“Your father made mistakes. We all do. But instead of working to set things right, he chose to protect those mistakes – he let them be. He even fed them, which made them so much worse. Mistakes don’t just hang on the wall like ugly pictures. Mistakes are seeds.” He thumped his chest. “In here. They grow. They take over. You make a mistake, you gotta make it right. Dig that seed out. Old Wiz used to say, ‘Fruit rots, wood rots, but lazy-ass boys rot the fastest.”
- N.D. Wilson, Boys of Blur (pp. 50-51)
From my review of Gone Baby Gone (2007):
“This city can be hard. When I was young, I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God said to His children. ‘You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.’”
In a world of page-to-screen adaptions gone oh so wrong, Gone Baby Gone is proof of the good that can come from sticking close to the source material. With little deviation beyond the dictates of its own two hour running time, the film brings Dennis Lehane’s powerhouse novel to life with intelligence and grit to spare.
Last week I did the unthinkable and put down a book I’d only half finished. Put it down, I say, with no intention of picking it back up again – a sign of readerly metamorphosis if there was one. Get Kafka on the phone pronto.
Foucault’s Pendulum is the book I could not bring myself to finish, and while I do regret having to shelve it, I’m happy to be rid of the thing. Eco’s writing is terrific, but he’s a smothersome storyteller with a fetish for excruciating detail – a tolerable idolatry so long as the story is going, you know, somewhere. Forty five chapters and three hundred pages in, the pendulum had hardly budged, and all the Templars and conspiracy theories in the world can’t save you then.
A few months ago, dropping any book halfway through would have been unconscionable, so what gives? Between work, planning, and other writing commitments, my reading time now is significantly less than it used to be. (This isn’t a complaint, just a bald fact.) I’m more jealous of that time as a result: less forgiving of books that seem to be wasting it, and unwilling to invest energy into that which is not enjoyable, or enlightening, or at the very least, interesting. Three strikes, and Foucault’s Pendulum was thrown out on its ear.
It’s not that I don’t like a good challenge. It’s not that my tastes beg for blazing guns, mad scientists, and rubber-melting car chases. When I read a story, however, I do expect to enjoy myself. Enjoyment isn’t everything, but it is something, particularly where a novel is concerned.
You know that feeling you get when you’re stranded in the middle of the ocean in a crappy inflatable with no rations left? No? Well, try to imagine it. No land in sight, no breeze, and a whole lotta sun. You start to go mad. You see things. You sink your teeth into a juicy chicken drumstick, and then realize it’s your arm. You need to be rescued. Soon. Preferably before the sharks come or you dine on your own flesh.
Can you picture it? Feel it? Good. That was me reading Foucault’s Pendulum. That was me trying to cope with the stodgy characters, the Byzantine plot lines, the seemingly everlasting descriptions of occult rituals. It all seems like super important stuff, until you realize that what you mistook for intellectual sophistication is really just an elegant, overindulgent mind-fart.
There. I’ve said my piece.
Here I stand. I can do no other.
Carry on, Jeeves.
This Independence Day, in between the firecrackers and the hamburgers and the beer, take time to read this piece by Toby Sumpter. It’s the real deal:
But wherever we find ourselves, if we can’t pronounce blessing on the people closest to us, how will we ever learn to bless those furthest from us? And if we are called to bring the blessing of God, the blessing of Abraham’s God, to every family, to every nation, then we need to learn to bless our nations too. This is not jingoistic nationalism. This is no bland, pagan well-wishing or carnal swagger. This is the potent blessing of Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit — the Blessing of the Triune God who ever lives and reigns — the God to whom every nation must bow the knee.
And how will every nation bow to King Jesus if His people do not defiantly proclaim His blessings to them now?