong case for the use of his favorite definitions in our contemporary situation. He doesn’t always choose the most ancient meaning, nor does he spend much time reflecting on context. Furthermore, a book about Biblical words, it seems to me, deserves a bit more discussion of translation issues.

I think this book would be good for discussion groups and book clubs that haven’t spent much time exploring Borg. It is easy to read and his conclusions are clear. But for fans of serious theology, he has left us wishing for a bit more.

Hemingway's Boat

Paul Hendrickson: Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost 1934 - 1961 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011)

Hendrickson - Hemingway's Boat
Paul Hendrickson has created a dramatically well-researched picture of the life of Ernest Hemingway. He has brought in enough information on the extended - and complex - Hemingway family to give a picture of the tragedy that seemed to infuse this family. But he doesn’t stop with a tale of tragedy. He also celebrates the creative output of this remarkable writer and those who came to know him well.

When I started to read the book, I was disappointed that Hendrickson uses Hemingway’s fishing boat as a thematic focus, but he (Hendrickson) is clearly not a boat person. He seems confused about the difference between the transom and the stern. He calls the head a bathroom. He keeps referring to the “steering wheel.” He sees the flying bridge that was added to the boat as some sort of naval anomaly instead of a common feature.

Nonetheless, Hendrickson writes so well and has done his research so thoroughly that he captured my imagination and I dove right into the book. If you are a fan of Hemingway, this book might just help you understand more of this creative writer.