Tag Archives: novels

Books: Novels, Mission, and Communion

You hay have noticed that the reviews of novels have stopped. That is basically because I’m reading War and Peace which is quite long, so it’s taking me a while! I read Grisham’s ‘The Broker’ before that which i enjoyed and have written a review of on this site.

Before that I read a book called ‘God’s Smuggler’ by Brother Andrew, which is the story of the Christian missionary who used to smuggle Bibles through the Iron Curtain back in the 1950′s and 60′s. It is extremely challenging in the way we think about our faith. For example, he used to leave the Bibles in plain view of the guards when he passed through a border, convinced that God could avert their eyes if necessary! Very challenging.

I’m currently reading a book called “Mass Culture” edited by Pete Ward. It looks at eucharist, how we do it, and its implications on youth work and the general church. As the common meal passed down to us by Jesus, it has to be central to Christian worship, but Ward claims that the way in which we have been doing it in the church has become almost sacrosanct, and by failing to adapt, it often fails to speak to our congregations and culture. He suggests that we allow ourselves to play around with it a little more within the context of worship to regain the lost significance. I’ll write more on this when I’ve got further through the book.

Slam (Nick Hornby) – a book review

Slam is another novel from Nick Hornby, one of my favourite authors. Whilst not up to his previous highs of A Long Way Down, or High Fidelity, the book has some good things going for it. It is written in Hornby’s usual light and witty style. And again, he deals with some serious issues.

Sam is a teenage boy who loves skateboarding. He’s been brought up by his mum, who was a teenage parent when she had him, and doesn’t he know it! He almost carries around the guilt that he ruined her life and he is determined not to fall into the same trap. But generally has a good relationship with his mum. He is a fairly typical teenager – one who is bored by school and who ends relationships simply by stopping calling.

However, by accident (of course), he gets Alicia, his girlfriend, pregnant. His initial reaction is to run away to Hastings, get a job, start a new life, and forget about everything. Of course, that doesn’t work and he comes home and faces up to what has happened. The rest of the book is about how Sam deals with it and comes to some maturity. Near the end, once the baby is born, the book starts to drag a little, but as I said, there are a few good points worth looking at.

Firstly, the book shows quite clearly that sex can make babies, even when you try to be careful. Current society has divorced sex from family in a way that often hides this. At no point in the book is the pregnancy a ‘problem’ that just needs to be ‘dealt with’. The pregnancy is always a baby. Abortion is mentioned but Sam and Alicia never seriously consider it (although it might have been interesting to see in the book how this conversation might have gone). Their priority is to get through the next nine months and afterwards.

Secondly, Hornby employs an interesting way for Sam to think through his feelings. Sam, being a skateboarder is a huge fan of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk (who is actually a real person). Sam has a poster of Tony on his bedroom wall and knows the words to Tony Hawk’s autobiography by heart. As a result, Sam seems to talk to Tony through the poster, and Tony talks back through the words of his book, Tony acts as a sort of interactive god to Sam, giving advice and thoughts. This reminded me a little of the Orthodox use of icons in order to commune with God, except that Tony isn’t God. It shows Sam’s need for a spiritual ‘other’ – a higher power to aspire to and to guide.

The end of the book starts to drag a little, especially once the baby is born. And it gets a little predictable. Not Nick Hornby’s best book by any means, but it’s a short read, has some funny moments, and some thoughtful ones.

Douglas Coupland on the inner voice

A great quote from a novel I’m reading:

I’m sitting here and my inner voice won’t shut up. Do you ever get that? All you crave is silence, but instead you sit there and , against your wishes, nag yourself at full volume? Money! Loneliness! Failure! Sex! Body! Enemies! Regrets!

And everyone’s doing the same thing – friends, family, that lady at the gas station till, your favourite movie star – everyone’s skull is buzzing with me, me, me, me, me, and nobody knows how to shut it off. We’re a planet of selfish me-robots. I hate it. I try to turn it off.

From The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland.

Do you ever feel like that?