What Fiction Can Teach Us and The Various Incarnations of Believing

7:26 AM – There is no Cesar Milan to tell me why my pug has taken to choral practices, sitting on the couch’s edge, singing into open living spaces, as if he’s beckoning the clawed scratch of a lover pug in unreachable places or declaring the triumph of one grand chew toy over another. He wails and bays on despite my discouragements. If only I possessed his sense of self.

***

“We read Faulkner for the beauty of his horrible creations, the beauty of the writing, and we read him to find out what life is about from his point of view. He expresses this through his characters. All you can give us is what life is about from your point of view. You are not going to be able to give us the plans to the submarine. Life is not a submarine. There are no plans.”  – Anne Lamott / Bird by Bird, pg. 55

Part I

The folks on the Nerdist interview with Maria Bamford – which I’m still listening to because it’s forever and delightfully long – shared their current reading lists and a few favorite titles. One of the fellows in the studio said that he primarily reads nonfiction because he likes to learn and when he tries to read fiction he feels like he’s wasting a book. Everyone else in the studio – including Chris Hardwicke and Maria Bamford – heartily agreed. One person even said he loved Chuck Klosterman’s work but that he had zero interest in Klosterman’s novel Downtown Owl simply because it was a novel. Bamford laughed and said something about how she can’t make her self care about fiction because “somebody just made that shit up.”

Alright, I can see that. I get it. Especially for folks who work outside of print and fiction. Especially for comedians who work in a field where the majority of their “media” demands more and more stand-up comedy, either in clubs, on recordings, or in print. And the non-fiction they relished in either their current or favored lists were all memoirs or autobiographies. People writing about their own lives. People exploring the daily heart and motion of life through the vantage point of language, making sense of it through personal perspective, packaging it to a would-be audience of others who – in the case of comedians – explore life through the vantage point of comedy, make sense of it through the rhythm of jokes, and package it to would-be audiences of booze-hounds and other comedians.

But I love fiction. And I learn from fiction. And I desire to write fiction that explores my life, makes sense of my life, and packages my life through people who probably look and sound and feel nothing like me because – dear Christ – how many times have I wished for the courage to be somebody else?

***

Part II

I’ve lost my faith and regained my faith half-a-dozen times. And while I’ve never exactly lost my faith in God, per se, I’ve lost my faith in people, in institutions, in organizations, in authorities, in systems and in doctrines. The gift of so much loss over the years has led me to this moment of making sense of the new thing I’ve found, which is in constant flux with those around me who have also experienced multiple seasons and sessions of faith loss and who do not want to nail down too many things too quickly because God seems a bit too big to start assigning too many exclamation points. By the way, that’s a good place to be.

What I enjoy – and laugh at – most about my journey of faith is taking inventory of all the different incarnations of believer I’ve been over the years. From zealot to mystic, from fanatic to agnostic, from intoxicated to humiliated, from organized to unorganized, from Wild At Heart to Ragamuffin, from Bible-toting to demon-smoking, from sappy to happy, from pants-pooping to healed-and-hooting! I’ve been about as many people as Jesus found pigs to run off a cliff.

The life of the believer can do a lot of interesting (and embarrassing) things over the course of some decades. And while I love memoirs and autobiographies, I can’t help thinking that I stand to learn more about myself and my journey and my various Christian incarnations by writing them through the lens of fictional characters. I like having this site where I can hammer through scenes from real life. Let this be my memoir. Let KikiMornings contain my autobiography one morning meditation at a time. But I hope this space can turn me back to my characters walking those hallways and staring into that pit behind old man Miner’s house. I’ve got a lot yet to learn.

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About Kiki Malone

Girding till the break of dawn.
This entry was posted in Bird By Bird, Books, Stories, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What Fiction Can Teach Us and The Various Incarnations of Believing

  1. “from Bible-toting to demon-smoking” ha! I like this

  2. mwerntz says:

    This is what drew me to theology in the first place: fiction. And these days, I find theology sending me back into fiction with new eyes.

  3. Janna says:

    Perhaps I picked the wrong person to send a draft of my memoir?

    • Kiki Malone says:

      Why would you say that? I like a good memoir, but I’m probably not going to write one myself. Although the story I’m working on now has enough of my personal story in it to include all of my memoir.

  4. Janna says:

    Everything we make should have a bit of us in it, or else it’s crap. Kinda like my non-funny joke. I’m still disappointed in Chris Hardwick though. 😦

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