Thursday, January 11, 2018

Attempted Rapture for Idiots, Curated, 2016

Modern psychology speculates that the reason people love rainy days is because, although the sky is dreary, the human spirit rejoices in times of adversity. These are the optimistic minds that choose not to let the weather dampen their spirit, and in fact, they can see great beauty in clouds, in rain, and even in terrifying storms.

But does anyone truly love scattered colors of gray, and thick black super cell clouds indicating certain doom? If there were no promise of a sun and a rainbow, would they still embrace the deluge?

In Late Mitchell Warren’s novel Attempted Rapture, a storm is coming strong and yet redemption is nowhere in the horizon, the rainbow pushed well beyond the most distant black clouds. Even in an industry where literary rules are being consistently broken now that online and print-on-demand books are no longer being suppressed by a stodgy editorial process insistent on commercial values, Attempted Rapture is a genre-defying book and may very well be a market-killing product.

Categorized insincerely as Christian Fiction, Attempted Rapture is hardly the inspirational, Chicken Soup for the Soul type of book that most believers are expecting after a long day of disappointment, fatigue and the predictable absence of the omniscient God.

It may very well be the end of the Tragic Love Story genre and the start of something new and ghastly. Depressive Irony, might be a suitable phrase, as the writing style is both relentlessly soul-killing and acerbic to the point of giggles. A Tragic Parody might be another apt description, as the plot line does tend to mock traditional character archetypes, even while ultimately disposing of them all as hypocritical, depressive, and forever unhappy beings.

Warren’s ultra-realistic character study meshed with cynical and surreal narrative feels post-emo and post-grunge, the natural evolution of Millennial Angst as it devolves into Generation Z, a people scattered lacking hope, prayer, and any particular reason to live.

To say the book is morally nihilistic is an understatement not only to believers (who are advised to buy the PG-rated “Saint” edition), but also to unbelievers who have to expect more rationality and some glimmer of positivity in a humanist existence. Just as a literal rapture seems impossible, an “attempted rapture” is indeed a bleak thought, calling to mind all sorts of doomed suicidal-religious movements, as well as the indefinitely postponed End of the World announcement trend of the 2000s.

There is another component to the book and that is the blatant anti-social attitudes that are rampant in every scene. All three main characters (and arguably the supporting cast) seem detached from each other, from their current happy lives, and even in their abstract desires for the distant future. Indeed, Warren has put together a congregation of unlikable antiheroes; perhaps some of the dreariest in all of literature, and most certainly of modern publishing in which the likability factor of the protagonist empowers and guides the plot. Instead, in Attempted Rapture, the reader is antagonized, goaded and assaulted by the written word.

Imagine the dreary love child of Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Bronte, crossed with the spiritual desolation of King Solomon, and the heavy-handed moralizing of Fyodor Dostoevsky and therein lies the abstract of Mitchell Warren’s wit—of course peppered generously with the language and heartless caricatures of South Park.

Warren states that he did receive plenty of dire warnings about the book’s unrelenting pessimism, from editors, agents, and even fans of his work.

“They said that all of my main characters are presented with a certain unflattering honesty, which antagonizes traditional readers. And I thought to myself, ‘Why is that a bad idea?’ From a marketing standpoint I understand, we all want heroes. Heroes soothe us. But because this is a novel about the loss of faith, it just seems strange to me to lie about the characters. When the original publisher's rights reverted back to me in 2013, I decided to re-edit it the way I wanted to, breaking many rules of convention, and making a fiercely independent book that would provoke readers. People read great fiction to imagine themselves as who they would like to be. Then there’s the tragic parody…a mirror that forces them to see the ugliness of what they really are.”

If Warren was going after a project of biblical proportions he succeeded, with tongue firmly in cheek, as both books feature bible-style formatting, complete with book titles, scriptures and verses, and even strange “omissions” and alternative verses, making readers wonder what really is canon and what is “apocrypha” in the Attempted Rapture universe.

The most telling fact comes with the two book’s distinctly different endings. Warren indicates that both endings are experiments in tragic parody writing—succeeding on an emotional level of peripheral happiness and closure, but actually hiding a much more sinister implied fate, and a cruel joke that’s far too subtle to glean the first time around.

However, the book’s multi-layered ending gives the reader whatever comeuppance or redemption he or she wants to find, as ultimately spirituality or complete lack thereof are always a matter of personal journey. In Warren’s case, a sadistic mad scientist capable of creating and torturing tragic clowns in a circus of terror and grief, quiet laughter is merely the eye of the storm.

Attempted Rapture has a strong "Loss of Innocence" theme - one strong enough to classify it as a Christian novel. The book was released in a "Saint Edition" and a "Sinner Edition", and each catered to a different audience, as well as different perspective on life.

Where does the idea of the loss of innocence come from? We see this recurring them in new, classic and ancient literature, from To Kill a Mockingbird to even the latest installment in the Harry Potter series.

Historically, the loss of innocence theme may well have descended from biblical allusions, specifically in the loss of innocence experienced by a sinful Adam and Eve, as well as the analogy of the blood of a lamb, a sinless sacrifice. The loss of innocence theme is often thought of as a tragedy in religious literature and philosophy, and in a pejorative sense when considered by a cynic.

According to perspective, the loss of a person's innocence could imply a loss merely of ignorance, or perhaps even a humbling fall from a standpoint of assumed moral superiority. What seems to be a recurring theme in literature is that loss of innocence theme, though often lamented universally, largely depends on perspective.

In Attempted Rapture this concept is explored from two extremes: loss as a moral tragedy and loss as a step towards progressive thinking. What remains to be seen is how innocence lost will be represented in the re-release, according to both a Christian conscience, and an irreligious point-of-view.

But all of that is just intellectual garble. Perhaps the more logical approach is to draw crude cartoon stick figures, in the style of "Ulysses for Dummies", which has apparently gone off the Internet.  But that didn't stop us from boldly using the same cheesy 1990s concept to sell this rather complicated synopsis because we remain blissfully unaware of trends in web design.

Mitchell Warren's Attempted Rapture is awaiting its publication in 2004. This tale of three antiheroes in good old southern living "Radrick County" is a remarkable story of  blasphemy, faith, honor, nihilism, social relevance and macabre humor. The story of Anne McNamary, her sister Amara Stallart, and the returning stranger Hal Persill, reflect the complexity of sentient morality and human nature.

However, the average reader has never heard of Mister Warren's Opus. Laden with absurd literary references and ridden with inexplicable sexual symbolism, the book's reputation as an "unpublishable" work is certainly standing strong. This is a shame, because Warren very rarely tries to communicate with other human beings, much less write for a mainstream general readership.

Therefore, since many have been writing to with the claim that the website preview is "confusing", together with the fact that From Hunger's Ulysses For Dummies parody was really asking for it, and we're actually big fans of IDG Incorporated--we've decided to present an exclusive "For Idiots" explanation of the highly experimental novel Attempted Rapture.

So join us as a rather egregiously drawn Mitchell introduces the lesson...

Attempted Rapture for Idiots

This is the storm approaching.

This is the storm spawning tornadoes.


Part 1: What started out a peaceful day of Spring, Calm, Fertility & Freedom

quickly turned into an evening of severe weather. Notice the many flying people.

They are probably very afraid. Or dead.

This is Hal Persill, back from New York.

This is Hal Persill celibate.

Part 2: Hal Persill returns home from New York City only to find

that "home" is no longer the sweet, simple place he remembers.

It could be the drastic change that occurred in his hometown, or

the news of his friend's suicide that's troubling Hal.

But it could also be that he's been "without" for quite some time.

This is Amara Stallart & her happy family.

This is Amara Stallart on sleepless nights.

Part 3: Amara Stallart can't sleep. Despite love for her husband, her father,
God, and everyone else who is close to her, she feels something is missing.

This is Anne McNamary on Christianity.

This is Anne McNamary on Free Thinking.

Part 3: Anne McNamary is Amara Stallart's older sister,

and the black sheep of the ultra-religious McNamary family.

She lives somewhere in the surrounding city, exiled from good old townsfolk like us.

And the critics were bemused.

This ends Attempted Rapture For Idiots.
On behalf of all of us here at The Late Mitchell Warren Museum
we urge you to relax, pop a pill, and remember:
It's Just A Story.


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