Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ireverrant reads : blasphemous or brilliant?

I spent my Christmas break reading a novel that might offend some but I really enjoyed. Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith presents the story of Jesus’s birth. Grahame-Smith is well known for writing familiar, beloved historical characters in a new light, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter. His novels can be outrageous, but his tongue- in-cheek humour makes up for it. After all, who really knows what happened during the time of Christ? All the key elements that you expect from the nativity story are here. But Grahame-Smith has also written a well-researched novel, depicting a violent, difficult times with its class issues, Roman invasion, King Herod, the ambitious soldier Pontius Pilate, etc. While most of us are familiar with Jesus’ tale, this novels main character is Balthazar, a good heart thief , nicknamed the Antioch Ghost. Through a series of misfortunes, Balthazar becomes the leader of the “three wise men” who lead the holy family to Egypt. This tale may be the greatest story never told…before now.

Another biblical tale told from a little known the point of view is Christopher Moore’s Lamb : the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Both authors are like each other with their absurdist points of view. Grahame-Smith brought the New Testament up to Jesus arriving in Egypt. Moore has written a wonderful novel on what Jesus’ “lost years” would have been like. Moore actually went to Israel to research this novel, and it shows in his writing. At the beginning of the novel, Biff is resurrected into the 20th century to complete the missing parts of the bible. Besides Mary and Mary Magdalene (known as Maggie), the three wise men are in this novel as a magician, a Buddhist, and a Hindi Yogi. Through Biff’s sarcastic voice, we learn the origins of judo, why Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, and why rabbits are associated with Easter. So besides a look at Christianity, readers get an amusing peek at other religions. Since between the ages of 13 and 30 there is little written about Jesus, who knows, Moore may be right!

Quarantine by Jim Crace is the Whitbread Novel of the Year and a Booker finalist. It is unusual that a book on religion would be written by an atheist. Crace does not believe and has a devotion to atheism that resembles evangelical beliefs. I know that this is hard to wrap your head around, but Crace must have a basic knowledge of the bible in order to write this award- winning book (I also find in ironic that his initials are JC but that is another story). Jesus is, once again, not the main character of the novel. Quarantine features a cast of seven characters travelling in the desert. In this novel, Christ first gets religion as a teen and “was transformed by God like other boys his age were changed by girls.” This tale is not the 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness that most of us were taught, but the novel does make the reader to thoughtful conclusion.

So, Dear Reader, you chose. Are these novels blasphemous or brilliant?

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