Lately, I’ve been reading, and very much enjoying, Reasons To Believe by John Marks (http://www.amazon.com/Reasons-Believe-Journey-Evangelicals-Behind/dp/0060832770/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237942683&sr=1-2). This non-fiction book centers on Marks’ two-year quest throughout the US, interviewing and spending time with Christians of various Evangelical persuasions in order to examine the life of faith he himself left behind as a young man.
Though I am less than halfway through the book, there have been many places where I have been blown away by Marks’ prose. It’s not just that his writing is vivid and clear, but I have been astounded by the number of times I have come across a turn of phrase that is almost poetic in its eloquence – in fact, so much so, that I was prompted to do some brief research on Marks. I discovered that he holds an MA in Fiction from the University of Iowa, arguably one of the best creative writing programs in the country. This information didn’t necessarily make me think, “Oh, well that explains it”, but, as I write this entry, that statement does seem to ring true in this instance. It’s not that I think those writers who hold MFA’s or MA’s in creative writing are better writers simply by virtue of their degrees; indeed, a huge amount of amazing, and indeed successful, writers have pursued their literary dreams without these kinds of degree programs. Nevertheless, as least in the case of Marks’ book, his skill as a formally trained fiction writer has undoubtedly informed and, it seems, added an unmistakably creative flair to his prose – his non-fiction has the kind of beautifully profound political, psychological, and emotional layers I so appreciate in great fiction. Whatever the influence of his fiction MA, it’s effect on this work of non-fiction is something that, as a creative writing program alum and lover of a great turn of phrase, I do appreciate.
p.s. John Marks was a 60 Minutes producer, and, I discovered, also writes fiction: The Wall (http://www.amazon.com/Wall-John-Marks/dp/1573227579/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237944240&sr=1-1) and War Torn (http://www.amazon.com/War-Torn-John-Marks/dp/1573222542/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237944312&sr=1-1).