Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Three Short Novels

I have recently read three short novels. The first I found on my book shelves, one I bought in an independent bookshop (Daunt's in Hampstead) and the most recent I got from a charity shop in Golders Green for a pound.
A kestrel for a knave by Barry Hines was published in 1968. Set in a mining area (only ever referred to as "the City") it tells of Billy Casper, a young working class boy troubled at home and at school, who only finds solace when he finds and trains a kestrel whom he names "Kes". The book was made into a film Kes which I have never seen and is a favourite for often used in Key Stage 4 kids doing GCSE English. The book is so named because of a poem found in the Boke of St Albans. In medieval England, the only bird a knave was legally allowed to keep was a kestrel. Someone told me the main character is based in part on his own brother, by now an expert on birds of prey. It was nice to be taken back to my own childhood in much of the description. The book is fairly well written but smacks of a writing class approach that describes everything in careful detail, leaving nothing to the imagination and striking similes and metaphors that pall in the end. (One kid perceptively wrote "Everything are just so hard to understand esp with the fact that the book is overflows with similes and metaphors. Too much of something is never too good.)
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald was written ten years later and deals with a much more middle class setting in East Anglia in 1959. A much less sad book, it was an easier read and a much more mature literary approach. Some witty little phrases lurk such as this - "She was in appearance small, wispy, and wiry, somewhat insignificant from the front view, and totally so from behind". It was Booker shortlisted. Good stuff and worth the money.
If I had to rank these three I would put the Isaac Bashevis Singer first. This was published in 1983. The Penitent was originally published in installments in The Jewish Daily Forward (1973) with the Yiddish title of Der Baal Tshuve. The English translation was made by Joseph Singer for Farrar Straus & Giroux. It tells the story of Joseph Shapiro, emigrating from Poland in 1939 and from USSR in 1945 to the USA in 1947, where he becomes rich and involved with consumerism and lust. He decides to leave everything, including his job, his wife and his lover, and finally expatriate to Israel, where he wonders about the traditional values of Jewish culture. For any serious Christian, it is  a fascinating way to consider worldliness and related subjects. It is full of interesting quotations. For example “A soldier who serves an emperor has to have a uniform, and this also applies to a soldier who serves the Almighty."
All three novelists are no longer living.

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