Thursday, April 4, 2013


One of the things that first aggravated, then enticed me, about Bread and Wine, was the way Shauna decided simply to write and not stop to explain things.

I mentioned a bit of that in my actual review on Monday when I completely dismissed the recipes in the book for Shauna having broken my cardinal sin of recipe writing.  Namely, assuming that we all have plentiful and open access to such healthy foods as almond meal or dates or goat cheese.  Namely, assuming we can all walk out our front door and into the Whole Foods and find these things.  It drives me nuts when cooks talk like that.  Maybe, I guess, because I'm jealous that I don't live in such a place.  (And I'm still mad at my Wal-Mart for discontinuing the sale of my 100% whole wheat bagels.  WHY????)

But Shauna does this kind of thing throughout the book.  She references foods like we are all supposed to know what those dishes are.  Some of them, I don't.  Some of them, I might not even have pronounced correctly while reading in my head.  Some of them, I was tempted to look up online so I would at least have a clue what we're talking about here.  But I never did.

She talks about visiting Paris and starts listing off all these place names or landmarks or...I don't even know what they are.  French somethings.  In French.  It's a language I studied for a semester or so in the seventh grade and remember just enough to appreciate pop culture references, but could not at all follow Shauna's guided tour through Paris.  I thought about having one search window open to look up all these things really quickly.  But I never did.

I never did because they didn't matter, and while my first thought was frustration, I came to appreciate Shauna's unapologetic style of writing.  I guess that's what I would call it.

I'm a writer.  One of the first things anyone ever tells you about writing is that if nobody understands it, then it isn't good writing.  That you have to be perfectly clear about what you are saying so that other people can follow along.  It means stopping if you need to in order to offer a definition.  Taking a few sentences to clarify things.  Editing things out if you don't want to interrupt them to reference something people might actually know.  Basically, dumbing yourself and your stuff down so that everybody and their dog can understand it.  They tell you that's what good writing is.

And in a sense, they tell you that's what a good life is.  Understandable.  Above all else, comprehendable.

And I think all that's a lie.

I was wrapped up in Shauna's stories.  Part of me, yes, wanted to stop and look a few things up.  Part of wanted to have a better grasp on some of the material.  But a bigger part of me understood that knowing exactly what Pont Neuf is (and I still don't know.  I don't even know if it's a person, a place, a thing, a food?  No clue) and properly pronouncing au poivre (in which the "r" is apparently silent.  Once I read the recipe, I realized my brother had tried to make this once in my kitchen, cussing after he spilled all his freshly ground peppercorns on the floor.  More specifically, on the dog blanket.  But my vacuum smelled awesome until I changed the bag) - knowing what these things actually are, getting them right, would have been a distraction from the story.  And man, I was already in the story.

See, it didn't matter to me, when I really thought about it, what those kinds of things were.  I was experiencing them through Shauna, understanding that they were this or that, pleasing or unpleasant, aromatic or a little bitter, wonderful or nostalgic or tantalizing or taunting.  She was able to paint a picture for me through her words that allowed me to experience things I can't pronounce, can't define, and probably couldn't pick out of a lineup.  And I found that none of the actual details mattered.  The story did.

I'm thinking about that these days as I write, especially, but also as I live.  I want to communicate that way.  I want to be the person who shares unapologetically how I experience my world, whether it makes full sense to you or not.  I don't want to stop and explain everything; I don't want to be trapped in a life that might be explainable.  I want to be authentic in how this is, in how life is, so that maybe it is an invitation for you.

Because the truth is that I've never thought myself one to try to teach you how to live your life.  I would fail.  I cannot know your world; I cannot live it.  I can live mine, though.  I can life my life and hope, and pray, that my life somehow sparks something in yours.  I can live my life not explaining but inexplicably, beyond understanding and beyond definitions and beyond comprehension because that's kind of the life He's called me to anyway.  I don't think I should have to apologize for that.  I don't think I should have to go back and make it a reference we can all understand.

I don't think I should have to dumb down my living so that anyone else can understand my life.

That's not what makes writing good.  And it's not what makes living good.

What makes it good is the story.  It's being able to draw people in and wrap them in story and get them so lost in the experience that the details don't matter.  It's being able to live in a way that envelops the world around you into your narrative without making them feel like they have to live it or even "get" it.  It's good when your story pens a word, maybe, here and there in the stories of those around you and helps them start writing their own.  It's about being authentic in your story and not apologizing for the way you see the world and not defining and explaining and dumbing it down.

We all ought to spend less time defining and more time living.  Less time explaining and more time just being.  We weren't meant to be instruction manuals; we are living invitations.

I'm better off for seeing the world through Shauna's eyes, instead of having her agonize over getting me to see it as she saw it.  If she tries too hard to make me feel the way she feels, to see the way she sees, to appreciate what she appreciates, then maybe she loses story.  Maybe we all do.  If I don't come to her conclusions, I lose some measure of appreciation for her words.  Because she might be crazy.  Because I may or may not have the same feelings about Pont Neuf.

It's hard to tell, having no earthly idea what that is.

But I appreciate the way she appreciates it.  And that's story enough for me.

Pre-order Bread and Wine from Amazon today.  The book releases April 9.

Per federal regulations, I am required to tell you that in exchange for my blogging and digital reviews, Zondervan publishing provided a free copy of Bread and Wine for my perusal.  I must also tell you, as a matter of personal integrity, that I am being completely honest in my words and that the offer from Zondervan does not influence my opinion nor my statement. In the sixth grade, I once gave a book report that began, "This book was terrible.  Do not waste your time reading it."  The teacher pulled me into the hall and said I would get an F if I didn't change my tune, that the idea of a book report was to get people to read the book.  I took the F because I don't believe that; I believe in being honest about a book.  If it sucks, I'm going to tell you it sucks.  This book, Bread and Wine, does not suck.

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