431: Readers Tell Us About … Reactions to Angels and Demons, a Muslim hero, and more “weirdly illustrated” novels

Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …

FIRST, Please, Feel Free to …
Praise or Damn Angels and Demons

LAST WEEK, we published several articles on Star Trek, including an overview of spiritual connections, a Conversation With sci-fi expert Gabriel McKee and some reader feedback.

    THIS WEEK, for the opening of Angels and Demons, we’re inviting you to tell us what you think. Send us a note anytime this week, as you see the film and formulate your reactions to it.
    Bottom line: It’s a popular thriller produced by a talented team and, more than likely, millions of moviegoers will enjoy the nail-biting suspense, slam-bang special effects and exotic scenes at the Vatican. So, I don’t want to make more out of this than it is—a fanciful thriller. Nobody mistakes North by Northwest for a factual documentary on Mt. Rushmore. We just savor the shivers.
    But, I interviewed Dr. Lawrence Shiffman on Thursday, one of the leading Bible scholars of our time, for a story next week on a major project he’s developing for the Jewish Publication Society. (Come back next week for that!) As we wrapped up the interview, he said: “So, are you going to see Angels and Demons?”
    “Sure,” I said.
    “You know, I can’t count how many lectures I did on DaVinci Code, pointing out all the inaccuracies,” he laughed. “Here I am, a Jewish scholar defending Jesus from Dan Brown’s inaccuracies!”
    This led to a sort of friendly, joshing challenge to see how many inaccuracies we can spot in Angels and Demons. A handful of conservative Catholics are all upset about these inaccuracies. It’s a development that actually thrills the producers, who now can promote their movie as officially “controversial.” But, honestly! Anyone who has read the original novel knows it’s loaded with goof-ball errors. Taking Dan Brown seriously is like mistaking Alfred Hitchcock for a National Park Service guide. Both are fun guys—but full of fanciful make believe.
    A challenge to our readers: Tell us what you think of the film. And, if you spot inaccuracies, drop us a note on the biggest howlers.

    HERE ARE A COUPLE TO START YOU OFF: Having reported from Rome occasionally over the years, I thoroughly enjoyed the big-screen romp through the Holy City. But Ron Howard plays fast and loose with many details. For example, the impression is given in the movie that no one can reach the cardinals in conclave without cutting open a massive chain. Hardly. Cinematic but silly. Then, a long and dramatic scene at Bernini’s fountain, unveiled in 1651, turns the beautiful fountain into some version of a deep diving tank, obviously shot in a studio. Seeing Tom Hanks jump into the deep end of the fountain (there is no deep end!), then surface in the piazza, then dive back into the depths of the fountain—it’s a crazy redesign of Bernini’s masterpiece. You can find a whole lot more! The New York Times today says the movie is not bad, but the plot is full of “preposterous” ideas. Indeed. Have fun with it.

    A TIP: It’s not exactly an “inaccuracy,” but major elements of the novel have been changed in the movie version. For example, the Dan Brown novel claims that no one cares about the death and election of a pope anymore. It’s a major plot element in the book, but it’s an argument proved entirely wrong by the recent papal transition—so that plot line is eliminated here.

TRUE STORY of a Great Muslim Hero, 
“Commander of the Faithful: A Story of True Jihad,”
Sparks a Lot of Reader Praise

SPEAKING OF ACCURATE PORTRAYALS, this imagery truly matters!
     This week ended with a thud for Americans who care about accurate portrayals of Muslims and Islam. ReadTheSpirit writes as extensively about Islam as other worldwide faiths and, this past week, we published three reviews of important new books on Islam, plus an extended Conversation With the author of a new history of a long-forgotten Muslim hero: Emir Abd el-Kader. (Even Abraham Lincoln sent the emir a gift on behalf of all Americans.)
    Well, as it turns out, this was a week when anti-Muslim documentaries continue to circulate in small discussion groups around the U.S. (we won’t say more about that) — and on network TV the red-hot series, “Lie To Me,” wound up its season with an edge-of-your-seat mystery about a Lebanese mass murderer blowing up American targets. Talk about fear mongering!
    Given this backdrop of vivid anti-Muslim imagery churning through the American heartland, a number of readers sent in notes about our story on the emir with exclamations like: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! A true hero somewhere!” which was sent by Miriam Tafoia, a grad student in Washington D.C.
    Greg Mann from Virginia wrote: “We need more stories like this.”
    Victor Begg, a Muslim leader in Michigan, wrote: “This is a great story to quote to young Muslims, particularly because this emir condemned abusing prisoners and our new Administration is taking a stand against prisoner torture. I plan to circulate this to other Muslims.”
    Mary Liepold of the PeaceXPeace international women’s network sent us a note, thanking us for the story on the emir, and pointing out that he’s not alone as a world-class hero of Islam. Her email points readers over to our Interfaith Heroes project, where readers can explore the diverse profiles and discover a number of other noble Islamic leaders.
    We also heard from Michael Schmidt, the Dubuque TH (Telegraph Herald) reporter who published some of the news about the emir this week. There was a high school essay-writing contest about the new biography of the emir by John Kiser—focused on an Iowa town named after the emir in the 19th century. Michael said he enjoyed doing the story and wrote, “It has been interesting to hear about Abd el-Kader’s impact on the town.”

FINALLY, a Few Words about Comics, 
Native American art
and the Magical Realm of Young Mr. Spivet

WE ALSO JUMPED into the realms of graphic novels, comic books and illustrated novels this week—a world of startling innovation. Check out our story that compares the celebrated new novel about little T.S. Spivet to traditional art forms like Indian Ledger Art (at right) and comic books.
    “Weirdly illustrated novels have been around for years,” wrote Sue Kaplan from Seattle. “At least 100 years and I think more. It’s not just children’s literature. There were mysteries in the Roaring Twenties where clues were stuck right onto pages of the book and the pages were things like maps and pictures. So, I don’t know what’s the big deal here. … But I’m already on the list at my library branch to get this new book about the little boy. … Diane Rehm probably made it a best seller, didn’t she?”
    I don’t know if NPR alone could push it into best-seller status, but Sue is right about elaborately illustrated novels. Thanks, Sue! (Except that I think you’re thinking of the ’30s.) Sue probably was refering to the works of Dennis Wheatley, a prolific author of murder mysteries. Most Wheatley fans recall his various series of paperback page-turners that spanned much of the 20th century. But, back in the 1930s Wheatley produced a series of mysteries called “Crime Dossiers”—books with images, charts, notes and actual clues bound into the pages.
    Those curiosities seem to be out of print these days. Amazon resellers are listing “used” copies (presumably with the clues examined and the sealed solution packets opened) for less than two bucks—but “new” copies go for $88 and up. See the Amazon link at right.

    Among our comics-related responses this week, Cardinal comics creator Kurt Kolka reports that his new online version of the red-garbed, crime-fighting Cardinal is drawing more readers with each passing month. He’s closing in on 5,000 readers a month—pretty good for an individual, independent, online comic strip! This is a great time to leap into the Cardinal’s world, Kurt says. One elaborate storyline is ending. Then, for a while, “I’m going to run a few reprint strips, but in full color, for your enjoyment before the next story begins. … A new storyline should begin June 20.” So—great time to get to know the Cardinal! Let’s see if we can’t help Kurt bump those numbers over 5,000 next month.



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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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