Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
Story of Facebook hits the big screen; a look at a 1948 Faulkner novel; and essayists reflect on aspects of Catholicism

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 21, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

I need to admit I am totally unaware of Facebook. And yet I did go forward to see the new movie about the phenomenon, The Social Network. And I have to admit it is certainly one of the best movies of the year and may become a classic in the tradition of Citizen Kane.

Now, whether this film is an accurate account of how the Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook is certainly questionable. But if you think of this story as fictional rather than somewhat based on fact you have a powerful story that has implications for all of us in terms of how we treat each other and what is really important in life.

Billionaire Zuckerberg recently gave $100 million to improve the schools of Newark, N.J. I commend him for that and hope that his life story becomes more expansive and memorable than what may be unfairly portrayed in this film.

The key to The Social Network is the wonderful and fast-talking script by Aaron Sorkin, who gave us the excellent television series The West Wing. To Sorkin’s great script is added the smart direction of David Fincher, who takes a relatively dry, courtroom-like drama about the digital world and makes it exciting.

The Facebook film is filled with possible Academy Award nominations. For one, Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic as the driven Mark Zuckerberg. The opening five-minute scene where Zuckerberg is dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) has some of the fastest dialogue you will ever hear and sets the stage for how this brilliant student with “not the best relational skills” will get back at her. And note the end of the film where the circle comes around.

The movie centers on how Zuckerberg builds Facebook, while we go back and forth from the legal discovery on two cases where he is being sued by two upscale classmates, the Winklevoss twins (played by one actor, Armie Hammer), and his friend and cofounder, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Justin Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who draws Zuckerberg out to Silicon Valley. The acting is excellent throughout. The fast-moving dialogue and pace of the film are real strengths.

The Social Network and its story of the intense and free-wheeling world of some young people certainly presents a challenge for all of us who want to pass on to the young a gift of faith and meaning in the Gospel tradition.

The Social Network is rated A-III – for adults, by Catholic News Service. The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG-13. There is sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and language issues.

Book Reviews

In the spring I was at a coffee and donuts at a Spokane parish. The table ended up being four men and the topic somehow got on the subject of memorable books in our lives. The other three had all read William Faulkner’s 1948 novel Intruder in the Dust. I had never read Faulkner and the group urged me to read this 241-page novel of the South in Segregation times.

Well, it took me a while to read this murder mystery written in the tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird. Some sentences seem almost literally two pages long. I began to think that wherever there was a coma or a semi-colon or a colon you should assume it was the beginning of a new sentence.

Through the eyes of a 15-year-old nephew, we see a white lawyer Gavin Stevens seek to defend a black man accused of murdering a white man in the Deep South in the 1940s. It has a “Hardy Boys” side to it as two youths and an older woman become key amateur sleuths.

The young boy speaks in first person very deeply and often in convoluted sentences of the crisis that racism and segregation caused in post-Civil War United States. He reflects with passion and thoughtfulness on the wound to the American psyche. To the reader, it is as if you are in a room with Faulkner, hearing him speak to you from his heart and soul.

So for me, it was a “bucket list” book. But perhaps sadly I don’t think I will get to Faulkner’s other classic works.

Intruder in the Dust is published by Vintage Books in large-size paperback at a list price of $12.95.

*****

Maryknoll’s Orbis Books has a new book of essays out titled Reclaiming Catholicism: Treasures Old and New, edited by Thomas H. Groome and Michael J. Daley. It was just published this year and has a list price of $22.

The book is divided into three sections, each with about 15 articles. The sections are Perspectives, Personalities, and Practices. Groome describes reclaiming in his view when he states: “To reclaim is neither naive nor nostalgic toward the past; it certainly does not mean to regress or to simply repeat what was. Instead the task is to claim again as our own the potential that the past still holds for our present and future, to reappropriate and then build upon its wisdom for our time.”

Michael Daley has an excellent introduction on what it means to be a Generation X Catholic born in 1968. He uses an episode from The Simpsons titled “The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star” that first aired on May 15, 2005. The article is very intriguing. I have to admit I have only seen The Simpsons once or twice and I have been unable to find a copy of the episode he refers to. His three or four pages on the program make you want to see it.

In the Perspectives section, Francine Cardman speaks of her beloved Polish grandmother who she worried about because she didn’t go to Communion. Luke Timothy Johnson has a wonderful section on Jesus. He focuses on the mysteries of the rosary in speaking of God’s Love in human form.

Father Donald Cozzens speaks of the humbling of the priesthood. He ends his section with: ‘’The cold, humbling winds continue to blow and today’s priests lean steadfastly into them. In these days without sun, no one thinks priests can walk on water, but the One who did stands with them. That should be enough.”

Christian Brother Jeffrey Gros, who has done a lifetime of ecumenical work, has a delightful chapter where he writes: “My father had New Orleans roots, so his Catholicism was more Mediterranean than Irish. He was very active with the schools and the parish, but had a healthy objectivity about clergy. We knew the Franciscans were good for confession, the Dominicans good for the intellectual heritage. He went away to the Jesuits for retreat, and would have worked to build a retreat house in our diocese had the bishop not been so anti-religious, with a special aversion for Jesuits.”

A Holy Names Sister with lots of Spokane connection, Mary C. Boys, writes of our relationships to Jews in the past and in the present with passion and hope.

The Personalities section has wonderful articles on John Courtney Murray by Jesuit David Hollenbach; Leonard Feeney, by Cardinal Avery Dulles S.J.; and Sister Madeleva Wolff of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, by Gail Porter Mandell, among many others.

Under Practices, Karen M. Ristau gives an update on Catholic Schools from the ’50s to the present. Franciscan Father Richard Rohr has a thoughtful piece on the Eucharist. Those with an interest in movies will appreciate the history of the Legion of Decency article by Jesuit Father Richard A. Blake.

The average Catholic will find some of the chapters of this book very appealing. This book brings back memories good and bad and challenges us to build on the past toward a Gospel vision of the future. These short pieces would be great for a parish discussion group.

(Father Caswell is the Spokane Diocese’s Ecumenical Relations Officer and Inland Register archivist.)


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