f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Welcome to Suburbia, Better Known as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

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

Monday, February 16, 2004

Welcome to Suburbia, Better Known as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

That bitter, gagging taste in my mouth, that’s not from the Yankees trading for the best player in baseball and making me hate them even more, no, that’s from this lovely little book called Jesus Saves.

Starting with two whacked-out teens slamming into a deer and turning its soon-severed head into a shrine, the book is the literary equivalent of pulling up a log in a forest to see what’s crawling underneath. Not for the feint of heart (not even for the iron-stomached) it goes past the suburbia-as-soulless-treatment seen in White Noise and the oh-so-proud-of-itself film American Beauty and portrays suburbia as its own lurid, fairy tale nightmare being terrorized by one deadly, bearded troll.

The book is narrated from two perspectives: Ginger, a Lutheran pastor’s daughter on a slippery slope of drugs, sex, and violence, and Sandy Patrick, an abducted teenage girl being held at the mercy of a disturbed and violent loner. The troll. Sound fun yet?

Still, I think we can learn from it. Hopefully.

Tomorrow, I think we’ll discuss the notion of gothic art and our perception and relation to beauty.

Wednesday we can talk about fractured, noisy writing and the difficulty of making the unclear, clear.

Thursday we’ll think about some of the nastiness on the underbelly of Christianity that could use the bright light of art.

Friday we’ll examine the role of “religious writing” in Jesus Saves.

Today I’ll just note that, in many ways, this is the anti-CBA novel. Where CBA is unflappably upbeat and sunny, this is downcast and squalid. Everything here is about ugliness and rot. It’s a mausoleum of a novel. You can make the complaint that it’s as untruthful a vision of the world as a CBA fantasy-land, but it won’t get very far. That’s kind of the point. The book is intentionally horrifying. What’s less clear is if CBA novels are “intentionally” all hope and sunshine or if it’s just a by-product of the novels’ Christian message. Figuring that out (and toying with it) will be one more step toward getting to the heart and core of understanding our genre.