Miracles Ain’t What They Used to Be

April 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

miraclesMiracles Ain’t What They Used to Be by Joe R. Lansdale

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Recently, a friend reviewed a Lansdale book and mentioned how Lansdale hates Christianity. It took me by surprise, because while I’ve never seen anything in Lansdale’s work that suggests he feels otherwise, I’ve never seen him say something that overt before. That was before I read the essay that gives this short collection its title, though, and now I have to say, yep, totally true. Lansdale hates Christianity.

To be fair, he hates all religions. Doesn’t have any use for it. He writes about this for about 25 pages, showing how much he despises the idea of it, how he doesn’t believe in God, and has little patience for people who claim to be Christian yet don’t act like proper Christians (though he also gives a nod to those who are Christian but don’t use it as a crutch to disregard everything else in their lives). Fair enough. I don’t even disagree with what he has to say. I do, however, feel like he goes out of his way to be confrontational about it, which I think accomplishes little.

I felt the same way about Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, because it’s one thing to go into a story (or essay) with an agenda; it’s another to come out the other side of it frothing at the mouth over your position. It doesn’t win anyone over, it doesn’t change any minds, and, honestly, it’s hard to determine the point of such a thing. In Lansdale’s case, at the very beginning of the piece he notes that he’s about to go an an unbalanced rant, so at least there’s the self-awareness of how unhinged his argument sounds. I’d say it’s an effort to populate his own echo chamber, but even to me, an atheist, I couldn’t help but think, “Jeeze, Joe, take a breath. Calm down.”

This collection has a few other pieces, most of them non-fiction, all of them philosophical. Hap and Leonard make an appearance in the first story, but don’t expect the usual hee-haw experience with these guys; it’s just an eight-page story waxing poetic on aggressors and victims. There are two other stories that appear to be written straight out of Joe’s own childhood, and if they’re true, then they shine a light on how Lansdale developed his style.

Also in this collection is one interview with Lansdale, along with five nonfiction pieces he wrote for The Texas Observer. One is an appreciation for Poe, and the others are reflections on his own life. Again, you see how much Lansdale uses his own life for inspiration, since you learn that much of The Boar came straight from his own experiences.

This collection is intended for Lansdale’s already-fans, since it’s more fact than fiction. I think readers will enjoy the glimpse into his life, but I can’t help but wonder how much the title essay will polarize his readers. To be honest, I wouldn’t think of Christians having much appreciation for Lansdale, but my friend proves me wrong, and I can’t help but wonder how he would react to it (especially when I even thought he was going too far). So it’s hard to recommend it without that caveat. Just be aware, and forewarned.

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