The Gift of Hope and Fear
I am done with grading for the semester and here to share some stuff I've been writing, reading, and listening to.
I wrote a piece about what it has been like to teach university during COVID called "The End of the World, One Year In: Notes from (Off) Campus." It's maybe the most personal thing I've published in years, but it felt good and necessary to write. It was published by Breaking Ground, which is a joint venture of Comment and Plough magazines that focuses on the pandemic moment, if you will, and "seeks to offer a creative lens borne out of two thousand years of Christian social thought and the witness it has inspired time and again."
Also, I turned in a draft of my new book, from which this newsletter gets its name: Dancing About Architecture is a Reasonable Thing to Do (current subtitle: Writing about Music, Meaning, and the Ineffable) to its editor. I don't think the book is quite finished yet, but this is a big step and means it will -- I hope -- come out before the end of 2021. It has mostly ended up being a collection of re-worked pieces written (some published, most not) over the last twenty years. I made a playlist of all the bands and artists mentioned in the book on Spotify if you want to listen.
I made a Christmas mix, which you can listen to at Mixcloud by clicking here. (I somehow can't embed it into this email.) The track list is below. Some highlights are "The Gift of Hope and Fear" by the truly fantastic shoegazey rock band Cush (the song's title alone feels right for a 2020 Christmas), "Christmastime is Here" by Jherek Bischoff from his album Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire Walk with Me which as you might guess is Christmas songs played in the style of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, and "The Darkest Night of the Year" by my friend and college classmate Zach Malm, the feel of which sort of inspired the idea to make the mix.
O Come O Come Emmanuel, Sufjan Stevens
O God of Earth and Altar, Seth Woods
Dead Sea, All Things Bright & Beautiful
All I Want for Christmas, David Bazan
Isaiah 35, The Opiate Mass
The Gift of Hope and Fear, Cush
Just Like Christmas, Low
Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth, David Bowie & Bing Crosby
Silent Night, Diane Burch with Bifrost Arts
Christmastime is Here, Jherek Bischoff
The Darkest Night of the Year, Zach Malm
Jubilee, Lee Bozeman
Christmas in Cobb County, Joe Christmas
Adeste Fideles, Los Granadians Del Espacio Exterior
I stumbled across the children's book A Prarie Boy's Winter at a used bookstore a few years ago and we've been reading it during the holidays since, but this year I started learning more about its author, the renowned (though apparently not so well-known anymore?) painter William Kurelek. I got his Christmas book A Northern Nativity: Christmas Dreams of a Prairie Boy from the library this year and was frankly blown away by it. He imagines the Holy Family seeking shelter in twenty different Canadian settings. It's personal, devotional, theological -- and, sadly, out of print. I plan to track down a used copy for next Christmas.
I'm just starting to read Kurelek's autobiography, which is mostly about his severe depression and subsequent conversion to Catholicism, and I'm fascinated by how his art ranges from pastoral to genuinely disturbing to religiously didactic. A really interesting artist, and one that may be of more interest during our current predicament, according to this piece published by the Globe & Mail earlier this year.
Happy reading, listening, and holidaying to you!