I didn’t realize it at first, because Miller’s sense of humor is so relaxed and deadpan, but it is. I didn’t recognize his sense of humor at first.
At first, I would take what he was saying at face value and then slowly it would dawn on me, “Oh, that was meant to be funny.”
His style is simplistic, almost childish. Sentences are short and he uses no big words. In fact, I think he must have made a concerted effort not to. You can search the whole book – there are no big words in there.
In a way, Miller’s blunt, down-to-earth style is beautiful. But I definitely prefer authors who write as they would talk, or think. And I don’t know anybody who talks the way Don writes.
Even the dialogue has this same quality of blunt simplicity. And that did bother me. I felt like he shouldn’t be putting these conversations in quotes when he so obviously was not remembering them as they actually happened.
Because who really says, “you know,” that much?
If it was just one person, that would be one thing. People have their quirks. Some people repeat the same phrases over and over again. It’s just what they do. But every single character?
I’m supposed to believe that every single one of Donald Miller’s friends talks in exactly the same manner? Even the girls?
I know how girls talk. And none of them talk the way the girls in Blue Like Jazz talk.
Either Miller is just doing the best he can at remembering and accidentally flavored all the conversations with his own speech patterns, or I have not met the brand of girl Miller knows.
Based on the things he says about himself, Don seems to be an incredibly stupid person. But the book itself indicates otherwise. As does the play he wrote and quotes in the book. These things make you realize what an talented person and gifted writer Donald Miller must be.
So you gotta admire his humility.
Weirdly enough, since we come from two totally different walks of life, I found that Don and I have a lot in common.
If I were to meet Don, I would probably like him. I would think he was amusing and stupid.
“Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words.”
See what I mean?
Books like Blue Like Jazz scare me.
They call for radical living, for drastic lifestyle changes.
Books like this don’t scare me because they suggest radical change. I think that’s good. And needed. They scare me because I don’t consider myself wise enough to spot a fraud.
I believe what I read. I trust books. They are my friends.
Why would I doubt them?
I am a naive reader.
So how am I to know if everything Miller is saying is carefully crafted to manipulate me or if he is dangerously distorting the truth?
I would never know.
So at first, I was rather skeptical of Blue Like Jazz. I didn’t know how I felt about it.
And for that reason, I didn’t like it much.
I have found that it is hard to enjoy something you are busy being skeptical about.
I have decided I like Blue Like Jazz.
It definitely goes better as it goes on. The first couple chapters are not all that great – but some of the later ones are quite fabulous.
That said, Blue Like Jazz did not change my life.
This is why I am so disillusioned with nonfiction.
The vast quantity of it is intended to be inspirational and life-changing – they practically guarantee it – and yet, I have never once had my life changed by a nonfictional book.
Fiction, on the other hand, I firmly believe has changed my life. Many times.
And this is why I maintain my belief that fiction is a better medium to convey truth than nonfiction is.
Honestly, I do not think I will ever read Blue Like Jazz again. But I did enjoy it.