I’m Out on a Limb and Behind the 8-Ball

And, as Edgar Rice Burroughs observed, to be out on a limb and behind the 8-ball at the same time is very bad business.

I’m facing a dilemma, and in order to tell you about it–who says readers can’t give you good advice?–I feel the need to disguise some of the particulars.

I am to read and review a series of novels by a certain author whom I have long respected and whose non-fiction writing I’ve enjoyed for years. As far as I know, these books are his first fiction. Let us call him, oh, Abner Doubleday.

I don’t know how to review this guy’s books. If I say what I really think, he ain’t gonna like it. But if I don’t, then why review them at all?

In his novels, Doubleday has re-imagined some of the most tantalizing bits of the Book of Genesis and, backed up by lots of solid research, tried to elucidate their meaning for us. His non-fiction essays on these subjects–exactly who or what, for instance, were those “giants in the earth”?–are compelling, very well argued, and endlessly thought-provoking. I have learned much by reading them.

But the novels are written in a prose style reminiscent of… well, a comic book. Or, even worse, one of those awful movies based on a comic book. I find it painful to read them. He stops just short of having angels call each other “dude” and writing “ya” for “you.”

Elsewhere, Mr. Doubleday has written most persuasively on the need for Christian art–be it novels or movies or music–not only to measure up to the world’s art in quality, but to be of even better quality. Why? Because we’re competing with the world, and we want to win ground for Christ’s Kingdom.

But this… Abner, Abner, what have you done? You have turned the Bible into a comic book! I keep expecting to turn the page and find ads for X-ray glasses and Sea Monkeys.

So how will I review these novels? The way I see it, I have three options: A) Chicken out, invent some excuse, and just not do it. B) Write a totally honest review and make a lot of people mad at me. They might even think I’m an idiot: these books have lots of 5-star reviews on amazon.com. C) Go with the flow, just join in with all these other reviewers in praising the gorgeous clothes of this naked emperor, and establish myself as a reviewer whose word can’t be trusted.

Maybe somehow I can do (B) gracefully. But it’ll be a mighty fine trick if I can pull it off.

29 comments on “I’m Out on a Limb and Behind the 8-Ball

  1. Since you are asking for advice, I will offer an option d, which I would prefer if I was Abner. I would tell Abner the truth and offer not to review it in light of that. Use the “sandwich method.” 1 Praise his nonfiction work, 2 Tell the truth about the fiction, 3 Encourage him to write more nonfiction. Be lavish in your praise!

    1. He’s already received so many rave reviews: and he’s kind of a big shot, and I most certainly am not. But thanks, Greg, it’s something to think about.

  2. God is the Word, not a comic book. Reminds me of when the Catholic Church decided to bring rock bands onto the altar. My vote is for truth. We must always be more concerned with what God thinks of us, rather than man. From your description, it is ‘Abner’ who has fallen short of the mark.

    1. Precisely! Rock bands, along with idolatry, Mary worship and many other things were reasons I left the Catholic Church. These are serious times and God calls us to witness in truth. You may be doing ‘Abner’ a favor. There are always diplomatic ways to disagree. Go for it, Lee!

    2. My family was steeped in ‘Catholicity’ – complete with 2 Jesuit priests. Ugh! You can imagine the low esteem I was held in when I left, going so far as to proclaim that the pope is NOT Jesus’ stand-in and certainly not infallible. Most of my family were highly insulted, but some have since awakened. Praise God!

    3. Well, I am happy to be able to say that the Catholic members of my family were all very kind and loving to this little Protestant boy. When I was old enough to understand–in my 50s, in fact–they told me how it wasn’t always so: the generation before theirs was pretty mean to non-Catholic members of the family. But I am told my great-grandmother, who was by far the meanest of the lot, repented on her deathbed: and her Lutheran daughter-in-law, my sainted grandma, was able to forgive her.

      Let me here offer up a little tribute to my Aunt Betty, who was a Catholic nun: and she was always wonderful to me. And I wish she were still here.

    4. When my mom married my dad, she had to convert from Lutheran to Catholic. My grandfather (mom’s dad) always made sure we attended church on Sundays when spending summers with my grandparents. But he never believed man could forgive sin, so he told us that if the priests asked why we didn’t go to confession we should tell them that when they started giving green stamps, we’d go. What a great man!

    5. My grandma never converted, and that was a very sore point with her mother-in-law. Nor was my mother one bit happy about having to attend Catholic school as a child! That was great-grandmother’s doing.

      I’m happy to report that Catholic schools are nowhere near as awful as they used to be. I had a nice time teaching at one, and no one there held my Calvinism against me.

      Christians behave better now than we used to.

    6. With the exception of kindergarten and first grade, I received my education in Catholic schools – including an all girls’ high school. Most of my teachers, both nuns and lay teachers, were wonderful people who actually educated. I wouldn’t trade my Catholic education. We were taught to think for ourselves.
      By the way, Lee, have you reached your goal of 4000 hits yet this month?

  3. Honestly, I think what you should do is write an honest review. Tell the readers what you think, and stay balanced between positive and negative. Point out where you think this author is wrong, and try to point out where you think he is right.

  4. Lee, you have a lot of good advice here. All I’ll add is that I will pray to our Heavenly Father that through the guidance of His Holy Spirit He will give you the wisdom you need in this situation. You may be the vehicle He uses to bring this author around and back on course.

  5. I agree with Greg. Tell Abner why his book is a good idea. Then tell why you feel it is not done properly, and you do not feel that you can review it.. Then encourage him again.

    1. One of the problems here is that Abner is a big, big cheese in Christian publishing and I am a microbe. I have a feeling he wouldn’t listen.

    2. God is bigger, Lee, and to Him you are definitely not a microbe! Your readers agree with Him.

    3. By the way Mr. Duigon, Linda Sorci was asking if you had made 4000 hits yet. I thought you had already accomplished that goal, and Marge Hofknecht had won.

    4. No, that was 4,000 comments. And there’ll be another contest when we get close to 5,000. The 4,000 hits is still an unrealized dream.

  6. Here’s what I would do if it were me. I’d just tell him this: “You don’t need me to tell you what I think about your books, because you already know what I would say, don’t you?” Then I would add: “Don’t quote me on that”.

  7. And, by the way, if ‘Abner’ is such a big Christian writer, he should know better. Is this any different than the ‘Star Wars Nativity’?

    1. I believe he made an artistic decision–a very wrong decision, I think–to re-imagine Genesis in such a way as to popularize it: to make it more like a movie or a comic book. This is because his day job is in the movie industry, and he thinks in those terms. But the end result is badly lacking in dignity.
      I don’t doubt his sincerity, or his commitment to Christ. But I believe his technique does more harm than good.

  8. Unfortunately, the Laodicean Church is at work in these times, just as Jesus foretold. Maybe ‘Abner’ just needs a gentle reminder that his work would better serve Our Lord if presented as God would have it. Genesis is a huge story and when told in truth is tremendously powerful – angels and giants and all. May Our Lord guide you.

    1. He’s selling a lot of books just the way he wrote them. *sigh* I’m sure this man is not lukewarm in his Christianity. He’s just totally wrong in his delivery.
      If only Tolkien had written these books!

  9. Selling books, or not, the real question is would God approve If He were writing the review? Will it peak the interest of unbelievers enough to actually open a Bible?

  10. Even though he as a good following already, negative reviews are tough for any author and potentially embarrassing. I would be honest with him in private. Tell him how much you respect his non-fiction work, but that you prefer not to review his fiction. You can keep your integrity without burning bridges.

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