Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

I’m going to start my review with a simple injunction: read this book. Comprende? Good.  Let’s move on.

I first become aware of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl a couple years ago, but I never gave it more than a passing glance. In hindsight, I must say that’s really too bad – this is a book I wish I had read much sooner than I did.

Wilson’s premise is that the world – this moist, round, inhabited, spinning ball, filled with flamingos (real and artificial), snowflakes, and human beings – is a work of art crafted by the ultimate Artist. He’s the Someone behind it all, for “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. Through Him all things were made…”

Welcome to His poem. His play. His novel. Skip the bowls of fruit and statues. Let the pages flick your thumbs. This is His spoken world. (p. 8)

Wilson explores this idea with wide-eyed, slack-jawed wonder: unapologetic and as contagious as the measles (only a whole lot better for you). He has Chesterton’s knack for showing us how extraordinary the ordinary really is. Look at the world around you. Be amazed. Be thankful you’re a part of it. Be oh so thankful…

But lest you think this is some sort of fuzzy-brained sentimentalist cakewalk, rest assured  – it’s nothing of the sort. Childlike? Yes. Childish? Not on your life. Wilson may write with the whimsy of A.A. Milne, but he has the sharp-edged theological insight of a surgeon’s scalpel. He’ll nick you; more likely than not, he’ll slice you right open. But like every good surgeon, he won’t leave you that way; and when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you went under his knife.

The quality of writing throughout is top-notch. Actually, it’s several notches above top-notch. High praise, I know, but well deserved. It’s engaging, poignant, funny, and profound. You’ll laugh, you’ll pump your fist, and you’ll probably tear up (I did). You’ll find wordcraft in this book as enjoyable as anything found in a novel.

You’ll also find a veritable treasure trove of imaginative metaphors. As Tony Reinke observed, “Readers who seek a literary buzz of metaphorical intoxication will find it hard to put this book down, and once they do, may find it impossible to touch their nose with their fingertips.”

Be warned: Notes is also highly quotable. You’ll have to pick and choose, though, because you can’t bloody well highlight the whole book. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows. (p. 157)

If, by some chance, you are still unconvinced that this is a must-read, then I fear there is little hope for you.

I was asked to give this book a star rating. Five stars is generally the highest, but I’m going to break the rules and give this one six. Anything less just wouldn’t do it justice.

Finally, be sure to enter Josh’s giveaway if you’re interested in winning a copy of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl for your own bookshelf!

25 thoughts on “Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl”

  1. Yeah, I comprendo. But all in all an excellent post and that last quote is one of the of the best I’ve seen in a while and one of the truest as well. If I don’t want to enter to win a copy where can I find one remotely cheap?

  2. I love that book, too. Last night I watched the movie for the second time, and that led me to pull the book back off the shelf and review the highlighted parts.

  3. I’ll be putting this one on my list. I highly doubt that I’ll forget that title too. Good review! :D

    To the KING be all the glory!

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