Saturday, March 06, 2010

Short Stories and Sermons

One of the books in my assigned reading for a preaching class back in January suggested that the closest literary genre to the sermon is the short story. I think this is correct, although you could probably also make a compelling case for non-fiction essays, or maybe even poetry.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the suggestion. The homiletics professor even suggested that preachers should try to read at least one short story per week to keep in touch with the short story genre and allow it to enrich their preaching.

Since then, I've been keeping short story collections on my night stand, and reading one or two per week.

The first collection I started reading was from Richard Ford. I think I consider Ford to be the greatest living novelist. And he's great at the short story, also. His collection A Multitude of Sins is the first of his short story collections I've read, but it is packed with the same wisdom and clarity of his novels. Ford listens really well. He has an ear for dialogue, but even more, he has an ear for the internal psychological state of the narrator and the characters, not to mention the reader of his stories. This itself should commend him to preachers.

In fact, I think if I ever stopped being an exegete of Christian scripture, I think the next best thing might be Richard Ford novels.

A couple of other volumes I've been working my way through include Thomas Lynch's Apparitions and Late Fictions (a bit more morbid than I would like) and Don DeLillo's Point Omega. Not short stories, but more of a novella. Apparently when you're Philip Roth or Don Delillo at the end of your career, you can publish as a novel what others would need to include in a short story collection. Anyway, Delillo's novella is attentive in the way preachers are called to be, and the narrator's attention to the piece of art under consideration is again much like the attention exegetes give to a text in preparation to preach on it.

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