Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Snap: Killing the Buddha

A reader inquired about this book, saying that a relative had abandoned their Christian faith because of it. The cover quotes a newspaper review as saying it is a "hip-hop makeover" of the Bible, a "stab at saucy kind of spirituality that's as bold as it is refreshing."

Apparently, the standards for "bold and refreshing" recently plummeted beneath my notice.

It's not hard to find words to describe this book; among them I'd say are idiocy, irrelevant, and what the hell was that supposed to be about? It's a collection of miscellany that is mostly personal anecdotes, and I am hard pressed to see what point the authors or collators were trying to prove, apart from their ability to relate manifest stupidity in poetic language. The writing styles (of some chapters) are about all this book has to it in terms of substance; the editors say that they asked their contributors to rewrite some Biblical book as they were led, and the result is not surprisingly as chaotic as a thunderstorm, and with quite nearly the same level of practical utility. How anyone could lose their faith over such a book is something I can't imagine, but perhaps objectivity and critical thinking has reached such an all time low that even nonsense like this can affect people adversely.

The substance? By example: The book of Ruth is mutilated for the sake of relating a barely coherent story (written in Shatneresque rat-a-tat prose) about someone's mother ill with cancer, and her funeral. At least, that was what the coherent part of it was about; other parts of the story seemed to serve little other purpose than page filler, as in this sample:

One evening, shortly after I returned from the States, I accidentally knocked over a small water glass. Though there was time to catch it, I felt unable to do so. I watched as it rolled off the table; it seemed to roll very slowly. I thought, it will break. It will break. It will break. And then I thought, no it won't. It will roll like that forever. When it landed in broken bits at my feet, I burst into tears, surprised.

And on it goes, worse than Hemingway on morphine. By a few sentences into each story the only thing that becomes clear is that each contributor could use some psychological counseling. At best this book is an example of how many have been fooled into thinking that if some idiot balls up a bunch of old newspapers and throws them all over a room, that is somehow "art".

Another story tells of a man who drives a church bus which ran out of gas. This man simply waited with his bus until, so he thought, God would send someone to give him some gas or food. I suppose the authors take this to be some sort of meaningful story from which we are to take a thoughtful lesson about spirituality. I think we'd get more substantial messages out of an episode featuring cross dressers on Jerry Springer.

No doubt I'd be told I just don't get the point. Yes, I imagine I don't -- my standards are too high.

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