Stereotyped Pretence

Small Giant, by Phyllis Woodruff Sapp. Zondervan, Grand Rapids. $3.00.

This novel is one grand contrivance without adequate characterization, genuine emotion, or artistic merit. In fact, it is not a novel at all, just a stereotyped pretence. As an evangelical Christian I deplore the supposition that such stuff is intended for me and others like me. Yet this novel is the winner of a big prize offered by a Christian publisher!

It is hard to know where to begin a review, for the sleaziness starts with the first page of the book. As a sample of the totally trite style let me quote a few sentences from page 14: “A hush settled over the room and his heart seemed to stop beating. Wouldn’t these people applaud even for politeness’ sake? Then a spontaneous burst of applause echoed and re-echoed around the room and Phil sank back in his chair, swallowing his heart out of his throat.” It would be hard to discover in the same number of words anywhere in print (unless in a parody on triteness) an equal spate of cliches.

Among many bad things the very worst is the hand-me-down emotions throughout the book. They are here in melodramatic abundance but in unbelievable paucity of expression. Although the novel is under three hundred pages in length, such phrases as “dark pounding in his heart,” “heart began to hammer against his ribs,” “his heart thudded heavily” occur over seventy times. Expressions such as “he clenched his hands,” “smacking his fist into his palm,” and “beat his fist into his open palm” occur at least sixty times. Another set of cliches such as “she moistened her lips,” “licked his lips,” “wet his lips” is repeated at least thirty-five times, and about twenty-five times we have the hero or somebody else ...

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