Tuesday, April 3, 2012
First Chapter-- First Paragraph-- Tuesday Intros
Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from Still by Lauren f. Winner.
Jane Smiley's novel Horse Heaven was published in 2000, about three years after I left the Judaism in which I had grown up and was baptized in the Anglican church. Smiley is quite possibly my favorite living American novelist -- I read her novella "The Age of Grief" at least once annually -- and I snatched up Horse Heaven as soon as it hits the stands. It's a sprawling comic novel about horse racing, a subculture I have little interest in, and it is not my favorite Smiley oeuvre: I prefer her quiet, finely grained family stories -- Ordinary Love and Good Will, Barn Blind, At Paradise Gate. But one small section of Horse Heaven spoke to me with a force I had mostly felt only when reading liturgy or poetry or epitaphs. Here Smiley is writing about a horse trainer named Buddy Crawford. He gets born again and he's all fired fired up and then one night he is praying and he sits on the bed and he looks 'up to the full moon, in whose region he imagines Jesus to be," and then he begins to talk to his Lord and Savior. 'Okay here is the deal,' Buddy Crawford says, 'I thought I was saved. That was what was advertised. I would accept you as my personal savior, and there you were. And, you know, I felt it too. I felt saved and everything . . . . . But I find out all the time that I've got to keep getting saved. Am I saved? Am I not saved? What do I do now? Are you talking to me? Are you not talking to me? Am I good? Am I a sinner? Still a sinner?' And then he bursts into tears.
His wife comes into the room, gets undressed and asks Buddy what he made him cry. 'When the Lord came into me,' Buddy tells her it was such a good feeling, I thought, Well, I can do anything because of this feeling, but then there was all this stuff to do and to think about, and I don't remember feeling all that well.'
It seemed to me that I was reading my own tea leaves when I read Jane Smiley's words.