Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Recent reads: 'Cult Fiction' and 'Religion for Atheists'

It's a couple of weeks since I finished reading them, but here's a couple of books I'd recommend:

Cult Fiction by Ardie Collins (Knightstone Publishing).
Ardie Collins has created one of the most self-conscious narrators of all time, who happily reminds the reader on almost every page that he's narrating the story of Stephen Moore, who, as a result of his house burning down, inadvertently creates a new religious cult.  However, rather than being intrusive, this intrusion adds to the story, and creates a humour which, at times - coupled with events - put me in mind of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  It's a story about an ordinary bloke who becomes a messiah - sort of - about life in the burbs, about relationships, manipulation, religion, the nature of existence... and it's a story about a story.  Entertaining and a good read.  Nice job.

"Welcome to Chapter 2.  I think you will find it most accommodating, which, ironically, is the opposite state of the chapter's main topic of discussion, Stephen's home ... 
Just to remind you, we left Stephen looking at the stars with a dog in his arms.  His expression was not quite one of despair but it was definitely getting there.  To break up all this near-despair, he took a moment to thank God very much indeed for his survival.  He was struggling slightly with why this had happened to him and why he wasn't able to still be asleep in bed. He longed for the very recent past.  There were moments when the bizarre nature of the situation assured him that this must be a dream but the mere fact that he was able to think that assured him that it almost certainly wasn't.
His head was bulging with questions.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  His head was not physically bulging with questions.  If it were then my advice to him would be to stop asking questions because they're making his head bulge.  But now was not the time for head-bulging, it was time to do something about the current situation.  He ran next door for some good, old-fashioned Christian charity."                                     (Cult Fiction by Ardie Collins)

Coincidentally, I followed this with Religion for Atheists by Alain De Botton (Hamish Hamilton). His Consolations of Philosophy made a big impression on me several years ago, mainly because, unlike too many academics who feel the need to puff up their ideas (and sense of self-importance, perhaps) by making their writing as convoluted as possible, Alain De Botton recognises the value of making his ideas clear, articulate, accessible. He's a tremendous communicator and, to my mind, an intelligent and sensible thinker.  I wasn't disappointed at all with Religion for Atheists, and found myself recommending it to friends and family so heartily that my copy was snaffled up pretty damn quickly. (I want it back though, so everyone else will have to buy their own copy... and so they should because writers need their meagre royalties.) Undoubtedly, I enjoyed it largely because I agreed with much of what he said, and because his examples and contextualisation resonated with me.  However, I also liked it because I could recognise, as I was reading it, that it was clarifying other ideas for me, which may in turn percolate into my own writing, and this is always a pleasant sensation.

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