Thinking Out Loud

October 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Nathan Douglas on Adrian Plass

Yes, I know we covered British author Adrian Plass here as recently as May 1st, but when an e-mail from Nathan suggested I do something else in honor of the Canadian tour beginning this month, I threw the ball back in his court.   Regular followers of this blog know I don’t relinquish this spot to many guests, but I wanted you to meet Nathan Douglas, an undergraduate film student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.  (Actually, some of his earlier work has been linked in this blog eighteen months ago.)

Nathan DouglasPaul has kindly offered me some space to write a few words about a mutually appreciated author: Adrian Plass.  As Paul mentioned in a recent post, Mr. Plass is embarking on a 17-city tour across Canada.  My post coincides with this event, namely because I’m pleased to have the opportunity to hear such a clever and illuminating writer speak, but also because just as the joy of experiencing a Plass novel should not be hoarded, neither should the chance to hear him in person pass by unnoticed.

There is one book that I have read cover-to-cover, four times a year, for about five years now.    It never grows stale, and it never loses its charm, nor its insight.  The surfaces of time and experience do not render it blunt.  It is The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass (aged 37¾).  My appreciation of Plass and his work is based on my experiences with this book, and its sequels.  What began as a fictional account of Plass’ daily life has grown into a tiny universe of its own, populated by some of the most endearing characters to spring from a pen.

Plass’ voice is such a gift to his readers, and to Western Christianity in general.  He understands the life of the middle-class Christian and articulates the graces and frustrations of that life with knowing love.  The life of the fictional Adrian is both plight and gift, and upon every new reading, I marvel at Plass’ ability to capture that finely tuned sense of bumbling around in the moment and by grace, playing some role in the works of God.

adrian plassPerhaps what keeps the Diary fresh is its honesty about the humanity – quirks, flaws, and all – of Christians, and its refusal to communicate this solely through self-critical reflections.  Indeed, Plass’ greatest demonstrations of Christian reality come through the simple actions of its protagonist, whether they are somewhat misguided or deeply informed.  And as silly as some of these situations are, they speak truthfully to universal experiences amongst churchgoers (particularly Anglicans and charismatics, which happens to hit me right in the spiritual bulls-eye as far as experiences go).  Plass underlines the comedy with moments that start small and wind up emotionally resonant.  His speaking is known for its skill in evoking laughs and tears simultaneously, and one may find this gift humbly expressed in his writing.

“Talked to lots of nice people this morning from lots of different denominations.  Had a really great chat in the café.  Had to stop, unfortunately, or we’d have been late for the seminar on unity.”

The style of that writing is no less exciting; the man has a gift for crafting sparse sentences that provide just enough information, wit, and room for the reader to fill in the gaps.  His tone is the ideal balance of dry and emotive, informed by a deep love for the church. And outside of Lewis, I doubt I have read anyone who is so skilled at deploying sarcasm gently and effectively within a Christian context.

Adrian Plass is a prolific writer, and has written countless books outside of his Diary universe.  I have yet to read any, but am assured that they are no less affecting than these little tomes that I return to year after year.  If granted the time from a busy schedule, I look forward to seeing and hearing Mr. Plass in person.  And it is my hope that my fellow Canadians take this chance to experience in person one of the great, humble, and understanding voices of modern Christianity.

To read Nathan’s own blog, click here for Cinema Truth


  1. […] I recently emailed Paul Wilkinson about Adrian Plass’ upcoming Story And Song Tour, which is traveling through 17 cities in Canada over the next month.  I’m a big, big fan of Plass’ satirical works and wanted to know if Paul was writing anything to honour this event.  In response, Paul generously offered me some space on his blog, Thinking Out Loud, to talk about this great writer.  If so inclined, hop on over and read. […]

    Pingback by Talking About Adrian Plass « Cinema Truth — October 7, 2009 @ 2:29 am

  2. Who else is involved in the response? ,

    Comment by Settor27 — October 22, 2009 @ 9:05 am

    • Did you get interrupted, or is that your question?

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 22, 2009 @ 9:39 am

  3. […] of film clips, a regular reader — and one-time guest contributor to this blog — Simon Fraser University film student Nathan Douglas scored an opportunity to […]

    Pingback by Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud — November 10, 2010 @ 6:57 am

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