Thursday, 3 April 2014

Book Review: Pieces of Eternity by Michael Jensen

By Anne Hamilton


It’s often hard to convince successful speakers that what works in front of a microphone doesn’t work in print. As an editor I often struggle to convince preachers and teachers that the rhythms and sentence structures that deliver a great punchline to a live audience simply fall flat on the page.

It’s vitally important we choose our words thoughtfully for the medium we’re using. I make this point to make a confession: I have read some of the pieces in Michael Jensen’s Pieces of Eternity when they were originally published in the Eternity newspaper and I was bored witless by them. The majority were too long and intense to hold my interest and, before long, I was glancing at the length on the page and deciding not to even read the first sentence.

Now I read long and intense (and even boring) books all the time, so I wondered why these articles failed to appeal to me. There’s a lot of research been done as to how the internet and blogs, in particular, have changed the way we read. Having looked at that research, I now understand why one quick glance was enough to cause me to ignore the articles.

They did not take account of the fact that we come to newspapers with different reading habits and expectations. Like the successful speaker who can’t transition to the printed page, the mistake was to think that what are essentially book chapters suit a magazine format.

All this to say that Pieces of Eternity is a great book and, if you felt like me about the articles in the newspaper, it’s time to rethink.

There are some great thoughts here encapsulated in short, punchy articles. (Yes, what’s short in a book is not short in a newspaper!) Amongst my favourites were Organised Chaos with its contention that Scripture suggests the opposite of disorder is not order but peace; Scientists Playing God? with its passing comment poesis (yes, poetry!) means ‘human construction’; the delightfully trivial observation in The Birthday of the Book: The King James Bible turns 400 that it was published when Shakespeare was 46 years old and in Psalm 46, the 46th word from the beginning is ‘shake’ and the 46th word from the end is ‘spear’; The Churches and Child Abuse in which Jensen suggests that ‘ministry’ has become a cause for idolatry when the rights of a person to remain in ministry trump protection of innocent victims; The Music of Love in which it’s pointed out how often people in Scripture burst into song at the drop of a hat.

My favourite however has to be Surviving the Office Jungle for its practical depth and for its no-nonsense claim that anyone who does not think they use dissembling and pretence in the workplace is deceiving themselves. This article alone is, in my view, worth the price of the book.

Pieces of Eternity
Michael P. Jensen
Acorn Press Limited – www.acornpress.net.au
RRP $24.95 (paperback)
9780987428653 (paperback)
9780987428660 (eBook)

Synopsis

Does God have a sense of humour? Can Christianity make sense of our 21st-century world? What does it mean to be happy? Is it possible to survive in the jungle of office politics, or in the warzone that is social media?

In this provocative and stimulating collection of pieces from Eternity magazine, Michael Jensen presents an authentically Christian take on the way we live, work and think. With insight, humanity, and a humorous touch, Jensen takes us on a tour of the contemporary soulscape, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the music of Cold Chisel. Pieces of Eternity will surprise, delight and engage its readers.


Anne Hamilton is an author and reader. She spent her childhood reading science fiction and fantasy and, while she still loves the genre, she also enjoys curling up with non-fiction of all kinds. She enjoys researching names and name covenants. You can find out more about Anne at her website, www.fire-of-roses.com/wp.

9 comments:

  1. I so agree that the preached word doesn't always transfer word in print for reading. I do some occasional editing for preacher/writers and have to make this point all the time. Great article and review!

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    1. It's one of the hardest things to convey to successful speakers, Rhonda. They KNOW their words have been well-received and they hear in their heads exactly the way to say the sentences, forgetting that a reader is coming to the text cold.

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  2. Sounds like an intriguing book - thanks for the review, Annie.

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    1. It's a very eclectic mix, Andrea - just right for dipping into.

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  3. Ah, the lady in red! I'd never realised that, Anne, but come to think of it we work hard at scripting for a radio program because we need to say things as if talking to one person...not a group.

    Michael Jensen is very original so Pieces of Eternity sounds like an engaging read about what's going on in the world around us.

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    1. That's right, Rita. A radio programme is a different way still - and what works well there doesn't work necessarily in a book. The thoughts can be the same but the way the sentences flow need to be quite different.

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  4. Annie, great review! It's interesting how we will read a long passage of text in a book, but are turned off by a similar length in an article or blog post. Surviving the Office Jungle article sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. Thanks for the kind review... I think! :-)

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