Continuing my new Wednesday tradition of delving into the archives of "Notes in the Key of Life"...
A year ago, I was blogging about fiction. You'll remember, not too long ago, I added my voice to BJ Hoff's opinions on "honest" Christian fiction. A year ago, I was having similar thoughts. Check out this entry from November 9, 2005:
I'm not crazy about the trend toward "edgy" Christian fiction
The opposite of edgy?
I've been a lifelong reader, supporter and proponent of Christian fiction...ever since I was a little girl and hoarded my Felicia Cartright, Danny Orliss and Joy Sparton books (and if you've been a Christian fiction reader for as long as I have, you'll recognize those names!)
And let me say right off the bat that I don't care for formulaic, pie-in-the-sky, Christians-are-perfect fiction either. I stopped reading Grace Livingston Hill books when I was in my teens (although I must say I was always intrigued at the names she gave her characters); I have no problem with realistic situations and even controversial subjects, like homosexuality and abortion.
However, I'm concerned about the current trend in Christian fiction toward "pushing the envelope." (By the way, would someone please tell me exactly what "the envelope" is, and where it needs to be pushed to?) I'm told that Christian authors are being urged to be more "edgy" and "gritty."
I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I read more Christian fiction than any other kind, is because it is clearly, obviously, DIFFERENT from mainstream fiction.
Christian fiction offers an ultimate hope--Jesus Christ--that most mainstream fiction can't offer.
In recent years, I believe Christian fiction has handled the seamier side of life with discretion and care--not shying away from the troubling and controversial issues of today's culture, but portraying them in a way that is not offensive and degrading to readers who are trying to obey Biblical injunctions to keep their minds and hearts pure.
In encouraging their authors to "push the envelope"...to go for "grittier" and "edgier" content--well, if that means including profanity and sexual frankness that crosses a line--I believe Christian publishers are doing their readers a great disservice. And guess what? I don't believe it's what most readers want.
One of my most admired Christian authors, BJ Hoff, blogged eloquently about this very issue the other day. Although BJ dwells more on the definition of "edgy fiction," I love this quote from her: "If your only interest in writing fiction is making eyes bug and jaws drop in CBA, if you want to push the envelope as far as it can be pushed and then go a notch farther--then you might want to ask yourself why."
Just one case in point: I was recently sent a historical Christian novel that I believe came really close to crossing a line. The main thing I remember about the book was not any Christian message at all, but the thick cloud of sexual tension that the writer relentlessly hammered at throughout the story. It was one of those plot lines in which the man and woman had gotten married out of convenience, but began to fall in love with each other. There were constant references to things like the man gazing at his wife's tempting cleavage or rounded rear-end. Frankly, I was turned off. I can read a Harlequin novel if I want that kind of thing.
Contrast that with Liz Curtis Higgs' Scottish series. She manages to portray yearning between a husband and a wife with class and grace; not skirting around the issue when it is germane to the story, but doing so with discretion and good taste.
Liz Curtis Higg's Whence Came a Prince
Not pushing that ubiquitous "envelope."
No doubt there will be an audience for the envelope-pushing fiction books. But this is one reader who is fine with that pesky envelope staying right where it is.