From the way he writes in Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl, there is no doubt that N. D. Wilson longs to create a seminal work of postmodern prose – a work that hazes the lines among serious philosophical thought, cosmological apologetics and stream of consciousness poetry. He writes in a frenzied assault on the literary senses that hopes to emulate equal parts Jack Kerouac, C. S. Lewis and perhaps George Carlin.
Unfortunately, Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl falls short of what Wilson was striving to create. Somewhere in his seemingly endless allusions to philosophers and theologians and his constant self-interruption, he loses his awareness of the reader. He tries so hard to be deep and insightful that his prose becomes bloated, stilted and contrived. And when he attempts to be humorous, he comes off as pretentious.
As I read this book, I could not help but feel as if I was reading pages from someone’s journal or an author’s raw thoughts on index cards. There was no apparent organization or intent. Even the resolutions to the dissonance felt contrived and forced. In short, the book felt awkward. The style leaves the reader’s head spinning, not from plumbing echoing depths or soaring to dizzying heights but rather from having to discern the obscured and sparse content of value from among the muddled, excessive prose.
Christianity has certainly given us some excellent stream of consciousness writers like Rob Bell and Don Miller. What these writers possess that Wilson does not is a keen focus on their end result. They pour hours into making their prose feel spontaneous while in reality it is very much intentional.
Wilson’s work is to Miller’s Blue Like Jazz or Bell’s Velvet Elvis what The Sword of Shannara was to Lord of the Rings. It is a poor, derivative imitation of far greater works, with far less substance and far more overextended, disjointed pop realism. There is no worse criticism of a book than that it leaves the reader unchanged and unchallenged, and this is unfortunately how Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl left me.