Margaret Atwood's Booker Prize-winning novel, The Blind Assassin (2000), is an exquisite reflection on the deceitfulness of fiction. The narrator, Iris Chase, describes this curious relation between writing and truth-telling: "The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it. Impossible, of course" (p. 345).
Reading a selection of the latest theological books, you'd have to wonder whether Atwood is on to something: whether we too easily "excuse ourselves"; whether we are obsessed with writing new or fashionable or – worst of all – correct books, instead of true books.
If anything separates the great Christian thinkers – Kierkegaard, Barth, Aquinas, Augustine – from the rest, it is surely their refusal to excuse themselves from the painful struggle of truth-telling, the enormous labour with which they extract a single hard bright truth from the slurry of language.