Sublime. The word I’ll use to describe this excerpt from the 2012 Newberry Medal winning book by Jack Gantos, DEAD END IN NORVELT. This short excerpt explains to perfection how I feel in church and why I have always felt more comfortable sitting in the back. The excerpt assigns words to my feelings about church and finally provides the perfect answer to the oft-asked question to why I attend church. For me, church has always “had a different kind of math” and that, my friends, is the sublime.
-excerpt from DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos, Chapter 13, page 182
“But the best part of sitting in the back was that my mind could wander aimlessly, because church was so dreamy. Real life was lived like doing a math problem: one and one always equaled two. But church had a different kind of math. You could never be sure what anything added up to, which meant that what was in your imagination while sitting in a pew was just as important as what the preacher was saying-maybe even more important. It’s like when you read a book and you know that the words are important, but the images blossoming in your imagination are even more important because its’s your mind that allows the words to come to life.”
I have read 3 of the last 4 Newberry Medal winners, with GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman (2009) and MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool (2011) being the other two. There is a reason these books win awards; they are magnificent stories masterfully executed. These books, on first read, were so intimidating for me as a writer that my first impulse was to run up the white flag, throw in the towel, and give up even trying to write. But as I read, re-read, then re-re-read these books their craft and skill emerged, serving as a model for what can be and for what standard of writing I should shoot for.
Note: Chapter 8 of DEAD END IN NORVELT, where Jack visits Mrs. Dubicki’s house to see if she is alive or dead, while wearing his Grim Reaper Halloween costume as a disguise, is one of the funniest things I have read, it is spit milk through your nose funny. Read this book!