Paragraph Review: God Is Disappointed In You by Mark Russell

God Is Disappointed In YouOkay, dear reader, let’s do this together this time. Mark Russell is going to be the featured author at our inaugural Blue Skirt Productions reading on August 23, so I thought it would be fun to do a paragraph review of his book, God Is Disappointed In You. His book is a retelling of The Bible, with cartoons by Shannon Wheeler throughout.

I have the book lying next to me on the couch right now. I’m going to open it to a random paragraph (passage?) and read it. You ready? Here goes . . . .

“Bald and frustrated, Ezekiel decided to give the theatrics a rest and focus on his message. He stood before a crowd and told them a parable about a man who had two slutty daughters. One of the daughters had a thing for Assyrian men. She would sleep with any guy who had an Assyrian accent. The other daughter liked Babylonian men, who were ‘hung like a donkey and came like a horse.’ Eventually when the father found out about his girls’ extra-curricular activities, he threw them out of the house and let anyone who wanted to have his way with them.”

Well then. I’m glad we’re in this one together, reader.

I had my friend read the paragraph to me while I typed it out, and much chortling commenced. Obviously, this paragraph has a lot of voice going on. Aside from the humor, though, I get an underlying sense of genuine storytelling. The text reads a lot easier than any version of The Bible I’ve ever read. The modern language makes for comic affect, yes, but it also lends itself to a smooth read. It keeps the reader engaged and focused on the story.

Russell opens with a vivid image of Ezekiel himself. In just one sentence he shows us a man who is trying to get a message across and has failed. He is agitated. He has tried something probably fairly epic beforehand to get his point across, and the dolts just aren’t getting it. So he decides to try a simple story instead. Hmmm…. Sounds familiar….

This paragraph reminds us of just how raunchy the Good Book can be, too. When the flowery prose of these Bible passages is stripped away with phrases like “hung like a donkey” and “came like a horse” little is left to the imagination. Sex is a huge part of life, then and now, and Russel isn’t about to let us forget it. He doesn’t skip over or cushion it with safe wording like the New International Version: “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.”

There is something missing from this paragraph, though: irreverence. The style is reminiscent of Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Both Moore and Russell use today’s common language to pull the subtext of familiar stories to the forefront. As an example, the easy disregard for women and their sexuality came through loud and clear in this paragraph. It wasn’t hidden behind flowery prose and formal language. The language of today pulls us backwards through the centuries to a culture and time period that feels alien to us in this day and age. It puts us in the story, while giving us a modern day narrative that’s easy for us to understand.

I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I’m ready to read the next part of the story. Let’s settle deeper into the couch and do just that. Today’s Paragraph Review conclusion: Get thee a copy of God Is Disappointed In You. Thou shalt not be disappointed.

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