"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne
-Michel de Montaigne
Friday, March 12, 2010
5 Books I Wish I Wrote
As we speak I am sitting in Barnes and Noble typing my blog, drinking my dark cherry mocha, and dreaming. Somehow I'm hoping all the collective inspiration and talent lining the shelves around me will seep into my brain and onto my laptop via osmosis. But if I could steal just a little genius, I'd take it from these authors whose books I keep coming back to for various reasons:
1. Seven Types of Ambiguity, by Elliot Perlman: Prose so painful and romantic and haunting that it physically hurts to read and/or makes you want to marry the author. His characterization is also phenomenal; his characters are so real for me that I fear I may run into one of them at the grocery store. If I didn't absolutely adore my spouse, I might've flown to Australia and stalked this writer.
2. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov: Let me preface by saying, that I am so torn about this book. As a Christian who genuinely wants to hate what God hates, and love what God loves, this book shakes me because of its almost blatant glorification of pedophilia and sexual abuse. Or does it? That's the genius of Nabokov's writing, the sheer power of his use of the first person; it is so convincing that it almost makes you sympathize with a rapist, a predator. As a writer, I want to peer into Nabokov's brain, figure out how in the world he does it. Brilliant and awful. I don't know whether to kiss this book or burn it. I think the latter.
3. The Giver, Lois Lowry: It's a small children's book that packs epic punch. I think about this book a lot, it surfaces in my mind not for its "literary" value (whatever that means), but rather for its originality, its brutal revelation about the world. It makes me ponder the value of human emotion and imperfection, and our futile efforts to perfect life at the risk of cleansing it of all that makes it exciting, messy, vital. This "children's" book achieves what so many "adult" books do not: it makes you think, makes you question, makes you feel.
4. Crazy Love, by Francis Chan: Get on your boots, Christian soldiers. I had to take a day or two after I read this book, and just examine my life for a bit. This book is an indictment of the beige, safe, and passionless life that so many Christians (including myself) succumb to in pursuit of a life that doesn't offend God, rather than chasing a life that pleases Him. I want to thank Francis Chan for writing a Christian book that tells me the truth, without the sugar coating. It is his conviction, strong sense of voice, and brutal honesty that I am inspired by and hope to emulate in my own writing.
5. Philippians, Saint Paul: Ok, so technically, this is a letter and not a book. But what is so remarkable about it is Paul's life, his peace, his urgency. This epistle is riddled with highlighting in my Bible because almost every line says something that makes me want to sell everything I have and open a school in Honduras. Writing like this has REAL power in the lives of people, it breathes hope into the believer, and at the very least shows the non-believer what a Christian life should look like; it is an earthly benchmark. Paul, in prison for his faith writes: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:12-13). Above all, if I can learn anything about writing from Paul, it is that powerful writing, writing that carries through the ages, comes from a life that is full of passion and devotion to something larger than onesself.