Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

New Square Halo art books

We don’t get out all that much for purely social pleasures—tied to the family business, too busy, trying to watch the budget, blah, blah, blah—so it was a particularly nice gesture of Lancaster friends Ned & Leslie Bustard to invite us to dinner at their very cool, simply but artistically appointed, urban row home. Why might you care about this?

The Bustards are co-owners and chief editors for Square Halo Books. You can learn all about them here, or read my older reflections on their good books, here. Square Halo deserves to have someone tell their little story (anybody from Books & Culture or CT looking in on this? Call me. I write for cheap.) Briefly, it can be said that they cooked up this plan to have a classy little indie publisher that does theological books (like Alan Bauer’s The Beginning and The End) and good stuff about the arts. They have made quite a name for themselves, pouring themselves out as a labor of love to bring their first handful of books about Christian perspectives in the arts. I’ve raved here before about And It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (we have a few left, then it will be out of print until the new, revised and considerably expanded edition hits later this year) and the excellent collection of interviews and artpieces, Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith edited by James Romaine. They’ve got a few other great titles, and we stock them here at the shop.

Last evening, we actually got to pick up and hold the brand new collection that they designed for CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) entitled Faith + Vision: Twenty-five Years of Christians in the Visual Arts. It is a spectacularly glorious example of contemporary artists and (taa-daaa) they were kind enough to use a blurb by me on the back (I had seen all the advance page proofs and text before.) The book deserves a more lengthy evaluation (watch the website) but for now, here is what I wrote about it upon first seeing it:
Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects in his important introduction upon the double alienation felt by many of the artists whose work graces this gorgeous book and it is a tough testimony that should be read by church folk everywhere; what damage we have done to hinder the artists amongst us, what a mediocre ethos we have too often created which discourages those with gifts of brooding allusiveness, creative imaginativity or colorful joy. But his pondering is only part of the story: herein is documented in word and image, the pages of this book record the glorious work of an organization dedicated to supporting the Christian artist. CIVA is a wonderful association and this book shows off the God-blessed glory of their members’ work in extraordinary fashion. Thank God for the gentle steadfastness of CIVA, for those who compiled this excellent book, and for Square Halo who publishes manna like this.
Joyfully and significantly, Square Halo also produced a collected volume of the important work of Sandra Bowden (herself a notable leader in CIVA and a wonderful art collector and artists.) Not only does The Art of Sandra Bowden showcase beautiful reproductions of Sandra’s fine work, it has criticism and essays and tributes to her by some thoughtful essayists (like the very sharp NY critic, James Romaine.) This is a beautiful, beautiful book and to see it, too, while trying to sip white wine with Ned and Leslie and keep an eye on our passel of young daughters, was nearly overwhelming. Maybe like you, I will have to save my nickels and dimes and buy these as soon as I can. In the meantime, they will soon grace the shelves of Hearts & Minds. We want to support Square Halo and get their good books into stores, reviewed, and bought and given as gifts. Know anybody that cares about God’s glory being seen in a respectable renewal of faith-based modern art?

Lastly, in time for the CIVA summer gathering, as were these two aforementioned titles, Eerdmans just released a major, major coffee table book edited by near-by Messiah College art prof, Ted Prescott. Entitled A Broken Beauty, this oversized book has what looks like brilliant essays and tons of nicely produced, fabulous Christian art. Thanks be to God for a book like this, a solid collection chapters of thoughtful reflection in Christian art historiography and aesthetics, but just a real classy gift book, too. What a treasure!

And the good news doesn't stop here. We are very, very excited to announce that Calvin Seerveld's significant and widely-quoted (but hard to find in stores) Rainbows for the Fallen World is now back in print, with an updated bibliography and a slightly new cover. We have it and are eager to let folks know---we've had not a few inquiries over recent years. Seerveld is another Christian leader in the arts and aesthetic theory (and a bit of a hero of ours here.) We will comment more on Rainbows...in months to come, you can be sure.

So: in any season any one of these four books would be a treat, and I would be shouting from the rooftops. Having three real art books and a re-issue of Seervled to promote is nearly a minor miracle. Let us pray that none fall the through the cracks, that they get reviewed and somehow promoted. (Do you think these guys have the huge funds to do national advertising? Do you think Hearts & Minds does? Ugh.) Anyone have ideas how we can promote these kind of thoughtful, accessible but somewhat bohemian Christian artbooks? And while your thinking about ordering these, or telling your local library about them, or donating them to a church resource room, why not say a pray for the Bustard family and Square Halo?