14 December, 2013

And God said “Billy!” by Frank Schaeffer [Stanley, Central City Library]

Frank Schaeffer has had an interesting life. Now a Huffington Post blogger and author of assorted nonfiction and fiction loosely based on his experiences, the former pro-life activist and son of evangelical writer Francis Schaeffer, takes us on a wacky and completely irreverent ride through the world and life of one ‘born-again’ Christian. Billy is a troubled man, “full of self-justifying crap" and a strange internal monologue that he thinks is God [*spoiler* -> it isn’t!], later replaced by the voice of his friend Molly, a 'backslider’ who has secretly met another woman. 

Trying to market “God’s movie” in Hollywood, he settles for a low-brow genre film on the advice of the few scriptwriters who get back to him. Billy is given a dire revenge-explotation-horror film to direct, with no budget and little time. Treated like dirt by producer and prima donna actors, he seeks to improve the narrative by adding lines from children’s poetry for the protagonist to recite while eyeing targets with his rifle. Most of the action takes place in apartheid-era South Africa, which is a curious backdrop to this strange tale.

Readers of any of the books in his “God Trilogy” (Crazy for God; Patience With God; Sex, Mom and God) will recognise some of the paradigms he challenges or puts forward. At times the narrative is secondary to the idea, or the crazy leaps of logic in Billy’s head. This story and setting is based in part on his experience directing four “pretty terrible” movies during a brief and unsuccessful movie career. 

The last section of the book was so unexpected and brilliant – and ultimately redemptive – that it makes the many flavours of crazy that permeate the novel worth going through. Let’s just say that it introduces the most compelling character, a Russian Orthodox monk from Namibia, who is instrumental in the devastating conclusion to this tale.

If you are looking for Christian fiction, then… maybe get something else that’s less profane and irreverent and crazy (but not the Left Behind series, please). If you enjoy an unruly cocktail of movies, desire and spirituality this is for you. And don’t forget his autobiography, Crazy for God, as well. 

Author: Schaeffer, Frank
ISBN: 9781478700012
Published: 2013
Publisher: Outskirts Press

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