Sunday, January 13, 2008

Brave Writers

Last night Krista and I went to the bookstore. I spent some time wading through the literature section hoping to find a good book to take to Thailand. Krista pointed out that I have a hard time picking out a book because I want to KNOW before I buy it that it's a good book. And she's right. I don't want to waste my time on okay books. I want it to be a mind-blowingly spectacular book.

One thing I noticed last night in the literature section is how many of the quotes on the jackets referred to various authors as being "brave." I wondered about this. What makes them so brave? That they boldly stride to the computer each morning despite the risk of being electrocuted by the mass of electrical wires snarled up behind it? That they recklessly grab paper and stick it into the printer despite the risk of paper cuts? Wow. That *is* brave.

Let's not cheapen the word by using it to refer to writers who decide not to use punctuation, or who decide to end their novels without a strong resolution. If you're looking for a brave writer, try Irina Ratushinskaya.

Oh, and I did manage to find a book for Thailand. It's Dave Eggers' "What is the What". I trust it will fall somewhere between good and spectacular.

1 comment:

  1. Right. Does "brave" mean you write something that others don't agree with...something on the fringes...something that predictably pushes the boundaries of decency? Not brave in my book either.

    Other brave authors aside from Irina:
    Dietrich Bonhoffer
    Watchman Nee--"Day after day passed without my tuberculosis being cured. Though I exerted myself to write and to study the Bible, I found it exceedingly strenuous. I had a slight fever each afternoon, I could not sleep at night, and I frequently experienced night sweats. Upon being advised to take more rest, I replied, “I am afraid that I might rest to such a degree that I become rusty.” I felt that even though I might not live long, I should believe that God would increase my strength and that I must work for Him. I asked the Lord concerning any unfinished work He had for me to do. Whatever He wanted me to do, I would ask Him to spare my life to do it; otherwise, I felt there was nothing upon earth worth living for. For awhile I was able to arise from bed, but eventually I could not even do that. On one occasion I was asked to conduct a gospel meeting. I exerted myself to arise and asked the Lord to strengthen me. While walking to the meeting, I was forced to lean against a lamp post every now and then for rest. Each time this happened I would say to the Lord, “It is worthwhile to die for You.” Some brothers who knew that I had done this rebuked me for not sparing my health. To this I replied that I loved my Lord and would give up my life for Him.

    After praying for over a month, I felt that I should write a book concerning what I had learned before God. My concept had been that one should not write books until he was old, but when I considered that I might be leaving this earth, I felt I should begin writing. I rented a small room in Wusih, Kiangsu province, where I shut myself up and spent my days writing. At that time my disease became so aggravated that I could not even lie down. While writing I sat on a chair with a high back and pressed my chest against the desk to alleviate the pain. Satan said to me, “Since you will soon be dying, why not die in comparative comfort rather than in pain?” I retorted, “The Lord wants me just like this; get out of here!” It took four months to complete the three volumes of The Spiritual Man. The writing of this book was a real labor of blood, sweat, and tears. I despaired of life, yet God’s grace brought me through. After completing each time of writing, I would say to myself, “This is my last testimony to the church.” Though the writing was done in the midst of all sorts of difficulties and hardships, I felt that God was unusually near to me. Some felt God was ill-treating me. Brother Cheng wrote saying, “You are exerting yourself to the uttermost; some day you will regret it.” I replied, “I love my Lord and I would live for Him.”