Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Dazed and Confused

MR. BLUE by Myles Connolly

This was a fascinating book because I could never really get a handle on Blue's character or on how I felt about the book. I literally felt dazed and confused when trying to figure out how to sum it up. Yet would I recommend it?

Yes. Precisely because of how the confusion I felt.

Simply put, this recently reissued 1928 classic is about J. Blue, a contemporary St. Francis figure, who leaves the book's practical narrator as mixed up as I was. Blue gives everything away, wants only to serve Christ through serving the poor, and is an ultimate free spirit who despite all this fears only one thing ... taking up his cross.

As I vacillated between approving and disapproving of Blue I realized that this indeed is probably a similar reaction to that held by many of St. Francis' contemporaries. As our priest has reminded us many times, prophets are not there to make us comfortable. They are sent to shake us up, make us look from a new perspective, to make us uncomfortable because that is when God shows us ourselves. In that respect the author succeeds admirably. As with the book's narrator, we are not sure exactly what to think of Blue with his grandiose speeches and impractical nature. However, his impact on the people around him to show Christ through his actions is undeniable.

Myles Connolly went on after this book to work in Hollywood as a screenwriter, uncredited in some cases for such classic movies as It Happened One Night and Harvey. There are many nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout the book but considering Connolly's later screenwriting career, I found this to be especially interesting. It seems that he got to put into practice the philosophical attitude that Blue sets forth.
... "Once," he said, "the cathedral builders and the troubadours, interpreting truth, created a beauty that was as current as language and almost as essential as blood. Then came the printed word to spread confusion, to throw a twilight over the world in which men became little more than shadows, chasing shadows. But now we have a new art. luminous, vivid, simple, stirring, persuasive, direct, universal, illimitable - the animated picture. It can create a new people, gracious and graceful, kindly, religious, a people discovering in beauty the happiest revelation of God. No art has ever had the future the motion picture has. If it fails, no art shall have had as great and lamentable a failure."
I will be featuring a few choice excerpts from Mr. Blue over the next few days. Highly recommended. (Much thanks to the reader who tipped me off to Connolly's screenwriting career.)

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