I have always been a firm believer in judging books by their covers. This is not to say, that if I see a book with a cover that is not striking to me at once, that I will avoid reading it, but rather that I think you can tell a lot about a book just by glancing at it. People like to take the cliche phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” and then personify it to relate to humans, meaning don’t judge a person just by their appearance. However, that statement is slightly flawed in reference to judging people… and also books.
– Side note: Say you see a girl walking down the street covered in tattoos. No, you cannot assume that she is a drug-addicted, devil worshipping whore- even though some might- but you can assume she likes tattoos, no? So although, you cannot get the whole story from one look, you most certainly can make some logical observations, no matter what any self-proclaimed nonjudgemental do-gooder tells you. (“Things really were that simple sometimes, despite all that people did and said to complicate matters [pg. 31].” )–
Having got that off my chest, this concept I delivered also pertains to books, and my book cover judging skills were spot on when I saw God is Dead by Ron Currie Jr. and knew I would like it. Right off, the title grabbed my eye which is quite blunt in telling you the overall theme of the plot– God is dead. Consider my curiosity piqued, because how would one tell such a story? That simple question in itself urged me to pick up the book, and I’m glad I did. (Not to mention there are what appear to be two hyenas drawn in a simple black and white sketch on the front and I have a soft spot for hyenas. That’s a serious statement. I really like hyenas. I think they are highly misunderstood creatures.)
The book is more or less a series of short stories giving different examples of how the world would crumble, yet still tick on, if God literally died. (Done. Bereft of life. Inoperable. Departed. Defunct. Spiritless and stiff. Parked for good. Bought the farm. God is dead.) God, in the form of a woman from Sudan, is on a mission to find a boy so that she can apologize for the unfair life he lead. In the midst of a religious war of some sort, God travels through trying to avoid death and rape, all while being racked with guilt. She cannot save these people, but she is capable of making food multiply from nothing, so in a desperate need to ease some of her own shame and horror at the world she tries to feed who she can as she looks for this young man (who we never meet in this book) in the hopes that he will forgive God for what she could not change. Right away, you can tell that this book is dark and ripe with meanings under meanings under meanings, judging simply from the fact that God is traveling to beg for forgiveness herself, trying to avoid being raped and persecuted.
And then the stories take off, in chronological order, each a little farther into the future of what would happen if like Joan Osborne once asked “what if God was one of us?” … and then bit the bullet. A darkly humorous approach was used to answer that question, and a sharp similarity to the world we live in begins to emerge. Priests kill themselves because suddenly their lives are useless. Young college students hold suicide pacts struggling with morality. Parents, having nothing to turn their need to idolize upon, begin to worship their children. Ferrel dogs start talking after having eaten the flesh of the now deceased God. Love begins to be unreturned and only declared via text message. Wars are no longer fought over religious reasons, but rather, psychological ideas and philosophies. And in the end, the government just gives everyone a pill so that they simply forget.
Each story is short, to the point, and a single chapter, although some do transcend slightly to one another. He seemed to hit every angle of our own modern world: racial tensions, war, struggles with morality, struggles with feeling inadequate, parenting, love, hate. Currie’s writing is good, real good, in the sense that he can make a single sentence stick in your head with a powerful point; a point that will make you set the book on your lap for a minute and ponder how does this relate to me?
Our world is quite frankly… absurd. And somehow, as human beings, we have managed to complicate that absurdity to the point that for some, it doesn’t even seem absurd at all anymore. Parenting has turned into keeping children happy and making them think they are all far above average. Death has become entertainment. Love and friendship have become technological. Religion and beliefs have become a platform for hate and war. Politics have become a circus of power. Currie uses his ability to write to show that there are many faucets of life that don’t make sense and yet we … keep … fighting … for them. I hear ya, Currie. Loud and clear.
Currie’s writing style and dark, cryptic humor is exactly what I’m into, for the most part. (It’s pretty much what runs my thoughts, opinions, and Facebook status updates.) At the conclusion of this book yesterday, I thought “I’d like to sit down with this guy and a bottle of whiskey and hash out some cultural dilemmas. At the very least, tell some jokes.” I’m pretty sure we’d get on just fine.
Until then however, I will not need to judge the next book I see written by him solely on its cover. No, I will rather judge it by his name and know I’m probably going to enjoy it.