Monday, May 28, 2012

Claudia Mair Burney - Why The Novel Matters


We at Novel Matters are proud to welcome the Ragamuffin Diva, Claudia Mair Burney as our guest today. We spoke in a recent post about her beautiful novel, Zora and Nicky, but Claudia is a prolific and versatile storyteller, as well as a passionate follower of Christ. 


Those who follow her on Facebook will understand what a gift she has given us today of time and attention in the midst of a serious family crisis. 


Thank you, Claudia, for honoring us this way.  

Once a woman told me she never read fiction because it was a waste of time. She said this knowing I am a novelist! After I recovered from the blow, I thought about the stories I read and tell. A waste of time? I think not!

Human beings are story people. The evidence of this is ancient. From cave paintings depicting stories on rock walls to the oldest of sacred texts, it's clear that stories showed up when humanity did. They explained our beginnings, natural disasters, and our relationship to each other and God. And when God decided to become a man, he came here doing what? Telling stories! About regular folks. No wonder his book is the bestselling of all times! I think if Jesus had more time here, and a good publisher, or at least a strong platform, he would have written novels.

Why? Because like parables, novels are mirrors. If you look carefully into them, you can find yourself, no matter where you are. You may see through a character's struggles the depths of your own depression, and the hope that you can endure it, as I did when I read Lisa Samson's Songbird. Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy made me want to fall deeply in love with Jesus. I saw in the young nun protagonist a hunger for the Lord that stirred a fierce appetite in me for his most ardent love. In real life, I am not a stigmatic like Mariette, but while reading his masterful, poetic novel the idea of suffering the wounds of Christ became so compelling that I had to write my own stigmata story. That is how my novel, Wounded was conceived, and that is the power of a good story. It gives birth to other works, like novels, poems, paintings and songs.

Novels saved me from a terrible adolescence. They transported me to worlds beyond the crack infested ghetto I grew up across the street from. Sweet romances told me to wait for true love. I may have failed the chastity lessons I learned in those hopeful pages, but I can truly say those books, like any good novel I've read, never failed me.

My son suffered a horrible accident recently, and is in the hospital with a long recovery ahead of him. Novels take the edge off a brutal reality. Sometimes they distract me. Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes they remind me that I am not alone in my suffering, and often, they fuel the most reckless, glorious hope. And hope is a necessary thing. I'm indebted to the novel, particularly the faith novel, for giving muscles to what I believe.

It's all there in a great novels, every matter of existence. Someone writes of love, another of mystery. One writes of action, another of mayhem. And we find ourselves in the work. Sometimes we say, "amen." Other times we say, "I'm sorry." And when the pages are all read, we put the book down with a sense that our lives matter; our troubles and our trifles. We matter, because we see ourselves right there in print.

We are not alone. That is why the novel matters.

11 comments:

Patti Hill said...

Thanks for writing such a beautiful post on why the novel matters. Your words rekindle a fire in me. All of the lonely hours, the crushing deadlines, the strangling self-doubt are worth it.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Thank you, Claudia! Beautiful words.

I love imagining Jesus as a novelist. He, undoubtedly, would write beautifully and powerfully. This is an image I want to let linger in my mind for awhile.

Praying for your family.

Kathleen Popa said...

Claudia, I've repeated the first paragraphs of Mariette in Ecstasy, and the last paragraphs, enough to nearly have them memorized. "Christ still brings me roses."

I think you've been surprising him, dear lady, for a long time. Thank you for visiting us today.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Claudia, thanks for being with us today and for your wise words. Will be praying for your son's recovery (& for mom!). I think Mariette in Ecstasy has found the top spot in my to-be-read pile.

Sharon K. Souza said...

Claudia, what a beautiful post, and so true. I too have had people tell me they don't read fiction and I wonder ... do they skip the parables in the Bible? Story can accomplish things nothing else -- except perhaps music -- can accomplish deep in our souls. Like Debbie said, your son is in our prayers. God bless.

Samantha Bennett said...

What a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing... officially inspired to write now.

Megan Sayer said...

I just finished reading Zora and Nicky an hour or so ago, although I still can't quite shake these new friends from my head. They've explained so much to me even about who I am, and, more than that, because I've met them I feel like I've changed, like I don't quite fit into my old skin any more.

We are not alone. Sums it up better than anything.

Nicole said...

Love this, Mair. Love your writing and your thoughts. Blessings to your son. God will touch him good.

heathermarsten said...

Amen. Novels saved my life. When I was a kid, being abused in my house, I escaped into novels to take away some of my pain. Novels can sometimes portray situations and reach beyond our normal reticence to examine tough circumstances. They can help a person experience some of what others feel and they can help us dream big. I'm writing a memoir now, but using novel techniques to help others sense what I felt as a child. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

heathermarsten said...

Amen. Novels saved my life. When I was a kid, being abused in my house, I escaped into novels to take away some of my pain. Novels can sometimes portray situations and reach beyond our normal reticence to examine tough circumstances. They can help a person experience some of what others feel and they can help us dream big. I'm writing a memoir now, but using novel techniques to help others sense what I felt as a child. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

Janice Thompson said...

I love you, Claudia.