In my novel “Psalm 88″, there’s a passage that really pushed me toward self-publishing. In the story, Joe and Ellen are growing closer together. Ellen offers herself (sexually but subtly) to Joe. He turns her down–for reasons you need to read to fully appreciate.
I had a Christian publisher who claimed interest in the novel, but wanted that scene changed or dropped because “no man would turn down a girl who offered sex”. Remember: this was a “Christian” publisher telling me this!
Now, without giving away too much of the book (because I would like for you to read the whole thing), I thought Joe’s reasoning for turning Ellen down was quite good. It wasn’t that he was morally opposed (as we generally understand morals). Joe’s whole crisis of faith and conscience was caused by the untimely death of his wife, Janet. He had loved her and–by his own admission–loved sex. But because of his years with Janet, he could no longer see sex as “just sex”. He wanted another relationship–maybe with Ellen–but he holds himself and his relationships to a high standard.
There’s a place in art for gritty realism. There’s also a place (I hope) for art that encourages us to strive for something better. Would I have reacted as Joe did? I would like to think I would. This led one of my friends to describe my work in general as “like to think” art.
In “So Many Books”, the two lead characters–Chris and Alyste–make some odd choices. Some work out well and some don’t. But they’re both striving for a better life. I’d like to think my life choices could be along similar lines (if only I weren’t so weak!).