I have had Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson on my to-read list for several years now, mainly based on recommendations from other writers who laud Wilson for his unorthodox but inspiring prose. I finally ordered myself a copy, and on one of my many flights this summer, I started reading it – and couldn’t put it down. I stared out the airplane window and tried to process the whirling thoughts in my brain, reading a few sentences with my highlighter in hand, scribbling notes in the margin, and then sitting back, breathless, to let the words sink in. I loved it.
Like I mentioned regarding Ann Voskamp, I can certainly imagine Wilson’s style in this book throwing some readers through a loop–but again, I believe his style perfectly reflects his subject:
“This world is beautiful but badly broken. … I love it as it is, because it is a story, and it isn’t stuck in one place. It is full of conflict and darkness like every good story. And like every good story, there will be an ending. I love the world as it is, because I love what it will be. I love it because it spins and tilts, because it’s dizzying, because of the night sky and the swirling lights.”
Wilson’s writing demands imagination and active reading, but if you are willing to expend some effort in the reading, his prose is a sensory delight, poetic and imagery-driven, and one of the most unique styles I have ever read. This book reminded me of the sheer power of language, especially when used with imaginative flair, and Wilson’s colorful and creative diction left a lasting impression long after I had finished the final page.
I felt my own creativity refueled and ignited by memorable images:
“We imitate God’s words, but our noises are insufficient. So we doodle in the margins, children working to capture the Sistine Chapel with finger paints on a paper plate. What else can we do?”
And, somewhat incidentally, a passing reference left me with a profound image that I know will stay with me when we, God willing, someday raise our own children:
“The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.” [emphasis added]
I know I will be returning to this book often in years to come, and I anticipate it becoming a creativity boost and a constant reminder of the power of language. As an added bonus, I am now extremely curious and motivated to read N.D. Wilson’s many novels!