Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So what do I do now

One of the things which I truly believe is that if a pastor wants to write a good sermon, he should read good literature. We study for doctrine, we read for a command of the English language. Now, this doesn't mean that we have to be literary scholars. . . we don't need to be able to break down meter in Shakespeare, but just being exposed to proper usages of English will rub off. Poetry will bring more imagery, good prose will bring better pacing - like children we mimic what we hear, make sounds that seem right, and eventually begin to speak, even if we don't know why things sound the way they do.

It is vitally important to read good books. But I have a problem. I enjoy trashy Star Wars novels. Now, most of the time this isn't too much of a problem - Timothy Zahn does some nice sci-fi - and in fact is quite an oral writer (quite a few run ons that sub-vocalize well, things like that). Besides, in Star Wars novels there can be a good sense of humor, and the prose is at least. . . at least at a level which lets you think that the author graduated from High School.

Except for this latest series, one which I had been looking forward to: Coruscant Nights. It is a three part series that centers around Jedi Jax Pavan between Episode III and IV hiding from Vader and running a private detective agency on the capital world, helping the helpless and the like. The book was supposed to be rather pulpy, hearkening back to 40s detective stories.

The only problem is it is the worst prose I have seen in a mass published novel. Ever. No questions asked. The first book was vapid. . . but I slugged through it. The story was lacking filled with not a Deus ex Machina, but a bunch of gimmick-characters. . . the sort of characters I would expect a group of 5th graders to dream up (like the side character Jedi who isn't really a Jedi, but an offshoot where they use blasters, and she uses the blasters to shoot the bolts that people shoot at her. . . that would be teh awesome!)

The second book was just as poor - a plot that presented itself as a convoluted mystery but was in reality straightforward and time consuming, characterizations that were inconsistent and poorly developed. But I slugged through it. I know that Star Wars isn't master lit, but still. . . there needs to be some fun associated.

The third book came out yesterday. I started reading it yesterday. I'm a third of the way into the book. . . and I can feel it trying to suck the intelligence out of my brain. Oh look, additional characters with incredibly powerful, never-before seen abilities (oooo, look, he can suck the energy out of a machine and throw balls of light at people. . . and he's completely untrained. . . wow! Oh, look, and the new vilian can pickout one person using the force out of a crowd of a million. . . but he hadn't gotten a whiff of the main character in the previous two books - even though he had been commanded by Vader to find Jax Pavan, and Pavan was using his REAL NAME while trying to hide from the Empire. . . ON THE HEADQUARTERS WORLD OF THE EMPIRE).

I could take it. . . I've slugged through dumb Star Wars stories before. . . the one where a bunch of Hutt build a giant death star laser, the one where Luke starts hitting on a Jedi who basically possessed a ship, the introduction of the "Sun Crusher" which doesn't just blow up planets. . . it blows up entire stars! And yes, some of the prose, even in these, was quite bad. Anderson's Jedi Academy had a very good reason behind it being published in paperback and not hardcover (Put some vowels in your characters' names!).

But this is beyond all this, well beyond.

So what do I do? We are still iced over. . . I've got my sermon rough draft done for this week, but will this book, if I force my way through it, do lasting damage to my head? I had been reading some Zahn again. . . and I do have some Tolkein to read afterwards (when in doubt re-read the Lord of the Rings). . . but I'm scared. If you see a rapid decrease in the quality of my writing, send me some nice poetry or prose or something.

I almost feel like HAL from 2001. Reeves. . . what are you writing Reeves? Stop, Reeves. I can feel it Reeves. I can feel it shutting down Reeves. . . .

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As a note - we learn good English by reading good English. However, if we study, we understand what makes something good English. Likewise the Liturgy. People learn the Liturgy by participating in it, however, if one studies the Liturgy, one understands it better, and also understands why so many modern fads fall short. In my class that is canceled this morning, we went over the Liturgy to start. . . and as we are getting ready to finish up the Catechism Review, I think we'll go over the Liturgy again - just to see how vivid and vibrant the things we just learned in the Catechism are within the Liturgy.

As another note - yes, reading theology is good and important as well. . . but so much theology comes to us via translation, and quite often the translations are hit and miss, not in terms of accuracy, but in terms of English. Translators might know Latin well, or German, or Greek, but if they don't know English the translation won't have that literary benefit.

4 comments:

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

Please don't tell me you're studying the Scriptures in Klingon. It's bad enough we had to look at those horrific "Star Trek" Epiphany vestments at the seminary. ;-)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Star Trek? No, Star Trek is for nerds. I'm a geek, I dig Star Wars.

Pastor D said...

Eric,

All true but the challenge is when you have a listening audience which enjoys such gems as, "He aint never done me nothing but good..."

On it goes...preach!

Anonymous said...

But the Jedi Legacy series is great ...... trust me... ;-)