Tag Archives: father hunger

Book Review: A Landscape with Dragons


A Landscape with Dragons is about battlegrounds and books and battlegrounds that are books. In it Michael O’Brien offers a critique of contemporary children’s literature, with a goal of pushing parents to think seriously about the impact such reading can have on their children – for good or ill.

O’Brien is a smart and impeccably readable writer, and that makes it difficult not to respect his line of thought even when one disagrees with it. He’s also the author of Island of the World, one of the most marvelous storytelling triumphs I’ve ever seen. So while I’m busy reviewing Dragons, allow me to pause and strenuously recommend that you find a copy of Island somewhere. Experiencing that story will lend greater credibility to what the author has to say about stories here.

That said, I came away from Dragons with mixed feelings. Sometimes it was the pettiness of certain complaints; sometimes the line of argument just wasn’t very convincing. I’m not ready to concede, for example, that Jurassic Park is a manifesto for reptilian omniscience.

More troubling is O’Brien’s Roman Catholicism. He toots the popish horn rather loudly for my taste. (Being the iconographer that he is, I suppose such things are to be expected.) Case in point, there’s that awkward moment when he admonishes his readers about the perils of idolatry – and then urges them to invoke the intercession of the saints, the angels, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. For this Presbyterian, the irony was a bit much.

There is also his over-polite handling of the Universalism of George MacDonald. MacDonald was an exemplary writer and storyteller (see The Princess and the Goblin), but O’Brien’s appreciation for these qualities leads him to treat MacDonald’s stray theology with gloves that can only be described as alarmingly soft.

In sum? O’Brien urges us to be cautious in our reading habits, and to take our helpings of literary porridge with a grain of salt. We ought to do the same with him.

Having given that caveat, it must be said that I loved a great deal of what he has to say – above all, perhaps, his passionate reinforcement of a truth often acknowledged but infrequently acted upon: the minds of the young will not be left alone. Either we will see to them, or someone else will. This means war. This means tending the imagination, fortifying it to withstand the shock troops of paganism. As Douglas Wilson writes in Father Hunger,

If a Christian father does not teach his children that the dead are raised, someone else is going to teach them that the dead will do no such thing… Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum, and when Christian fathers leave a vacuum, someone or something else will in fact fill it.

And so it goes with the literature our children feed on. Lay off the super-sized pop cliches and faddish nothings. Real culture, the kind that reaches down and seizes beauty, goodness, and truth by its roots – this is essential. This is the choicest meat; this, the choicest wine. Why are we be satisfied with less?

“The imagination must be fed good food,” notes O’Brien, “or it will become the haunt of monsters.”

The Baloney On Your Theological Sandwich…

… also known as “full-time Christian work.” It’s not as healthy or holy as it looks.

Many glorious truths were recovered in the Reformation, and one of them was the doctrine of vocation. Unfortunately, this is part of our Protestant heritage that we have shamefully neglected, and have almost lost. One of the principal indications that we have lost this doctrine is that we nowadays speak easily and readily of ‘full-time Christian work,’ as though there were anything else for a Christian to do. The reestablishment of two ‘holiness’ layers of occupations in Christendom has been a terrible loss.

(Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger, p. 98)

On the Bookshelf XXIV


Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
The story of Pablo Escobar, head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel – and the sixteen-month manhunt that brought him down. If you’ve read any of Bowden’s other work (especially Black Hawk Down), you’ll know what I mean when I say this book is insane. No, really. It’s like a Tom Clancy novel… except that everything in it actually happened.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I was skimming through a collection of quotes from this book when I finally decided just to read it again. Funny how that works, isn’t it? And I’m rediscovering just how quotable Adams’s writing is. For instance: “If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”
Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson
“Most of our families are starving for fathers, even if Dad is around, and there’s a huge cost to our children and our society because of it.” Two chapters down and I am thoroughly impressed. But then, when it comes to Wilson, I usually am. $6.40 for a paperback copy is a steal.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour by Acker & Blacker
I’ve been a devoted follower of the podcast for over a year now. It is, for dead certain, the most hilarious thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. The graphic novel hasn’t charmed me quite as thoroughly yet. Sure, the artwork is lovely, and the writing is superb – but without the actors to give it voice, it simply isn’t the same. Maybe I’ll warm up to it in time. For now, it’s just okay.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?