The New Pantagruel

A while back I had stumbled upon the website The New Pantagruel. What is this strangely named site? It is a “quarterly electronic journal run by a cadre of intemperate but friendly Catholics and Protestants who have seen other electronic journals run by Christians, and thought that while they might not be able to do better, they could certainly do no worse.” Sounded interesting so I bookmarked it and planed to come back to it. I finally got around to do just that recently and thought I would share.

The Spring 2004 issue has a sharp review of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible, which I reviewed a while back. The reviewer, Read Mercer Schuchardt, disagrees with a great deal of what the authors have to say and how they approach their subject but he finds himself captured by the language:

Because here’s my confession: I love the way this guy writes. I love the way he puts his sentences together. I love the way he makes you almost melt over the lyrical immediacy and thrumming intensity of the passion his writing evokes.

But in the end that is simply not enough:

And yet. And yet … When substance is lacking, it’s amazing just how far the book takes you on style alone. Sharlet, Manseau, and their contributors all write in a language that is fairly sparkling with energy and glistening with the suggestion of meaning. The problem is just that: instead of a rock on which to stand, the entire book is more like a collection of swimmers showing off their strokes. The irony is that they believe they are swimming against the tide, when in fact it is precisely the tide of contemporary culture that keeps their heads above water and makes the swimming so easy. Is there any more marketable buzzword than the word “irreverent”? Is there any stronger gospel than the one that declares the absoluteness of relativity, the rigid and ridiculous demand of absolute objectivity in a post-Heisenberg universe? What Sharlet has mistaken for heresy is, in fact, electronic culture’s orthodoxy.

The first issue of this electronic journal is here and it includes essays, reviews, poetry, and fiction. It looks like a worthy new venture.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


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