Who Are You People?

Hope you enjoyed our Best Books of the 2006 list (part one.) A larger entry, a fascinating Part Two, has been delayed due to something akin to technical difficulties. Sorry….it will appear soon, I’m told, over at the website in the January column. . And it will be fun. Do you have favs of the year?? Wanna share?? Anybody have any opinions about my first list?
I’ll tell you, friends: I am pretty exhausted right now, and ought to be flying higher, with several really exciting book gigs coming up. In a few days I will sell the prestigious books of Dr. James Hoffmeier, a preeminent Egyptologist (what fun to even say that word!) Our friends at the Newton Center at Dickinson College will host a lecture on the archeological evidence for the historicity of the Biblical narratives of Exodus, and we will sell, among other things, his two books on Oxford University Press.
Want an autographed copy? Let me know asap, and we can get him to sign one, and we’ll send it to you. His two works are the hardback Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition ($47.50) and the paperback Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition ($29.95.)
Next, our friends at Wheatland Presbyterian (PCA) in Lancaster will host a debate on three views of faith and evolution: three active, sharp members will share their respective views (creationism, ID, and theistic evolution, roughly) and engage in some friendly banter. We will have all kinds of books on a uniquely Christian philosophy of science, how a Biblically-informed worldview shapes our views of science, and, of course, the need for a Christian engagement with the neo-Darwinist schools. Should be a good day.
Despite my joy in selling books at such events, my head aches. I’m preparing for the biggest thing we do each year, and the hardest to prepare for, the extraordinary Jubilee 2007, with dozens of speakers, workshops, authors and such, all about relating faith to college life, Christian cultural engagement and the development of a worldview worthy of the name Christian. More on that later, but it is wearing me out. You should be there–Pittsburgh is a good place to visit, by the way— but the prep work done by the booksellers is painfully difficult. Pray for us, if you do that sort of thing.
And so: Beth and I needed a truly fun read, a good, funny diversion; we just finished Michael Perry’s Truck: A Love Story, which we named on our Best Books list to be one of the best and funniest and most rewarding books of the year. What to follow that for sheer pleasure reading?
We’ve discovered Who Are You People? A Personal Journey Into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America by Shari Coudron (Barridace Books; $14.95.) After the first paragraph I was hooked. After the first few pages, I was absorbed. It is like 2 am and Beth is reading even now. This thoughtful and empathetic journalist, noticing her own lack of any sustained interest in hobbies (she’s dabbled in all kinds of stuff, which she describes delightfully) wondered where passion comes from. She sets off to find it. What a story, visiting Barbie Doll conventions, Trekkies, gameboarding play-offs, storm-chasers in Kansas; she goes ice-fishing in the Rockies and attends the annual reenactment celebration of the Andy Griffith Show (did you know they crown a Mayberry Trivia Queen each year?) Part armchair travel, the back cover tells us, part cultural study, part personal journey, this cross-country journey to learn about passionate fanatics has been a real joy. She’s often looking at a wacky netherworld, to be sure, but is a joy nonetheless.
Read this quote from Thomas French, himself a Pulitzer-Prize winning author (South of Heaven):

With every encounter, Shari Caudron plunges us deeper into the heart of fanatical passion. Caudron, a terrific reporter, slips inside her subjects’ lives and writes about all with grace, insight, and almost limitless empathy. She shows us what it means to be human and how far we’ll travel to belong.

Or, this line or two from early in the book:

Now, I’ll be the first to admit this was a peculiar approach to personal growth. People who feel as if they’re missing something join churches, or go back to school, or volunteer. They don’t get in touch with their inner Trekkie. But that’s exactly why this idea was so appealing. Simply put, I’d reached a point in my life where I wanted to know what it would feel like to raise ferrets or collect rocks without a hint of shame or self-consciousness. Not that I would ever do these things, of course. But I wanted to know that I could, you know, should the need arise.
For days after making this decision, I opened the local newspaper and spotted an article about a Barbie Doll convention. I immediately decided to go. Then I immediately changed my mind. I mean, come on. Barbie? That grinning she-wolf in designer clothing whose sole purpose was to brainwash girls into believing the only requirements for success were killer clothes, good looks, and appropriate fat distributions? No. Yes. No! I waged a little war with myself and ultimately decided that if I was serious about understanding passion, a hotel full of doll collectors was as good a place as any to begin.

A nicely-written study of weirdo folks that maybe aren’t so weird. Some she writes about are even deeply Christian folks, all enjoying something of our culture, all searching for something, all finding a sense of belonging. It is just the book I needed. Maybe that is one of our passions, being fanatical about the right book at the right time. I wonder if Caudron could write about us?
Click here for the author’s great publicity webpage. Order it from us, though. Thanks!

Who Are You People? A Personal Journey into the Hearts of Fanatical Passion in America Shari Caudron (Barricade Books) $14.95