Jennifer L. Holberg, editor, Shouts and Whispers; Twenty-One Writers Speak About Their Writing and Their Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 257pp.
In 1990 Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan began a biennial Festival of Faith and Writing. Over the last fifteen years attendance at the three-day conference has grown tenfold, which is no surprise given the broad diversity of wordsmiths that they have attracted. All of the essays and interviews in this collection originated at one of the festivals. As with any edited volume of multiple authors, the quality varies, and each reader will have their own favorites. I especially enjoyed the breadth of backgrounds, craft, and views represented in this volume. My favorites included Jan Karon, who quit a successful career in advertising, bought a used computer, and in her fifties wrote the first of her Mitford novels that have now sold ten million copies; the southern subverter of all cultural status quos, Will Campbell; and the interviews with Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott, and film director-writer Paul Schrader (a Calvin alumnus).
This book should appeal to an audience far beyond authors, for all human beings are meaning-makers and story-tellers. The Bible is a book of stories in which we find our own stories. Pastors are some of our best story-tellers who evoke meaning in what they say and do, even though we generally do not think of them as writers. The title for the volume comes from Flannery O'Connor who once wrote that "to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures." Many of the authors here shout loud in their books, but others suggest that what we need today is a soft whisper, as when Jesus silently doodled in the sand. Not just writers, then, but anyone who has ever told a story or loved a story can enjoy this book.