Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

In the beginning, Bob created the heavens and earth, the animals and plants and people -- especially hot babes. Bob is a shiftless teenager, content to eat junk food, lay about in bed and let his dirty clothes moulder in a heap on his bedroom floor. He is also the lord and creator of the Earth and all that inhabit it. And he's in love with Lucy. And when Bob falls in love, it brings about floods and drought and fire and all manner of disaster.

It falls to Mr. B, Bob's aide-de-camp, to try and make things right. But Mr. B is fed up with Bob's lax hand and puts in his resignation. The flood waters are rising, things are looking bad for the Earth. Will the God to whom the humans pray get his head out of his ass and make things right, save his creations? 

As you might have guessed, this book is not for the faint of heart. It's hilarious and irreverent and kind and wonderful. Rosoff is a top-notch novelist, and I can't recommend her novels enough. But let's be frank. Sometimes people find it difficult or distasteful to read about religion in less-than-reverent stories. And that's a shame. Discourse around religion and faith has gotten nasty and charged of late, but I think it's something that's on everyone's mind, even if you don't ascribe to a particular belief system. I think we want to talk about these big questions, want to talk about why we're here, why, when we fall in love, it sometimes feels like the world is imploding around us (literally, in Bob's case). Sometimes the official discourse can feel constrained, too many thou shalts and not enough what ifs. Some of us are lucky enough to have sensitive and intelligent clergy or other people around to hash out these questions. But novels are also great spaces to build these conversations, especially if the books are really funny. I choked on my coffee when I came across the phrase "zepplin tittied trollop."

Novels that take on ideas of religion and faith are tricky beasts. On the one hand, this is a cracking good story. There's loads of sarcasm and snark. On the other hand, this novel makes space for a deeply personal examination of religion and faith, which for me are two very different ideas. And if I can ponder the big questions while laughing at some outrageous dialogue, so much the better. I like that things are messy, that Bob is a lazy, selfish, somewhat lovable oaf -- or at least he will be lovable if he ever grows up. Bob doesn't jive with my idea of God,  but Rosoff isn't offering a theology; she's offering us a change to look at how messy and wonderful and sometimes weird it is to be human, and she balances it with some really great dirty jokes. And I believe that God, whatever form she/he actually takes, has a really good sense of humor. If you liked Pete Hautman's Godless, Christopher Moore's Lamb or Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, then you will love There is No Dog. 

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