Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Fall of Man is Kinda Depressing

Last night I finished Fallen by David Maine. Maine has written a string of novels that are extensive retellings of Old Testament stories. The Preservationist (which I listened to part of on audio book before I had to return it to the library) is about Noah and the flood; The Book of Samson is self explanatory. Fallen is about Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. The chapters flow in reverse chronological order, beginning with Cain as an old, dying man and ending with Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden. The reverse chronological order greatly contributes to the suspense of the story; the reader already knows what’s going to happen in general but wonders about the personal details.

Maine certainly gives you the personal details: Cain’s relationship with his brother and parents; Cain’s scandalous birth; Adam and Eve’s miserable struggle to survive outside of the Garden; their relationship with each other, their many children, and God. In addition, there are mysteries Maine touches on: the appearance of other people in the land (did God just make them appear?), why God rejected Cain’s harvest offering, etc. The Biblical stories are so brief, and it’s impressive to experience a portrayal of these icons as very real people.

When I completed the book, I told Ickie I found it captivating but sad, and as he pointed out, “Well, it is about the Fall of Man after all!” Maine's sparse writing style also conveys the tragedy as a blunt pain. I don’t know what Maine’s religious beliefs are, but he somehow succeeds in staying true to the Biblical narrative while infusing it with imagination and modern thought. I did find a photo of him on the web, and he looks like a “sweaty-toothed madman,” or perhaps a modern John the Baptist. The book is a quick read, and I think it would stimulate interesting discussion at any book group, be it religious or secular.

5 comments:

Phil K. said...

Beth -

I am one of the only persons in my circle of friends to have read The Preservationist. I absolutely love the genre of writing: complete artistic freedom within a Bible story. It really shed some light on the reality of being in a boat with animals and people for an extended period.

I'm glad to have found that you read more of his stuff. I forgot to continue following him.

My latest book read is Anne Rice's "Christ the Lord - Out of Egypt." It's told in a similar vein and I really enjoyed it. It actually enriched my faith.

Thanks, Phil.

Watoosa said...

Ickie and I both want to read The Preservationist. I liked what little I heard of it!
I'll look up Rice's book. The title confuses me--is it about the Exodus or what? I'll have to look it up. Thanks for the recommendation!

Ickenham said...

Part of what's great about The Preservationist and Fallen is that Maine doesn't paper over the weirdness of the OT narratives. A boat full of animals? Sacrificing our hard-earned harvest? It just gets thrown in there, but he also often doesn't try to explain (or explain away) the weirdness. This is particularly effective in Fallen, in which God is just as inscrutable as he is in the OT.

hambone said...

He doesn't just look like a sweaty-toothed madman -- he looks like a guy who could play in Metallica.

I suppose anyone who spends a lot of time in the OT has to have a weird mindset, which I say with appreciation. Based on your description of his work, I'd love to see him tackle the OT prophets -- the minor ones, if there was a way to work them into a story. They're so passionately deranged, and often they feel like kindred spirits.

Kevin said...

Rices' Christ the Lord--Out of Egypt is the story of the Holy Family's trip from Egypt back to Judeah. If I remember correctly, it covers about 1 year of Jesus' adolescence, during which he works on sorting out his self-understanding. It's an interesting read in some ways (she makes fairly vivid daily life in the 1st century, for example), but perhaps what I enjoyed most was Rice's auto-biographical postscript.