Friday, June 22, 2007

Poetry That Doesn't Rhyme

I remember reading that, unlike most publishers, Bennett Cerf at Random House made a practice of reviewing every unsolicited manuscript that came "over the transom". Asked if they weren't uniformly worthless, he admitted that most of them were not publishable, "but one of them was Cry, The Beloved Country."

Eldest son John Calvin has been reading world literature in school and so we picked up Alan Paton's novel about apartheid-era South Africa. I started and finished it in just a couple of days while on a working vacation to our family's lake house. The language is lyrical and poetic, like Pearl Buck's The Good Earth, but unlike the latter, this was actually God-honoring, with much nobility in the two main characters, a poor black Anglican priest and a wealthy white landowner, brought together by a shared family tragedy.

Although there are many sad situations in this book, Paton gives an expectation and hope for the future of Africa and the protagonists he portrays, and his beautiful language and characterizations make this truly literature. Good art, good message, and a surprisingly enjoyable reading experience.

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