501 Minutes to Christ

501 Minutes to Christ by Poe Ballentine
Hawthorne Books

If you were looking for a self-help book on salvation, it is doubtful you will find it in Ballentine’s personal essays.  Instead, this book is more ammunition for career and marriage counseling.  Whatever you do, don’t major in English, or worse, Creative Writing.  Whatever you do, don’t date or marry a writer.  If he’s forty and single and teaching English as a Second Language in Mexico, walk away. 

This collection of eleven short stories opens with a narration by a homeless man in New Orleans and moves to stories of men with transient employment and flea-ridden daily motels as their domiciles.  In contrast, all of these men share high intelligence and brilliant descriptive skill.  Personal choice and clear missteps keep these men from successful professional lives.  There is a pervasive lack of motivation.  Perhaps the suggestion is that the modern nomad — the loser — is actually mirroring Jesus’ wanderings through the Holy Land?  Well, only if Jesus was a doped up dishwasher contributing nothing to this world. 

Ballentine closes by poking fun at himself: he’s the often overlooked, quality writer in a sea of highly successful, lesser authors (such as John Irving and Norman Mailer).  Well, Mr. Ballentine, while you have convinced me that your other collections are worth a look, I wonder if you could be, well, a little more motivated.

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