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They Say It Better Than I Can

Monday, June 21, 2010

The artist knows total dependence on the unseen reality. The paradox is that the creative process is incomplete unless the artist is, in the best and most proper sense of the word, a technician, one who knows the tools of his trade, has studied his techniques, is disciplined. One writer said, “If I leave my work for a day, it leaves me for three.” I think it was Artur Rubenstein who admitted, “If I don’t practice the piano for one day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my family knows it. If I don’t practice it for three days, my public knows it.”

~Madeleine L’Engle

Book-buyers aren’t attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a novel; book-buyers want a good story to take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages. This happens, I think, when readers recognize the people in a book, their behaviors, their surroundings, and their talk. When the reader hears strong echoes of his or her own life and beliefs, he or she is apt to become more invested in the story. I’d argue that it’s impossible to make this sort of connection in a premeditated way, gauging the market like a racetrack tout with a hot tip.

~Stephen King, On Writing

We were each, in the image of our Creator, created to create, to call others back to beauty, and the truth about God’s nature, to stop and cry to someone preoccupied or distracted with the superficial, “Look!” or “Listen!” when, in something beautiful and meaningful we hear a message from beyond us, and worship in holiness our Creator who in his unlimited grace, calls us to become co-creators of beauty.

~Luci Shaw, “Beauty and the Creative Impulse,” The Christian Imagination

Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out “allegories” to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images: a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord. It was part of the bubbling.

~C. S. Lewis, “Creating Narnia,” Of Other Worlds

We read books to find out who we are. . . .

A person who had never listened to nor read a tale or myth or parable or story, would remain ignorant of his own emotional and spiritual heights and depths, would not know quite fully what it is to be human.

~Ursula Le Guin, The Language of the Night

Given a Christian worldview, what is the significance of fiction as an art form? Should there be a specifically Christian fiction, and if so, why? What principles would guide it as unique and distinct from any other fiction?

. . . [It] is an ultimately “nice” book of lightweight human interaction and scenarios, suitable for people whose cultural perspectives are formed almost exclusively by the environments of Christian bookstores. Indeed, the most extreme instances of contrivance, parochialism, and niceness may be seen in Christian stories that feature conversion experiences. There is often little discernible difference between a character before and after conversion. The criterion of “cleanliness” demands that really bad aspects of character not be portrayed, although they may be mentioned in summary. . . .

If the Bible is the Christian writer’s artistic model, then clearly the subject matter of literature is virtually unlimited. History, the supernatural, ordinary human life, the beautiful, the grotesque, redemption and damnation, the moral, the immoral, the earthly and the cosmic, the triumphant and the tragic—all suggest material infinitely pregnant with possibility to pursue the truths oof God and the human condition.

~Richard Terrell, “Christian Fiction: Piety Is Not Enough,” The Christian Imagination

An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books only once. . . . But what can you do with a man who says he “has read” them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter? . . .

The re-reader is looking not for actual surprises (which can come only once) but for a certain ideal surprisingness. . . . We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness. The children understand this well when they ask for the same story over and over again, and in the same words.

~C. S. Lewis, “On Stories,” Essays Presented to Charles Williams

It seems that more than ever, the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label. To identify is to control, to limit. . . .If we are pigeon-holed and labeled we are un-named. . . .

We name ourselves by the choices we make, and we can help in our own naming by living through the choices, right and wrong, of the heroes and heroines whose stories we read.

To name is to love. To be Named is to be loved. So in a very true sense, the great works which help us to be more named also love us and help us to love.

~Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

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  1. Monday, June 21, 2010 9:32 am

    Wow, Kaye. So rich and thought-provoking. You showcase some of my favorite writers here. Wonderful way to begin a Monday morning. Bless you.


  2. Monday, June 21, 2010 1:33 pm

    “At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord. It was part of the bubbling.” – C.S. Lewis

    Kaye, these quotes all hit me in different ways, but this touched me with the purity of writing. In its purest form, writing is not Christian or non-Christian, but instead a reflection of what is at work within the writer. The bubbling – that’s what we strive for.


  3. Monday, June 21, 2010 2:40 pm

    Kaye, what a delightful and thought-provoking collection of quotes. I’ve always loved Madeleine L’Engle–first as a girl and now as a fellow writer. I even wrote to her in sixth grade and she wrote me a personal note back.

    Each of these quotes speak to something different. I think I will print them and keep them. 🙂


  4. Monday, June 21, 2010 9:15 pm

    What a treasure trove!


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