The discussion about subjectivity has been very interesting, first with MaryBeth's story on Monday about the book club gone rabid and on Wednesday with Sharon's report from the ledge. I have a story too.
Back during my teaching days, I belonged to a book group of fellow teachers. Instead of lesson plans and playground mishaps, we talked books for two solid hours. We met once a month, taking turns choosing the novel and hosting the group, which meant baking something gooey and chocolatey.
I loved that group! They introduced me to their favorite writers--some loved, some loathed. And not since my days as an English Lit major had I experienced the shear delight of discussing the shared experience of reading a book, usually a relatively private matter. Pure. Heady. Indulgence.
The group grew closer as we shared our lives and values because talking about stories is talking about life. We disagreed without rancor, laughed freely, and celebrated our unique take on a story--unless there was a Christian element to the story. Nothing brought emotions to the surface quite like an obsessive-compulsive missionary (The Poisonwood Bible) or a preachy post-rapture pilot (Left Behind).
Honestly, fictional murderers are held in less contempt than Christians, and why not? Most literary Christians (in mainstream fiction) are despicable, or, at least, have questionable motives, always.
And so, a desire was born in me to be a writer who provided a keyhole look into the life of someone who followed Christ. We aren't always our best behind closed doors, but we're not always the worst either. For anyone in my book club to read a book like that, it would have to be, well, not a prairie romance. (Note: I'm not opposed to prairie romances, but my book club is.)
I write with that book club as my audience. They're agnostics, Buddhists, Baptists, Mormons, Methodists, Universalists, and absolutely nothing at all. I don't know if any of them have changed their viewpoint of Jesus, but that's why I write as authentically as I can manage. Just in case.
Five books later, the only book clubs I attend are ones I'm invited to appear at. (Writing this, I'm thinking that has to change.) Recently, a friend's daughter invited me to appear at her book club. I walked into a room of 20- and 30-something career women.
Seeing Things has a 72-year-old for a protagonist and Huckleberry Finn as one of the antagonist. I prepared to be skewered.
Not so. They asked wonderfully thoughtful questions that came from careful reading. They listened to my answers and peppered me with more questions, all respectful. Hog heaven!
And then, the hostess sidled up to her question. "Are you religious?" She didn't let me answer. "Because Birdie reminds me of my grandmother, and she was always praying or reading her Bible. When Birdie talks about lowering her family through the roof to Jesus, I see it. It's right there. I finally get what prayer is."
She looked through the keyhole! She saw my protag using the story of the paralytic lowered to Jesus as a model for praying for her family, and it made sense. I could have hung up my spurs and ridden into the west right there and then. Sigh. Thanks, God.
But I won't.
I have another story in mind.
There's always a chance someone might look through the keyhole again.
That's what keeps me writing. Not the possibility of awards. Or the nil to none possibility of getting rich or famous. Or the hope of a movie deal. Writing is our art, and our art reflects the beauty of Christ.
Do you keep an audience in mind as you're writing? Who are they? For those of you who belong to a book club, what keeps you coming back time after time? Do you read your reviews? Thought I'd sneak that question in.
Have a great weekend and thanks for a thought-provoking week.