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January 23, 2004 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-23

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2004 LEXUS ES330


Struggling With God

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Authors/performance artists interpret their search for faith.


known authors, like Melvin Jukes
Bukiet and Rick Moody, explore, and
struggle. with, foundational texts.
Ann Arbor
Read Francine Prose's essay on
filling the Buddha: A Heretic's Exodus, and whether you recline or
Bible (The Free Press; $25), remain upright each spring, you'll never
by authors Peter Manseau
sit at a seder in quite the same way.
and Jeff Sharlet, brings to
Prose, a prolific writer of fiction who
mind a cross between William Least
as a child viewed the plagues as "glori-
Heat Moon's Blue Highways and a page
ous, mysterious and stirring," has come
of Talmud.
to see the retelling of the story of the
The dictum of the book's
Exodus as "genocide without apology"
title recalls a Zen instruction
"What bothers me most
given to a monk by his mas-
about Exodus is
ter: "If you meet the
what should make
Buddha," he says, "kill him.
me admire it most
Why kill the Buddha?
— that is, it tells
Because the Buddha you
us a truth about
meet is not the true Buddha,
how people
but an expression of your
behave, something
longing. If this Buddha is
I would rather not
not killed, he will only stand
hear or know," she
in your way."
writes. "Humans
On the authors' epony-
clump together in
mous Web site,
arbitrary, tightly
knit groups that
they write: "Why Killing the
want to kill other
Buddha? For our purposes,
groups and occupy
killing the Buddha is a
their territory.
metaphor for moving past
Though I am will-
the complacency of belief,
ing to admit it, I
for struggling honestly with
don't have to
the idea of God."
celebrate it."
"Killing the Buddha" uncovers
Collaborating in perform-
Kill the
the varieties of belief in America.
ance as they did in writing,
seder, re-order
Sharlet and Manseau will give
the seder
life to their tales of heresy and belief
Wednesday, Jan. 28, at the Arborland
Peter Trachtenberg's collision with Job
Borders store in Ann Arbor. The co-
is every bit as painful as the original.
authors are experienced performers who Verse by verse, Trachtenberg, author of
have presented their work in famed lit-
the novel Seven Tattoos: A Memoir in the
erary venues such as the KGB Bar in
Flesh, examines Job's journey, all the
New York City and on college campus-
while bouncing hither and yon through
es around the country
senseless annihilations of history in
Their book, part essay collection and
which the good, the innocent, the
part travelogue into the maelstrom of
righteous suffer.
American faith (the authors call it "not
His riff, while moving, erudite and
an anthology but a call-and-response"),
darkly entertaining (he includes a vari-
lives up to the promise of honest strug-
ety of Venn diagrams that devolve into
gle. And that honest struggle begets the
Pac-men of whom all that remains is
book's subtitle — the concept of heresy suffering), offers no answer to the eter-
— which the authors tell us "doesn't so
nal question of why the good suffer. No
much refute belief, in fact, as confirm
answer is his answer.
its value — if not its current terms."
Who can answer theodicy's query —
In the first half of the book — called
"If God is great, then why does He
"The Books of Scripture" — well-
allow,suffering?" In the end, perhaps
Job's answer is answer enough:
"Though He slay me yet will I trust in
Debra B. Darvick is the author of
"This Jewish Life: Stories of Discovery,
These "Books of Scripture" make up
Connection and Joy."
only half of Manseau's and Sharlet's

Special to the Jewish News


If photo by Angie Baan


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