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Plain Tales from the Plain Folk
by jason taylor
05/02/09
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I doubt I would have the resolution to live like an Amish after being raised an "Englisher". Nontheless they give me, like others a wistful feeling, to contemplate people who maintain a strong community amid a world that often seems generic and homogenized.

This is a book of tales and anecdotes told by the Amish and those who know them. It gives a little about Amish history and culture, but it is mostly anecdotes.

These tales show bits of country life, day to day scenes and so on. The sort of thing I found touching was the pious devotion. It wasn't just admiration, it was a feeling of recognition. That was the sort of thing I have always seen in my Church. Of course I hardly claim my own sanctity(doing so would be wearisome to me and the reader and of course only one Judge of that matters making the exercise pointless). Rather I claim a sense of kinship. It doesn't awe me or frighten me as much as someone who is not used to it: I know Assemblies of God are human; I certainly know I am human. And I vaguely suspect Amish are human. And there you are.

Unfortunately I couldn't enjoy the book as much as I would like. People who do not scheme for power, pillage, or destroy can make dull tales. People who are prosperous, contented and never betray each other have a hard time being entertaining to us Englishers. The fact is that the Amish can seem a little to nice of folk sometimes. Their tales can be rather boring. In fact Plain Folk can be rather well, plain. The world could use a whole lot more of such plainness. But Englishers sometimes like a little fanciness in a story.

Be that as it may, better anecdotes could have been found. It's not that they were terribly bad, but that they were not memorable. Settings like this have made good fiction before, and it is hard to believe they never make good anecdotage. I would like to have had more about Amish traditions and such-like. And the book is sometimes rather preachy, and ironically, given the Amish reputation rather new-fangled style preachiness: to much about "materialism" and not enough about "worldly vanities". Be that as it may, the book is a reasonably good effort at paying a tribute to a people who have dedicated themselves to giving glory to God, who have built an attractive community, and have the glorious task of having no inclination whatsoever of being relevant to the modern world.


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