Reviews

Mixed Media
|
CD

The True False Identity

by T Bone Burnett

reviewed by Robert N. Hosack

T Bone Burnett, best known of late for his production of the Grammy-winning O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line soundtracks, offers his first new album of original material in 14 years. Blistering, distorted guitars and power percussion—with multiple drummers on most tracks—dominate this ode to traditional American music, with blues, southern gospel, and country influences driving the rhythmic clatter. Like an Old Testament prophet in overdrive, T Bone delivers caustic social and political commentary sprinkled with a sloganeering spirituality. Songs like “Fear Country” and “Blinded by the Darkness” rant against the religious right with unforgiving insight. (Sony)

www.tboneburnett.com

Book

Bright Shoots of Everlastingness: Essays on Faith and the American Wild

by Paul Willis

reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.

“Something in me does not like a hotel,” writes Paul Willis, echoing Robert Frost. And Willis’s book, a sort of loose memoir of his life as a mountaineer, poet, lover of nature, English teacher, and Christian, is not a book best read indoors. His essays interweave spiritual, literary, and outdoor experiences, tracing the ways in which God has unified these diverse pursuits by being manifest to Willis through them. Willis also writes loving tributes to fellow writers John Leax and the late Lionel Basney. Wendell Berry fans, Thomas Merton devotees, God-fearing hikers and mountain climbers will all enjoy this book. (WordFarm)

www.wordfarm.net/books/0974342777

Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish

by Tom Shachtmanreviewed by Kathryn HoffmanRumspringa examines Amish culture, adolescence, and how the two can survive each other. During rumspringa, which literally means “running around,” Amish teenagers are given time to explore the secular world before they embrace the ordnung, or church rules. The author provides intriguing first-hand accounts from Amish who are in or have gone through rumspringa, simultaneously crushing and reinforcing a variety of stereotypes that the “English” believe about the Plain People. The book includes a study of how education, farming, and shunning encourage young people to embrace the Amish church. Expertly researched, Rumspringa is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the complexities of this simple-living religious sect. (North Point Press)www.fsgbooks.com/searchnn.htm

CD

The Avalanche

by Sufjan Stevens

reviewed by Elizabeth González

Originally designed as a two- disc compilation, Sufjan Stevens’s The Avalanche is the other half of his 2005 Illinois CD. Stevens creates a unique, smooth sound as he meshes banjo, synths, guitar, vibraphone, and piano. Unlike most B-side albums, The Avalanche stands alone. While reflecting a style similar to Illinois , Stevens delves into topics with haunting storytelling. Highlights include “Mistress Witch from McClure,” in which the narrator discovers his father’s infidelity, and “Dear Mr. Supercomputer,” which explores the dark side of technology. “Carlyle Lake” rejoices in a day of rest. (Asthmatic Kitty)

www.asthmatickitty.com/music.php?releaseID=50

Book

Explorers of the New Century

by Magnus Mills

reviewed by Harriette Mostert

This anti-utopian novel, in the tradition of Brave New World , could almost double as travel writing at times. Two competing companies of explorers demonstrate great discipline and civility as they travel on foot to the uncharted “Agreed Furthest Point.” The grueling trek brings casualties to the men and their mules.   As the story unfolds, the sharp contrast between the explorers and their beasts of burden diminishes.   In the process, the notion that humanity can ever be truly civilized is soundly discredited. The compelling story echoes moments in history when civilized rhetoric has been used with brutal results. (Harcourt)

Website

Freecycle

reviewed by Sandy Swartzentruber

Freecycle.org is the anti-eBay. Rather than competing for the highest price on unneeded stuff, Freecycle users—you guessed it—give things away for free. Just join a regional group, then post want ads or browse the listings. Categories vary widely: recent want ads included a kitten, packing boxes, and reliable transportation. The recipient usually picks up the item at an agreed-upon location. Freecycle is a great resource for those with limited resources, for nonprofit organizations, and for those who’d like to see landfills fill more slowly. Canadian users will be able to access Freecycle in the near future.

www.freecycle.org

X