Let's see. I just finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I thought the writing in it was fantastic, and could hardly believe it was a debut novel. A modern-ish (you are never really clear on the exact time period) gothic novel, it is the story of Margaret Lea, who has been selected by famous writer Vida Winter to write Winter's biography. The problem is that Winter is a storyteller, and there are at least 19 different versions of her life that she has told people. Will we finally get the truth?
I thought the writer played fair, even with the little twist at the end. The clues are there. Nothing seems pulled out of a hat, when you think about it. The story grabs you and drags you along. You don't want to put the book down. Setterfield has buckets of talent.
In the end I found it difficult to care for the characters in any meaningful way. I was interested in them, but often with a kind of morbid fascination rather than a heartfelt empathy. It was that "looking at a trainwreck" kind of a thing. Maybe you have to be Flannery O'Connor to get away with incest, missing conjoined twins, ghosts in the house, and on and on and on.
I felt this way after watching Pulp Fiction (which I most heartily DO NOT recommend to ANYONE). I could see the genius and talent of the director, but was sad is was so very "ick".
Same way here. Not so icky that I wouldn't recommend it. But I took none of the characters into my heart.
Does that make sense?
Anyway, I'm currently reading a little book that is out of print. Picked it up at the AAUW annual book sale: The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith. It's about a priest in Scotland, sent there to minister in a hostile protestant setting in the years around WWI.
Teaching a catechism class, Fr Smith says this:
There is just one thing I want you all to remember and I want you to remember it all the rest of your lives, he said. It is what you learn in this classroom that matters most and will always matter. God sent you into the world to save your souls, and nothing else is important. When you are bigger, wicked men and women will perhaps try to make you believe that this is not so and that all that matters is to grow rich and powerful and be honoured by your fellow men. This is not so. Remember always that God does not see as the world sees, and that a dirty ragged tramp with the grace of God in his soul is infinitely more lovely and beautiful in our Lord's sight than any sinful monarch in his palace. Try to obey our Lord always. Remember that you may be right in your own soul when the whole world is wrong with its noisy tongue. People may try to tell you that religion is only for church and Sundays and that it is foolish to try to be a saint; they will be wrong: as this world and its pleasures will pass away, it is foolish not to try to be a saint, and one cannot be a saint without being religious all the week through. The toffee you tasted yesterday won't give you any pleasure tomorrow, but it may make you sick. Sin is like that; it is only pain and not pleasure which it will give you in the next world....
Now that's a catechism lesson.