First of all, you need to know that I don’t read books. I know… crazy… but it’s true. I had some real learning challenges growing up (so books have never been my friends) and that, coupled with a hefty diet of 80’s cartoons and sitcoms, and well… you are left with a 43 year old who still struggles with books. As a result, here are my rules:
- I don’t read unless a book is an assignment of some kind.
- I never read fiction.
- I never read a book cover to cover.
- I never read a book word for word (skimming is one of my coping mechanisms).
So, we went camping this past week. Frank Schaeffer and I have crossed paths a few times in the last couple of years and he has been tremendously kind to me, so I went ahead and threw his novel (see rule #2 above) in my bag. It is titled, And God Said, “Billy”, and I was just hoping that I would get around to opening it.
The first night, sitting at the campfire, I started his 305 page book. By bedtime of the second night I had read it straight through, cover to cover (rule 3) and word for word (rule 4).
If that is not endorsement enough, then I am not communicating very well.
The back cover of Billy reads: “The story is set in the 1980s and is about Billy, a fundamentalist Christian who feels called to go to Hollywood to make “God’s movie.” But everything goes off the rails when he accepts a job to direct a soft-porn slasher/exploitation film in apartheid-era South Africa.”
This book is a ruggedly entertaining story where I was constantly asking myself “Could this spiraling chaos possibly go deeper?” (as the back cover quote above implies.) It is a powerfully humorous narrative commentary on religion, faith, assurance, spiritual-fulfillment, society and church.
So, here’s the deal. Do NOT read this book if:
- You cannot laugh at religion.
- You cannot laugh at your own religion.
- You cannot comically (and profoundly) critique yourself as a spiritual being.
- Or if the presence of the term “soft-porn” in the earlier paragraph released a “Harumph!” in your soul.
I loved this book. I really did. I have been telling any friend I stumble across about it ever since I finished it 5 days ago. Cover to cover entertaining. And, super-bonus, it contains one of the best single chapters I have read in years, if not ever (you will have to read the book to guess which one.)
Scandalous and entertaining. Disturbing and soul-opening. Profound.
And God Said, “Billy” is a modern parable with Pilgrim’s Progress implications.
Thank you, Frank.