Scot McKnight critiques Andy Crouch’s Culture Making.
[Editor’s Note: Scot’s reading here offers a perfect example of why our churches need to dialogue about what we’re reading. Even good books (including the books we review here), are not perfect ones and it is helpful for us to see their limitations and shortfalls. Thank you, Scot!]
I recently read Andy Crouch’s new book, Culture-Making, a winding book on culture and how Christians can be cultivators of culture.
Andy’s favorite letter is “C” — and he’s got more C’s in this book than any book I’ve seen. But, he’s not being cute. The C’s are genuine and they make the book more useful. But I have to put my big impression of this book up front: this book has too many ideas and not enough of them settled. The best book I have read on this topic, surely for a slightly different audience, is John Stackhouse, Making the Best of It.
There are three parts to the book: culture, gospel, and calling. This book attempts to take complex issues and simplify them for a more general Christian audience. Hence, the absence of footnotes. My own view here is that those who read books on culture making can handle, and want, footnotes — and more direct, sustained, philosophical interaction with prominent thinkers. But Crouch’s approach makes the book accessible.
The whole book is summed up in the introduction: “What is most needed in our time are Christians who are deeply serious about cultivating and creating but who wear that seriousness lightly — who are not desperately trying to change the world but who also wake up every morning eager to create” (12).
Read the full review (and comments):
“How to live what Michael Pollan preaches.”
Salon.com reviews Mark Bittman’s new book FOOD MATTERS.http://www.salon.com/books/review/2009/01/05/Mark_bittman/
Mark Bittman is the anti-foodies’ foodie, one of the few culinary writers around who don’t indulge in either the precious chefolatry of the Gourmet magazine set or the remedial pandering of Rachael Ray. In his instant-classic cookbooks and “The Minimalist” columns for the New York Times, he treats the preparation of food as an enjoyable daily activity that needn’t be fetishized but that also shouldn’t be reduced to layering prepared foods in a casserole dish, popping it in the oven, and chirping “Yummers!” At a time when one-half of America seems to view cooking as an elite hobby while the other regards it as an esoteric mystery, Bittman is that blessed thing, a practical cook.
The essence of the Bittman approach is simplicity, ease and quality, but that means he has to walk a fine and constantly shifting line. Americans’ attitudes toward what we eat are laden with class and cultural baggage. It’s no coincidence that when the conservative Club for Growth PAC produced its famous 2004 television commercial featuring an elderly couple telling Howard Dean to go “back to Vermont,” two out of the seven outré practices Dean and his “left-wing freak show” were accused of involved comestibles: latte drinking and sushi eating. Yet the rules keep changing. Some delicacies once considered exotic — balsamic vinegar and chipotle chile, for example — seem to have infiltrated every Applebee’s and Boston Market, while others — poor, blameless arugula — remain synonyms for yuppie pretension and self-indulgence. We invest food with a tremendous amount of meaning; you routinely hear people touting the ethnic harmony of their town or neighborhood by describing the diversity of its restaurants, as if an understanding of Hinduism or Mogul architecture can be ingested along with a plate of chicken tikka.
Now Bittman has waded even further into the fray by publishing “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating With More Than 75 Recipes,” an unusual blend of manifesto, self-help manual and cookbook designed to convince people that they can drastically improve their diets with relatively little discomfort. Not only that, but in doing so, Bittman avows, they can also save the planet and relieve some of the pressure on their pocketbooks. As promises go, that’s a whopper, a super-trifecta encompassing the major obsessions of the current moment: weight loss, environmentalism and penny-pinching.
Read the full review:
The NY TIMES review of
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/books/16book.html
Recent DVD collections of early “Sesame Street” episodes were called “Old School” and came with a peculiar warning: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.” That warning is a measure of how the series has changed in the nearly four decades since its debut in 1969. The old episodes not only have a handmade, anarchic charm that underscores the show’s debts to “Laugh-In,” the Marx Brothers and vaudeville, but they also are blessedly free of the uptight, sunnily upbeat, politically correct tone that has crept into more recent incarnations.
Back in the day, Oscar the Grouch was really grouchy (never mind that anger isn’t considered constructive), Cookie Monster really gobbled down cookies (never mind that empty calories aren’t healthy), and Big Bird’s invisible friend Snuffleupagus was really invisible to everyone but Big Bird (never mind suggestions that the giant yellow bird might have been hallucinating).
Like many long-running series — from Mickey Mouse to “Columbo” to James Bond (until its recent rebooting with the cold-eyed, Putinesque Daniel Craig in the title role) — “Sesame Street” grew softer and fuzzier over time, losing whatever edge it once possessed. The story of its evolution should make for fascinating reading. But Michael Davis’s new book “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street” turns out not to be so complete, skimming quickly over the show’s development after the death of the Muppet creator Jim Henson in 1990 and more recent changes in its creative team.
Mr. Davis provides little in-depth analysis of the show’s social and cultural impact around the world, and equally little evaluation of the criticisms that have been leveled at it — for instance that its fast-paced visuals and music have contributed to children’s shortening attention spans.
Read the full review: