Kicking at the Darkness :: A Book Review

On April 16th, Byron Borger, bookseller extraordinaire, published this review of Brian’s “Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination” on his booknotes blog. Here’s the intro, with a link to the full article to follow.

My friend Brian Walsh will be doing a presentation drawing on his recent book on the singer-songwriter, rock guitarist and road warrior Bruce Cockburn at the renowned Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing this week.  Later, Mr. Cockburn will be performing, preceded by an interview with Walsh.  In honor of this remarkable bit of interaction and collaboration, and with a big hat tip to all involved at Calvin College, I offer this long rumination on the music of Bruce Cockburn, the writing of Brian Walsh, and this new book that explores how Cockburn’s work can inspire a more fruitful, faithful Christian imagination.  It’s a great book and means a lot to me, as you will see.

kicking at the darknes.jpgWhen Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination by Brian J. Walsh (Brazos; $18.99) hit the bookstore shelves in late fall I did a brief review, suggesting it was a book I adored, had read (in an early manuscript version) and that I would write about more thoroughly.

When we were doing our Hearts & Minds Best Books of 2011 announcements, we awarded it as one of the year’s best.

In fact, I said it was one of the year’s books that made me the happiest.  I had hoped others might find that intriguing, and that BookNotes readers would order it.  Some did, but others, I’m afraid, didn’t realize just how important this remarkable book really is.  I’m not alone, though, in insisting that this is a book that is well worth your hard-earned coin.  I smile in agreement when Brian McLaren says “I savored every page of this book.”   And I agree with Marva Dawn’s enthusiastic assertion: “You need to read this book!”

Here is my heart-felt two part longer review of Kicking at the Darkness by Brian Walsh.  The first essay is a rambling bit of my own story, why I found Cockburn so important decades ago, and how Walsh has been a writer whose Biblical insights about worldview and the prophetic imagination have influenced me greatly.  Granted, my remarks are a bit impressionistic and, insofar as it is just a little bit of my little story, it may not be that interesting to you.

Still, I hope you give it a read—you may better understand why I write about many of the themes we pursue here, the sorts of books we commend, the authors we most appreciate.  The confluence of evangelical faith, a reformational worldview, how Christian discipleship demands cultural engagement, our interest in the arts, and the really important influence of pop music form the backdrop as I tell about Bruce Cockburn.  I’ve said for decades that Cockburn is in my top two or three all-time favorite recording artists, so I hope you’ll read my odd little overview.

Part Two is a bit more focused, describing the structure and themes of the book.  In my first essay, actually, I end with three reasons why you should read Kicking at the Darkness.  If this intrigues you, or you are willing to trust me, order it from us asap.  If you want a bit more explanation of where Walsh goes with all this, read my summary in Part Two.  I am (relatively) brief, there, and it is no substitute for taking in Walsh’s insight, good writing, powerful Bible lessons, and his seriously imaginative take on Cockburn’s seriously imaginative artistic vision.  Enjoy.

Click here to read the full review

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

Leave a Reply