A WRITER'S WIT
The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.
Born December 4, 1835
The youngish minister in this story is the kind I wished I could have been if I were going to have been one in the first place. He’s with it: cites current statistics on pollution to goose up a sermon about protecting and repairing God’s crumbling Earth. And yet, as we see, he’s human, as well. He pops one of his young sons on the arm when the boy doesn’t obey him, right as the father needs to be going out the door on a Sunday morning. The man is so irritated with his wife and sons that he doesn’t even eat breakfast—and his behavior is an echo of how his father treated him and his brothers when they were young.
More important, this man of God challenges his parishioners to live up to the ideals of the Church: loving those whom it is difficult to love, in this case, a street person and documented sex offender who decides to make his church home with this pastor’s congregation. Yikes. The man smells to high heaven (pardon me), but worse, has an unnatural attraction to adolescent boys. Don’t worry. Nothing bad happens. I couldn’t go that far. I found that delivering this man to the altar of a smug, liberal congregation of forward-thinking believers creates quite enough tension for any reader!
A PASSAGE FROM THE STORY:
"In the reflection of late sunlight, his gums were gray and sad. Every time I saw Brewster I had a great desire to embrace him, as if doing so would restore him to his former glory. In part I felt that way about most of my parishioners and maybe the world at large. I wished to restore it to some kind of normalcy, though it would have been difficult to describe such a state. War or no? Clean air or smog? Paper or plastic? I suppose I saw ministry differently than most pastors. My father had heard one of my sermons, one in which I’d urged people to forgive our president his adultery, as well as the men in Congress who had persecuted him for it; after that my father never spoke. My mother sent Christmas cards from them both, but her signature only confirmed a certain complicity with my father" (25-6)
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NEXT TIME: New Yorker Fiction 2014
NEXT WEEK: BEHIND THE BOOK, "The Best Mud"
CATCH UP WITH EARLIER POSTS OF BEHIND THE BOOK:
11/13/14 — Introduction to My Long-Playing Records
11/20/14 — "My Long-Playing Records" — The Story
11/27/14 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"