I know it works as a discussion book among those who are already committed, but I only get a few little twinkling data points from out there in the void that tell me what it's doing among people who aren't Christians.
One of the things that's so interesting about books is the way they take on a life of their own. I loved your memoir The Child That Books Built. In one passage, you talk about being in a bookstore, dazzled by the manyness of it: that there are all these ways of seeing the world just on one shelf. That resonated a lot with me. There are readers out there who, right now, are not interested in Christianity, who someday will be in a place where there are books, and it will be precisely the otherness of your book that will attract them to it.
Which is one of the powers that books have; the way that they solidify viewpoints other than our own, emotional and mental traveling into the far unknown and the near unknown, both in fiction and in nonfiction. There is a connection between The Child That Books Built and Unapologetic. I tend to be interested in things in practice, and there is surprisingly little written about the experience of reading when it is the stuff of most bookish people's lives. We fast-forward through the discussion of what reading itself is like, and just treat it as this transparent portal that opens out in the book, and then we just talk about the book. The shared experience, which is the reading, goes unsaid. In the same way with Unapologetic, it was a bridge of experience I wanted to construct. I'm interested in the way faith is experienced in life. The way it lives in daily experience, and metamorphoses there, and manifests itself in forms that are not always polite or tidy, but that are nevertheless the stuff of real commitment.
It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to try and talk about the experience of belief rather than belief itself. Again, not fast-forwarding through how we feel it and where we feel it, straight to the thing felt, but to try and talk seriously about where it lives in a life, and on what terms. Which is also, I hope, where you get common ground with people whose lives are very different.
That attentiveness to "the experience of belief" comes through very strongly.
As I said, it seemed like the most natural thing to do, but it is quite difficult as well. It requires you to give a textured internal accounting of something that is as real as Wednesday, but is as hard to get at as the movements of the soul. Once you start doing it, you start noticing glimmers of it all over the place. Some of what I'm doing in the book is also just the very traditional Christian thing of finding contemporary ways of re-describing permanent things. There's a perennial problem with familiarity crusting things over.
You have to make it strange.
Yes. You have to take your scrubbing brush and take off the superficial coating of familiarity so you can see how strikingly strange it is.