Friday, December 19, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Small Talk Tips From Rothdiener (Chapter 7)

So I'm going to be giving these blog titles names now. Just naming them after the chapters doesn't work anymore when so many chapters need to be chopped up into multiple pieces. Well, and the book probably needs to be chopped up into multiple pieces as well.

Anyway, last time, Brianna and Sonya were planning to go fight the big music company and accuse them of stealing Brianna's music. Also, everybody talked creepily about how beautiful Brianna was.

We start off with Sonya and Brianna going on their promised morning run together. During it, Sonya muses on 1) how healthy Brianna is, 2) how emotionally fragile Brianna is, and 3) that all Brianna's lyrics are about searching for something, and that God probably put Sonya into her life to help her find true contentment.

We learn more of Sonya's back story -- she was married before to a military man who was killed in Iraq, and she hasn't dated anyone since. Brianna shares a little of her story with Sonya, and then Sonya gives her a birthday gift, which reminds Brianna of the last birthday gift she got.
“I mean, Ethan, gave me a guitar which was signed by Tammie Allen.” 
“The Christian recording artist?” Sonya asked excitedly.
"Excitedly" is a weird word to choose here, like Sonya is wowed by being in the presence of someone who once owned a Tammie Allen-signed guitar. But Sonya works as a music business lawyer, so surely she's been in the presence of famous musicians before. Or maybe she gets all hyped up every time she hears someone say their names too. Maybe she's just easily excited all the time.
A big smile came to Brianna’s face as she tore off the wrapping. It was special for Sonya to see an innocent child-like side of this girl, something she had not witnessed.
Uh, well, I'd argue that all of Brianna's interactions that Sonya has witnessed in the one day she's known her have been fairly innocent and child-like. She's certainly very naive about the music business (to the point where it took her like twenty minutes of Sonya saying the label was stealing her songs to realize they were stealing her songs). She's embarrassed in a very childlike way about her sexual past. Sonya keeps saying that there's an older, mature sense to her, but we certainly don't see any of that in action. It must just be the way she's carrying herself. She must be saying things like, "Mrs. Ellis, do you really think I can make it big?" in a mature, cynical tone. Somehow.

Anyway, the gift is a new outfit, and Brianna gets dressed up in it and they head off to fight the music label.
She was stunning; her long black hair blowing freely in the wind as she walked.
As someone who has had long hair blowing freely in the wind as I walked, let me tell you right now, this sounds a lot more romantic than it actually looks or feels. It typically looks a lot less like this:

Blowing with the wind - Take 2 | IMG_1558 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Jimmy Baikovicius, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
And more like this:

Ikle from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 mynameisdan, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
Unless you are fortunate enough to be walking in the exact right direction for the wind to be blowing your hair straight back the whole way. And even if that does happen, it'll probably look a little crazy once you get indoors again.

Anyway, we get more fawning over how beautiful Brianna is (I swear, this could be a drinking game). Sonya is even jealous of all the men that stare at Brianna on the street.

Finally, we detour away from that and Sonya decides now is the time to witness to Brianna:
“Do you believe in God?”  
Emotionless, she stared straight ahead. “The big man upstairs?” She said more like a question than an answer.
Er... yes, it's more like a question than an answer. That's what the question mark means. Besides, what kind of answer is that? Who would expect that to be an answer? Next time someone asks you if you believe in God, respond with, "The big man upstairs," and then just smile like that answers the question, and see what their response is.

Brianna says she doesn't want to talk about it, and kudos to Sonya for leaving it alone. Instead, they talk about the upcoming meeting, where Brianna asks 1) what Sonya's getting out of this, and 2) how much money they're asking for.

...Let me quickly refer you to some earlier conversations:
“And now, why are you doing this?” Brianna’s eyes widened as she waited for a response. 
“I still am doing it to help you, but also there’s the money. Whenever we can go after the big music companies, we will. There’s good money in these cases for the firm I work for.”
“Like I said, if what you say is true, and we can prove it, you are going to become very wealthy. . . . In other words, those four songs could have made you a minimum of five million dollars.”
So I'd think the answers to Brianna's questions were already given, but we've already established Brianna doesn't really listen to the things people tell her, so that's why she's asking it again. She'll probably ask her again in another 10 pages.

They talk for a bit about how people are more interested in entertainment than politics, which make Sonya sad, and then Brianna abruptly tells Sonya she's sorry her husband died. Sonya says God got her through it and asks Brianna if she knows Jesus.
[Brianna] “I know of Him. I was baptized seven or eight years ago.”  
“Was it real? Did you mean it?”  
She glanced at Sonya. “You know me pretty well. You don’t beat around the bush, do you?”  
Yeah, she doesn't beat around the bush. She assumed Brianna was a sex worker just minutes after meeting her. So she's got weirdly accurate instincts, but I'm not sure that qualifies as "knowing Brianna pretty well."

We get more weird exchanges during this little evangelism section:
“Are you looking forward to the end?” 
“I know what the end is, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Nope. That's not what she was asking. But I shall always make that assumption from now on.

Cheerful Small Talk Person: "Are you looking forward to Christmas?"
Me: "I know what Christmas is, if that's what you're asking."
Cheerful Small Talk Person: "......?"

I will say though, that as silly as these exchanges are, they have one advantage over Skye. Quest for Forgiveness is an awful book, but at least it tries to talk about God. Quest for Skye didn't really bother with God -- I guess you don't need to if you have Skye the Magical Summoner of Butterflies herself. Both of them fail as good or coherent books, but QfS also fails as a Christian book. At least QfF knew what it was trying to do and attempted to do just that.
“You wonder how I can continue loving God after the death of my husband. Please understand that God didn’t kill my husband. A man did. Sin did!”  
“A Muslim must have killed him!” Brianna blurted out.  
Sonya shot an astonished look at Brianna. Perhaps it was the way she said it. Maybe it was her black hair or dark complexion. Could the girl be of Arab descent?
This is just... confusing. First of all, Brianna's outburst doesn't make a lot of sense. It's not like there was a mystery as to how Sonya's husband died. His truck hit an explosive. I'm not sure what Brianna's statement is meant to convey, unless it's like... suddenly occurred to her that people in her religion might have been responsible for Sonya's husband's death, and her blurting this out isn't so much to tell Sonya as to acknowledge it to herself.

But that's not nearly as weird as the next paragraph. What is this "Perhaps it was..." section referring to? The way it's written, it sounds like it's saying that the way Brianna said it made Sonya astonished, but then it goes on to imply that Brianna's dark hair and complexion made Sonya astonished at what she said, which is ridiculous.

(Cheerful Small Talk Person: "That dog is adorable!"
Me: "WHAT? But you have red hair!"
Cheerful Small Talk Person: "....I don't think I'm going to talk to you anymore.")

I think the "perhaps it was/maybe it was" is referring to Sonya's suspicion that Brianna is of Arab descent. But once again, there's not an actual verb connecting to that. It's not "Maybe it was this, maybe it was that, but something made her think Brianna was of Arab descent." That would have been a coherent sentence.

This paragraph just breaks me and therefore we're going to have to take a break. Back next week with more of the interminable chapter 7!

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