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January 12, 2010


The 6-word novel… or just another soundbite?

by quaesitor

I came across this little article about 6-word memoirs through the wonders of StumbleUpon – the challenge derives from Ernest Hemingway who proved that he could write a 6-word ‘novel’. This was his offering:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Genius – it perfectly, achingly, succinctly evokes everything. At one level, nothing more needs saying. Nothing is hidden. But at another level, so much more could be said. Above all, the imagination is fired.

Others have since jumped onto the bandwagon, and various attempts have been compiled and published. I particularly liked graffiti artist Mare 139’s, who wrote:

Wasn’t noticed so I painted trains.

Or this anon. one:

love my cake, eat it too

But of course, it’s easy to be cynical about the exercise. Spin doctors have scared us off – we’re suspicious of lines that sound crisp and neat, when we know that reality really isn’t. And it’s an unhelpful tendency in theology too – we preachers are particularly culpable of presenting reality as too tight, too neat, too straightforward.

And yet, it’s no accident that the art of precis gets taught in schools (or at least was ‘in my day’!) – it’s a key skill in the art of textual comprehension. If one can’t summarise something well, it probably means we’ve not understood it well. There is something about Twitter (with its 140 character limit) that intensely focuses the mind (or not, as the case may be for the vast majority of tweets which are flabby and bland). This is in part what lies behind Abraham Piper’s enjoyable 22 words blog (which he calls ‘an experiment in getting to the point’).

So don’t we need both? Beware the trite and platitudinous (or even dishonest); but strive after the lucid and pithy. This was, I believe, one of John Stott’s incalculable gifts as a writer and teacher.

So how about it? A 6-word summary of the Christian message that walks the tightrope? I wonder if the apostle Paul might have suggested these words from Colossians 1:27 (ok, slightly cheating to put ‘the’ in brackets, but hey) – it’s one of my all-time favourite descriptions of the nature and privilege of the gospel

Christ in you, [the] hope of glory

And as a memoir/testimony? I think this would be mine, a paraphrase of Mark 9:24:

I do believe; overcome my unbelief!

So why not you give it a shot… any great 6 word summaries or testimonies out there??

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 12 2010

    How about – “Relax. It’s not all about you”

  2. Jan 12 2010

    nice – not unrelated to that gruesome 4-worder: don’t wrestle, just nestle

  3. Ian Paul
    Jan 12 2010

    How about the Book of Revelation in six words?

    Terror everywhere; lamb sacrificed; glory coming

  4. Cassie
    Jan 12 2010

    How about ‘was blind but now I see’? 🙂

  5. Jan 12 2010

    Lost, found, renewed, stumbled, renewed, glory.

  6. Jan 12 2010

    How about a summary of 1 Tim 1:15

    Christ Jesus came… to save sinners.

  7. Jan 12 2010

    great stuff, everyone – keep ’em coming!

  8. Jan 12 2010

    saved and sanctified by grace. Yippee!

    definition of ministry and discipleship:

    Working for your joy in God

  9. Jan 13 2010

    turns out, his plan WAS better.

  10. danmihalache
    Jan 13 2010
  11. Jan 14 2010

    “Rendevous brings sorrow tomorrow without you.”

    You can have fun toying with punctuation and word order: maybe “rendevous! brings sorrow. Without you… tomorrow?” is even more evocative.

  12. Jan 15 2010

    And another Revelation summary: “God rules. Jesus wins. Keep going!”

  13. Ian Paul
    Jan 15 2010

    Lots of others have suggested this as an approach to Revelation, but I don’t go with it, since it does not give enough attention to the reasons why either God might not win or at least why it might not look like God is winning–or even why it matters whether or not God wins.

  14. Jan 15 2010

    Only six words. Can’t say everything!
    LOTS not said; still quite helpful.
    Jesus must win, or I’m stuffed.
    God must rule, or who’s boss?
    He does rule, however it looks.
    Must keep going, against all odds.


  15. Jan 16 2010

    Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.

  16. Jan 18 2010

    well done everyone…!!


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