Culture At Large

Why Adele was wise to turn down that book deal

Caryn Rivadeneira

So it seems Adele has turned down a million-dollar book deal. And it seems I have a new literary hero.

In an age where it seems everyone and their mother’s neighbors are writing books - often paying to have books self-published - and where, let’s face it, most of us would do just about anything for seven figures, a person deserves serious kudus for turning down an opportunity that about four people in the world get.

Sure, it’s easy to say this is no big deal. It’s easy to claim she doesn’t really need the money, considering her widely successful music career, but who doesn’t need a million dollars? Rich celebrities have done weirder things for a paycheck. Or, a case could be made that by sloughing off this deal, she’s only raising the stakes for other publishers down the road. Maybe. But since when is a million in the hand not worth two in the bush?

Besides, whatever naysayers may think is the reason, Adele has apparently given a different one. According to the NY Daily News, Adele says she’s too young. She wants to live and experience more before writing a memoir. Hear, hear!

As much as I have loved memoirs written by young people and as much as I love the people who write memoirs (some of my best friends write memoirs! Really!), Adele shows a rare wisdom when it comes to what, where and when we write. She respects genre in a way we don’t often see.

Certainly Adele feels comfortable sharing snippets from her life. A three-minute listen to any of her songs will reveal that. But there is, of course, a world of difference between writing lyrics about your life and writing a memoir about it.

In his lyrics David gives us what the best songwriters always do: the capturing of the heart, mind or soul in the moment.

To be sure, both require vulnerability and (to do either well) a commitment to the craft. But lyrics and memoir serve different goals. For the most part, lyrics - and poems - stand to capture moments or images in time. Songs give us a musical snapshot from which full stories and conclusions might be inferred, but are not necessarily given. Though poems and lyrics have beginnings and ends and a structure all their own, they don’t require a climax or resolution. They don’t need protagonists and antagonists. They don’t need a plot.

While a memoir doesn’t cover an entire life, it requires the same structure of a novel: we need characters developed, we need protagonists trying to meet a goal and antagonists getting in the way. We need to weave and wander and climb to the mountain climax and ease back down toward the smoother grounds of the denouement.

And not many 24-year-olds see their life or their experiences that way. Nor should they. Not necessarily.

While as a writer, I love nothing more than sitting down to a computer and plunking out the ways I’ve seen God move in my life and the ways He’s revealed Himself in the random moments of my life, I don’t always get to see the full story. In some areas, yes. But in most, no. And yet, there’s a lot of pressure on folks to come to resolution on our full stories.

Maybe especially as Christians. We fall back so often on our (correct) view of the Bible as the Story of God and His People that we forget that within that Big Story are thousands of tinier snapshots, offered by folks who could never see what we do.

While rereading the Psalms last year in order to write Known and Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms, I was especially struck how we see these snapshots in the psalms of David. Though we have the benefit of history and the rest of the Bible, in his lyrics David gives us what the best songwriters always do: the capturing of the heart, mind or soul in the moment.

Though David doesn’t know where his story will end or Who will descend in his family tree, instead he offers what he does know: his joys, fears and frustrations; his sometimes tenuous faith in God; his belief that no matter what, God is faithful.

And these vignettes often say more than full stories ever could. Because in these, we often relate and connect better than we ever can in memoir, in a more complete picture.

So, while perhaps someday Adele will write a memoir - which I will most likely happily read - I’m thrilled to hear she’s happy sticking with writing the moments and letting us see our own stories in them.

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment