A Review of Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian SpiritualityBlue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There seems to be a lot of dichotomous reviews regarding Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. I have to admit, I have some mixed feelings. The book was certainly an open window into the author’s thoughts, his psyche if you will, but I’m not sure I liked what I found there.

Let me back up a minute. This is a book by a Christian who constantly criticizes Christianity and other Christians. Interesting. I can dig it. Strange, but cool. However, it’s not written in a linear way. It’s rather scattershot. The writing is all over the place, as are the topics. Midway through the book, I was still asking myself what the thesis of the book actually was. It was confusing, and in an irritating way.

Miller also has an usual writing style. He writes like an adolescent. He’s an immature person writing in an immature style. He constantly resorts to things like, “My good friend, ‘X,’ and I went on a road trip” or a coffee shop or camped out with hippies and got high, etc., etc. My, he has a lot of friends. Yet, he is strangely unlikeable, in my opinion. He states that he’s a loner. He writes that when he roomed with some other guys, he was such as asshole that they all basically hated him. He seeks professional help. Yet he constantly seems to be surrounded by people who just adore him. Narcissist much, Donald?

One chapter that really frustrated me was his first chapter on love. He was in his 20s when he wrote this book, and most people don’t know much about love at that age, but he really takes the cake! He writes that he basically can’t love correctly, doesn’t really want to get married (although he defies that repeatedly throughout the book), can’t cope with the idea of coming home to the same person day after day, etc., etc. He writes like a 15 year old boy. It’s rather pathetic. Same with his Alone chapter. He craves alone time, yet gets lonely. He’s constantly second guessing himself.

Miller also takes what his pastor, Rick, tells him as absolute gospel. Rick is never wrong. Additionally, Miller likes to surround himself with druggies and perverts (at Reed College and elsewhere), and then feels odd about being a Christian in these environments, while at the same time stating that he finds more freedom and true love with these types of people than with Christians. Miller is an immature man at war with himself, and he wrote this book prematurely. He still has a lot of work to do on himself. He’s an early work in progress, and he needs a lot of help.

Miller is consistently ashamed of his Christianity, yet he seems to bask in it at the same time. An inconsistency that gnawed at me throughout the entire book. He is powerful in publicly admitting his failings, I suppose, but in doing so, he paints himself as a very unlikeable individual – someone I hope I never meet. He thinks unflattering thoughts about many of the people he comes across. He’s all over the place in this book. I didn’t want to finish the book, from early on, yet I did because I kept hoping I would find a common theme, his thesis, somewhere in it, and I never did. This book fails for me, in so many ways, and Miller fails for me as a person. I doubt I will ever read another of his books, and I’m sorry I read this one.
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