Why there’s still room for philosophy, theology and religion in a contemporary fiction, family saga novel
My book has sold pretty well. It’s had lots of nice things said about it. It was of course self-published. I could come out with the usual guff as to why I preferred that route, but rightly you wouldn’t believe me. I tried loads of agents. A few commented on how well written the book was, but “it wasn’t for them.”
Both my editor and my subsequent publicist think two inter-related issues were the reason for this. The first was my age and background relative to the readers employed by the agencies. I’m seventy and if metropolitan at all, only by default. The second was the inclusion of philosophical and religious issues in a humorous and poignant family saga. A novel is not now expected to carry this baggage. No matter how non-judgmentally I had written this, “it wasn’t for them.” No matter how much the literary canon is full of such musings, with only a few decades ago Graham Greene’s catholic guilt and the like being mainstream, “it wasn’t for them.”
I was writing about provincial early baby boomers, who are now approaching old age and the prospect of death with the anglican innocence their mental life has always occupied. If I were not to have included these thoughts I would have been unfaithful to them. As much the last Victorians as the first boomers, they have grappled with the twentieth century and reached a liberal, tolerant world view. Religious considerations play a full part in that. The century has produced so much suffering and pain to challenge faith, but they see their own long lives as more blessed than cursed.
The main characters, having been grammar school and university educated, also have a good grasp of the intellectual developments of the century in philosophy and science. They understand the fundamental lack of determinism in the wave equations which not only Schrödinger’s cat should fear and that Gödel has demonstrated there to be no ultimate explanation available in any equations. They thus want to consider if the physical and mental are so inextricably linked as present orthodoxy has it. And so do many real people of their and subsequent generations. It isn’t irrational to examine if metaphysics and religion can say more. It’s only in a story that this can be done.
Feedback from younger folk suggests that some do feel confronted by the ideas in my book, despite the open way they’re presented. In most cases, they’ll say it’s not the world they’re inhabiting. To them religion is archaic, about ritual or illiberal fundamentalism. It does not spring from philosophy. Challenging that isn’t why I wrote the book, but it’s a good reason to read the damn thing.
A novel must be entertaining. The several hours needed to go from cover to cover are a long time to be bored. Nobody has said they were as they read this one. They identify with the characters, they’re amused by the dialogue, and they’re caught by the story. That’s what real life is about too.