Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Imaginary Jesus - Impression

Beginning of Preface: The book I am writing about was published by Tyndale House Publishers. I am employed by Tyndale House Publishers, and received a free copy of the book from them. While I have never written a book review that was more than two sentences before, and while my employer did not ask me to write a book review, I wanted to because this is truly a good book in so many ways. While it is nice that my pseudo-endorsement is used in the front of the book and the author mentions my name in the acknowledgements, that had nothing to do with why I am writing this post. End of Preface.

The first time I heard anything about Imaginary Jesus was probably about a year before the book actually came out. I was in a meeting where we were brainstorming titles for a book in production. This was the kind of brainstorming session where we were strongly encouraged to say everything that popped into our heads and say any title we could think of, even if it seemed outrageous or inappropriate. As I was leaving to get back to the rest of my day, someone stopped me and we had this exchange:

Book Person: Hey Adam, would you read a book where Jesus gets punched in the face in the first chapter?

Adam: Ummm….non-fiction?

Book Person: No, well, not really.

Adam: Oh. Well, yes, yes I think I would like to read that book, what’s it called?

Book Person: Imaginary Jesus.

Adam: Oh. (walks away confused and skeptical)

Note: I can’t fully remember the actual conversation word for word, but there were at least three people talking to me, and descriptions of Blue Like Jazz, Kurt Vonnegut and I think Cavalier and Clay were thrown out to help. This is like The Message version of that conversation.

I was immediately simultaneously skeptical and interested. My first reaction was that someone was trying to become the “Christian Kurt Vonnegut” or that Tyndale was trying hard to create the next Blue Like Jazz craze. I hadn’t read really any Christian fiction, and wasn’t really interested in reading any, so I pushed it to the back of my brain where it’s safe, warm, and cozy.

A few months later an intern approached my desk with several cover design images for Imaginary Jesus and asked me some questions about which one I liked the most. I ranked them, and became intrigued. This led me to see if I could track down a copy of the manuscript so I could take a look for myself. (At the time the current cover was not my favorite, but now looking back I can see that it’s the perfect choice out of the choices given).

My first impression of Imaginary Jesus? This is not like other Christian fiction books, this is not like other Christian books, this is not like other books.

I’ve read some reviews where people said they thought about quitting reading after a few pages but they were glad they kept going, or people who it took them awhile to catch on to what was going on. From page one I could see that Matt was writing the kind of book that was going to keep me hooked, and satisfy many parts of what I usually look for in a book to read.

I’m famously quoted on the third page of the endorsements in the front of the book: “When I read Imaginary Jesus, I laughed so hard milk came out of my nose…and I wasn’t even drinking any.” Adam Sabados – Just Some Guy

While Imaginary Jesus was extremely hilarious, and in that kind of way where you are laughing to yourself about something 3 pages back, or you see something while you’re sitting in traffic that reminds you of something in the book and that makes you giggle, or when you see something that was mentioned in the book it reminds you of ten other parts in the book that were funny, it’s not just all laughs. The book is heart wrenching questions, it’s cutting insights, it’s a stick that whacks at the crud on the sides of your brain, and when it’s all over you have that feeling like when you thought you had your head stuck between the posts holding up the railing to the second floor of your house, but you finally get your head unstuck, it took you ten minutes, but you managed to do it without your parents noticing, it’s like that feeling, but times ten. It’s like crucial knowledge, something you can laugh about later, and relief that you have survived to try figure out life a little more.

Besides giving me a chance to say the word “Jesuses” over and over, Imaginary Jesus helped me identify the imaginary Jesuses in my own life. I have many of these Jesuses, but I usually ignore them, letting them roam free and go about their days. I often like to use them to prove to people that I know a Jesus. “There he is back there,” I say, “man, does he like hummus or what?” A book like Imaginary Jesus can shake you to the core. Maybe I don’t use my imaginary Jesuses to justify decisions or make excuses, but I do let them fill up a lot of space, and boy it can get cramped.

Key takeaways for me:

“You mean, I’m not the only one that has had these thoughts?”

“Christians are allowed to talk about how they’ve had it wrong, but want to try to get it right even if it means getting it wrong a bunch more times?”

Both Christians and non-Christians will learn from this book, and learn about each other, and learn about Jesus.

My love for the book Imaginary Jesus is in danger of becoming its own Jesus.

I’m looking forward to visiting Portland again.

Favorite Part of the Book:

The end

Favorite Character:

Houdini Dog

Part I wish I had thought of:

George Barna cameo

Attempt at flattering the author:

I have read a lot of books. Everything from Dickens to Hemingway to Vonnegut to Eggers, to Star Wars novels, to Harry Potter to the junior novelization of Jurassic Park. If I had to create a top 10 list of my favorite books of all time, I’m not sure I could create the order, but I know Imaginary Jesus would be in it.

I wouldn’t call this a book review, maybe it’s more of an impression. I’ve read this book two and a half times and listened to the audio book once – it’s that kind of book. Thanks Matt.

Thanks for reading.

PS: I wrote a story about the beginning of a fictional road trip that Matt and I went on with a chimp I borrowed from a zoo you can read that here. Imaginary Road Trip Part 1 and Part 2. Note: In that story I mention “Binary Jesus”; this is something I thought I cleverly made up as a nerd joke. It wasn’t until I listened to the audio book did I notice that in a list towards the end of the book Matt mentions “Binary Jesus” in a list of imaginary Jesuses. Not sure how I missed that when I read the book, but I thought I would take this time to confess that I thought I made it up, but I didn’t.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Twitter Contest?

I'm having a contest - here's what you can win:

Prizes for my Twitter give away:

Customized Quotation: I’ll make up an original quotation for you. I’ll mail you the quotation on a 3x5 index card. You are free to use this any way that you would like – for example:

- You are at a party and you can’t think of the next thing to say in a conversation
- You’re writing a novel and you need your main character to say something profound
- You’re looking for something to put on a t-shirt
- Your bouncy ball company needs a slogan

Or

My voice on your home answering maching. Awesome or Creepy? You decide.

I'll even record it in the same voice that I did for this Bible reading I did back in 2007 - http://www.awana.org/truthscripts/media/psalm-23-kjv-1-2.mp3

To win Tweet this:
RT this to win a customized Quotation or a one minute speech – Don’t forget to follow @adamsab – http://thenext-thing.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Imaginary Road Trip - Part 2

When I arrived at the airport to pick Matt up, I immediately noticed he was missing an eyebrow. As I helped him load his luggage and cases of books into my car, I asked him about it.

"What happened to your eyebrow?" I asked in a tone that would suggest that I was making fun of him, but also not too harshly to make sure he was in good enough spirits to tell me the story.

"Kids," he said, rubbing his now bald lower forehead.

"One of your kids did this?" I asked as I thought about how I could avoid ever having any.

"No, on the plane a three year old in the seat next to me buzzed it off in one swoop."

"Oh...I'm sorry, that's...weird..how..never mind."

"Yeah. Never mind."

As we drove away from the airport, Roger popped open one of the boxes of Imaginary Jesus and began chewing on two books like a thick deli sandwich. He wasn't eating them, just chewing.

"Give me that!" Matt yelled, pulling the books from Roger's saliva glazed mouth.

The cover on one of the books was torn and a few of the letters changed and got moved around.

"Great, now we have 7 cases of a book called Imaginary Jesus and one book titled Binary Jesus."

As Matt spoke these words my cell phone began to ring.

"Hello?"

"Zero, one, one, one, zero, zero, one, one, one, zero, zero, zero, one, zero, one, one..."

(click)

"Huh....that was odd"

"Who was it?"

"Um...I'm pretty sure that was Binary Jesus."

"Oh...what? I've never heard of such a person. What did he say?"

"Well...all he said was : Zero, one, one, one, zero, zero, one, one, one, zero, zero, zero, one, zero, one, one."

"Oh," Matt pondered, "I can see how you gathered it was Binary Jesus."

"What do you think it means?"

"Didn't you read my book?" He pointed to the back seat.

"Well, yeah, but what does that have to do with it?"

"We have Imaginary Jesuses that stop us from finding the real Jesus."

"Is that the proper usage? 'Jesuses'? Can that be plural?" I asked.

"Anything can be plural."

"But what does the premise of your book have to do with Binary Jesus?"

"I just told you."

"A Jesus who only speaks in a basic programing language is stopping me from knowing the real Jesus?"

"Maybe."

"Seems like a stretch."

As we drove further west I began to try to decode the events of the day so far, the chimp, the eyebrow, the binary...what did it all mean? I thought back to when Matt and I first met and how far we've come.

It was a rainy day in October, I was minding my own business hanging out in my cubicle at work and Matt snuck up behind me.

"I hear you're the Morgan Freeman from Shawshank Redemption around here."

"Um..what?"

"The guy that can get you things."

"Well, mostly just books for authors, plus I know where the supply closet is...so if you need paperclips or post-its..."

"Exactly. Well, I gotta go, my limo's waiting."

He sprinted away, but stopped after ten feet and pulled a paper plane out of his pocket and threw it at me.

I unfolded the plane as he ran away yelling, "Looking forward to those paperclips!"

Written on the paper was a phrase, it read: This is a phrase.

I was struck by the truthfulness of the statement and immediately decided to make it my mission to help promote his upcoming book.

Roger, Matt and I had a long way to drive, we were hoping to hit the Mississippi by midnight; our first book event was in the morning. I decided we needed some inspiration so I popped in The Very Best of Rush and we rocked out to Canadian classic rock while driving the speed limit all the way to St. Louis.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Imaginary Road Trip - Part 1

I had a 5pm appointment at the Cosley zoo, a neighborhood establishment run by the Wheaton Park district. They had animals you could mostly find in your back yard like raccoons, deer and some frogs, but I was there to talk to them about Roger, their 13 year old Chimpanzee. My appointment was with Dr. Scott Wainwright, the zoo’s director. Later, I came to find out that Dr. Wainwright had no previous experience with animals or zoology; he was a retired Dentist of 35 years.

Matt’s and my idea to travel across the country selling his new book out of the back of my ’93 Corolla to try to start a grass roots movement that would eventually lead to the propulsion of his book to #1 on the New York Times best seller list was quickly coming together. The only missing piece at this point was Roger.

Dr. Wainwright welcomed me heartily into his office and I could tell he was eyeing my incisors. He spoke as he pulled a long piece of used brown floss out of his front jacket pocked.

“Son, I’m glad you called me yesterday, I was shocked by your proposal at first, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it could be good for our little zoo here.”

“Oh, really?”

I expected him to laugh at me or just give me a stern no, but for him to actually be considering it made me A) question this man’s sanity and B) slightly pee my pants from excitement.

Dr. Wainwright continued, “Having you ‘borrow’ Roger for a road trip across the country seems like the kind of controversial PR we need to give donations a little boost.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, according to this book,” he pulled out a small paperback book from his other inside jacket pocket titled Crazy Fundraisers for Inexperienced Zoo Directors.

“Wow ,that book is targeted to a pretty specific audience, “ I pointed out, trying not to sound condescending.

“Oh boy, let me tell you,” Dr. Wainwright excitedly gushed, “this was the best 7 cents I’ve ever spent at a Goodwill in my life. The author suggests you create publicity by staging a zoo breakout, or letting your animals go on local talk shows. I figured your idea of writing a book with Roger as one of the stars was the next best thing.”

“Well, I appreciate you giving me a chance. So does this mean I can take Roger?”

“Not so fast, “he hesitated, “ I want to make sure it’s ok with Roger first.”

On that cue, Roger sauntered in. He was holding a stereotypical banana in his left hand and an AM radio in his right. Dr. Wainwright pointed out that Roger loves talk radio.

“Roger, would you like to go on a road trip with this young man?”

No response.

“You’ll get to ride in a car with him and another guy and they will document your trip in a book to release Spring 2011.”

No response.

I decided to chime in, “And not just any car, a ’93 Corolla with 155,000 miles, no A/C, a busted radio and a lot of heart.”

No response.

Dr. Wainwright spoke as he flossed his two front teeth, “I think we can take that as a yes.”

Roger blew a line of snot onto Dr. Wainwright's desk in approval. Within a few minutes we were loading up the car and I was buckling Roger into a special chimp seat in the back.

Matt’s plane had just landed at O’Hare so I decided to call him to give him the good news.

Me: Hey man, guess what?
Matt: What?
Me: I secured us a chimp for our trip.
Matt: Like a chimpanzee?
Me: Yeah, man.
Matt: Um….why?
Me: Dude, it was your idea.
Matt: I was joking – I didn’t think you would actually find someone stupid enough to give you a chimpanzee.
Me: Hey, he didn’t give it to me, he lent it to me.
Matt: Whatever, how are we supposed to take care of a chimp?
Me: Don’t worry about it…I got it covered, he’s got a suit case full of bananas and an AM radio - he’ll be fine.

As I spoke these last words I locked eyes with Roger in the rear view mirror, his banana caked face lit up with a smile and in that moment I knew in my heart that things were going to be just fine.

To be continued……

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I found a journal from 4th grade. It was an assignment book where the teacher would give the prompt like: "I like dogs because ____" or "The food in the cafeteria makes me sad because _______".

The first entry had this prompt:

If I could invent anything it would be _____________

Now, keep in mind it says anything. What would the 10 year old Adam invent if he had the power to invent any one thing that could be used in our world. Cure for cancer? Teleportation device? A functional and affordable e-book reader? No. No. No.

The Squirting Light bulb.

It's a light bulb that squirts water.

Yep.