Pious fictions.

Author:Wood, Ralph C.
Position:LETTERS - Letter to the editor

Randy Boyagoda seems not to have noticed that the writers he's tired of seeing cited by his fellow Christians did not place their faith, as he does, in anything so small as literature ("Faith in Fiction," August/September). The work of his weary-making eight--Dostoevsky, Hopkins, Chesterton, Tolkien, Eliot, Lewis, Percy, O'Connor--endures because they staked their lives and their art on the ultimate Reality: the triune God of Israel, Christ, and the Church. Their tough-minded faith enabled them to make the requisite artistic and moral and theological judgments that Boyagoda rightly calls for. It enabled them to engage with both the wonder and the horror of our "post-transcendent" culture. Their fiction and poetry are alive and well because they produced a drastic alternative to what Boyagoda seems to call for: "a literature that affirms our mortal selves and this-worldly reality as our only selves, our only reality." So long as David Shields and his fans peer into the convex mirror that stares back at them, they may be alive, but it can hardly be said that they are well. Ralph C. Wood BAYLOR UNIVERSITY WACO, TEXAS The reason that Randy Boyagoda believes that there is little religious and/or morally serious fiction being written today is that he is looking in the wrong place. There is a lot in the genres of high fantasy and, to a lesser extent, science fiction. Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant have by far the most depth of anything I have read, including any of C. S. Lewis' fiction. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series draws heavily on Christian ideas, among others, and contains serious considerations of questions of duty, stewardship, and the responsibility of the strong to the weak. Dawn Cook's First Truth and its sequels revolves around questions such as loyalty, personal freedom vs. commitment, and the moral status of manipulating others for their own good. Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series originally dealt with questions of sacrifice, just war, and love for others, and, beginning in The Blood of the Fold, portrays enemies that can possess anyone who does not truthfully pledge allegiance to the Messiah-figure. In science fiction, there are fewer examples, but they do exist. David Brin's Brightness Reef, and to a lesser extent its sequels, deal with a religion called the Downward Path that preaches atonement through racial devolution to a non-sapient state. "A Song for Lya" by George R. R. Martin contains a beautiful, if somewhat...

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