So, I know I should have brought any one of the 11 unfinished books with me; but I was packing, and I took what was near. And I am so glad.
This might be the novel we’ve been waiting for (when Catherine Fox and Susan Howatch have been too often read and we are out of mysteries). The first pages are of a heaven-in-ordinary sort of vision, and then we meet Amos, a son of the Brethren manse in rural America who grows up to love Tillich. The first glimpse of Amos is of him tossing and turning in bed, failing to meet his own standards of discipline:
A single thing gnawed at him at night, an idea he had no name for, although if anyone asked him he could have written a book, as they say, on the subject. Perhas he was even called to write it, but he was vexed by the how and the why. Amos knew as well as anyone what went into writing a book, having written a master’s thesis, and he considered the process to be akin to having one’s nerves stripped with a curry comb. A ghastly experience, not to be endured. He imatined the tower of reference books clotting his study, and the botecards he would use to try to keep
his thoughts straight, and the inevitable architectural work that would need to be employed, and the hours spend in the overstuffed chari facing Plum Street, lost in thought and picking at the threads in the upholstry; and most of all, the way writing a book makes a person feel the’d rather be anywhere than inside his own skin. He’d rather be on Plum Street, that’s for sure, kicking along in a tangle of leaves or stopping to pet one of the litter of mountain cur pups born next door (beautiful little dogs that would be feral in the blink of an eye — he knew he should pet them quickly, before he had lost his chance). But if he were on Plum Street his mind would be drawn to his own study window, and he would think with longing of the work he could be doing and how work is the only thing that saves the soul, the only thing that makes a man a man, as he remembered Emerson saying, or something like it. Writing a book brings a single irreducible truth right out to the edges of a person: there is no place to be, there is no place in this world, it is impossible to be happy.
The Solace of Leaving Early
The next pages offer the excitements and frustrations of a theology seminar and the challenges of ministering to the deer hunters when you grew up next door to the opera house.
The sense of hope is delighfully unbearable…