stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
2013-06-07 09:02 pm

Shamim Sarif, "I Can't Think Straight"

A charming, if rather paint-by-numbers, lesbian romance story between a Palestinian Christian and a British Muslim. The plot was terribly predictable, so there was very little suspense to it, and the characters were rather puppet-like - one felt they'd been pushed into the appropriate positions and instructed, 'now, advance the plot'. The author is a screenwriter by trade, and it shows: in the formulaic plot, the cardboard characters, the frequent point-of-view changes - and the absolutely luscious scene-setting. Seriously, I would like to see the film of this, because it sounds gorgeous: Jordan, London, Oxford, all evoked with a masterly touch; and I shouldn't be surprised if the film works a lot better than the book in putting the three dimensions across. Frustrating in parts - I would have loved it to have gone a little deeper into the clash of culture - but a nice enough read on the whole.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
2013-01-21 09:51 pm

Michael Arditti, "Easter"

A rather transparent attempt at being the Great Anglican Novel of the Twenty-First Century (Trollope, Howatch, Arditti...?) What did I just say about the present tense? Breathy and irritating, that was it - and also there were too many characters, and the good ones were good, and the bad ones were bad, and it was painfully earnest in places - and I still devoured it.

It takes the form of a triptych, the centre being a modern Passion narrative, and either side being a running commentary on the services and other events of a London Holy Week. I rather think that Arditti is trying to be a bit too clever, and that he pushes his symbolism and his Message at the expense of his characters. I did find it interesting, in that it deals with one of my perennial hobby-horses, namely, being LGBT and Christian - but really, Rev. did it better.

I know that I will want to re-read this in time, but it's not one of the real greats.
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2012-06-28 09:30 pm

Catharine Arnold, "Lost Time"

An author I'd never heard of, a book bought on impulse from an 'ALL IN THIS BOX £1' box, an intriguing and pleasantly creepy story. Set in what was contemporary Cambridge (this was published in the mid eighties), this has a vaguely old-school M R James 'academic ghost story' vibe, with a side of Turn of the Screw, but with rather more sex. Subtext becoming text, if you see what I mean. Stays this side of the overtly paranormal, though, which is very effective. Gorgeously atmospheric, with a real sense of time passing. And so refreshing to find a happily bisexual character.
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2012-01-28 06:14 pm

Stephen Bates, "A Church at War"

The Church in question is the Anglican communion. The war is the bloody mess it has got itself into over homosexuality. And this book is a useful overview of said bloody mess. I learned quite a lot that I didn't know before - I first became aware of the issue at the age of 13, when Lambeth 1998 blew up. O, days of blissful ignorance! This proved very helpful in filling in the gaps.

Bates reaches back into the origins of the debate, fitting it into the context of a changing society - or rather, several different societies, changing at different rates - summarising the opposing theological views, and nobly doing his best to take seriously what must seem to be a huge fuss about nothing to those who are not stuck in the middle of it.

Leavened as this is by a healthy dose of humour (if you didn't laugh, you'd cry, etc), I still found it incredibly painful reading at times, and - usually at about the same times - angering. If it fell down, it was in the relative lack of acknowledgement of the pain caused to the average gay Christian in the pews by all the muscle-flexing higher up. But I'm hardly an uninterested party in this, so...
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
2012-01-18 07:07 pm

Rev. Sylvia Pennington, "But Lord, They're Gay"

Memories of, and reflections on the early years of the Metropolitan Community Church, and some of the people involved in it. Sylvia Pennington was straight, but (eventually) a staunch ally of the queer Christian community. The first section of the book deals with her own personal experiences, getting to know gay people and separating homophobia from faith. Some of that made rather painful reading, though I get the feeling that she must have been as embarrassed writing it as anybody reading it. The second section was a number of case studies, if you like - gay men (and one lesbian) and their journeys to reconciling sexuality and faith. Often moving; sometimes utterly devastating.

I will be honest and admit that the style didn't do much for me. Some of this is probably just down to different Christian and cultural backgrounds - I am not the arm-wavy type, and Pennington, by her own admission, was, so there were some assumptions and turns-of-phrase that felt very alien. The other thing that set my teeth on edge was the way that after each case study she would present the subject as a worthy example of 'God's gays'. And... I can sort of see where she is coming from, assuming an intended audience of devout and homophobic Christians, but it did feel terribly patronising.

I didn't learn anything new from this book, but then I didn't really expect to. Its two main messages - that it is perfectly possible to be simultaneously a person of sincere faith and actively other-than-straight, and that the Church can do its best to make it bloody difficult to practise that sincere faith - are ones that I have been hearing, repeating, and to some extent experiencing for a long time.