Reviewed Elsewhere [Vol. 2, #4]

January 23, 2009


The Other Journal interviews Vinoth Ramachandra

The Other Journal (TOJ): Dr. Ramachandra, it is an honor to talk with you about your recent book Subverting Global Myths and about how your work might help us understand faithfulness in the current biopolitical landscape.


I want to start off with a basic question: Given your travels across the world and your experiences in both cultures of the West and the developing world, or majority world, would you please talk a bit about the myopia that you feel U.S. Christians suffer as it relates to the myths you discuss in your book? In other words, what myths or “collective deceptions” do you find particularly salient within the subculture of evangelical and mainline Protestant U.S. Christianity?


Vinoth Ramachandra (VR): The myths that I explore do not have to do primarily with Christian churches; they deal with what one reviewer called “liberal pieties.” However, many Christians, of all theological persuasions, do tend to share in the predominant myths of their societies. I know that U.S. Christianity, even in its evangelical expressions, is extremely diverse, so I am wary of making facile generalizations (as in the liberal media).


Myths often contain some grains of truth, but these truths are greatly exaggerated and countertruths are suppressed. For instance, think of the way that many American Christians have been brought up to think of the United States of America’s wealth as having been founded on the Protestant work ethic and free trade. Many American Christians are not only brought up on one-sided readings of their own history but are largely ignorant of the histories of other peoples. This was reflected in the sheer incomprehension that attended the 9/11 atrocities, and it is reflected today in the sudden disillusionment with the global financial system. Anyone who has followed U.S. foreign policy over the past fifty years or looked at the way global financial institutions operate from the perspective of the global poor would not have been surprised by recent events.

Read the full interview:


Vinoth Ramachandra.
Hardcover: IVP BOOKS, 2008
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $18 ] [ Amazon ]

Book Forum reviews a new Biography of Flannery O’Connor

Even then, it was obvious she was a genius,” said Miss Katherine Scott, Flannery O’Connor’s freshman-composition teacher, speaking to a reporter many years later about her most famous student—“warped, but a genius all the same.” The teacher no doubt focused on the warped part when the seventeen-year-old Catholic girl with the spectacles and the searing wit took her writing class at Milledgeville’s Georgia State College for Women in the summer of 1942; and it was the warped part she noticed some ten years later, when she read O’Connor’s first book, Wise Blood, and flung it across the room. “I thought to myself that character who dies in the last chapter could have done the world a great favor by dying in the first chapter instead,” she told the same reporter.

This was the sort of understanding and encouragement that surrounded Mary Flannery O’Connor from her earliest years in Savannah to her death at the age of thirty-nine in the Milledgeville area. But we should not be entirely sorry about that. Familial and social disapproval evidently spurred this writer on, enabling her to form a pearl around each painful speck of grit. That O’Connor’s pearls are among the most luminous and valuable we have in all of American literature does not detract in any way from their strangeness and hardness. Indeed, their value lies precisely in that hardness, that strangeness. However many times you read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “The Artificial Nigger,” and “Good Country People,” you will not be able to figure out the source of their enormous power; in fact, they will become increasingly mysterious to you as the years go by.

O’Connor’s fictional world is a severe, hilarious, violent place. People behave with senseless intolerance—not just racial intolerance, which we might expect of the South in the middle of the twentieth century, but also a deep-seated prejudice against anything or anyone from elsewhere, and particularly from Europe, the source of “unreformed” religion, gibberishlike speech, and other undesirable forms of behavior.

Read the full Review:

Brad Gooch.

Hardcover: Little, Brown and Company, Feb. 2009.
Pre-order now: [ Amazon ]

A Review of So Damn Much Money:
The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government

Before the next chapter of American political history unfolds further, it is worth thinking back a little on the one that is coming to a close.  An unusually good elucidation of some crucial developments of the past thirty years appears this month as So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government, by Robert G. Kaiser.


Ostensibly, the book tells the story of a highly successful but little-known entrepreneur named Gerald S.J. Cassidy — the man who, for all practical purposes, in 1975 invented a new kind of business, Congressional “earmarking,” and turned it into a vast – and troubling – new industry.


More broadly,  So Damn Much Money relates how money got the upper hand in politics, becoming the basis of  “the one big arrangement that came to define modern Washington: the mutually dependent relationship that evolved in the years after 1975 between members of Congress and the ever-growing tribe of Washington lobbyists.”

Read the full review:

So Damn Much Money.
Robert G. Kaiser.

Hardcover: Knopf, Jan. 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]