f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Moral Books Day 1 – Forgive Me – Repentance in <i>Eating Crow</i>

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

Monday, October 18, 2004

Moral Books Day 1 – Forgive Me – Repentance in Eating Crow

Almost all thoughtful fiction raises moral issues of some variety. In my various readings throughout the years, however, I’ve come across a number of books whose central topic or theme ties so closely into a moral principle that it makes for interesting discussion. How are general market writers dealing with “morality” when they look at an issue that seems so closely linked to most religious systems. Can we learn anything from their treatment that helps us in writing our own examinations of moral and faith issues?

Today we’re looking at the issue of repentance, specifically in the form of seeking forgiveness. The book is Eating Crow by Jay Rayner.

Mini plot recap: Marc Bassett is a vitriolic food critic who is known for his scathing words. One day however a distraught chef commits suicide in the wake of Marc’s eviscerating review and Marc, feeling guilty, seeks out the widow and apologizes. In doing so he gets such a rush of emotion and feeling that he’s soon digging through his past for more thing to apologize over. A man willing to apologize honestly is a rare thing and he soon captures the attention of a government agency examining the effects of apologizing in an international context for the sins of humanity’s past. Soon he becomes known as the sorriest man in the world….

This book reminded me greatly of Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good, which we’ll discuss tomorrow. It was this synergism that led me to start this week’s topic in fact. The main linking characteristic is the both books are written with a vaguely satirical lilt, Eating Crow’s just a little stronger than Hornby’s.

The implication of this seems to that these topics can only be written about tongue-in-cheek or absurdly because in everyday life, they simply don’t exist. Or don’t matter. I’m not sure either author is really wrong about that either. In America, at least, we don’t see people—other than athletes who’ve been caught using drugs—saying “Sorry” very often. In politics especially, an apology will only be turned around by the other party to be used as one of the final nails in your political coffin. So instead, we split rhetorical hairs or ignore the question or refuse to acknowledge mistakes.

Eating Crow wonders if it wouldn’t be better just to get it all out in the open. “The truth will set you free” after all, right? The book seems to play that card for a while, but its eventual view is a little more cynical. I suppose that, at its heart, it’s right to say that apologies for their own sake are worth very little, but that’s not exactly earth-shattering insight either. Perhaps the most interesting message the book seems to offer is that asking for forgiveness and being forgiven are definitely not one-and-the-same. We have no Godly absolution in this book, just the cold mean facts that sometimes in this life you may do things that invariably change your life forever. It’s an interesting reminder, especially in comparison with our understanding of God’s forgiveness, and I hope it might even soften our heart a little should we be withholding forgiveness. Even for a day. Even for an instant.