Dave Meurer,
Out on a Whim
(Bethany House, 2001)

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I agreed to review Dave Meurer's new book Out on a Whim. The book was self-described as a "somewhat useful guide to marriage, family, culture, God, and flammable household appliances," which (along with its rather ambiguous title) effectively piqued my curiousity. In hindsight, had I known that Bethany House was primarily a publisher of Christian publications, I still would not have been able to anticipate the book's content.

This is the third book for Dave Meurer, a resident of California who makes his living as an aide to a Californian congressman. His writing displays a wry sense of humour as he contemplates various aspects of life while poking fun at ... well, pretty much anything is a target in this chuckle-worthy book. OK, guffaw-worthy, even! Beneath Meurer's humourous musings are often subtle (and not-so-subtle) moral points. Occasionally (well ... pretty often, actually), Dave has no point at all, merely writing for the sake of telling an amusing story. Which is just fine with me.

Being a rather ... we'll say non-religious person myself, when I discovered that the book's publisher specialized in Christian works, I thought "Uh-oh ... I hope this isn't a preachy-churchy-type book." I, of course, was classifying Meurer into the "Peevish, haughty, theologically precise" Church People described in Chapter 20. Well, I must apologize for my error. This is a book that I would recommend to everyone -- "Church Person," devil worshipper or otherwise -- who likes to laugh. Yes, there were some chapters that had moral undertones or overtones, but there's certainly nothing wrong with a little morality.

Meurer's delivery is impeccable. He writes concisely, making strong, well-illustrated points while keeping things light-hearted. His parables are presented in short, easy-to-digest chunks, at the end of which the reader is either deep in thought, or thinking "Huh? What exactly was that chapter about?" At the end of each chapter, Meurer provides a "study guide" which effectively either gives the reader more to think about, or drives him deeper into confusion over what the point was. I should note here that I consider this to be a good thing. First, there's nothing wrong with a little deep thought once in a while, and second, not every tale needs to raise deep philosophical questions. Meurer realizes this, and is equally adept at subtly raising important issues and providing humour simply for the sake of being funny.

Now, as far as what the book is about ... I'm not quite sure that I should divulge that information. More precisely, I'm not even sure that I could if I tried! According to the book's preface, Meurer very nearly drove his editor to insanity by refusing to be more specific on its contents. And after having read the book, I am also pretty much at a loss to describe its contents. It is about everything life has to offer and nothing in particular. Besides, if Meurer wouldn't tell his own editor what the book was about, far be it from me to spoil the surprise!

For the sake of the sanity of readers, I will give out a few tidbits. The book is divided up into short little chapters in four sections: "Wholly Unrelated Topics," "Totally Random Observations," "Various and Sundry Mutterings" and "Other." Get the picture? Not yet? OK ... some of the chapters appear to be there just for the sake of the reader's amusement, such as -- and this is a random example -- "Pause for Concern," which focuses on menopausal women and their tendency to whack people with spatulas for no apparent reason. Other chapters are more obvious in their messages, such as "Cry Uncle!" emphasizing the value of life, or the insightful "College Daze" which centred around the issue of genocide. Some anecdotes were more subtly thought provoking, as in "Under The Influence," where Meurer gets caught sneaking a Baskin Robbins Mocha Blast.

Each and every chapter is followed by Meurer's "Study Guide Questions," which are equally diverse. Here's an example, following the humourous, aptly named chapter "Does this guy get PAID for blathering about NOTHING?" "I can even write study guides that say nothing. Do you find this irritating?" Notwithstanding the "blathering about nothing," Meurer provides an insightful, witty read.

Out on a Whim is a book which provokes musings, thought and laughter from its readers. "Churchy" and "Non-Churchy" people alike will enjoy Meurer's book, which introduces a number of important concepts in a fun way. The book encourages deeper thinking on issues while demonstrating that poking fun at life is OK, too -- and even desirable! Meurer includes a chapter in his book called "What Dave Would Tell You If He Was a Minister and You Accidentally Allowed Him Into Your Pulpit." Well ... if Dave were to be in the pulpit, you'd probably find me in church!

[ by Cheryl Turner ]
Rambles: 27 October 2001

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