New short story collection by Joy Williams; the immersive environments of Olga Lah; two TV shows recommended by the Image staff; Jamie Quatro asks, "What if God lives in the questions?"
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How to Live in a Fractured World
The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams

Joy Williams’s new collection of stories, The Visiting Privilege, is less a compendium and more a glimpse into the arc of one of modern literature’s most distinct writers. With thirty-three previously published stories and thirteen new ones, the cumulative effect is akin to jumping into an ice bath. Or more rightly said: being pushed into the frigid waters. As always, the prose is flawless and Williams’s sense of where a story should hinge cements her place in the upper stratosphere of story writers. But it’s the stories she decides to tell—her commitment from the very beginning to force her readers to stare into the chaos of our reality—that truly makes her indispensable. An early story, Shepherd, warns the reader: “There are no happy endings.” It’s a reminder Williams offers over and over again. Her characters are addicted and antagonistic and—most excruciatingly often—lonely. It’s easy (or perhaps even clichéd) to invoke Flannery O’Connor at this point. But while there are definitely similarities, O’Connor’s use of the grotesque is intentionally overt. Williams, on the contrary, shines in the slow burn of her character’s suffering. Their brokenness. And yet the stories never trot into the world of the overwrought. In fact, even when detailing unimaginably painful or sad situations, the stories retain an almost whimsical quality that make Williams’s fiction nothing short of fun. While those new to William’s career will be happy to discover the strength of her earlier work, it’s the new stories that really excite. They remind us that Williams still has something to say to those searching for a way to understand a fractured world. And maybe more importantly: how to live in it.  
—Reviewed by Bryan Bliss

Purchase your copy here

Image Fellowships for Undergrads and Postgrads
Image’s two fellowship programs are dedicated to the growth of young and emerging artists wrestling with the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

For current undergraduates, there is the Luci Shaw Fellowship, which houses the fellow in Seattle for the summer, provides them a crash-course in the field of nonprofit literary publishing, and brings the fellow out to the Glen Workshop, our festival in Santa Fe—in exchange for some hard work. Over the summers, past Shaw Fellows have experienced lunch with poet B.H. Fairchild, garden parties in Greg and Suzanne Wolfe’s backyard, emceeing the Glen Workshop’s Open Mic Night, carrying Eugene Peterson’s luggage, climbing Seattle’s Mount Rainier, and much more. If you are a bright, motivated, and meticulous person who shares Image’s vision for art in the life of faith, we invite you to apply and discover your own story for the summer of 2016. Find details here

For writers with a postgraduate degree, there is the Milton Fellowship, which brings the fellow to Seattle for one academic year for the primary goal of completing their first book-length manuscript of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. During their time with us, fellows will have a rich experience in Image’s community: they will interact with the editorial staff of Image and be matched with a literary mentor, teach one 3-credit course in the English department at Seattle Pacific University, and enjoy the lively literary scene in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Fellows receive a monthly stipend, an apartment rent-free, health and dental insurance, and more. If you are a writer who explores the human condition with honesty and compassion, we invite you to apply for the 2016-2017 academic year. Find details here

Things Come Alive
Olga Lah: Amass and Swell

Known for her immersive environments, Olga Lah commonly explores themes of spirituality, transcendence, perception, and re-contextualization. Often using common, everyday objects, Lah’s large installations and sculptures transform simple household materials like sponges, plastic bottle caps or pool noodles into extraordinary architectural environments. In the word of Bill Dyrness in Image issue 80, “Olga Lah did not start out wanting to wrap buildings in electrician’s tape, fill huge spaces with billows of crumpled paper, or line galleries with great swathes of plastic bottle caps. She did not set out to be an artist at all—let alone one catching the attention of the art world in Los Angeles and even Europe. But, ten years after graduating from college, this is what she has become… Two themes permeate Lah’s work: the ordinariness of the stuff of our lives, and its resulting temporality. Her work highlights, even celebrates, the significance of the physical. And she has a soft spot for quotidian materials—which she thinks make art accessible to people who might not otherwise enter a gallery. But the magic of her work lies in the way this common material can be brought to life, transforming itself and forcing us to experience physical objects, and our own physicality, in new ways.” Lah’s latest site-specific work, Amass and Swell, is currently on view at the Orange County Museum of Art. Made of thousands of stacked, foam blocks, Amass and Swell occupies the length of several large gallery walls to create a 65-foot, interactive, cavernous effect that envelops and engages museum visitors. 

Amass and Swell is on view through February 28. Find details here. Read more about Lah in Image here and here.

Staff Picks

What the Image staff are reading, watching, and listening to.
You’ve probably already been told you need to watch the Golden Globe-winning comedy-drama Transparent. Allow me to add: this show features some of the most well-developed religious characters I’ve ever seen on TV. The Pfefferman family members participate in their Jewish faith in various styles as they navigate tensions between their religion, their egos, and contemporary society—showing how living with the heritage of religion can be both a balm and a burden. Plus, you don’t want to miss out when Josh Pfefferman starts dating Rabbi Raquel Fein, a character whose sensitivity, sincere faith, and painful fear of rejection contrasts Josh’s unreliability, his desire to be trusted, and shy disbelief.

—Tyler McCabe, Director of Programs

In all honesty, since college I’ve always secretly felt that I never liked Henry IV and Henry V as much as I was supposed to. It turns out I was missing a piece. Check out the Hollow Crown, a BBC film version of Shakespeare’s Lancaster tetralogy that came out in 2012, especially part one, Richard II, with Ben Whitshaw as the ethereal, capricious king. The play is often overlooked and very seldom filmed, which for me at least was a real loss to my understanding of Shakespeare. Richard is not a great king (he makes disastrous political decisions), but he understands something about kingship that his pragmatic deposer Henry IV does not: the king’s role is a Godlike one played by a frail human being, and it’s in the weird interplay of man and role that the mystique lies. And you get the feeling that once Richard is deposed, that idea will never really live again. That’s easily said, but I needed to watch an actor as good as Whitshaw be the king to really understand. It’s a completely unmodern idea—but in its light, all the other history plays suddenly make more sense to me. 
—Mary Kenagy Mitchell, Managing Editor

Around the Web 

"This year’s list of films specifically recommended for Christian audiences looked beyond representations of Christianity..." Our Arts & Faith community's Ecumenical Jury on Film has named their Top Films of 2015! Check 'em out in part 1 and part 2.

"What if God lives in the questions and not the answers; in the great ugly struggle itself, not in the finish, the win or loss?" Four vignettes by Jamie Quatro.

"A bad story is one where you know what the story is and you're sure of it."
George Saunders Explains How to Tell a Good Story. 

"God sent an angel. One of his least qualified, though." Read Chen Chen's poem "I'm not a religious person but."

Interview with Jeanne Murray Walker on caring for her mother with Alzheimer's, how her poetry affected her memoir, and losing her fundamentalist faith. 

Gorgeous video of an art installation in Houston, with artist Anila Quayyum Agha telling the story of its inspiration and creation. 

On the new importance of literary journals:"By writing offline, literally and metaphorically, this new generation of writers gives us the intimacy, the assurance of their solitude. They let us read the word “I” and feel that it’s not attached to a product. They let us read an essay, or a stanza, and feel the silence around it—the actual, physical stillness of a body when it’s deep in thought. It can’t be faked, in life or on the page. We see the opposite all around us every day, but to me, that kind of writing matters now more than ever before,—precisely because it’s become so hard to do." 

Washington Post: "Might the arts play a crucial role in refreshing our imaginations with a vision of peace on earth, the kind of hard-won, hard-edged peace that Jesus himself announces?" We think they might.

"A sense of wonder pervades the powerful essays in The Givenness of ThingsMarilynne Robinson’s new collection."

We love this review of Hannah Faith Notess's new book of poems, The Multitude.
"In this way, spellmaking is not so different than poem making; both witch and poet are serious craftspeople. But yet another woman appears throughout The Multitude: the Blessed Virgin, in some ways opposite of the witch. Instead of reaching the body through words, she produced the Word through her body."

Message Board

Post here to reach thousands of readers interested in the intersection of art and faith. We welcome messages about job listings, local events, conferences, prizes, calls for papers, and more. Submit your messages by sending an e-mail here.

Christian Wiman and Gregory Wolfe at New York Encounter
New York Encounter is a free three-day public cultural festival in the heart of New York City. This year’s theme, “Longing for the Sea and yet NOT Afraid,” will be explored through public discussion, exhibits, and live performances. The weekend will open on Friday, January 15th at 6:30 p.m. with a conversation between Christian Wiman, poet and Senior Lecturer at Yale Divinity School, and Gregory Wolfe, Editor of Image. They will discuss what it means to be Spurred by the Promise of Happiness, though desire choked by fear appears to be the common experience of our time. Read more about the weekend's theme here. See the program here.

Veritas Forum Seeking Director of Online and Media Engagement
The Veritas Forum is recruiting for a newly created Director of Online and Media Engagement role. This is the perfect time for a driven entrepreneur to design, launch and lead this new body of work. Veritas is rapidly growing, having hosted over 130 live Forums last year with some of the most respected thought leaders in the world, including Tim Keller, NT Wright, Peter Thiel, Marilyn Robison, Ross Douthat and Steven Pinker. They are in the midst of finalizing a complete redesign of to be much more content-forward and to significantly upgrade the user experience and graphic design. And they continue to invest significantly in identifying and cultivating new thought leaders via our Veritas Riff program. For more details, click here.

Spark and Echo's Fifth Anniversary Celebration
Spark and Echo Arts, the NYC arts organization dedicated to illuminating the entire Bible through the arts, will commemorate its fifth anniversary with a celebration of visual and performing arts at Redeemer Presbyterian’s W83 in NYC. The celebration includes an exhibition running from January 14 through February 5, and an evening of live performances on Thursday, January 28. Enjoy visual art, music, poetry, dance, theatre, film, and food from the project’s five-year history, and get to know some of the 176 artists that have illuminated 2,650 verses to date. Learn more here and use code IMAGE for $5 tickets!

The Cascadia Worship & Arts Conference
We want you to be a part of the experience. This two-day conference, February 19-20, invites pastors, artists, leaders, and culture-makers into a space for conversation, imagination, and relationship as we explore worship and the arts, and how these things might shape our shared Cascadian context. Our time together will be shaped by the creative worship leadership of singer-songwriter, Sara Groves. Suzanne Wolfe will read from her new book, Confessions of XRegister by February 12. Student and group discounts available! Learn more here.

The Orison Prizes in Poetry & Fiction
Orison Books, a non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad and inclusive range of perspectives, announces The Orison Prizes in Poetry & Fiction, offering $1,500 and publication of a full-length manuscript in each genre. Judges: Hadara Bar-Nadav (poetry) & Peter Orner (fiction). $25 entry fee. Entry deadline: February 15. Find complete guidelines here.

Taproot Theatre Presents Silent Sky
Let one scientist’s quest take you beyond the stars. At the dawn of modern astronomy, Henrietta Leavitt maps the night sky, intent on measuring the distance to the stars. A true story, Silent Sky invites you to revel in the magic and romance of the universe with this history-making journey of love, family, science and determination. Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky has its northwest premiere at Taproot Theatre on January 29 and plays through February 27 in the Jewell Mainstage Theatre. Tickets go on sale January 2 through the Taproot Theatre Box Office at 206.781.9707 and here.

Keep choosing good...

You’ve probably heard the saying that goes: “You can have it cheap, fast, or good. Pick any two.” But sometimes it seems the answer really has to be: “Pick one.”

There are plenty of “fast” and “cheap” ways of handling art and faith. As you know, they don’t serve either faith or the culture.

Image has chosen “good”—good writing, good art, good design and presentation. Because the human heart is nurtured by slowness and by excellence in both craftsmanship and vision.

But we need the support of our community. If you enjoy receiving ImageUpdate for free, please consider making a donation now. Even $5 a month will help more than you know.

Publisher: Gregory Wolfe
Managing Editor: Aubrey Allison
Contributors: Bryan Bliss

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