A PRAYER JOURNAL by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013)
My favorite joke about praying is by the surreal American comic Emo Philips (although it’s also been attributed to Al Pacino) and goes: “I asked God for a bike but I realized it doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.
I think the Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor would have appreciated this witticism. She was a staunch Catholic but she also had an eagle eye for life’s absurdities.
As an atheist I am biased, but surely even believers can recognise that praying ought to consist of more that than reeling off a wish list to some kind of celestial Santa. Continue reading
During an anti-clutter purge I came across a card that has been missing presumed lost for the best part of three decades. This ‘Picture Meditation’ is entitled ‘The Pathway and is No.8 in a series published by Mirfield Publications, House of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire.
The Mirfield Monastery and its fund-raising publications are still going strong and a Google search reveals that this card is still available for purchase online at a modest price of £0.50. I can’t recall where I bought it but I probably found it in a cathedral bookshop.
As an atheist this is not something I would normally spend money on but I found the text attractive because it accurately describes the state of self-doubt I often feel when contemplating change in my life. Once you exclude the entreaties to God (addressed as ‘Lord’) it is remarkably secular and plain-spoken. Here is the full text with [—-] in place of ‘Lord’ to exclude the Christian slant:
[—-], I seem to have somehow lost my way. I keep trying to follow the old familiar ways that I have known for so many years, and now they no longer lead me anywhere. Most of the time I find myself back where I started. I want to move out from where I am, and I just seem to be going round in circles. Continue reading
THE GREEN MILE by Stephen King (1996)
This is a curious hybrid of a novel combining horror, crime fiction, social realism and fantasy.
There’s even a hint that it is intended as a religious allegory.
King himself admits that the novel is an experiment. It originally appeared in six installments in the New York Times with each part needing to end in a way that left the “constant reader” wanting more.
This is the way novels of old, notably those of Charles Dickens, were presented to the public and King was curious to see if he could get modern-day audiences hooked in the same way.
It helps ,of course, that he loves to surprise and shock in fictional works that are always strongly plot driven. Continue reading
THE EDEN EXPRESS by Mark Vonnegut (Seven Stories Press, 2002 – originally published 1975)
I seriously doubt that this ‘memoir of insanity’ would have found a publisher so easily if the author did not also happen to be the son of Kurt Vonnegut. Much of its interest derives from this blood connection rather than any obvious literary merits.
Since Vonnegut Sr wrote so well about a world precariously balanced on the brink of universal madness, his son’s schizophrenia might be expected to connect in some ways with the surrealism and cynicism of the Vonnegut mindset. If this is what you hope to find from the book, you will be sorely disappointed. Continue reading