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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fiction with an agenda or why I couldnt' finish "The Shack"

Novels have to have some sort of moral standing. Not that they have to moralize, but the writer has to be honest with his readers and take them along for the ride. The ride should not be clearly marked. There should be different places where the writer and the reader are surprised. There should be discoveries and clues and honest epiphanies. In short the reader should be as entertained as the writer. Saying all that there is another type of fiction out there that hides under the guise of honest story telling. It is writing with an agenda.

In reading The Shack the agenda stopped me cold. I just couldn't continue on after I got hit over the head with religiosity. This was clearly marked in the beginning but I took a shot and read up to about page one hundred the tragic story of a girl abducted and murdered. The problems begin when the main character goes to meet God in The Shack. It becomes a proselytizing affair and worse it becomes hackneyed and a polemic for why there is a God and why bad things still happen.

Fair enough to write a treatise on the existence of God. But to dress up fiction as a vehicle for this kind of message is disingenuous and worse it violates the tenants of fiction. It is a rigged game and we know where it is going and so the interest wanes. In The Shack, the authors (three of them) come out from behind the curtain and let us know that there is a God and bad things do happen. I felt like I was reading Tuesdays with Morrie or any of the other quasi existential drugstore fare for the everyman. Pop psychology is surely the second cousin of THE GREAT QUESTION books browsed while waiting to check out.

The problem is this is thin gruel if you do have great questions. This is something dressed up in a package to sell, but never really deliver the goods. The first part of The Shack is engaging, but you  have to dig in and roll up your pants once they throw up the tent poles for the revival nd listen to the sermon told between the glossy covers. It's really your choice and I chose to fold.

Books by William Hazelgrove