Monday, November 24, 2008

my new book!

hey, everyone, i edited my first ever book! you can (please) buy it here or ask buy it directly from me.

and to add to the thrill of having a book published, image journal featured our book in their newsletter. whoohooo!

check it out:

Remembering the Future, edited by Chris Keller and Andrew David
Remembering the Future, edited by Chris Keller and Andrew David

Remembering the Future is a selection of works published in the last three years by The Other Journal, an online journal at the intersection of theology and culture. Included in the anthology are poems by the likes of Luci Shaw, Marjorie Maddox, and Paul Willis, interviews of contemporary thinkers such as Lauren Winner, Brian McLaren, and Charles Marsh, and essays on everything from genocide to pop music (including a piece by music writer and former Image intern Joel Hartse). The anthology charts a course across human transgression—poverty, rape, violence, genocide—into the iconography of contemporary culture—Borat, Britney Spears, reproductive technology, the ONE campaign. The book will naturally appeal to readers with a theological bent, but it does not remain in the realm of mere ideas. Rather, its contributors are interested in the ways that theology is incarnated in real life, here and now—in family and community; in politics, economics, and education; in works of social justice; and in art, literature, and music. In the preface, the editors articulate their vision that “authentic, redemptive Christian practice requires double-vision, that is, thoughtful engagement with both the biblical tradition and the cultural moment.” From a broad spectrum of creativity and theology, this anthology encourages us to rethink our comfortable paradigms in light of such thoughtful engagement. The contributors, including voices from the emergent church and the evangelical, Catholic, and mainline traditions, are not always in agreement with each other, and many of the pieces are provocative—a testimony to the diversity of perspective that The Other Journal values. The opening poem by Luci Shaw, “A Few Suggestions for an Insubordinate Idea,” sets the tone for the whole book, which seeks to goad and stir, to “fling / a glitter of ash over the ocean, pocking it like rain. / Ignite a burning bush. Transfix the universe. Then,”—and here’s the beauty of what Remembering the Future does—“having found a mind of your own, come home. / Burrow my brain. Be one of a neuron couplet / that breeds a host of your own kind.”

Click here to buy the book.

Friday, November 14, 2008

if i were discussing this book: the shipping news

the shipping news deserves a high rating; perhaps a 14 or 15 on the 17 point scale. unfortunately, i moved on to the next book before really gathering my thoughts, and so the the authentic-seeming wacky characters (with names like quoyle and wavey) have faded into the thick newfoundland fog where i last left them.

still, if i were to scratch out an essay from the cobwebbed corners of my mind, i think i might approach the novel from the perspective of an editor. (quite a shock, eh!) as i recall, annie proulx's style is somewhat unconventional: she somehow gets away with fragments. sentence shreds. and her characters, the madcap way they talk on and on about knots and the hulls of frigates--pages and pages of dialect about nothing, about nothing but getting to know the characters themselves. anyway, i think i'd try to articulate how this works and doesn't work; i'd try to understand whether this unique writing style somehow reflects the themes of
the shipping news or whether it's a way of speaking that proulx carries with her everywhere she goes; and then i'd recommend the book, because, well, it's really quite good.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

i don't like the sound of this

according to this AP report, president-elect obama plans to blast into office with a series of executive orders.

on the surface, the proposed executive orders represent a new direction for the country. if you're in favor of lifting limits on stem cell research or if you cringed at the "drill, baby, drill" chants of the republican convention, you should be happy.

i'm afraid that obama's mandate for change may result in a continuation of other bush doctrines, specifically the unfettered increase of executive powers. of course, it may be that this is the usual political territory for a new president and obama will represent a less power-hungry force in the oval office, but i'm not convinced.

in other news, i loved
obama's pseudoseriousness at his first press conference this week. when a reporter asked him a wacky question about the new puppy he promised his daughters for being such good sports about the campaign, obama played it straight. he calmly described the pros and cons for various dog breeds as if he were weighing whether or not to invade afghanistan.

Friday, November 07, 2008

vocab (mccarthy style from the back page)

today a facebook friend told me that he loves jane eyre because of charlotte bronte's interesting use of punctuation. and then, in a seemingly unrelated incident, another friend commented on the story that i wrote about my encounter with a man and his paradox finding device. not to gloat, but she gave me a very big compliment on the piece; she wrote, "Andrew I love this! And, by the way, you sound like...cormac mccarthy. I'm serious." i was feeling very happy, but then i remembered that this particular 17 point scale fan didn't enjoy reading cormac mccarthy. hmm...

anyway, it just so happens that i have a post that i've been meaning to publish on punctuation and cormac mccarthy, and the conversion of these two incidents seems like the sign that i've been waiting for. it is time.

over the course of my blogging career i've written several entries under the heading of "back page." these were blog posts that borrowed their text from the postscripts of occasional wisdom and much long-winded, overblown verbosity that i scribbled in the back pages of the novels that i recently finished reading. although i like the idea of the "back page" posts, i have since stopped writing in my novels, which makes the simple transcription from book to internet nearly impossible. thus, i am phasing out the "back page" posts and using this post as something of a transition...

THE BORDER TRILOGY, books 1 and 2

all the pretty horses
by cormac mccarthy
the crossing by cormac mccarthy

critical accolades:
all the pretty horses won the national book award and the national book critics circle award.

less official acclaim:
greg wolfe, editor of image, has repeatedly described cormac mccarthy as one of the greatest american writers, and the crossing as cormac's greatest novel.

the 17 point scale concurs:
these are my favorite books of 2007, and cormac mcarthy is my favorite author of 2006 and 2007. he is the master of the dark, thoughtful novel of hope. his characters occupy a strange space between passion and stoicism, and his landscapes are quietly authentic.

but i'll spare you a mccarthy lovefest. instead, i'll bludgeon you with another andrew favorite, grammar.

as i was reminding myself about the plots of all the pretty horses and the crossing, i stumbled upon a new word: polysyndeton.

yes, apparently, cormac writes using polysyndeton. i knew this, i've just never put a name to it. he writes of a man walking and stooping and brushing the blood from a horse's hoof. cormac is stylistically spare--he shuns question marks, semicolons, and the ever-helpful quotation mark--but in my attempt at cormacian polysyndeton, you'll note a superfluous and. that's because polysyndeton is the deliberate use of several unnecessary conjunctions in close succession. i've called it the literary and but polysyndeton is probably a more universal term. in any case, passages like this are the bread and butter of mccarthy. they subtly slow down the text and thereby help communicate a sense of quiet. they also a have a distinctly biblical feel.

if you're not mccarthy, you probably write using syndeton or a single conjunction.

or perhaps you're crazy. perhaps you write using asyndeton, that is, the deliberate omission of conjunctions altogether. you know, little jewels like: i came, i saw, i blogged.

(and then i stopped blogging for several months because i was so busy working for that great shining star of online awesomeness,
the other journal.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

election 2008, andrew, and a curious device, part ii

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST (wherein andrew describes his encounter with the paradox finding device)

later, as we sat in the kitchen alcove of beth’s house sipping hot chocolate, the man pointed to a series of digits on a print-out. “now, see this? everywhere you see a string of numbers like this—three-eight-eight, oh-two-seven—that represents a potential metaphysical inconsistency.”

i considered 388 027. the number had no obvious significance, no sign of a pattern or mathematical errancy, nothing for the likes of an english major.

the man danced a practiced finger from row to row as he scanned the digits. he grunted occasionally, belched loudly when his finger stopped below a series of seven 9s, but otherwise seemed entirely absorbed in this gypsy math.

then, from behind the curtains i heard the now familiar hum of the paradox finding device. strange that i hadn’t noticed it before, i thought. then the curtain moved—i hadn’t seen the device move before, just the noise and lights. the curtains jiggled again. perhaps i’d found the paradox motherload.

april’s cat stepped out from behind the curtain, eyed me curiously, and turned back into the long fabric.

“hi, josie,” i said. “what do you have back there?”

i could now make out her figure behind the curtain, nipping at what must be the paradox finding device.

josie, leave that alone.”

leaving the man to his cryptic pages of digits, i walked into the kitchen. the counters were mostly bare. a spicy curry-like substance stewed quietly on the stove. next to the wine rack i spotted the bright blue spray bottle.

josie!” i called, “you better leave that thing alone.” grabbing the half-full bottle, i returned to the alcove. the cat had batted the strange device into the middle of the room. she pawed at it in what seemed regular intervals.

“are you planning to spray that cat?” asked the man. he was staring at me now.

“maybe,” i lied.

“of course—well, don’t bother. come; sit, sit. there’s interesting stuff here, but i think that all we have time for are these twenty or so pages.” he was pointing to a stack of pages he’d labeled “election 2008.”

“this is amazing stuff. you score a seventeen!”

“is that good?”

“well, it’s a true paradox, that’s for certain.”

“oh, OK.”

“see, look here. these numbers suggest that on both a global and a micro level you hold views that are paradoxical.”

“what do you mean?”

“for starters, you genuinely believe that barack obama is the moral choice for president, and the immoral choice for president, and that there is no moral choice for president. and you believe that mccain is in many ways the best that the republican party has to offer, but don’t expect to give him your vote—”

“i follow you, but you’ve got to give me some credit for consistently thinking that sarah palin is a loon.”

the cat had abandoned the paradox device and was purposefully walking about the room.

“meow,” she said.

“hmm. perhaps. nonetheless, you believe that capitalism, democracy, and the protestant work ethic are keys to the continued success of the united states, that distributism and quasi-socialism are keys to the ensuring equality of man, and that these systems are all myths, half-truths to make us feel that we can build sustainable society.”

“right, i see where you’re going with this. i’m stuck with these non-negotiables—we must have the freedom to earn our own keep, control our destinies, and live our lives without the interference of a malignant bureaucracy, yet the very system that allows such american dreams seems set up to propagate inequality, poverty, and poor health care. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. and although many churches and social programs successfully address these needs, others create generational patterns of welfare.”

“oooh, boy,” he cried, looking down at the print-out, “and we haven’t even mentioned the abortion issue.”

i couldn't resist the bait. “i buy the arguments of websites like, which describe how obama’s emphasis on decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies through education, birth control, and condoms will have a greater impact on the number of aborted babies than any policy of mccain’s. and i hate how the republican party has co-opted this issue as the one way to keep evangelicals in their electoral camp. but i’m going to have trouble voting for a candidate that supports increased access to abortion.”

“you don’t even need me!” he flipped to another page. what about your so called objectivism?”

“what do you mean? i’m a model of objectivity. after all, i’m an ISTP.”

“then how is it that you are so swayed by the call for change, by smooth talking, amazing speeches, and funny jokes? why do you esteem the underdogs and challengers over the seemingly capable incumbents? and why do you allow personal grudges—i.e., the lack of response to your supersonics pleas—to impact your vote? and for that matter, why do you so prize objectivity? ”

i stared at the man, dumbfounded. i looked at the pacing cat, at the hanging drapes, at the curious buzzing device on the floor. “i don't know. what’s the answer?” i asked.

he ran a hand through his hair, shuffled the papers into a yellow attaché case, and stooped down to pick up the device. the cat meowed once, twice, and a third time. with tired eyes he looked at me and then back at the cat.

“she says that you are the answer.”

Sunday, November 02, 2008

election 2008, andrew, and a curious device

“the device is used to spot paradoxes,” explained the man as he slapped it against his thigh. “if there is a paradox, these lights here, here, and here will blink swampy moss green, night-shade eggplant purple, and laundry blue.”

“and—those are colors?” i asked.

“yes, the colors of paradox.”

he pushed his chair back and walked toward me. the device dangled in his hand like a strangled bunch of metallic carrots. it whirred and hummed against his side.

“show me again,” i said.

he nodded, gave the awkward device three quick shakes, and dropped it to the floor—not a sign of flashing lights. the device purred but remained inert.

“but first can i touch it?”

nodding, he reached down and grabbed the device by what looked curiously like a stem. he offered it to me.

“don’t worry it won’t bite,” he chuckled.

it didn’t bite, but it kept buzzing. i carefully examined the contraption, testing its weight in my palm, listening for the source of that noise, turning it to explore its edges, grooves, and nubs.

i handed it back to him.

“OK. i suppose i’m ready.”

again, three shakes, and then he tossed me the device. nothing happened. it murmured in my hands just as it had a moment earlier on the floor of beth’s living room and when slapped against the man’s thigh. and then, it suddenly lit up. a carnival of greens, purples, and blues flashed through my fingers.

“a paradox!” shouted the man.

CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST (wherein the mysterious paradoxes are unraveled)