What does an ironic Christian look like? "One of the chief characteristics of an ironic Christian," says Patrick Henry, "is an instinctive, abiding suspicion of no-loose-ends answers." An ironic Christian "inhabits a world that is more 'as if' than 'just like.'" Henry seeks to discern the "field marks" of God's grace embedded in life's paradoxes and unpredictability.
The opening lines of Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground (1864) can hardly be described as inviting: "I am a sick man. . . . I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased." Yet generations of readers have been engaged by the writer's exquisite self-awareness, his extreme ambivalences and his complex understanding of life in a dysfunctional society.
As a short-story writer, James Lasdun trolls the sea of human characters, pulls up a random human being in his net, examines the character with an unflinching, piercing gaze, then writes a scathingly intimate story that takes us deftly and unfailingly to the defining issues in that person’s life.