Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fascinations

I'm fascinated by Christians.

I'm fascinated by their rituals, by the beauty of their music, by their literary traditions. I'm fascinated by the idea of charity, by their capacity for forgiveness, by the longevity of their faith. I'm fascinated by their belief in something that runs so contrary to logic and reason, by their insistence that they alone know what is best for the rest of the world, by their confusion of fear and love. I'm fascinated by the paradoxes in the Bible, by the wanton cruelty that their God displays, by the evils they perform in the name of the Lord.

I'm just fascinated by them.

I will never be a Christian. I wouldn't convert even if Jesus Christ Himself appeared to me and commanded me to do so. I will never marry a Christian, nor do I have any close friends who are Christians. I find their narrow-minded judgments to be mildly annoying, the way an irritating laugh is enough to put me off a giggler.

But at the same time, I can't seem to get enough of Christian literature. I'm currently reading two books right now, one of which is a transciption of conversations between theologians, rabbis, priests, writers, artists, etc about the Old Testament. The other is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which explores what it means to be a good Christian. I tell myself that I'm reading this purely as research for my novel (which I kind of am, I guess), but I find myself drawn to these kinds of books, despite the fact that I don't think they provide any real insight into life, the universe, and everything. Rather, they are modern interpretations of one of the oldest books in the western world, the Bible.

I think that it's probably the Bible that truly interests me, but in an almost-anthropologic way rather than a spiritual one. The Bible is probably the most important document to our society, and its language makes its way into our colloquisms, our political language, and our identification of who is "good." (What makes a Good Samaritan, a label coined by the New Testament?) But at the same time, I don't agree with most of the major points of Christianity, I have no interest in ever attending church, and I resent the attitude which which most of those who do choose to go to church treat the rest of us.

But, goddamn, I'm fascinated by Christians.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Novel Idea

So I think I discovered several reasons why my writing was going less-than-smoothly:
a) Corporate America is a creativity downer
b) My current living arrangements provide little quiet time and no truly comfortable place to work.
c) I couldn't figure out what genre my book needed to be.
Part of the problem is that there's just too much supernatural stuff going on in my storyline(between the angels and prophecies) to be just general fiction, or even "literary" fiction. I was leaning towards magical realism, but somehow the genre just didn't vibe with my writing style, and I ended up getting frustrated.
Inspiration dawned, however (as it generally will in times of need), when I picked up a series by Anne Bishop, the Black Jewels Trilogy. I used to read quite a bit of fantasy, but grew bored when all of the books I picked up had the same basic storyline over and over again. Bishop's series, however, incorporated entirely new ideas, including a new take on the same-old Christian mythos. The series explores the more practical details behind the the often-generalized "darker" realms, such as the laws that would govern behavior in hell (because it can't just be a free-for-all). Anyway, long story short, I wouldn't claim that they were the best books every written, and I skimmed through parts of them, but they got me thinking: why couldn't my book be a fantasy novel?
After all, I'd be in the best of company: both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used the fantasy genre to explore Christian ideas. The genre lends itself to the type of grandiose metaphors that theology requires, and where else can a talking lion walk around paraphrasing Jesus without it being a farce?
Anyway, the novel is now officially a fantasy story, and it's flowing much more smoothly. The problem before had always been trying to determine if the reader should believe that the main character--who is speaking to angels--is crazy, or whether she truly is a prophet. She was always questioning whether or not she needed to be institutionalized, but if the reader doubted her sanity, it undermined her efforts completely. Regardless, the problem is solved by making it entirely plausible that she would be speaking to angels, and the creative juices are flowing freely--I officially have 1/5 of the rough draft written, which may not seem like all that much to some people, but when a book is going to have 45 chapters, it takes a while to get anything finished.
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