A month ago I suggested in our regular website column that, especially for people of faith who are frustrated with Dan Brown, we ought to encourage the writing of better stories. Problematic art, literature, or mass media can be bested by better art, literature, or mass media. There are two exceptional novels I’ve been itching to tell you about, and the writer of one of them—a first time novelist and Hearts & Minds friend, Marsena Kunkle—is in this brand new collection that I present to you here. I’m still trying to figure out how to tell you about the novels (stay tuned) but for now, a quick annoucement of this unique find.
The Best Christian Short Stories is a gathering of excellent short fiction, chosen (and introduced) by N Y Times bestseller, Bret Lott. These do not emerge from the safe, evangelical sub-culture of “Christian fiction” nor are they sweet “chicken soup” inspirations. These are, as described on the back, “contemporary fiction that combines the artistry of critically acclaimed writers with a clear Christian worldview.” As Lott himself says in the introduction, these authors—with whom he stands—“are tying to smash the gates of serious literature with the joy and light and hope of a personal, saving, supernatural God.”
Included here are Homer Hickam (yes, the Rocket Boy) and one of the great writers of the last half of the twentieth century, Larry Woiwode; Erin McGraw offers a piece that had been in an anthology, James Calvin Schaap’s entry had been in the old The Other Side. Two have previously appeared in Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, an excellent journal that is masterfully edited by Gregory Wolfe (aside: don’t believe me about Wolfe? Read through his lovely collection of essays from Image put out by Square Halo Press as Intruding Up0n the Timeless: Meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery.)
And, very, very deservedly, our friend Marsena, who you may know from the years she edited the excellent Critique journal that we’ve mentioned here, has an excerpt of her new novel, A Dark Oval Stone (Paraclete Press) included. It is an exquistely rendered telling of a death that happens early in the novel, oddly beautiful in a simple and plainspoken way; those who have had to speak of sudden deaths and such will find much to appreciate. It won’t spoil the larger book to read this excerpt and, I hope, it will have you calling for the book itself. We will be sure to review it soon.
But for now, consider this fun collection, this fine example of the exact kind of thing that is so important: Christian writers in the mainstream culture, doing excellent work that can resonate with all readers, religious or not. We are not only glad for the idea of it, but, as it must be, for the stories themselves.
The Best Christian Short Stories edited by Bret Lott (WestBow) $14.99