Between Wyomings by Ken Mansfield – a book review
I finished reading ‘Between Wyomings‘ and truly I should be rewarded for that. About 6 pages into this book my favorite Dorothy Parker quote came rushing to mind , “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” Had I picked this book up in a book store to browse, as opposed to having it delivered in the mail for me to review, I wouldn’t have wasted more than 3 minutes on it. But I had agreed to review it so I trudged on.
Right up front, page one, sentence one – the author, Ken Mansfield, a man his publisher calls a sought after Christian speaker and who is an ordained minister, tells you his book is a factual invention, a fiction. When I was growing up ‘inventing facts’ was a euphemism for telling lies. While fictions do have a place in many narratives, and I thoroughly agree with Dianne Setterfield’s character Vida Winter when she says ” What good is truth at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story, the soothing rocking safety of a lie.”, I don’t think the place for those ‘plump comforts’ is in a ‘rare account filled with honestly and hope’ as the back cover blurb purports this book to be. Mansfield goes on to tell you that he writes ‘like a Christian on acid’ then expects you to buy into this by saying that, oh BTW , the whole entertainment industry is built on “induced fantasy.” How enlightening. Oh, and BTW you won’t find Setterfield’s caliber of writing anywhere in ‘Between Wyomings’.
Frankly, I prefer that the books I read be at a minimum, lucid, coherent and fairly cogent. The idea of a ‘Christian on acid” is an instant turn off. Hyperbole is no substitute for pithy. Droll, original, witty writing or a well turned phrase will carry a poor plot a long way. Rambling works better on the road, or as a rose than in a book. When I get to the end of a book I like to feel that the author had determined the ending before he wrote the first page, not after he stumbled onto the last one.
I had wanted to like this book, this story of the road trip quest, the journey back to then in search of the future. If you browse this book look at pages 134-136 as the author describes putting his bible in the middle of the steering wheel of his van and becoming immersed in reading his bible and in his thoughts while driving down the highway. So immersed he doesn’t come out of it for about 2 hours, then finds himself in Tucson traffic. It’s a good example of the egocentric bent of the whole book.
The narrator is arrogant on the first page and remains so through out the book. I’m told, again by his publisher, that Mr. Mansfield has a compelling personal story of conversion and redemption, a tragic tale of his fall from the riches and excesses of an executive music producer to the life of an ‘amp humper’ in Nashville with nothing but 3 boxes and 3 suitcases to his name. It’s a story that should be rich in insight, full of humility with a certain lack of vanity, touched by compassion but it isn’t. Perhaps it’s a story better told from the stage. With a little snake-oil on the side.