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Richard Doster on the Calling of Christian Writers

January 10, 2010

I’m backlogged from a long Christmas break of reading with book reviews…but I just trudged up a mountain through snow and ice to get to my office and computer and am anxious to get back down before it gets dark, so whet your appetite with this. I will be reviewing Richard Doster’s two fine novels Safe at Home and Crossing the Lines in the near future, before you read them, check out Doster’s article “The Calling of Christian Writers” at byFaith.

Here is an excerpt:

“Writers must learn, “to be humble in the face of what-is,” O’Connor argued. They must understand that concrete reality—the things we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch—are the only clay a novelist can mold. They aren’t to persuade with argument or develop abstract theories or disguise essays in the garb of story. Rather, they’re to create characters, invent action and dialog, and concoct settings that look a lot like the places we know. If the novelist’s work is to ever transcend the here-and-now, O’Connor said, it must be firmly rooted in it.

O’Connor griped that Christian writers tended to be concerned with “unfleshed ideas and emotions.” They’re reformers, she complained, who “… are possessed not by a story but by the bare bones of some abstract notion. They are conscious of problems, not of people, of questions and issues, not of the texture of existence, …of everything that has a sociological smack, instead of with all those concrete details of life that make actual the mystery of our position on earth.”

That mystery, underscored for her by life in the “Christ-haunted South,” was the theme she couldn’t escape. The Christian writer, O’Connor explained, perceives life from the “standpoint of the central Christian mystery: that is has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for.” This, she knew—when understood and applied—expanded the writer’s vision. It inspired investigation. It meant that nothing is off limits. And that everything—regardless of how common—matters.”

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