Thursday, February 25, 2010

Death and Taxes and Death

I just finished slogging up the mountain called Organizing the Taxes for the Accountant to File and Charge Us $320+. This is a yearly trek I make. And before you comment that I should just do Turbo Tax (thanks, Mom), I'll have you know that pastors receive enviable tax breaks, and I don't think Turbo Tax has yet exploited that niche market.

In any case, while Taxes are on the brain, that other inevitable comes to mind: Death. Or, at least, Death in books.

I recently picked up two very different books where Death featured prominently. One I couldn't put down, and one I couldn't bring myself to pick back up, after a few chapters.

Let's start with the Good News. Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD is a terrific read. (And I mean "terrific" to include the connotations found in shared-root words like "terrifying" and "terrible"--"terrible" as in "filling you with awe and terror".) So often Pulitzer-Prize winners can provoke the "huh? That?" reaction, but in this case I would dump a few more prizes on it as well. Such as Fastest Read. And Least-Punctuated Read. And Most Likely to Make You Reconsider Nuclear Warheads. And Most Chock-Full of Prose So Lovely You Read Passages Aloud to Your Spouse.

In a nutshell, it's a spare, haunting book about a father and son wandering the shattered landscape. Looking for food, looking for meaning. I know it's been out a couple years and made into a Viggo-Mortenson movie, but I only just got around to it and had to give it a plug.

Under Not-So-Good-News I have THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. Now, before you all write me and tell me you adored the book, let me just say I already know I'm way off base here. I already know everyone in the whole wide world loves this book. I, too, liked the gimmick--I mean freshness--of having the story narrated from The Grim Reaper's point of view. I, too, enjoyed the touches of humor. However, as Death watches a young girl living through the WWII era, I started running into too many familiar things. Like how, if 90% of the German population supported the Nazi Party (Death says so in the book), why are 90% of literature characters always on the side of the Good Guys? Just like every Frenchman was in the Resistance and every 1940s-1960s Southern fiction protagonist was Civil Rights before there was Civil Rights. Snore...

Lately I'm into what makes people compromise. What makes them make bad choices. What makes them behave like humans and not heroes. THE ROAD is all about the father's struggle even to remain human when his son wants him to be so much more--to be a hero. Consider Clint Eastwood's character in GRAN TORINO--how do we take the "bad guy" and get inside his head? Find out how he ticks? What would make a "bad guy" become a "good guy"?

A friend recently told me my blog was "too serious" and I should write about being a pastor's wife and raising three kids. I don't think I could do it. I mean, it's bad enough that I blog. Besides, writing about half of what goes on in a church would just get my husband in trouble, and writing about half of what goes on in my parenting would just get the children hauled off by CPS. And then where would we be?


  1. Maybe a story about a German who like all his neighbors just went along with the Nazi party, wouldn't be much of a story?

    Have you ever read the children's book the Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin? It is a children's book and simple, but it includes a bad guy becoming good. It's touching. Well, he doesn't renounce the party, but he helps someone get around the distruction.

    hhm, looking it up to find the author's name I found that it had been made into a Disney movie. No idea if it's any good.

  2. Haven't read that yet, Sharon! Sounds interesting.