Books: The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass

April 24, 2011

‘The Sacred Diary’ is a series of five books by British Christian writer Adrian Plass. The books (in chronological order) are:
-The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37 3/4
-The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal
-The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn
-The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 45 3/4
-The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, On Tour

The three ‘Sacred Diary’ books are fictional diaries by a fictionalised version of the author. In the first book, he’s an ordinary, rather bumbling Christian husband and father who keeps a ‘spiritual log for the benefit of others in the future’. In the second book, he is rather bewildered by how his serious Christian diary was received as a ‘searing satire on the modern church’, but has resumed his diary-keeping, now as a Christian speaker. The third book has less of a diary feel; the story is more detailed and takes place over only a week or so.

The first ‘Sacred Diary’ book was (I think) Adrian Plass’ first book, and also his most popular. The main character gets rather caught up in some of the trappings of modern Christianity. He explains away silly choices by saying he ‘felt led’ to do them; he gets inspired reading about how Christians can move mountains by faith, and attempts to move a paperclip by faith; he becomes a study group leader and throws himself into indiscriminate ‘acts of service’ at the expense of his own family…

The ‘Horizontal Epistles’ feature a collection of letters written to and from Andromeda Veal (a child who was a minor character in the first book) and while she is in traction in hospital after breaking her leg. Several members of Adrian’s church are mobilised to write to her, so the book is a series of letters, some serious and most silly.

The ‘Theatrical Tapes’ tells the story of when Adrian’s church decides to put on a short drama production. Adrian chairs the drama group, which includes plenty of characters from the original ‘Sacred Diary’ books. Because this book is supposedly a transcription of the tapes Leonard Thynn recorded at the drama rehearsals, the story is told mostly in script form.

Of the five books, I most enjoy the second ‘Sacred Diary’ and the ‘Theatrical Tapes’. The second ‘Sacred Diary’ is longer than the first one and you feel the author has matured a little in his thinking. The ‘Theatrical Tapes’ are just plain funny. Lots of good lines and absurd situations.

In my opinion, the ‘Sacred Diary On Tour’ is slightly less good than the first two diaries. I think some of the jokes and conversations are drawn out a little too long; a couple of conversations feel a bit shoehorned-in. Perhaps it’s because this is more of a narrative than a diary, so we don’t get the same terseness of style, and ability to zoom in and out of conversations as we would if it read more like a diary. It’s still a good story, and I’ve still read it five times, ha ha ha.

Of the five books, I think the ‘Horizontal Epistles’ is my least favourite. It has its moments, but much of it takes the form of hand-written, badly spelled letters. A lot of the humour comes from Andromeda misunderstanding or misspelling things (for example, instead of being in traction with a broken femur, she is ‘an attraction with a broken lemur’), which makes for a lot of puns. These include references to pop culture or political figures (like ‘Gorgeous Chops’, ie, ‘Gorbachev’), and since this book was published in 1988, sometimes it was hard for me to follow what she was talking about or to understand all the jokes.

Even ‘Horizontal Epistles’, though, has a lot to enjoy for fans of the series, including excerpts from Adrian’s diary, thoughtful letters from Father John, and a missent letter from Percy Brain (frail and elderly).

Let’s finish with a couple of quotes/excerpts.

First one is that Percy Brain letter I just mentioned.

From ‘The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal’:

Dear Madam,

I write to you once again on the subject of toasters in general, and one toaster in particular: namely the electrical appliance which I purchased at your emporium some two or three weeks ago. Now, I am a broad-minded, flexible man, but I have certain stubborn, possibly even prejudiced, views on the ideal function of such machines. My idea, and you may wish to dismiss it out of hand as being wild and fanciful, is that one should be able to place slices of bread into the appliance and, a minute or two later, remove them in a toasted state. An eccentric whim perhaps, but there is a surprisingly substantial body of opinion which freely endorses such a view, and I feel it may be of benefit to you to be aware of this new and revolutionary movement in case other customers in your establishment should purchase similar pieces of equipment and take them home with just such a narrow expectation lodged in their minds.

There are still some very minor improvements that might be possible. May I suggest, for instance, that the terms ‘LIGHT’ and ‘DARK’ should be replaced on similar machines with the terms ‘NOT TOASTED AT ALL’ and ‘CREMATED’.


From ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass (aged 37 3/4)

(Adrian buys a book on street evangelism)

Wednesday January 15th

Sat down with Lunchington’s book this evening, hoping to pick up a few good tips. What an amazing book! I don’t know how the man finds time to eat or sleep. His life is literally one long succession of extraordinary miracles. Everyone he meets and everything he does could have come straight out of the New Testament. In fact the New Testament seems like an early and rather poor rehearsal for Lunchington’s life.

The man doesn’t know what it is to experience doubt or depression or failure or discouragement. Everyone he meets seems to get converted, and absolutely nothing gets him down. As for street evangelism – well! Lunchington has only to step out of his front door as far as I can see and instantly a hitherto deserted stretch of pavement will be thronged by a huge crowd, all jostling and shoving to get near enough to Lunchington to seek his help in making a commitment. Fell back in my chair exhausted at the end of the book.

Puzzled to find in the back of my mind a small but definite desire had arisen to kick Lunchington very hard between miracles. Dismissed this unworthy impulse as yet another ploy of the enemy, and dialled Leonard’s number.

I said, ‘Hello, Leonard, I just wanted to tell you that I’ve been reading a really great book about witnessing, and I think we ought to do what this man does, and step out in faith on Friday night, dressed in our spiritual armour and know that the victory’s won before we even begin!’

Thynn said, ‘Oh, I agree, but can we pop into the George and have a jar or two on the way, just for a bit of Dutch courage, like?’

When I write my spiritual autobiography, Thynn will not be in it, except perhaps in a smartened-up form. Instead of suggesting a ‘jar or two’, he will say ‘Amen, brother! Hallelujah!’


One comment

  1. […] posted about Adrian Plass’ Sacred Diary series and about his books in […]

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