A Quick Word

"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism." -Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

19 April 2011

Ill at ease, or, a longish update in lieu of many shorter ones.

My lack of posts on here is embarrassing! I feel so ashamed, redesigning this space and then not giving it any new material. What a tease. In my defense, I've been incredibly busy the past five weeks-- the first two, I had my fiance and my family come visit me in England, then shortly thereafter I went to Edinburgh for five days, came back to York with one day to wash clothes and repack, and then headed off for Dublin. Travels, travels.

I had a great time-- esp. in Edinburgh (beautiful, magical city!)-- and got to do some pretty amazing things. I've been reading a lot, thinking a lot, getting inspired a lot. Looking forward to seeing where that takes me in the upcoming weeks.

I've set a new goal for myself during my remaining time in England: I'm going to write a novel. Yes, I know what you're thinking... a little ambitious, probably destined for failure, what the heck is he doing. But! I did write a novel in high school, and once I got into a good rhythm it wasn't too difficult. I've grown significantly since then, and my writing has progressed and matured so much that I almost want to write one out of sheer curiosity and comparison. It won't be anything too strenuous-- it's actually an adaptation of sorts, so the outline of the material is already there for me. I just have to flesh it out and get to writing. I'm also, as with my first novel, aiming this one at a middle-grade, YA demographic, so I don't have the pressure of creating the next masterpiece or anything. In fact, my setting this goal is mostly for my own benefit. It's been too long since I last exercised those creative writing muscles, and my brain grows weak as I let them wither.

I was inspired to set this goal while in Edinburgh, drinking a Bailey's and coffee in The Elephant House, the cafe where JK Rowling scrawled bits of her first few Harry Potter books. Dublin urged me my newly-set goal while I toured the literary sites and read through Joyce's Dubliners in St. Stephen's Green.

Joyce wrote Dubliners when he was about my age. I feel like I can at least spit out the first draft of a children's book in a few months. Get back to my roots.

Anyway, as I said above, I've also been reading a lot. Much of my reading material has come in the way of theological and religious texts, doing work not only on my own possible vocation, but also in a more obtuse way researching for FLP.

About a month ago, I said I wasn't going to comment more than once on the whole "Rob Bell Love Wins" explosion. But now that the book is actually out, and I've actually had a chance to take a look inside it, I figured I'd make just one more statement-- I'll tell you what I hate most about it.

No, it's not the message; I actually think Love Wins counts as Bell's least compelling book  for a number of reasons (and I'm not just saying that to be provocative), and I believe that if it hadn't caused such an uproar before its release, it would have passed rather quietly from the Christian literary scene.  Velvet Elvis and Sex God challenged my thinking and were both engaging and well-written. Love Wins, on the other hand, didn't say anything that Tim Keller hadn't already said much more succinctly in his book The Reason for God.

But the fact that it didn't tell me anything new is not what I disliked about Love Wins, as Bell himself admits that he's not setting out to blaze any new trails with it. What irked me most was the style of it-- everything from the typeface to the typeset. It was written like a compilation of tweets in a godawful Arial/Helvetica mess. I really hope this isn't HarperOne's idea of what kind of books my generation will read. If so, I'm embarrassed and irritated.

Velvet Elvis and Sex God were printed in a similar way, but at least in those books there were actual paragraphs (though I don't recall any indentation), and it seemed, at least to me, more fitting with the material, especially of Sex God, which read like a bit of a theological guidebook or something. I was impressed in Love Wins when I found a paragraph that extended more than three or four lines of text. With a work that attempts to introduce deep theological speculation, I would expect less blurbs and more in-depth explication. The tweet-style of it made his statements and thoughts feel disjointed from one another.

And, to top it off, there's an embarrassing typo in the last sentence of the book ("loves wins"?). The last sentence! The one where, you know, you need as much power as you can get, where you are leaving the reader, where your words have ended and their thinking begins. And there's a typo. Ouch.

I don't agree with everything Bell says in Love Wins, but I do commend him for getting this discussion going again, even if it didn't really turn out to be fruitful and was instead your standard shouting match, let's-see-who-can-yell-loudest ideological melee. And I do love Rob Bell, and look forward to what he does next. I just think that Love Wins, with all of it's hype, came across as a bit disappointing.

I promise to keep this updated more often. I'll use it as a way to keep myself accountable, especially in my writing goals. It can serve as warm up in the morning before I dive in to my more pressing projects. So, even if it's just a little few-sentence explanation of what I've been doing, I'll say something here in this space.

Hold me to it.

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