Starting J.I. Packer and W.J. Cash

I finally finished John Dos Passos’s USA Trilogy, which at over 1200 pages took a decent chunk of my time in the fall. I’m still trying to sift through my reactions, and I’ll try to write them up when they’re a little more settled. I’m about three-fifths of the way through Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club, and I’ll have to leave that for a separate post as well. But I’m starting two other books that look promising.

First, there’s J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. I don’t know if I am part of the ideal audience for this book: just the prologue makes me feel a little guilty for being such an analytical reader. But I even if I don’t get as much devotional mileage out of the book as I should, it will be good to return to my roots, so to speak, as Packer is a representative figure for the kind of intelligent evangelicalism I grew up around.

I got W.J. Cash’s 1941 The Mind of the South for Christmas. The introductory essay seemed pretty great: it warned that Cash’s take is idiosyncratic and perhaps more suited to the Southeastern states than to the Deep South. Cash’s attribution of a guilt complex to slaveowners may have more to do with his own intellectual alienation than the historical feelings of the master class. But I’m anticipating a good read, and I’m daring to hope that the book will open some doors to self-understanding.

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