Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Angels in cubicles?

by Salman Hameed

Here is a review of Simon Rich's book, What in God's Name. It looks interesting and the reviewer compared it with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Now that is some praise. It is about Heaven as a corporation, with God its CEO:
His paradise is a mismanaged corporation, Heaven Inc. — full of departments like Prayer Intake and Geyser Regulation — whose chief executive, God, decides on a whim to retire, destroy Earth, kill all the humans (by fire or ice, he’s still deciding) and fulfill his lifelong dream of opening an Asian-­American fusion restaurant.
The book's overall tone and humor, it seems, is more in line with The Simpsons:      
 The book is far from evangelical — to some it will be downright heretical — but it’s not entirely secular, either. Its main characters are Craig and Eliza, two cubicle-dwelling angels from the Department of Miracles, whose main assignment is reuniting Lynyrd Skynyrd. Thanks to a bargain with God, the angels have the chance to save Earth, if they can get the world’s two shyest humans to fall in love. Craig and Eliza are as flawed as the mortals they seek to help, subject to the same wild emotions, insecurities and jealousies. Their fallibilities make them comical but also sympathetic and recognizable. At one point, Craig grapples with the moral ambiguity of miracles after helping students of a school for the blind win their first wrestling match. “The victory dealt a major psychological blow to their sighted opponents, one of whom had lost to a blind child in front of his parents,” Craig recalls. “Was it still a miracle if someone had to suffer?” 
Rich has created a satirical sandbox in which to play with the Bible’s assertions. His imagined situations read like sketches he might have conceived at his old job as a writer for “Saturday Night Live.” (In fact, some of the novel’s gags first appeared in his debut collection, “Ant Farm.”) God, a Nascar fan, orders an angel to send a car into a fiery crash, clearing the way for his favorite driver. In a post-race interview, the winner thanks God (“I couldn’t have done it without him”), and so the gruesome logistics behind a sports cliché are laid bare. Later, God checks in with a poorly chosen prophet: a lunatic who passes along his Lord’s message by tossing on a tinfoil hat and scrawling (truthfully) “The End Is Near” on a cardboard sign.
Read the full review here.        


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