On the night stand
I try to have a mix of books on my reading list. I confess I don't read nearly as much as I should or would like.
Earlier this year I finished A Prayer for Owen Meany.
The book is a coming of age tale set in the North East and touches on the turmoil of the Vietnam war, friendship, family and matters of faith. I would imagine the book would invoke a mix of feelings from those who take Christian faith seriously as there is enough material here to encourage and enrage.
For me, I read the book amidst an interesting context as I read late last year Catcher in the Rye. The two books follow the life of unusual young men. In Catcher, it follows a very small slice of the young teens life while Owen Meany's story arc is longer. What was striking to me was the contrast in the two lives. In Rye, the character is detached from any anchor and the inevitable consequences ensue. In Meany, we have a character with such a sense of destiny it is on one hand frightening and also assuring. Most of us live within that vast middle ground of these two extremes and so for me to read these two tales back-to-back was jarring and made me ponder those issues of certainty in life.
In terms of religious faith, Owen Meany describes the practice of religion and discusses some theological issues in an matter-of-fact way. So often in pop culture, I'm thinking of movies and television in particular, faith is a non-entity. Given that so many Americans claim some measure of belief in god, it has always struck me as strange that god is usually only referred to as an expletive.
Irving's willingness to weave concerns about faith is refreshing. His treatment is at times irreverent and raises questions about having "faith in faith."
All in all an interesting read. It was a bit long; thus, my interest in the story would flag but as I neared the end, the various details that seemed so randomly tossed in began to come into play as the characters hurtled toward the stunning conclusion.
The other book I recently finished is the second book of the Harry Potter series, The Chamber of Secrets. I have seen both films and look forward to the third, The Prisoner of Azkaban.
The books are quick reads with a page turning quality. Even though the characters are early teens, the issues are universal: doing what is right versus wrong, loyalty to friends, understanding that people are complex, learning to find one's place in the world and being at peace with who you are.
Some Christians complain about the books because they are about magic, wizardry and dark arts. Indeed, one shouldn't be blind to those elements; however, I think the issues of self-identity and exploration of growth and personal virtue far outweigh those concerns. The way I see it, those mystical elements are part of story telling and are understood by most readers as fictional. I am no more worried about those features than I am about the violence of the Roadrunner and the Coyote cartoons.