Sunday, April 29, 2007

Worth reading.

Or listening to, inasmuch as I downloaded Dean Koontz' Odd Thomas stories from I-tunes.

I listened to Brother Odd and was struck by the dogged decency of its title character, Odd Thomas. Odd is a young man who can see the dead. He can't talk to the dead because, somehow, that is against The Rules, whatever that may be. Odd can also see "bodachs", which are mysterious black supernatural shapes that seem to feed off of carnage and disaster.

I noticed some things in the book that seemed, well, familiar. For example, Odd mentions that his destiny after life is "between two fires." He ponders the dark place in Hell that those who would kill the disabled, either before or after birth, will inhabit. And he puts a G.K. Chesterton observation about those who believe in nothing will believe in anything into the mouth of a deputy sheriff.

So, I suspected that Koontz might actually be a writer whose writing breathes his faith without restricting himself to a specific agenda or program.

Here is a National Catholic Reporter on Koontz, which has this passage:

When the Register's sister publication, Faith & Family magazine, profiled Koontz recently, it included this warning: "Disturbing scenes include violence, gore and frightening portrayals of great evil; some sexuality." But leading Catholics praise the novels’ deep themes.

After the second book in the Odd Thomas series came out, bioethicist Wesley Smith called Koontz.

"You know what you're writing about here?" Smith told Koontz. "You're writing the life of a saint."

Initially, Koontz disagreed.

"No, no, no ...," protested Koontz.

"The lives of saints are difficult," says Koontz. "I wouldn't even know how to write the life of a saint."

Wesley Smith is the lawyer turned bioethicist who is documenting the deterioration the medical professions treatment of the elderly and disabled. His blog, Secondhand Smoke, is one of my daily reads.

Here is an interview with Koontz that provides some personal background on Koontz and some reflections on writing. I liked this observation in particular:

Many writers are nihilists or at the least cynics. They deny that spiritual, moral and cultural truths exist. If you believe life is meaningless, what have you left to say as a writer? Nothing interesting. Nihilism is the philosophy of perpetual adolescence.

And this one:

My villains are pathetic. I never glorify a villain. I couldn't write something like Hannibal because there's something there that makes the villain the most glamorous person in the piece. I can't write that. I don't find evil glamorous. You'll never find it that way in my books.

I need to portray the true struggle of this world, so there are bad characters in my books. We need to be honest about the violence that we face, including that which we became aware of on 9/11 - an evil that denies the legitimacy of the civilization that we know and an evil that doesn't value human life. A lot of people want to turn away from it. We're going to be defeated by it if we can't recognize the depth of that evil.

Evil walks among us. We don't always see it. Each of us, in our daily lives, encounters evil; we are tempted to evil every day of our lives. If we don't want to read about it or think about it, I don't think that's a truly Christian point of view. We have to acknowledge it, face it and defeat it. That's what each of my books is about.

For example, One Doorway Away From Heaven concerns utilitarian bioethics. Utilitarian bioethics, which would deny the life of a disabled child, has infected our whole medical system. If you don't want to know about it, it's going to triumph. Avoiding the recognition of evil is profoundly sinful. There is a purpose and meaning in our lives, and that purpose includes confronting evil, not succumbing to it.

It's quite a refreshing change from the ultimately meaningless existentialism that marks so much of modern culture.

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