I’m not religious, and I have not read the Old Testament or the New Testament (I did read R. Crumb’s graphic novel of the Book of Genesis and enjoyed it). I’ve tried to read the King James version a few times, but I got bored and stopped very early on. Recently, Top Shelf sent me a copy of God is Disappointed in You, a new version of the Bible written in contemporary, casual language. It’s bound in textured fake leather like a regular bible, with gold edged pages and a ribbon bookmark. It has illustrations by New Yorker and Too Much Coffee Man cartoonist Shannon Wheeler, which piqued my interest. As soon as I started reading it, I was hooked. The author, Mark Russell, was able to make the stories come alive by telling them as if they happened today, using language that a smart, funny, middle-school student might use to recount the story of an epic playground fight.
I don’t know if people who take the Bible seriously will be offended by this book, but I suspect many of them will not. It is not a sarcastic put down of the Bible, but a fresh interpretation. I compared some of the stories in God is Disappointed in You with the stories in other traditional Bibles and Russell is not exaggerating or misrepresenting the content of the earlier versions. I asked my friend, a pastor and author who is a serious Bible scholar, what he thought of God is Disappointed in You, and said it was fantastic.
The Bible is an incredibly weird book, and I thank Mark Russell for rewriting it in a way that made it understandable and interesting to me.
God is Disappointed in You
Asaf Hanuka is a celebrated Israeli cartoonist whose astonishing, surreal illustrations serve as counterpoint to sweet (sometimes too-sweet) depictions of his family life, his complicated existence as a member of a visible minority in Israel, the fear he and his family live with, and his own pleasures and secret shames — a heady, confessional, autobiographical brew that has just been collected into The Realist: Plug and Play, the second volume of Hanuka’s comics.
Stories matter: the recurring narrative of radical Islamic terror in America (a statistical outlier) makes it nearly impossible to avoid equating “terrorist” with “jihadi suicide bomber” — but the real domestic terror threat is white people, the Dominionists, ethno-nationalists, white separatists, white supremacists and sovereign citizens who target (or infiltrate) cops and blow up buildings. That’s what makes Brian Wood’s first Briggs Land collection so timely: a gripping story of far-right terror that is empathic but never sympathetic.
I could not have asked for a nicer crowd than the ones who turned up for last night’s event at Liverpool One’s Waterstones; now I’m looking forward to today’s lunchtime signing at Birmingham Waterstones, on my way to tomorrow’s Hay Festival event with Adam Rutherford.
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