Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Sex God

by Rob Bell.

This is another good example of my challenge this summer: to only read authors who I've not read before. Rob Bell is a preacher chap who I'm familiar with from his DVD'd Christian-monologue thought pieces... and clearly, this is not a book I would buy myself.

But it got a hell of a good review in a bookswap between friends, so here I am.

To save you reading right through to the end, here's the verdict: he makes two very good points, but he doesn't make enough of them.

The two points are these:

1. Humans are not angelic or apish, fundamentally. They're human. Trying to fit ourselves completely into either category is not going to end well. And so sex isn't ignored, nor is it idolised. Sex is.

Sex has a strong and wider-than-we-perhaps-realise influence over us, but it is not everything. This is not a prescription of how things should be, but a description of how things are. Accept that first, try and work with it -- sometimes around it -- rather than change it. You're not gonna change it.

2. Connection. Community. Etc. Bell actually reminded me of Vonnegut (!) once or twice with his emphasis (well... more on that word later) here. So much of human experience, but particularly what we want and need and desire and chase, come from the problem of being social beings living asocially.

Okay, those are obviously my words and not his. And yes, he talked about God more. But connecting with other people is Absolutely Exactly Everything.

I hope you'll agreee those are two good points. The problem with Sex God is that I could easily have missed them. Not because Bell doesn't emphasise them, but because he emphasises everything. Else. As. Well.

Just like that

every word of the sentence,

is it's own sentence.

Shatner, anyone?

Sometimes each clause of a sentence is it's own paragraph, too. We've seen the DVDs, we know that's how he talks. But the DVDs were 5 minutes, this is a whole book of it. Aside from being really annoying, it's really damaging as well. You can't do it every page, man. You. Just. Can't.

The thing about emphasis is it makes certain bits stand out. If you emphasise every point that you make? You're not really emphasising anything.

And this book needs some emphasising. Because everything he says comes back to those two points I mentioned -- humans being human, and connection being key. But Rob Bell doesn't seem to realise that. These points are at the heart of everything he says, but because every point, every anecdote, every sidetrack, and every minor detail is emphasised, it's hidden. I'm genuinely not sure if the author realises how coherent his arguments are.

They come across as a series of vaguely connected points about different aspects of sexuality, but it's smarter than that. If only he knew.


  1. I really enjoy Rob Bell's video shorts- I didn't know he wrote a book. Holly Wagner's book "Warrior Chicks" is written in that stilted, non-paragraph way, also. It's hard to get through. I've never seen a secular non-fiction writer use this method..wonder what the deal is..

  2. Here's what stands out to me: this book is nothing like I assumed it might be when I read your post title. It annoys me when a book tries to pretend to be something it's not in order to suck in more readers--especially those that might be prejudiced against that type of book. My guess would be that this trickery generally backfires. When I figure out that I've been duped into reading a book I'm prejudiced against, it just turns me farther away. That happened to me with a romance novel once. Made me s'mad.

    Of course it sounds like you knew what you were going into with this one. But do you know what I'm talking about or is it just me?

  3. i completely know what you mean. i notice it in non-fiction more, where they pick out the 'cool' bit, that is only a minor point of the main book, and put it central.

    like you could get a linguistics textbook about the adjectifying of nouns, and they'd call it 'SEX IS SEXY NOW'

  4. very good post ol' chap!