Elwood, Roger




This is a summary of a Dummy Spit/Much Larger Review


Any favourable comparisons to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters are wildly ignorant. Lewis used the fantastic (in both senses) idea of dialogue between devils to make profound observations challenging his readers’ double standards and assumptions with great wit. Elwood, in contrast, with clumsy schoolboy writing technique, tries to confirm every ignorant self-satisfied middle-American nominal in their bigotry – particularly nasty in someone claiming to endorse Jesus’ teaching.


Much of the profundity of the Letters is the way that they strikingly show that in the 'small' moral decisions we constantly make grave and eternal implications follow. Lewis' senior Devil constantly upbraids his rash understudy for his attempts to be melodramatic and overblown. Subtlety is the key – deceit: you don’t need to damn a soul by terrifying them with atrocities, you’re probably better off distracting them at a crucial point with a nice lunch or a transient newspaper headline.


Elwood does the opposite. He, at best immaturely, at worst, deceptively, presents spiritual conflicts as relating only to a sensational fraction of the population. Where Lewis made one pause and uncomfortably realise, "This could be me," Elwood has ignorant people going, "Yes, that sounds like them." Lewis was keenly aware of the audience who would be reading his work and sought to challenge and move them, at times with humour, at others with great courage – and usually with a combination of the two: the characters he gently (and at times sharply, but always lovingly) exposes are the same middle-class, nice, educated people like himself who’d be reading such a book. Elwood, however, writes (with consummate ignorance) about, for example, how bad and criminally insane all junkies are, condemning those already judged by his glib readers: he is the Pharisee calling out to other Pharisees, “Thank God I’m not like this tax collector and sinner.”


To stay with the junkie example, Elwood manages a breathtakingly offensive line to someone who cares about Jesus’ teaching. When in laughable melodramatic fashion the user is stereotypically driven to armed robbery and shot by his own stereotypically ‘good cop’ father (the book ingenuously tries to sell this sort of utterly transparent device as hard-edged realism) what is seen as the tragedy of this death has nothing to do with eternity (something Jesus seemed to feel quite important). Why is it tragic?

            "...He wasn't just any computer programmer; He could have been another Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs."

Isn't it tragic that he wasn't hugely successful in the world's eyes and values, but, instead, failed in the world's terms by not making millions and having proud parents. How can a 'Christian' author be promoting:

1) an unsaved policeman with no concept of his own sinfulness as righteous?

            2) Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as laudable models of success?


Blimey, the death wouldn’t have even mattered so much if he had’ve just been an ordinary programmer.


At least Elwood is clear on not having two masters: when it comes to choosing between God and mammon, the former doesn’t stand a chance.


Elwood couldn’t even take the risk of challenging his rich American readers’ sinful love of money (What? Is that a problem?). Lewis, publishing during the war dared to question nationalism!


Early 1990s