The Common Good
July-August 2002

A Few of My Favorite Things

by Ed Spivey Jr. | July-August 2002

When Sojourners' CultureWatch editor asked me to write about my "favorite things," I gave a quick "Sure!"

When Sojourners' CultureWatch editor asked me to write about my "favorite things," I gave a quick "Sure!" It's not often that I get to talk about McDonalds' new "Tangy Cajun Chicken Parts" and that delightful way the flavor seems to stick to the roof of your mouth, even though you'd rather it didn't.

But the editor pointed out that, no, she was more interested in the cultural aspects of my life, the books I'm reading, the films I've seen, what particular collections of poetry I walk past in the bookstore as I hurry to the magazine section that contains lots of easy-to-read photographs. So, culturally speaking, here are some of the more literary aspects of my life, printed in bold face, so if you just skim through it looks like I'm really smart:

Theological Ethics, Helmut Thielicke's brilliant three-volume series on the implied dialectic of freedom and bondage, occupies by far the largest amount of space on my bookshelf. Which is why I moved it the other day when I dropped my slinky. I occasionally use this device to entertain the pets—since my family has developed a keen lack of appreciation for my skills—and I was shocked to distraction by the sight of our rabbit attempting to "be romantic" with one of the cats. That's when I lost control of the slinky and it dropped onto the bookshelf behind several other books that I have never read but which also look good in boldface, including New Testament Greek for Dummies, John Calvin: Years of Laughter, and A Bunch of My Wife's College Textbooks.

The books I have read reflect a broad range of interests. So I won't mention that the last three are all by Tom Clancy, a frothing-at-the-mouth militaristic simpleton who should be ashamed for writing such great stories. His view of our nation's role in history is the exact opposite of Sojourners' worldview, which, while consistently taking the moral high ground, has never once produced a great action novel. (Yes, Sojourners' perspective on globalization is important, but would it be that hard to throw in a little air-to-air combat?)

To be honest, I am a voracious reader (which means I read with my mouth full). Just in the past month, for example, I have started Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, and Beryl Markham's West With the Night, a lushly written autobiography about a woman aviator who grew up in Africa, survived a lion attack as a child, overcame sexism in the waning days of English colonialism, and endured extreme deprivation during a solo flight across an ocean. (Yeah, like THAT's hard.)

Unfortunately, I couldn't finish any of these books because I had to check my e-mail. Which is too bad, since The Killer Angels is about the Battle of Gettysburg and I'd LOVE to know who won. The book is a work of historical fiction, a genre where the author basically makes everything up and then critics rave about how he "brings history alive." In this case, we get to hear Robert E. Lee's own words of tortured self-doubt as he considers whether to surrender or send his loyal troops into almost certain death. But what he probably said to himself was "Man, did I choose the wrong side or WHAT!" But that would not make for good historical fiction. Too realistic.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I also like raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and brown paper packages tied up with string. Of course, these are just a FEW of my favorite things.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. He writes our humor column, H'rumphs. It's a good bet that in the future that's ALL he'll write.

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