The Truth and Beauty by Andrew Klavan
Despite the less than pithy title, The Truth and Beauty – How the Lives and Works of England’s Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Jesus is a concise work of Christian thinking. I came to know author Andrew Klavan not through his novels or films, but from his conservative show on The Daily Wire*.
The Truth and Beauty is composed of three parts: The Problems of a Godless World, The Journey Toward Solutions, and Reconstructing Jesus.
The Problems of a Godless World
Part one tackles the issues of unbelief in the late 1700s and early 1800s. By focusing on literary giants of this time period, Klavan shows both the greatness of famous atheist poets as well as those of Christian poets. You need not be a scholar or even care much for poetry. Klavan brings these dusty figures of the past to life once again.
He focuses on William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Mary Shelley to name a few. Sprinkled in we get Shakespeare (of course), John Milton, T. S. Eliot, plus passages from all sorts of great works of literature.
All of this is to showcase the “godless world” and how similar this period was to our current cultural and spiritual issues. This desire to do away with God is nothing new. The ramifications of taking free will to the fullest lead to a lot of miserable and lost souls.
The Journey Toward Solutions
It is mind numbing to realize how easy it is to be alive now. Everything is in abundance, the ability to gain knowledge on practically any topic is a few clicks away. At least in developed countries, we have plenty of food, medicine, shelter, safety. In the days of these writers, life was condensed. You were not expected to live past 40, so it makes sense to hear Wordsworth lament on how unaccomplished he was. At 27.
Contrast that to today and many younger people are afraid to do real things. “Adulting” is too hard so they stay in college longer than needed, complain that their first job isn’t already raking in huge dollars. They feel miserable in spite of all the materialism that surrounds them. And that’s the point.
This section of The Truth and Beauty starts to lead us (and the Romantic poets) back to God, toward Jesus. Here we get a wonderful explanation of Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a hauntingly brilliant poem that had a direct influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Coleridge was a Christian and later in life Wordsworth was too. Frankenstein shows the danger of attempting to make people without a mother, to try and create without God.
‘”Maybe the problem is that you are trying to understand a philosophy instead of trying to get to know a man.”‘ – Spencer Klavan, Andrew Klavan’s son.
In the final part of The Truth and Beauty, Klavan goes over several well-known stories and parables in the Gospels. Growing up, I have heard these numerous times. However, only in the last few years have I gone to Bible study and used a Lutheran study Bible to really start to understand what many of these stories really mean. Klavan tackles these and continues to compare the Romantic poets with the Gospels.
It is this final section that really ties the whole book together. It is also this section that required the most thought and introspection. I’ll probably end up reading this part several times.
Overall, The Truth and Beauty is a masterpiece. It is a perfect mix of scholarly literary expertise with Christian love all wrapped up in a readable, yet challenging book.
“In the end, everything becomes literature.”
*The Andrew Klavan Show on the Daily Wire is now a weekly, approximately hour and a half program that tackles current issues, especially culture. Klavan is witty, sarcastic and extremely smart. His knowledge of literature and life make this show a must!