f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 1 of <i>The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show</i>: Making Faith Real

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

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Day 1 of The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show: Making Faith Real

Before we talk about the book, has anybody else noticed that a goodly number of general fiction ABA books are on the slim side? Apex just topped 200 pages in small format hardcover. TDaRS tops in at 215. More and more, I feel like my options are either slim books of probably 60,000 - 70,000 words or big honking tomes like The Historian.

Now, onto the book.

Real early on Frankka, Ariel Gore's narrator in what will henceforth be called TDaRS, says:

You're given a mythology in this life, the way you're given a body, a family, a country. You can reject it if you like--starve it, laugh in its face, run away into exile--but it's still your mythology. There's always the chance of redemption.

Frankka's mythology is Catholicism. She's a lapsed Catholic, recovering Catholic, and indeed the book is steeped in that capital-C tradition of saints and signs, happily co-opting, converting, and corrupting these depending on the situation. That said, it also takes many of the traditions and sacraments on their own historic, sacred terms and the book, if it is about anything, is about finding the authentic in the mythologic. And not just the authentic but the True in the capital-T sense of that word.

It underscores--if it needed highlighting yet again--the particular way that modern American evangelicals have somehow rid themselves of any sort of lasting mythology. And not even mythology, but really any link to the historical church. The liturgies, the hymns, the Holy days that passed unchanged through generations fell out of favor in recent decades, replaced with, really, nothing tangible.

Dissection of the current church feels more like poking fun at old yearbook photos, (ie, Wasn't it funny when we all thought Carmen's "The Champion" was the coolest thing out there? Wasn't it neat when we all said that prayer with Jabez in it?) than some confrontation with anything of much lasting power. Like much of the culture around it, church tried to be relevant by simultaneously being disposable. "Don't like it this week? Don't worry, you'll find something that resonates."

In either scenario, believers are left with the same difficult question: What's real? What's True?

Is it better to have 2000-years worth of jerry-rigged tradition that sometimes seems to be held together with little more than a string of beads or a vacuum in which apparently waits the gleaming Son of God, but which often seems more like the void of space--boundless, silent, cold, and intimidating?

As good post-modernists I know we're not supposed to read author intent into anything, but within literary critique post-modernism had it's fifteen minutes of fame. We're an interactive world and more than ever writers are saying something to us, whether they want to or not. And more than ever we're able to talk back.

TDaRS is certainly an engagement with the Catholic church. But my concerns that it would just be an angry dismissal never bloomed. Frankka confronts her mythology in a way that suggests we all must if we're ever to be real about what we believe. The next big question is: What then is to be redeemed? Us or the mythology itself?