Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Agenda-driven novels

Following up on my last post, I thought I’d mention that last week I had a cup of coffee with Paul McCusker and he shared some of the same frustrations that (apparently) most of us do.

He said that in his seminars he'll ask people, “How many of you like agenda-driven fiction? For example, gay and lesbian fiction, or pro-abortion fiction?" (I might add, 'or fiction that slams religion, such as The Golden Compass series?') He said that nearly everyone will reply that they can't stand agenda-driven fiction, and then he’ll say, “That’s how people react when they read so-called ‘Christian fiction.’”

It makes sense to me. I saw a movie a few years ago called The Life of David Gale. The movie was basically anti-death penalty propaganda and, despite some fine acting, I was totally turned off from the movie. (This has nothing to do with my views about the death penalty, only my view about art.)

So here’s my question: What novels have you read (or movies have you seen) that have approached sensitive topics honestly and well; what agenda-driven novels (or movies) would you like to unrecommend for the rest of us?


Doc Op said...

Highly UN-Recommend: Anything in the Left Behind Series. Bad theology, Flat Characters, Bad impact.

Recommend: No Graven Image, by Elizabeth Elliot. (For looking at the life of a missionary with surprising candor.)

Recommend: Peace Child, by Don Richardson.

Highly Recommend: Graham Greene; The Power and the Glory

Bonnie said...

I would recommend the recent movie Juno. It's not a Christian movie at all, but I think it has a strong pro-life message. And I think it would really appeal to the crowd it should appeal to, namely high school and college age people, without seeming to be agenda-driven.

Really great question, btw.

TrollyHerdsman said...

The movie "Blood Diamond" is quite an agenda-driven movie, but yet it doesn't rest on that artistically.

I think the opposite of an agenda-driven piece of art is a piece of art with absolutely no message at all.

So I think it's a balancing act.

Todd said...

I really enjoyed Stephen Lawhead's "Song of Albion" trilogy. (Think JRR Tolkien with a Celtic flare.)

The very last chapter of the last book does get a little obvious with the message, but until then, he does an admirable job of blending fantasy and Celtic legend. It's one of my most enjoyable reads, and I still go back to it occasionally, even years later.

Be warned, though, like any gripping literature, it can be pretty graphic. Not gratuitous, mind you, but enough that I'd keep it for teen-adult.

david carnahan said...

I would unrecommend:

1. Fountainhead
2. Atlas Shrugged

There are great things in these novels but the problem is that they both have long soliloguys at the end of the book. While you are reading it, the character transforms into Ayn Rand and you know you are getting the sole reason she wrote the book - to propagate her philosophy. Yet they are regarded as 'classics'. This wouldn't fly today.

Recommend (a movie, not necessarily the book):

Horton Hears a Who. What a great movie to spin off spiritual discussions. I will definitely use it to prompt discussions in the future but I am quite sure it was not intended for this purpose.

The key in my mind is to use the images or word pictures that people can relate to that can then transition into other discussions easily (such as spiritual topics).