I don't know Dionne Irving. I've never met her or read any of her writing before. But today I read her "Jesus Stalks" piece, which won third place in Creative Loafing's 10th Annual Fiction Contest, and I was moved.
The reader in me laughed out loud - several times. The writer in me appreciated the well-crafted story. And the Christian in me was uncomfortable.
I don't necessarily agree with the basis of her story, that Jesus is an immature, tit for tat, vengeful brat. But I love inventive, imaginative and fearless writing.
I guess it's like watching Freddy Kruger or vampire movies or reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." I don't believe in it, but it's really entertaining.
And it seems Irving is working hard on perfecting her craft. A Google search revealed that she is the 2009 winner of the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work has appeared in the Crab Orchard Review, Big Muddy and Carve Magazine. And she is currently earning her doctorate in creative writing at Georgia State University.
But what's most impressive to me is her story. It was great. I couldn't put it down. Even the fact that I was weirded out by her humanization of Jesus couldn't stop me from finishing the piece. I don't know what Irving's religious leanings are, but I'm curious as heck. What I do know is that, in my humble opinion, she deserves this recognition.
And I hope she writes a book. Because I'll read it.
Bravo to Creative Loafing for their continued support of creativity! If I didn't have to work late again, I would definitely be checking out their Fiction Contest Party tonight, to hear the winners read their works.
Boo! that I can't go, but yea! that I can read the rest of the entries.
Check out an excerpt of "Jesus Stalks" below. Here's to fearless writing in 2011! Start typing folks...
"Jesus Stalks" by Dionne Irving
Jesus won't stop calling me. I block his number on the caller ID, but he gets a new unlisted number and the calls pick up. He leaves long messages on the answering machine and when it cuts out he calls back and keeps talking. I don't even listen to the messages anymore. They all start the same: "Alia, it's me ... Jesus."
That's usually when I hang up, because I know from there it will be a long rant about how much he wants me back, how much he loves me, how he'll forgive me for everything. Like most ex-boyfriends, Jesus acts as though I'm the one who needs to be forgiven.
When I block his number for a second time he starts calling my roommate. I come home from work late one Friday night and she's sitting in the living room, her legs draped over the arms of the sofa, watching TV.
"Jesus called for you," she says.
"You know," she says swinging her feet down to the ground. "Jesus really loves you. You should return his phone calls."
"He's OK," I say, not making eye contact. "But things are kind of over between us."
"I'd sure be glad to meet a guy like Jesus," she says, looking off into space. "All the guys I meet lately are such jerks."
Here's the thing about Jesus. Everyone loves him. They think he is this great guy, that he's sweet and caring and all about helping other people out. And it's true. Kind of. The thing is, Jesus only does nice things so that people can tell him what a great guy he is. He tries to take credit for everything. A beautiful sunset, a particularly charming infant, a wonderfully delicious meal, there Jesus would be, trying to steal someone else's thunder. Many a night did I have to listen about how praise was heaped on everyone but Jesus. If someone thanked Billy for a especially thoughtful gift, if someone praised Ezra's good taste or made a comment about an attractive dress Katie was wearing, by midnight there would be Jesus pacing around my living room trying to figure out why no one had thanked him.
Eventually he'd wear himself out with anger. He'd take off his Birkenstocks and curl up in the fetal position on my living room floor. A typical Jesus temper tantrum. I'd leave him there like that and turn off all the lights and go to bed.
In the morning, he'd be fine again and he wouldn't bring it up. But eventually I learned that whoever had offered up the praise that particular evening now had a particularly nasty boil, or their car wouldn't start, or had run out of milk as soon as they'd poured themselves a nice big bowl of cereal.