(Picture painted by Geoff Hunt, PPRSMA, entitled “The Yellow Admiral”. See http://www.artmarine.co.uk.)
On Sunday I picked up one of Patrick O’Brian’s books called HMS Surprise. The book follows O’Brian’s popular Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin characters, which most people will probably know from the Master & Commander movie released a few years ago.
The 20 book series has front covers all painted by Geoff Hunt, a famous marine artist. The one in the picture above is for the book “The Yellow Admiral”.
When I was a young boy I remember sitting in my grandparents’ house and dreaming over the many books in the bookshelves, looking at the pictures and getting this sense of Something. A Mystery speaking to me. The same sort of experience I believe C.S. Lewis refers to as ‘Joy’ in his biography “Surprised by Joy”.
The sense of story and wonder. The excitement of ‘story’. Something about a picture that speaks to your deepest senses and gives you a sense of something bigger, something more grand, something wholly more awesome than yourself – but this feeling, this inkling, that somehow you’re a part of that something as well.
The feeling of a grand story, of which you play a part. The wonder of it all. Where you’re actually not the hero, but you get to be around the hero.
Many book covers and book illustrations have awakened that feeling in me, as well as some notable music albums as well. For example, JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has often had some notable covers that evoke that feeling. My favourite is pictured to the right. The ability for his writing to do that as well is part of what I think has made it so successful.
Something about these covers in the book HMS Surprise do too. Personally, I’m finding the book itself a little laborious, but the pictures evoke an excitement – the excitement of story. The excitement of a Mystery, a Something bigger than me.
I guess I’m an explorer at heart, and something about the adventure of it all speaks to me. It probably does to others as well. I believe the Grand Story we all want to be a part of is the story of our relationship to God and the story of what He is doing – the story of creation. This, I believe, is the grandest of all mysteries and adventure, and the most wonderful too. I also believe my words here around this don’t do it justice and don’t truly bring out the grand nature of it all.
This something, this feeling, this reminding of a grander story, is what I wish I could evoke in my own storytelling.