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    The Beautiful: The Organic God

    July 17, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    For those of you joining me for the first time today, this is part of a series-style book review. Previous posts include an Introduction, The Good, and The True. This post really should be the last one, but it isn’t. I suppose I just can’t help myself.

    As a reminder, this is my criteria for the beautiful category:

    Here, I mean well-written. In the negative, a reader would expect a “beautiful” book to be free of glaring typographical errors and poorly structured phrases that detract from the reader’s ability to think through and enjoy the work. In the positive, a gloriously “beautiful” book would create a sense of awe and wonder, even if it is a work of nonfiction. Anyone who has read Chesterton knows that this is not only possible, but expected of a truly great author. Beautiful writing is not trite, nor is it pedestrian. It makes the craft look easy, all the while revealing the efforts of a hard-working mind.

    Graphic Design
    I love that this book is a hardback. It is paper-over-board {no dust jackets}, which I appreciate. I’m a mom who often shoves a book in the diaper bag. This book holds its own, remaining beautiful on the outside even when abused by a toddler. {I like the cover design, by the way.}

    I do not think that the internal formatting is very beautiful at all. I think it is supposed to resemble a CD rather than a book, but it is, after all, not a CD. Instead of titling the Chapters as “1”, “2”, and so on, they are given strange numbers like “.000” and “.001”. Also, the entire table of contents is in lower case, with no respect for grammar rules or etiquette. This is symptomatic of the postmodern tendency to dispose of any and all tradition, so please don’t take this lightly. {As an aside, I have a hunch that most of the strange aspects of this book are not displaying an actual postmodern belief system, but rather a desire to seem “cool” and “with it.” Postmodern language liberties are trendy right now, and this book is all about following fashion. Also, I am almost positive that Feinberg herself is not responsible for typesetting.}

    By far, the most unbeautiful aspect is that the entire book is typeset in a font without hats. I’m not positive that it’s Arial, but it is rounded. There is no differentiation, for instance, between an upper-case “I” and a lower-case “l”. I think all letters in books should wear hats.

    At the end, there is a “soundtrack.” This is a list of songs that matches up with the various chapters. This might reclassify the book as a multimedia experience. I tend to enjoy reading in silence, so this doesn’t make the experience more beautiful for me, but I suppose it might for some types of people.

    Writing Distractions
    Overall, I think that Feinberg’s simple {yet slightly gushy} writing style is fitting for the genre. However, there are certain words that stick out in a way that I find distracting or irritating or simply used in excess. Take, for example, the words bioluminescence, illuminat{e/ed/ing}, and luminous. The book begins with a beautiful depiction of bioluminescence. But then the word illuminate enters the pages. Next I know, numerous aspects of God are declared “luminous.” By the end, I have the idea that God is simply illuminatingly luminous! This is a major case of overusing a beautiful word {or root of a word} to the point that it loses its charm.

    Then, there is the potty talk. Feinberg uses the word “poopy” a couple times, and once mentions magazines and a bathroom in the same sentence! I freely admit that I am very girly when it comes to toilet conversation. These little slips in etiquette are not to my liking. Objectively, discussing such things is not beautiful.

    Surprisingly, what I find most distracting are the words that Feinberg uses to title her chapters. These descriptions of God are always combination adjectives: breathtakingly beautiful, amazingly wise, surprisingly talkative, wildly infallible, outrageously generous, unbelievable stubborn, abundantly kind, deeply mysterious. Honestly, I don’t find this beautiful. To me, it feels contrived, or perhaps a bit forceful. Remember, the chapter title is the first I see when I am transitioning from one idea to the next {since the various ideas about God are separated by chapter}. Before I read the chapter, or even know what it is really about, I am slapped with these double-adjectives. It reminds me of going to a family reunion and having to hug people I don’t really know. I prefer to slowly gain familiarity with the new concept, not have it shoved in my face.

    For the record, I do not consider “wildly” to be a beautiful word. And I would never apply it to Our Lord. The Bible often uses the word “wild” for the likes of the rebellious.

    Personal Favorites
    If there is one thing that is really revealed within the pages of The Organic God, it is Feinberg’s love for God’s creation. She records some truly refreshing descriptions of nature. My two favorites are her description of living on a boat with her parents, and then also her vivid portrayal of a glacier.

    Perhaps what I find most beautiful in this book is Feinberg’s story of how her heart softened toward marriage. Apparently, she had friends who had troubles adjusting to marriage, even some who had divorced. It left a bitter taste in her mouth. However, God softened her heart, and she married in her early thirties. She writes:

    Looking back, all I can think is, why didn’t I do this sooner? Somehow I missed the memo that marriage is better than Godiva. When I finally said “I do,” I was actually bracing for a crash landing–helmet in hand–but ill-prepared for the incredible heights that accompany the holy metamorphosis of two becoming one.

    There is nothing that saddens me more than the state of marriages in our culture. It warmed me to witness God redeeming marriage for this woman.

    Looking Forward
    Tomorrow, I am going to talk about Order v. Chaos. Technically, this discussion will still take place within the Beautiful framework. Maybe I will call it “The Beautiful, Part II.”

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