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Book Review: Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

July 23, 2009

tilt-a-whirlI’m not sure where to begin with this one, or how to communicate everything I’d like to without re-typing the entire text here.

I laughed – both that genuinely amused kind of laugh and that startled out of my comfort zone awkward laugh. I teared up – both from heartache and gladness. I underlined and bracket-ed and read pages at a time out-loud to my poor, unsuspecting husband. I gushed and I quit writing before I ever really began because Wilson has captured everything that is both horrid and beautiful in the world in every perfectly-crafted phrase I could have ever dreamed to pen.

So let’s start here: buy this book.

Wilson uses words like Rembrandt used hues to establish himself as the 21st century’s C.S. Lewis. The 21st century’s C.S. Lewis, with an extra shot of eccentric. Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl presents life and creation as God’s greatest masterpiece by evaluating the work as a whole, musing on the Artist Himself, and analyzing every colorful or dreary detail. Wilson’s Notes will expand your view to appreciate creation at large, and focus your gaze to relish the details – soft and fuzzy, or dark and painful – at the same time.

And the language is wonderful. The whimsical cover and first taste of the Preface combined to make me wonder if this wasn’t going to be a little pretentious, self-important, and/or exhausting. If this wasn’t just a guy who likes being a little silly and a little random trying to use his gift with words to justify an entire book. That fear was quickly relieved. Substance upholds immaculate style, without waivering, for 200 pages.

Wilson confesses early on that he writes to believers. He references scripture and theology without much explanation or hesitation, but the book may still be a delight for spiritually-minded non-Christians who enjoy good art. My only regret is that he does not make a stronger, clearer case for salvation in Jesus in the one chapter that does address eternity. Admittedly, that’s not his aim with the book, but part of me wonders if it isn’t a missed opportunity. (The other part of me wonders if his gentle, almost vague approach isn’t exactly what some people need to hear, so I hand Holy Spirit His job description back.)

I started this book on Monday evening and finished it Wednesday. And I think I might just start at the beginning again. It’s encouraging, amusing, and heart-warming. Notes makes me want to live louder, love deeper, and laugh harder – to throw back my head and let go of the safety bar because we all know it’s just for show anyway.

Some quotes (as hard as it is to only pick a few) after the break. And if you’re a blogger who likes free books, check out Thomas Nelson’s program here.

From the Welcome:

“We’re all carnies, though some people are in denial. They want to be above it all, above the mayhem of laughter and people and lights and animals and dark sadness that lurks in the corners and beneath the rides and in the trailers after hours. So they ride the Ferris wheel, and at the top, they think they’ve left it all behind. They’ve ascended to a place where they can take things seriously. Where they can be taken seriously.

“Let them have their moment. You can I can eat our corn dogs and wait and smile. Solomon smiles with us.”

And …

“Marx called religion an opiate, and all too often it is. But philosophy is an anesthetic, a shot to keep the wonder away.”

More …

“The shadows exist in the painting, the dark corners of grief and trial and wickedness all exist so that He might step inside of them, so we could see how low He can stoop. In this story, the Author became flesh and wandered the sage with Hamlet, offering His own life. In this story, the Author heaped all that He loathed, all the displeased Him, all the wrongness of the world, onto Himself. Evil exists so that He might be demeaned and insulted, so that the depth of His love and sacrifice could be expressed as much as possible in the small frame of history.”

Two more …

“When Jackson Pollock created, he was imitating. He wanted his canvases to look like the world, and the world he saw was an accident, an explosion. But the world he saw wasn’t actually art. It had no artist, and so he worked very hard to kill himself in relationship to his canvas. But he failed. He always failed, because he was, and that gave his art an artist – his own existence was a refutation of all he tried to preach.”

I’m stopping (this is actually harder to do than it seems ’cause most of what I marked involves some back-story) after this one …

“The Infinite speaks us. We are in the frame, playing our role alongside the ants and moss and Orion. We fell away, and our world fell with us. He stoops for us, and in the end our running and our suiciding will only picture the depth of His love, His humility. It magnifies His ultimate triumph.”

So you just have to get the book. Don’t ask to borrow mine ’cause I won’t part with it.

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