In The Aftermath: Provocations and Laments Paperback – Dec 15 2008
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Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School "The sheer delight that David Bentley Hart's turns of phrase invite tempts me to agree with almost anything he writes almost. Not since Newman have we had a theologian at once so erudite, profound, stylistically brilliant, and funny. His harsh judgments and outrageous opinions betray an irrepressible generosity of soul." Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of"First Things" "There are few thinkers or writers today, or of any time, who can match the erudition, wit, and fetching prose of David Hart. Read this book and be prepared to be instructed, entertained, and provoked to think again about the really important questions." Paul J. Griffiths, Duke Divinity School "David Bentley Hart is an agent provocateur with a taste for beauty, as the saturated prose and argument of this volume abundantly show. We Christians are lucky to have him, and anyone Christian or not with a taste for argument and wit will find this volume a delight. Read Hart on Gogol or on Waugh and learn thereby to love them more and for the right reasons. Or read him on the difference between Christ and nothing, and come to understand how that is the only difference that finally counts. In any case, read him.""
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This book represents an amazing collection of essays, spanning from Hart's philosophically challenging "Christ and Nothing," which represents both an abridged version of his (to this point) magnum opus in The Beauty of the Infinite and an elaboration of themes which will hopefully spawn another book someday, to lighter fair such as the wonderful "Laughter of the Philosophers," or the scathing critique of Daniel Dennet in "Daniel Dennet Hunts the Snark." I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Hart (or, especially, wanting to get interested) as these essays are much, much easier to read than incredibly difficult though incredibly rewarding Beauty of the Infinite. The only caveat is that most (if not in fact all) of these essays can be found online--for free. In fact many of the essays (e.g. Christ and Nothing and the one on Daniel Dennet) can be found on the First Things website. Aside from this, this book is a wonderful read and it is certainly refreshing to read someone with Harts lucid and often poetic writing style who nonetheless has such a deep knowledge of theology, philosophy, and literature.
Hart's style is very distinctive, combining conservative opinions on modern society with the aesthetic and mystical vision of Eastern Christianity, his prose alternating between biting satire and flights of beautiful but near incomprehensible theological meditation. Adorning almost every page is another word that will not be found in the vocabulary of even the most erudite reader, lending the text a kind of elegant impenetrability (I tend just to guess what he is meaning to say rather than consulting a dictionary, and have never felt cheated). Those who enjoy the essays of C.S. Lewis would find and enjoy a similar voice in Hart.
A year or two ago I would have given this book five stars, but subtle changes in my emotional and intellectual 'weather' have made Hart's thought seem a bit less expansive and encouraging than it did. I think that the issue is that he takes too long and goes too far in his critique before returning to a positive vision, so that in the end he induces something of the nihilism that is his most implacable foe.