Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Whatever happened to the heroes?

(A review of "Crusaders", by Richard T. Kelly, posted on Amazon)
You can tell it's British literature, because there aren't any. It's the mid nineties. The traditional church (as embodied in John Gore) means well, but is naïve and ineffective. The evangelical church (as embodied in Simon Barlow) is arrogant and judgmental, and unable to make a difference to those people who really need it. Politicians are cynical, or on the gravy train, or more concerned with ideas than people. People have seen it all before - they are wise to politicians and do-gooders, and simply doing what they can to survive in a world that couldn't care less about them.

The language is tough (which I suppose is realistic), the violence is pervasive (which I suppose given the context is realistic) and sex for most people is simply part of the scenery - not dwelt on in voyeuristic detail, but hardly portrayed as making love. This is what the "Common People" of the Pulp song did next - at least, those who live on Tyneside.

The book contains a lot of truth about how people are, how politics is and how our society works. I can't see that it offers any realistic ways to make things better for the most needy of society - perhaps that is part of what Kelly is trying to get across. He presents religion as discredited, local politics and law and order as tainted by vested interest, and national government and the judiciary as unconcerned about people. I have to say that, on the basis of my experience, that's largely a reasonable assessment, but it is an incredibly bleak picture, and it is one which challenges and deconstructs just about every form of utopianism. Does that mean that there is no hope? Well, that's a question for a late night discussion afterwards ....

People can either cope with accents written down, or they can't. It's all-pervasive in "Crusaders", but bearable, at least in my opinion. I could have done with a glossary, though - I only learnt that clarts (as in "soft as clarts") are pieces of mud, especially those stuck to shoes, after I had finished the book.

I picked this book because the idea behind the story - about a church plant in an inner city - was one that engaged me. This book has left me lots to think about - but an Amazon review is not the place to work through Kelly's portrayal of the modern Church of England, the nature of Christian missionary work or what could possibly be done to change the nature of our society. It's a significant book - but at least in my opinion, overly pessimistic.