This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Saturday roundup: Five things worth paying attention to this week

Gordon Houser is editor of The Mennonite.

A few days after Thanksgiving, here are five things to thankful for:

1. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell. I’ve read most of Rohr’s books, and most seek to get to the core of Christian faith. This may be one of his best, as he challenges the idea of God as a vengeful individual or substance. Drawing from Scripture, theology, philosophers, mystics, even modern science, Rohr calls us to see God as Trinity—focusing on the relationship of the divine persons, the self-love he calls a “divine dance.” He writes that “nothing human can stop the flow of divine love; we cannot undo the eternal pattern of even our worst sin.” Salvation, then, is “simply the readiness, the capacity and the willingness to stay in relationship.”

2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz has sat on my shelf for a while, but I finally read it recently, consuming most of it on a trip to LA. It has received wide literary acclaim, winning the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. In a poll of American literary critics in 2015, it was named the best novel so far in the 21st While it’s a complex book, combining wide use of Spanglish and neologisms, footnotes, magic realism and references to fantasy and science fiction films and books, Díaz’s language and narration are arresting. The novel tells the story of Oscar De León, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. He uses multiple narrators and delves into the troubled history of the Dominican Republic. If you’re offended by certain language, don’t bother with it. But I found the book enjoyable, troubling and moving.

3. Since Jeanne and I traveled to New Zealand last winter, I was interested in the film Hunt for the Wilderpeople (PG-13), which was filmed in New Zealand by a Kiwi director, Taika Waititi. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and opened across New Zealand on March 31. It only had a limited release in the U.S. but is available on DVD. When a rebellious teen and his foster uncle go missing in the wild New Zealand bush, a national manhunt ensues. The film works partly because of the excellent acting of its two protagonists. It’s not only funny but touching, while offering gentle pokes at some social issues. Viewers get a sense through the cast of the Maori presence in New Zealand.

4. I just saw The Edge of Seventeen (R), which delves into teen angst for high school junior Nadine when her older brother starts dating her best friend. It captures the feeling that you are worthless and the whole world is against you, only to discover you aren’t the only one with such struggles. The writing is terrific and the acting is superb, particularly Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine.

5. In October, Bob Dylan was named winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, a surprise to most people, given that Dylan writes and performs songs (though his book Chronicles, Volume 1 is excellent). As a long-time Dylan fan, I was pleased. I grew up listening to Dylan records my older brothers brought home. My favorites are Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, though I also like Modern Times, among many others of his 37 albums, and I’ve listened to some of them recently. In his article “Why He Deserves It” (New York Review of Books, Dec. 8), Mark Ford quotes Joan Baez from No Direction Home (2005), Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Dylan that there is something in Dylan’s music that goes “to the core of people.” She acknowledges that there are those who are simply “not interested—but if you’re interested, he goes way, way deep.”

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