Tuesday, July 14

Blue Like Jazz in Review

So I just finished reading the Don Miller book Blue Like Jazz. I know that this was a big smash when it first came out in 2003, but when I tried to read it then, I don't think I got past the first chapter. It wasn't my fault really. Even though I managed to finish it this time, I only did so by constantly repeating the mantra "he has to be going somewhere with this." I was sure that, given the things I had heard people say, there had to be something wonderful on just the next page. But then I ran out of pages to read.

I have heard people say that this book was "mind blowing". That Miller had presented something never seen before in Christian literature. That his words would make you think of your entire life in a different way. After waiting through every page of the book, even those stupid cartoons, I can honestly say that the book sucks.

For one it reads like a series of blog post or worse, my high school diary. There is nothing wrong with blog posts of course, but reading them in book form just doesn't work for me. When words are bound together and sorted into chapters there is an expectation that those words go together in someway that lead to something. That there is at least one major point that the author is trying to make. Maybe Miller does make a point somewhere in his collection of journal entries, but if he did it was lost on me.

Another thing I didn't care for was his voice in general. He comes off as very arrogant. Very self oriented (which is odd since most of his book talks about how he cares about others), but worst of all, very fake. He is like those older camp counselors who are trying way to hard to fit in with the teenagers. It seems like every conversation he had with his friends took place while he was smoking his "pipe", in a coffee house somewhere or else listening to Patty Griffin. He tries to give his friends cool names like "Tony the beat poet" *barf*. After a while I had to check the copyright date thinking this must have originally been published in the 1990s. It was all very nauseating, but I was trying to give him a pass on that kind of thing. Until I read one of the last chapters and he mentioned Ani Difranco. Let me just say that I love Ani Difranco. When my friend "Tiffany the poet" (I call her that because she is a poet) introduced me to Ani when we were in college it changed my life. Literally. I think that is probably why I took great offense we he started out by saying "If Ani Difranco wasn't a lesbian I'd marry her." Well Miller, you are in luck because Ani isn't a lesbian. Anyone who has spent an ounce of time listening to her music and reading her poetry would know that she is Bisexual. Not only that be he quoted her to make the point that everyone just wants other people to understand them. The point he made is valid, but Ani's song he used to make that point is all about how she is going to be and do what she wants to do whether or not anyone else cares to take notice. So with that I concluded that he was, in fact, just trying to play the cool card all a long. After that, all his previous condescending musing just seemed like a pile of crap that I spent a good 4 hours of my life waiting through.

Okay, but beyond the horrible writing (the man can't write a conversational exchange to save his life) and the attempts to seem above it all, the book just seemed hollow. It left me wondering who the hell Miller is and what exactly it is that he believes. He loves to talk about how he is all liberal, and how he hates Bush, but theologically he seems to be one of the most fundamentalist liberals I have ever read. Its hard to tell though. The only thing I'm am really certain about his faith is that he thinks we should all be proselytizing, men are inherently evil and there is a Satan out to get us. But then he never tells us where those ideas come from or why he thinks those things. I guess he felt like he didn't have to explain his theology because his subtitle was "Non-religious thought on Christian Spirituality." He seems to take that as a pass to just muse about how being a Christian makes him feel good. He likes to throw around the term "Christian Spirituality" but he never defines what he means by that exactly. Not everyone is a theologian and I get that. But if you are going to talk about being a Christian and "falling in love with Christ" you need to give some sense of what you think that means.

Honestly, I'm not sure who this book appeals to. I think the only thing I got out of it was a vote of confidence for my writing skills. Hell, if this dribble can become a best selling novel... why aren't we all in the business of writing books?

So no, it didn't blow my mind. It didn't change the way I think about anything. I'm not sure what I was suppose to get out of having read the book, but any sense of Christian spirituality isn't one of them. I'm not sure what demographic this book appeals to. It was (is) a best seller so there must be a lot of people out there recommending the book to there friends. I don't know who I would recommend it to though.

*If you read this book and feel differently about it, I would love to know what it is that I missed.*

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