Andrew Klavan and Kermit Gosnell

by Marvin Olasky

Posted on Friday, September 5, 2014, at 4:45 pm

WORLD reported on Wednesday that top novelist Andrew Klavan will write the screenplay about convicted killer and abortionist Kermit Gosnell. That hire is excellent not only because Klavan is a fine writer but also because he understands evil, as I learned by interviewing him in 2007 and 2009.

Back in 2007 he had written several novels brilliantly depicting evil, even as he was coming from a secular Jewish background to profess faith in Christ. I asked him how his growing Christian belief affected the development of these satanic characters. He replied, “A lot of modern novelists think they’re going to explain evil to you, really get to the heart of it. And what you get instead is pathologizing rhetoric, characters forced to behave according to the latest fad psychological theory. The more I trust to God’s reality, the more I let evil characters just act the way they do in real life. Self-rationalizing, radically egocentric, relishing the anonymity of their power—‘satanic’ is a good word.”

I then referred to Klavan’s novel Shotgun Alley (2004), in which he criticizes “those ideologues who thought marriage was oppression and sex was rape and men and women should be exactly the same. … They were bullies and liars. They lied about history and human nature and statistics.” A lot of the support for abortion comes out of that ideology. I asked him whether his understanding of human nature led him to a Christian worldview, whether his growing religious understanding led him to oppose the bullies, or both?

Klavan replied that faith in Christ had given him “a deep, sorrowing, almost unbearable insight, yet without anger and without despair. Remember Jesus and the Samaritan woman by the well? That wry, kindly acceptance of her messy sex life that doesn’t abandon morality yet doesn’t descend into finger-wagging moralism—to me, that’s the essence of tough guy fiction—of all good fiction. As for the bullies, feminist and otherwise, I always knew what they were, I’ve just become less willing to shut up about it.”

In 2009 we discussed more how the new Christian understanding influenced his writing. Klavan spoke about his fears in embracing Christ: “I had wrestled with issues—not wanting to seem that I had turned my back on Jews, or that I had been trying to be accepted by anybody—but the biggest fear I had was that I would lose my sense of reality, that I would start writing books about children who had lost their puppies and Jesus brought them back. I was afraid that I would become moralistic and wouldn’t get my characters to say the thing they would naturally say.”

Klavan said his fears were proving unwarranted, since his conversion “has turned me into a far, far better observer of the human condition. Now that I have gotten rid of the Freudianism I think I understand people, and it shows in my writing.”

At WORLD, we plan to follow the development of the screenplay and the movie.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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