It took me until my 40’s before I came to truly appreciate American icon Johnny Cash. When I did, though, I became amazed at his very real faith and his very real doubt. Both of which he was able to genuinely present to the public in his music and song-writing.
With Man in White, in a personal manner with detailed research, Cash writes a fictionalized account of the New Testament’s Apostle Paul. I admit that there is a reason this novel isn’t as well-known. For a novelist, Cash was a great songwriter. However, the novel offers a glimpse into Cash’s spiritual passion.
Most of the novel revolves around the transition from Saul the Persecutor to Paul the Apostle of those he originally persecuted. I get the distinct impression that the “we don’t believe you” that Paul encountered is something to which Cash related.
Many of the conversations between Paul and the other apostles are either stilted or come directly from Biblical passages. It’s an interesting idea that religious documents started out as casual conversations.
Where Cash’s writing shines is the many dream sequences that Paul and the other characters experience. Perhaps dreams are something Cash, and song-writers in general, know something about:
For an instant, beyond the outer reaches of space, he saw a light, a fierce, overpowering light. The light was not part of the glitter of galaxies strung out endlessly throughout the blackness of space. The light was outside all this wonder of creation and of an intangible nature. The magnificence of the light appalled even the spiritual mind of Saul, and he realized that this light was the Light of creation, which was on a different plane of existence from the countless stars and worlds. He felt suddenly that there was an unbreachable gulf between him and the Light.
On a more personal note, this happens to be the last book I ever bought at the Borders Bookstore in downtown Indianapolis. It was nine years ago so, yes, this book has been on my shelf for a while. I spent many a lunch hour browsing in this store and was saddened several years ago when Borders declared bankruptcy and it closed.
This isn’t a book that everyone will enjoy so my recommendation would be to go and listen to a Johnny Cash song, instead – any song.