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Re-reading Lamb

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Kamala



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 22
Location: Western Massachusetts
Re-reading Lamb  Reply with quote  

Is it just me, or is re-reading Lamb bringing any body closer to the spirit of Christmas than anything QVC could jam down our throats? I mean, not to be uber-christian or anything, but i guess the contrast between AG's portrayal of Christ as a MAN is a little more noticeable when placed on a horizon of obese men in red suits. So I guess, thanks is in order for helping me remember again that the holiday isn't just about cookies, presents, seething over in-laws, and sleeping in the next morning.

Post Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:02 pm   View user's profile Send private message
conspiracies unlimited



Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Posts: 4281
Location: California
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Turned my Brother-in-law onto Lamb... He actually enjoyed it... His sister got up and left the room when we started discussing it... she still thinks it should be burned...

He gave his copy to his aunt the other night... she seemed genuinely interested...

yeah for Lamb!!!, YEAH FOR CM!!!
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Post Thu Dec 29, 2005 11:16 am   View user's profile Send private message
Lenore



Joined: 01 Feb 2005
Posts: 361
Location: east coast
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Kamala, I'm on my forth or fifth rereading and it never disappoints me in it's ability to inspire and delight me.

My mom is a born again Christian and she loved it and my daughter is a non believer and she said it is the ONLY story of Jesus (Joshua) that gives her the spiritual feeling all the rest of the "religious" books intend but fail to do.


I don't know if Chris is around but I want to ask the AG a question.
AG, how did you decide to write this book? How did you become this insightful and truly moving? All your books are smart, funny and enjoyable but I find when I read Lamb every page, every paragraph and sometimes sentence after sentence just brings a flush of pure joy. I so love the characters, I'm totally in love with Biff .

I know I'm entering the fawning place and deserve the mocking but if New Years is about telling people how you feel before they or you disappear and you can't say what's in your heart or on your mind then I just want to thank you again for this wondrous book.

Post Mon Jan 02, 2006 8:58 am   View user's profile Send private message
Kamala



Joined: 03 Dec 2005
Posts: 22
Location: Western Massachusetts
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I agree Lenore, and...no... i don't think fawning is a bad thing...sucking up even has its place... but it's like reading Siddhartha in tenth grade and then again after the birth of your first child. You are not the same person, but both times it moves you. I'm not pretending AG intended to re ignite a christian flame in this old pagan or anything, but you just have to say not only is this great fiction, but somewhere, this is great history too... one of the great things about fiction is the characters come and go and although you can imagine them outside the context of the novel (What would Jody eat at a Big Boy if she wasn't a bloodsucker?) you don't have to think too hard about it. Reliving the death of Christ while being reminded he was a real human of flesh and blood kinda makes you scratch your head and say "oh, that's gotta hurt"... but then remember he did it anyways... Is it just me, or is that a little easier to swallow than sitting on Mall Santa's knee with a four year old?

Post Thu Jan 05, 2006 5:13 pm   View user's profile Send private message
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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Lenore wrote:
How did you become this insightful and truly moving?



I don't know if I got up one morning and thought, "hey, I think I'm gonna be insightful and moving today." More I had just read the trial of Jesus scene in Master and Margarita, which is from Pilate's point of view, and I thought, "Damn, I've seen or read that story a hundred times, but it never seemed that immediate."

The story was/is a great story, but it had never been told in a way that really communicated with me. I'd never felt it. It was like a summary, about as personal as an encyclopedia article, so I thought, hey, what if you had a witness? What if you were there? What would it be like if you were the best friend of the son of God, and you lost him? And I wrote the book because I wasn't sure I could write the book. By that, I mean that it seemed huge, beyond my abilities.

That it showed any insight, or moved people, is great, but honestly, I was just just trying to write the greatest story every told and make it funny. I knew that you had to "touch" the world, if it was going to work, so the history had to be right. I knew that the spiritualism in it had to make sense to mere mortals -- I didn't want it to be "because I said so" when it came to the reasons behind the life and death of Jesus. I mean, John 3:16 is all well and good, when you have 70 years to think it over, as the John who wrote that did. But Jesus doesn't say shit about "God so loved the world, etc. etc." He was talking about a revolution, about tearing down the Temple, about misplacing 3000 years of Judaism and starting a new spiritual paradigm. This was not a cowardly man, nor a man who had everything worked out. In fact, if he didn't "have his reasons", if he didn't have to make decisions bassed on limited knowledge, rather than omnicience, then Jesus himself would have been without faith -- so, essentially, I had to make his journey credible.

Post Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:44 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
RedOrcaMoon



Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 2399
Location: someplace...probably inside my head or in another world
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Well i think that I have to buy lamb and re-read it, causee my friend never gave it back. as for stupidest angel, well... Mom is being forced to read it now. and AG. Nicely done! ^_^ now did you do that whole gabe as an orca thing jsut for me? Wink hee hee hee.... actually... considering i've read so much on orcas, i could probably tell you the exact proportions of an orca's shlong, and what not. but meh.. Nicely done Chris! I couldnt stop laughing at that part.
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Post Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:22 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Lenore



Joined: 01 Feb 2005
Posts: 361
Location: east coast
 Reply with quote  

Quote:
I don't know if I got up one morning and thought, "hey, I think I'm gonna be insightful and moving today."


Wouldn't it be great if that could happen!?

I remember reading Norman Mailer saying he sat at his typewriter and felt he was being channeled.(sounds kind of dirty) That the words flowed through him and he didn't feel he had control. I don't know if I would want to feel "used" like that.
I would want to know it was all coming from my brilliant brain. I don't write (I'm sure you got that from my posts) so the process fascinates me.


Quote:
And I wrote the book because I wasn't sure I could write the book. By that, I mean that it seemed huge, beyond my abilities.


I'm glad you didn't wuss out. I think most artistically leaning people have those feelings and just give in to the insecurity.

As far as making Joshua's journey credible, you had two born agains, a lapsed Catholic, an agnostic and atheist (all in my family) deeply moved by the journey. I think that's an amazing feat.

Oh RedOrcaMoon. Don't read The Stupidest Angel in public, you will get the feeling they are sending the white coats for you. The normal population look at you so strangely when you're laughing uncontrollably on the bus.
And you can't lend Lamb...just buy it for who ever you want to read it. Much much easier that way.

Post Sat Jan 07, 2006 9:31 am   View user's profile Send private message
sgt_steve



Joined: 18 Jan 2005
Posts: 5197
Location: Michissippi
My long-delayed essay on Lamb  Reply with quote  

chris wrote:
... so I thought, hey, what if you had a witness? What if you were there? What would it be like if you were the best friend of the son of God, and you lost him? And I wrote the book because I wasn't sure I could write the book. By that, I mean that it seemed huge, beyond my abilities.

That it showed any insight, or moved people, is great, but honestly, I was just just trying to write the greatest story every told and make it funny...
IMHO you have some wonderful and unintentional irony there.

You tried to write a book that gave folks the same degree of personal involvement that you got when reading Master and Margerita, succeeded on the whole, and then are surprised that the book seems insightful to some? Dude, it means you succeeded. What were you expecting, failure? Razz

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but this is why so many of us read fiction. A well-told story involves us in the human aspects of a situation far better than a straitforward factual account. By inserting Biff the bumbling everyman into the story, you've suddenly made us see the human side of it all without lowering the essential 'greatest story.'

When you bring Biff and Joshua back from their wanderings, the story proceeds forward with the inevitability of a freight train. On first read I though 'this is too rushed,' but a second pass showed it was just right. After 30 years of wondering and some years of wandering, the real story - the important part - happens in a mere three years. It's Biff who feels like he's suddenly gotten onto a freight train, and that was communicated to me so well that I felt the same.

Biffs struggles to deal with the divine in his real life parallels most folks', but Biff is much closer to that divinity than we are. In spite of that closeness, he does what we do. He thrashes a bit, enjoys himself when he can, makes his own occasional attempts at following the divine, and feels some guilt but not a lot when he fails or stops trying. Biff may not have been intended as the archetype for everyman, but he pretty nails it. The humor of Biff lets us keep the essential seriousness of the story at a safe arms distance, but it never removes that seriousness. And when the moment comes that Biff has got to get serious and follow Joshua, he comes through. It's what we'd all like to think we'd do in such a situation, and so again, Biff is us.

It's good stuff. It's great stuff. And it's the kind of story that could never be told as fact. We let Biff into our heads because he's fiction. I doubt any of us have done the same with John, Matthew, Paul or Peter. We aren't comfortable with letting saints into our heads. It feels dangerous, it feel prideful. But Biff? Biff's the neer-do-well down the street, the guy you swap beers with at a hot Fourth of July party. We can see ourselves in Biff in a way that we can't see ourselves in the saints.

By the time it all turns serious, we're in Biffs head. We feel his anxiety, we feel his self-doubt, we start to panic because after 15 years of slow wandering it's suddenly all happening to fast. When the end came, I cried for Biff, and Mary, and Joshua. But just as I felt their pain, I also felt their joy at their brush with the divine.

Insightful? Yes. You (and I mean you specifically here, Chris) might think that you did nothing but write about the insights that were already there inherent in the story, and in a sense that's true. But maintaining those insights while transforming the form of the story is no small accomplishment. To bring that story to us in a form we can feel it at an almost purely human level and retain those insights is even more of an accomplishment.

This is why I think Lamb is your best book. Not your funniest book Not your best characterizations. But your best book. You were gutsy enough to tackle a serious subject while remaining true to your own voice, style and humor, and you pulled it off brilliantly. As much as I love BSF, CB, etc, they don't have the same ambition that shows in Lamb. And while most of your other books succeed quite wonderfully, Lamb aims much higher. That it is equally successful is a significant accomplishment.

Post Sat Jan 07, 2006 2:52 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
chris
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
Re: My long-delayed essay on Lamb  Reply with quote  

sgt_steve wrote:

When you bring Biff and Joshua back from their wanderings, the story proceeds forward with the inevitability of a freight train. On first read I though 'this is too rushed,' but a second pass showed it was just right. After 30 years of wondering and some years of wandering, the real story - the important part - happens in a mere three years. It's Biff who feels like he's suddenly gotten onto a freight train, and that was communicated to me so well that I felt the same.




To be honest with you, I tried to speed things up once we were back into the territory covered in the gospels. I figured that people had heard and read this part of the story so many times that they would just want to get through it. In retrospect, that section probably could have been stronger if I'd slowed it down. I was probably influenced by the fact that I had been studying the Gospels for going on three years, so they seemed like "duh" knowledge to me. Sometimes you lose the perspective of your reader's level of involvement, especially in this case, where I was locked in a motel room in Big Sur, with no phone, TV, or internet, just me, a Bible, some Joseph Campbell books, and a couple of sacred Eastern texts.

Thanks for the praise, Steve. I did, in fact, think that I might fail to pull Lamb off. If the book is good, it may be because I was working at the top of my abilities just to get it on the page. There was a point in Lamb where I was stuck for almost seven months-- a bit of a record for me, really. I would agree too -- I think Lamb is my best book, and for exactly the reason you cite -- the ambition of the project. I'm going to be teaching a "masters of fiction" course this summer at the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference, and I've decided one of the things I'll talk about is how the ambition of a project before you start can define it's success or failure, and how it can also stop you in your tracks if you overreach your abilities by too far. (Don't you love that? I hear a great big echoey voice: MASTER -ER-ERS OF FICTION-ION-ION.) I agreed to do it because they said the Elmore Leonard is also doing it. Watch, that will be total bullshit.

Post Sat Jan 07, 2006 5:51 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lenore



Joined: 01 Feb 2005
Posts: 361
Location: east coast
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When you're doing that big conference tell them the waterbed/ chainsaw story.

You haven't written about it yet but you really should.

Not to make fun of your pain...ok, maybe making fun of it just a wee bit, but really what were you thinking? I can think about that and still have a good laugh all these months later.


About Lamb...I disagree with Sgt Steve and you too Chris.(am I allowed to disagree with the author?) I didn't find it rushed at all. I found the feeling of inevitability of course and also curiosity if somehow all the alchemy and magic was somehow going to change the outcome.
I'm right at that point in the book (again) and the pace is just right.
In all the Christ stories once Jesus starts his ministry the turn of events always proceeds quickly.
And even if the pace is quick toward the end in Lamb the beatitudes are so worth all of it.

Post Sun Jan 08, 2006 12:31 pm   View user's profile Send private message
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