I love God Is Dead, the debut novel from Ron Currie, Jr. Well, it’s more of a collection of linked stories, really, pitch black comedies in the George Saunders vein about what happens to human civilization after God comes down to Earth as a Dinka woman, is shot dead during military unrest in Darfur, and eaten by a pack of feral dogs. (Hint: It doesn’t go well for anybody, not even the dogs.) As the continuity unfolds, the world transforms in bizarre ways, but no matter how outrageous the circumstances, the emotional cores of these stories work. And now Currie’s going to explain how the stories all came together. It’s not the answer I was expecting, but it makes perfect sense…
His legs pumped in protest, mini-sneakers drumming the base of the restaurant booth. His face was red with the effort of sustained screaming. He shoved and slapped at his father with his adorable little hands. He was sitting right next to me. I had murder and a bacon cheeseburger on my mind. In that order.
The kid’s father, though, was the very picture of patience. He was an obvious believer in the progressive parenting philosophy that exchanges corporal punishment for repeating requests—in this case, “Eat your dinner, please”—a thousand times to no effect whatsoever. And then, as a last resort, unleashing the dreaded “time out.”
But this kid had long since sacked and pillaged the time out. He was psychotic. He had superhuman reserves of furious energy. And rather than box the little bastard’s ears and tell him he had two choices, eat or starve, the father continued trying to bring him under control by absorbing one-two combos and murmuring in soothing tones.
What should a normal person do when he bears witness to such a mind-numbing example of parental overindulgence? Roll his eyes and shake his head, most likely. Exchange whispered comments with his companions. At most, maybe ask to be re-seated on the far side of the dining room, away from the offending brat, or else just get up and walk out in a lame protest no one will notice anyhow. Any of these, even the last, would probably be considered a normal reaction.
Going home and writing a book probably would not. Nevertheless, that’s what I did.
I had no idea at first, though, that I was writing a book, much less a book about the literal death of God. I thought I was just writing a short story. I had the title: “False Idols.” And the concept: a (slightly) alternate reality wherein parents have gone completely off their nut and begun actually worshipping their children. This was going to be fun. I was going to let that dad have it. I was cruising right along. And then I ran into what was for me an unexpected problem: No matter how outrageous the premise of your story, one thing still needs to lead logically to another. There still needs to be cause-and-effect, even if the effect in question is children running civilization into the ground with endless pizza parties and marathon Game Boy sessions.
So, a daunting question, one I absolutely had to answer if I wanted the story to work: Why, exactly, did people start worshipping their kids in the first place? What the hell was the catalyst here?
And the solution occurred to me instantly: It’s a transference of the innate human need to worship something. God died, so kids took His place. Simple. Easy.
It was neither, of course. In fact, it raised a hell of a lot more questions than it answered, this God dying thing. Questions that ended up taking me the better part of two years to answer. Which would have been obvious to me from the outset, if I were smarter than I am. I could have saved myself about 65,000 words worth of effort.
But then I wouldn’t have a pimp-talking Colin Powell, or God the depressed, ineffectual middle-management drone. I wouldn’t have talking dogs or the greatest military conflict in the history of humanity, a vicious war between adherents of evolutionary psychology and postmodern anthropology. I wouldn’t have suicide pacts or the Child Adulation Prevention Agency. I wouldn’t have my little book, which I and at least a few others are fairly fond of.
Still, I wish I could have figured a way to shut that kid up, so I could eat my dinner in peace.
6 July 2007 | guest authors |