Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More than One Reality

My tastes in reading run to the universal. I cross genres, and I cross them a lot.

In the past, my reading tended to cluster over an extended period. In the mid-1970s, it was mysteries – and preferably the older mysteries from roughly 1910-1960: Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett (still a favorite), Philip Marlowe, Erle Stanley Gardner, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers and a lot of others. Then I caught the science fiction bug, likely prompted by the first Star Wars movie but really inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune.

After that, it was rather eclectic for a while, until I took a course in a Masters program on the Latin American novel. I discovered Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Manuel Puig, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda and many others. Then, in the 1990s, I discovered, or rediscovered, the poets of my youth (mostly British and American) and Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. That was followed reading a lot of Southern writers, still devouring the Latins and mysteries, and then most recently back to poetry.

I also read horror, fantasy and “speculative” fiction. Not a lot, but I read it. And enjoy it. Mike Dellosso. T.L. Hines. C.S. Lakin. Most recently, Ian Thomas Curtis and his Dragonsong and Mike Duran’s The Resurrection. And while they are all widely different kinds of fiction, what plays a role in all of them is the sense that there is another reality existing right alongside the reality we live each day. This is not limited to only Christian writers – Anne Rice made a fortune from her vampire novels, not to mention Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight series.

This “other reality” seems at times to have been ground out of Christianity, some say by the modernism that affected even evangelical seminaries over the past century. Yes, Frank Peretti scared us all to death with This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, but those are novels, after all.

And yet.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, after a brief but very pointed discussion about whether the Law of Human Nature (that we know how to behave but generally don’t) is real or not, says this: “It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behaviour, and yet quite definitely real – a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.” In other words, there is something that affects us and that we have to deal with that comes from outside the existence we know, the existence we can touch and feel and taste and see and hear, perhaps even outside the existence we can normally imagine.

Perhaps those horror, fantasy and speculative novels aren’t as strange as we might initially think. Perhaps there on to something, something more than we know. I suspect this is the reason I enjoy reading these novels – they’re reminding me of that other reality.

To read more posts on chapter 3 of Mere Christianity, please visit Sarah Salter's blog, Living Between the Lines. She and Jason Stasyszen are hosting this book discussion.


David Rupert said...

Glynn. My reading follows a similar path. It's all over the map. Often I read for knowledge, to gain understanding. Sometimes I just read for the love of the written word.

Both are worthy pursuits.

Louise Gallagher said...

You are always so inspiring Glynn -- and I love your reading list -- I always find treasures here as it's very eclectic and deep all in one!

Billy Coffey said...

I've always been drawn to the "speculative" kind of writing, so much so that I'm now considering heading into that direction with my own writing. My reason is exactly yours.

Great post, Glynn.

Maureen said...

What you describe is what gives the best literature and poetry universal meaning.

Helen said...

I have been in my "mystery" phase for about thirty years, maybe even longer. (I think I was 11 years old when I first read Encyclopedia Brown.) I love reading Agatha Christie!

jasonS said...

Love your parallels drawn here. We are captivated by these thoughts of another reality, whether it be supernatural beings or extraordinary tales of some sort. It shows again that the counterfeit can serve to distract from the real or point us to His higher reality. Great thoughts (and I'm not just saying that because we picked the same quote to write from today). Thanks Glynn!

HisFireFly said...

Oh Glynn, how I enjoy your words.

A different reality indeed. We are spiritual beings living in a physical realm, is it no wonder we often do not feel at home?

Dusty Rayburn said...

We have read many of the same authors, including Neruda, Paz, Llosa, and Fuentes.

I am definitely an eclectic reader as well.

Often times I find hints of God's mastery hidden in the depths of a novel.

H. Gillham said...


Dorothy Sayers?

That's a flash from the past, my friend.