Love and Other Tragic Parodies
A Review of Attempted Rapture: The Sinner & The Saint
Modern psychology speculates that the reason people love rainy days is because, although the sky is dreary, the human spirit rejoices in times of adversity. These are the optimistic minds that choose not to let the weather dampen their spirit, and in fact, they can see great beauty in clouds, in rain, and even in terrifying storms.
But does anyone truly love scattered colors of gray, and thick black super cell clouds indicating certain doom? If there were no promise of a sun and a rainbow, would they still embrace the deluge?
In Late Mitchell Warren’s novel Attempted Rapture, a storm is coming strong and yet redemption is nowhere in the horizon, the rainbow pushed well beyond the most distant black clouds. Even in an industry where literary rules are being consistently broken now that online and print-on-demand books are no longer being suppressed by a stodgy editorial process insistent on commercial values, Attempted Rapture is a genre-defying book and may very well be a market-killing product.
Categorized insincerely as Christian Fiction, Attempted Rapture is hardly the inspirational, Chicken Soup for the Soul type of book that most believers are expecting after a long day of disappointment, fatigue and the predictable absence of the omniscient God.
It may very well be the end of the Tragic Love Story genre and the start of something new and ghastly. Depressive Irony, might be a suitable phrase, as the writing style is both relentlessly soul-killing and acerbic to the point of giggles. A Tragic Parody might be another apt description, as the plot line does tend to mock traditional character archetypes, even while ultimately disposing of them all as hypocritical, depressive, and forever unhappy beings.
Warren’s ultra-realistic character study meshed with cynical and surreal narrative feels post-emo and post-grunge, the natural evolution of Millennial Angst as it devolves into Generation Z, a people scattered lacking hope, prayer, and any particular reason to live.
To say the book is morally nihilistic is an understatement not only to believers (who are advised to buy the PG-rated “Saint” edition), but also to unbelievers who have to expect more rationality and some glimmer of positivity in a humanist existence. Just as a literal rapture seems impossible, an “attempted rapture” is indeed a bleak thought, calling to mind all sorts of doomed suicidal-religious movements, as well as the indefinitely postponed End of the World announcement trend of the 2000s.
There is another component to the book and that is the blatant anti-social attitudes that are rampant in every scene. All three main characters (and arguably the supporting cast) seem detached from each other, from their current happy lives, and even in their abstract desires for the distant future. Indeed, Warren has put together a congregation of unlikable antiheroes; perhaps some of the dreariest in all of literature, and most certainly of modern publishing in which the likability factor of the protagonist empowers and guides the plot. Instead, in Attempted Rapture, the reader is antagonized, goaded and assaulted by the written word.
Imagine the dreary love child of Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Bronte, crossed with the spiritual desolation of King Solomon, and the heavy-handed moralizing of Fyodor Dostoevsky and therein lies the abstract of Mitchell Warren’s wit—of course peppered generously with the language and heartless caricatures of South Park.
Warren states that he did receive plenty of dire warnings about the book’s unrelenting pessimism, from editors, agents, and even fans of his work.
“They said that all of my main characters are presented with a certain unflattering honesty, which antagonizes traditional readers. And I thought to myself, ‘Why is that a bad idea?’ From a marketing standpoint I understand, we all want heroes. Heroes soothe us. But because this is a novel about the loss of faith, it just seems strange to me to lie about the characters.When the original publisher’s rights reverted back to me in 2013, I decided to re-edit it the way I wanted to, breaking many rules of convention, and making a fiercely independent book that would provoke readers. People read great fiction to imagine themselves as who they would like to be. Then there’s the tragic parody…a mirror that forces them to see the ugliness of what they really are.”
If Warren was going after a project of biblical proportions he succeeded, with tongue firmly in cheek, as both books feature bible-style formatting, complete with book titles, scriptures and verses, and even strange “omissions” and alternative verses, making readers wonder what really is canon and what is “apocrypha” in the Attempted Rapture universe.
The most telling fact comes with the two book’s distinctly different endings. Warren indicates that both endings are experiments in tragic parody writing—succeeding on an emotional level of peripheral happiness and closure, but actually hiding a much more sinister implied fate, and a cruel joke that’s far too subtle to glean the first time around.
However, the book’s multi-layered ending gives the reader whatever comeuppance or redemption he or she wants to find, as ultimately spirituality or complete lack thereof are always a matter of personal journey. In Warren’s case, a sadistic mad scientist capable of creating and torturing tragic clowns in a circus of terror and grief, quiet laughter is merely the eye of the storm.
Attempted Rapture: The Saint contains subject matter that may be disturbing for Christian and conservative audiences. The book also contains strong language and sexual situations. The book is appropriate for ages 13 and up.
Attempted Rapture: The Sinner is suggested for mature audiences. The book contains graphic sexual content, horrific language, acts of extreme violence, blasphemy, and disturbing imagery. It is not recommended for children, conservatives, or people who are offended by sacrilegious content.
MEET THE CAST
Amara Stallart (The Saint)
Anne McNamary (The Sinner)
Hal Persill (The Prodigal Son)
Barr McNamary (The Patriarch)
Amber Hurse (The Annoying Sibling)
The Bridges of Madison County, Ulysses, Catcher in the Rye, The Bible
WHO WILL APPRECIATE THE BOOK?
Mostly atheists, agnostics, deists, and people who are critical of organized religion.The Saint book is more respectful of the church, and was written as a book accessible to conservative Christians and searchers alike.
- A variety of literary techniques that will appeal to fans of experimental fiction.
- Psychologically intense family drama.
- Many moments of outrageous comedy keep the story moving swiftly.
- The omissions and alternate perspectives of both books are worthy of a double read.
- Multi-layered endings that are paradoxically both happy and dark.
- Strong sexual content and disturbing imagery throughout both books, but far worse in The Sinner book. Due to mature subject matter, Christian audiences may be offended.
- Stream of consciousness and 1st person narrative is not for all tastes.
- Unconventional techniques that are considered “old world” writing style and not common among readers of modern fiction.
- Anti-heroes, villains, unlikable characters, and flawed perspectives permeate the book.
- A generally pessimistic story with plenty of nostalgic recollections, making this a love-it-or-leave-it selection that will not appeal to fans of genre fiction.
“This is a book I can recommend wholeheartedly. I’ve read it twice now, which is one hell of a recommendation from me! It’s a must read for we who love great literature!” -Richard Fulgham
“The demonic forces that surely got into the writer Mitchell Warren really work their magic on the Saint version which is marketed directly to the righteous. Cleverly it tells people, ‘Come, this is the safe version.’ Kinda like those cleaned up Hollywood movies Mormons marketed in the 90’s. But, what it takes away is hope and feeling and any sort of redemptive spirit.” -Grainne Rhuad
“Mitchell Warren has a habit of leaving people bleeding once they’ve read his work. His writing is like a drug you can no longer do without, but that is tearing apart the very foundation of all you believed in and wanted to keep safe.” -Karla Fetrow
ROGER EBERT’S GHOST GIVES IT…THUMBS UP!
Attempted Rapture is a difficult read for a number of reasons, but for readers with an open-mind, and for those who have left behind fundamentalist religion, this surreal memoir illusionist act will be hard to forget.
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