Friday, May 25, 2007

The Deep Schmaltz of Christian Fiction

I think I have a prejudice against books with the word "cry" in the title. Now don't tell me I'm being unfair here. Of course I'm being unfair. Otherwise it wouldn't be a "prejudice." Actually, the only book I've ever read with the word "cry" in the title was Cry, The Beloved Country, which is a very good book, as I recall. Still, I'll cling to my prejudice. But I bring this up because I noticed that two of this year's five nominees for the ECPA award in Christian fiction have the word "cry" in their titles.

There's When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall, and When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin. Woodsmall's novel is "Book 1" in a series called "Sisters of the Quilt." A series is pretty much obligatory for Christian fiction these days, isn't it? This one has the added problem of having the word "heart" in the title. That's a bad sign. A very bad sign. Anyway, I kind of get that a heart can cry, I suppose, but crickets crying is a very bizarre concept to me. Of Charles Martin's book the Kirkus Review said, "Deep schmaltz in the Bible Belt."

Well, deep schmaltz seems to be a sign of deep piety in the Christian fiction world. Perhaps When Crickets Cry is "Book 1 in the Deep Schmaltz" series. But at least there are no novels by famous pastors and "leaders" among the ECPA nominees [note: quotation marks serve to indicate tone of extreme sarcasm here]. Tim LaHaye, Joyce Meyer, Tommie Tenney, Pat Robertson . . . everyone gets into this act sooner or later. Jesus spoke in pithy parables, but these writing "leaders" seem unable to speak their piece in anything less than 300 pages of stilted prose (not to mention the inevitable "series").

I think I have a prejudice against Christian fiction.


Milton Stanley said...

When I shopped my novel manuscript, it was too raw for Christian publishers and too out of touch with the Zeitgeist for secular publishers. But you won't find "cry" in the title. It's called Preacher and you can find it at It may or not be the best novel ever written, but you do know the author. Peace.

Bob said...

Boy, you really touched on something when you said, "too raw for Christian publishers and too out of touch with the Zeitgeist for secular publishers." Isn't that the dilemma many Christians find themselves in? At home neither in the culture nor in the so-called Christian counter-culture. Perhaps that's because the the latter is not really "counter" at all, but simply a niche-market in wider culture.