My favourite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany. It’s really funny. It is one of those books that can’t be read in bed because your unsuccessfully-stifled laughter will make it impossible for your spouse to sleep. It offers the full range of humour, from ridiculous situations through extraordinary characters to profound ironies. And the more times you read it, the funnier it gets.
I also like it because it is very well-crafted. It’s full of the things students of literature like to notice: comparison and contrast, patterns and parallels, foil characters and motifs. It’s filled with symbolism, irony, and juxtaposition.
It doesn’t just make you think about literature stuff, though. It also makes you think about life which is what great art always does.
This novel is about doubt, but mostly about belief in God. The novel opens with “I am a Christian because of Owen Meany” (1).
This is an important book because in its exploration of faith, it reveals some very important things about faith in a modern context. By modern, I don’t mean that we have smartphones and smart cars. To be Modern means we have a certain way of looking at the world, the other and ourselves. The novel doesn’t just reveal the difficulty of faith in the modern world, but the nature of that faith. The influence of Modernism can easily produce an anemic faith. As you read the novel, you will see this limited faith held by the adult narrator of the story. I have very little doubt that all North American Christians need to very aware of the power of the Modern worldview to produce this anemic faith and significantly distort all relationships, including that which we have with God.
This all sounds rather serious, and it is, but, don’t forgot–this book is the funniest and most entertaining book I’ve ever read.
I invite you go get yourself a copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany, and read it with me.
I’ll be posting at the end of each chapter commenting on how the novel might be useful to help us understand our own struggle with faith in our world today.
Be sure to read the three epigraphs that precede the narrative. These little gems are being used to help us focus on the key ideas in the novel.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. –The Letter of Paul to the Philippians
This first one emphasizes the nearness of God; he’s close enough we can talk to him and ask things of him. It also suggests that awareness of God’s presence alleviates our anxiety.
The second epigraph:
Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be. Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me. –Frederick Buechner
Buechner points out that in the face of absolutely certain evidence about God’s existence, the individual believer would be annihilated. Irving takes this idea very seriously; he continuously undercuts certainty wherever it reveals itself. Or does he?
The third epigraph:
Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig. –Leon Bloy
As you read, attend to the connection between Christian faith and heroism.
My next post will be on Chapter 1: “The Foul Ball.”