Sure do like Jack, but his clairvoyance and now impunity to the law shows through in this less than his best novel.
Definitely a challenge theologically, though in non-technical words. I thought this was deja vu: riding on my mountain bike on San Juan trail and listening to Tom Wright instead of Dallas Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God." They both reinterpret the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount to move from legalism to grace. They both are intellectuals, theological and devoted to correct thinking as a key to transformation. They have both transformed my life, my spirituality, my understanding of Agape. But Wright's theology is broader and more significant than Willard's. He integrates so many themes that neatly weave together: Kingdom ethics vs legalism, eschatology (study of end times) as Hope, and Love.
Wright's most profound theological explication is that we are not to become moral, but to empty ourselves as Jesus did--to live for the purpose of God's Kingdom only--not our own desires. Even Jesus had to "learn" to do this as he was fully human, and felt the temptation for self satisfaction, but continuously and "perfectly" (telos) resisted. He was not an example of moral virtue primarily (though he was), but an example of one fully yielded to God. And now we too, through his resurrection, by the Holy Spirit (holiness & prayer), can participate not only in the Kingdom to Come (telos), but now, in the Kingdom that has now Come in Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Wish this theme had predominated, because it is the basis of spiritual transformation.
Another motivation for living spiritually and not legalistically is because of the Hope we have in the renewal and transformation of this present world, where we will participate with holiness and power. Looking forward to reading his book on Hope next.
While Wright and Willard are strong theologically, they both lack the everyday relational wisdom that properly integrates the intellectual, spiritual, social, emotional, "imaginational," and behavioral dimensions into a whole.
If one more crime writer uses the Hollywood concept of hypnosis, I think I will puke (see Dean Koontz, False Memory--or not). As a psychologist, this is just bunk. But, otherwise--well done.
Never thought a writer would make Faulkner look optimistic, but McCarthy has succeeded, and with literary style. Not since listening to Dylan Thomas read his own poetry have I enjoyed so much listening to sheer prosody--a part of all McCarthy novels--just for how it sounds (nice reading by Poe). McCarthy systematically challenges every expectation you have, from word usage, to narrative style, to character development, to world view. While this novel is based on historical facts, he chose a time and place which would allow him to best peel back the thin veneer of civilization and reveal his view of human nature--which is characteristically, relentlessly, brilliantly--bleak. His No Country For Old Men was much better at focusing on the story line and less on sheer description.
Very entertaining dialogue, a battle of the wits, pitting Black against White, believer against unbeliever, personal against intellectual. Cormac McCarthy is gifted and talented, presenting the classic existential drama of "why not commit suicide," best portrayed previously by Albert Camus. However, the Black believer with personal commitment to living is set up as a nitwit against the White unbelieving intellectual who seems to prevail by sheer force of intellectual nihilism. As Job replied to God, Black seems to say to White: "I am unworthy - how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth." Still, entertaining banter.
War or Peace is not so much about the Unforgiving Minute, but about the Forgiving Self. If we look at Craig Mulvaney's purpose in writing this book, I think we find that it is ultimately more about the war within himself than the war in Afghanistan. The book, "Good Soldiers" by the embedded journalist Finkle, contrasts well with this book to reveal that Finkle's book is much more about the Iraqi war than the warrior Finkle. Throughout the autobiography, Craig continuously struggles with guilt, acceptance by others and authorities--especially by his father, by a need to keep his brother from his own fate, and to write this book to exculpate his demons. His guilt drenches his story, continuously expressing his responsibility for his men's lives that he leads into battle--only two were killed. He is relentless in holding himself excessively guilty for their deaths up to the last Unforgiving Minute. Until a Warrior fights his own internal demons of unquenched need for father approval, etc., he is in no position to fight the external demons of War, as this autobiography demonstrates. He gets demoted from the front lines to Adjutant and is reduced to teaching the history of War in the Naval Academy, still trying to quell his guilt demons with ineffectual theories. Minutes are not Unforgiving, but we may be Unforgiving of ourselves. Responsibility for others in war does not include some fantasy that you have the ability to keep them from dying. Craig still lives Unforgiving Minutes so we hear more about him than the War.
What a horrendous loss of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by so many American men and women following the political and military incursion into Iraq. And, as Finkle often pointed out, was it worth the cost? We are led to experience the the war from Finkle's embeded perspective of the 216th Batallion headed by Lt. Col Ralph Kauzlarich. This is his strength and weakness: being "embedded," and in only one corner of the war.
His ability to convey the "Pucker" factor of war, and the unique pucker factor of the Iraq war regarding IEDs and EFPs is one of his greatest contributions. The related revelation from this book is how IEDs and EFPs just come out of nowhere, uncontrolled, leaving limited ability to plan or strategize in order to avoid the violence. Previous wars pitted intelligence and strategy against enemy violence and gave the impression of being able to minimize violence. That feeling of control appears to be completely translated into sheer dread and fear while riding around in humvee's and having no control of when death from IED violence may strike. It even appears that this phenomenon affects the political as well as military levels of uncertainty of how to measure the value of the war itself.
The limits of this embedded reporter Finkle is reflected in his ingratiating portrayal of the unit's leader, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich as well as his use of George W. Bush quotes. The character of Lt. Kauzlarich is seriously called into question in that he said (see ESPN) that the family of Pat Tillman was not at peace with his death because they are atheists who believe their son is now, in Kauzlarich's words, "worm dirt."
I think that the "Good Soldiers" as represented by Finkle certainly applies to the men on the front lines, but seems to apply less and less as one goes up the ranks.
As a psychologist, I enjoyed the psychological approach to this novel, the characters and the plot. Enjoy.
An uncharted river down the macabre of hypnotism-rohipnol theoretical mind-control by a madman which was the unnerving focus of the first half of the book which then degenerated into mundane, repetitive characterization in total abdication of resolving the plot of the book. Wish I had stopped at the half-way point and it took excessive endurance to get that far through such unmitigated evil. Other wise, Dean did a good Job :(
So promising, so annoying, such a waste of time and talent--the author's, mine and yours.
This novel squeezes meaning and value out of the crevices of this father-son relationship in the face of well told horrors of the apocalyptic end of the world.
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