f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Self-Conscious Reflexivity! Get Your Self-Conscious Reflexivity Here!—Closing the Week on Postmodernism

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, January 16, 2004

Self-Conscious Reflexivity! Get Your Self-Conscious Reflexivity Here!—Closing the Week on Postmodernism

Why, oh why, would I ever wish that Christian novelists dabble in the tool box of postmoderns? Do we really need any more precious or cloying metafiction? Or disastrously ponderous deconstruction? Do we need the author to stick himself in his stories (i.e. Paul Auster) or turn them into fun-house glass mazes (i.e. John Barth) or write them without the letter "e" (i.e. George Perec—and still the most impressive yet inexplicably pointless literary achievement ever in my mind. His novel, A Void, was written in French without that vowel and then TRANSLATED into English without them, too. Are you kidding me?)?

Anyway, creating more odd postmodern writers isn't my goal. Certainly not simply for the sake of doing so in any case.

But, we need some acknowledgement by authors of the breadth of tools at their disposal. And it would an awareness of the limitations, strengths, problems, and inconsistencies that offer themselves in fiction.

So this is what I want to see sometime in Christian fiction.

I want a story told, at least in part, by a liar. The written word is not the gospel unless it's owned by the International Bible Society or King James. Readers are becoming slack and dull. They start mindlessly absorbing anything in a Christian novel as though it were recently excavated and Pauline in content. They could use a bit of chain-yanking. Plus, liars thrive in the Christian community. We'd be the most gullible subculture in America if they hadn't removed that word from the dictionary.

I'd also love to see more satire. This shows an awareness of the tropes and rules of genre, and tweaks them for effect. It doesn't have to be mean, but it does have to be smart. Historical fiction, end-days fiction—these all seem fairly ripe for exploitation should some writer find the gall.

Mostly what I'm advocating is something I spoke about the first week I started this journal and it's a point likely to come up again: Writers need to be intentional in all their choices. The worst thing you can do is simply write a certain way because that's the way others do it. That's how we end up with bookshelves filled with very, very, very, very, very similar fiction. That's how genres are started in the first place. Here, we're all about understanding the genre and then moving outside of it the most effective way we can.

It's Friday, I'm weary, and I think I'll call it a post at that. This weekend I'm supposed to finish reading Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy which features what can only be described as an orgasmic nun on its cover. You may or may not want to check back on Monday depending on how that last phrase rubbed you.