f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 7 of <i>Gilead</i> - Beautiful. And a Call to CBA Retailing

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

Friday, May 13, 2005

Day 7 of Gilead - Beautiful. And a Call to CBA Retailing

Why did Gilead win the Pulitzer?

The writing was superior. The voice, controlled and expert. Its author has properly high-brow credentials.

There's a dozen books a year like that, however. And yet each year the good folks at the various book awards choose a title that meets whatever standards the award is supposed to represent.

My goal here isn't to linger on the Pulitzer. Awards are great but, in and of themselves, meaningless. Still a perusal of past Pulitzer winners makes a fairly impressive reading list for what I would consider mainstream, literary fiction. These are typically books by authors with an impressive body of work behind them; they're often pretty accessible; and they're often the books that make-up the growing canon of American literature. You recognize the books on this list in other words.

As such, Gilead seems a pretty understandable choice. To me, it tackles similar ground as, say, that archetypical bit of Americana Our Town. Emily says, "It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another....Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute."

The Stage Manager answers her: "No. The saints and poets, maybe--they do some."

I think Americans have always treasured those moments when saints and poets remind us of life's shattering, and ephemeral, beauty. For Christians it's that weird holy tension. For non-believers, well, it's something completely different.

This is a beautiful book. Written by a poet. Written by, as much as one believes in such things, a saint.
Which brings me hard into my next point.

I think this book needs to be on CBA bookshelves.

We've barked about how difficult it is to get ABA stores to treat CBA books with respect.
Part of the issue is that CBA sets itself so apart as an industry that there's little cross-over the other way either.

In Gilead, you have a book that contains NOTHING objectionable to that theoretically tetchy reader. It is a "CBA" novel without meaning to be.

And yet, I guarantee that it will be ignored by our industry. Sure Books and Culture reviewed it. And First Things. That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about Christians supporting this book they way we supported The Passion of the Christ. Wasn't everybody all jazzed up because a "Christian" had made an impact in the world? Didn't we all flock like lemmings to "show Hollywood a lesson"? Well, I'd like a little herd behavior on Gilead, too.

This world, for better and mostly worse, is run by pocket books. The industry needs to flex some dollar muscle in this instance so the market understands Christians will support writing like this.

Next week, I'd like to pursue this further.