Saturday, October 1, 2011
God as a Teenage Boy: There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff
And was this an excuse for him to be rained with curses and loathing from all mankind? Oh no. Because here was the clever bit: Bob had designed the entire race of murderers, martyrs and thugs with a built-in propensity to worship him. You had to admire the kid. Thick as two lemons, but with flashes of brilliance so intense a person could go blind looking at him."
Anthony McGowan's Guardian review of Rosoff's latest novel suggests that "there isn't another young adult novel like There Is No Dog", and goes on to compare Rosoff's writing with Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark and Kurt Vonnegut (for "intellectual playfulness"). What There Is No Dog reminded me of was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series; There Is No Dog is more grounded (it takes place mostly on earth, not on alien spacecraft) and more emotionally nuanced (the Hitchhiker's Guide, as I recall, is pretty much a straight-up parody). But the books share the same kind of goofy absurdist take on a some of mankind's most vexed questions (Hitchhiker contemplates the meaning of life, while Dog takes a good hard look at the world and extrapolates the nature of God).
So, God. He's a teenage boy, name of Bob. He got the job of Creator of Earth because his wacko mother won it for him in a poker game. ("Bob's credentials (non-existent) did not impress. But the general sense of exhaustion and indifference was such that no one could really be bothered to argue.") He's sloppy, lazy, immature, whiny, lacking in compassion or responsibility. He's lustier than the Rolling Stones in heat and prone to falling in and out of love dramatically and dangerously.
'Mr B remembered another girl, another time, with the face of an angel and the sweetest manners, a child's soft mouth and an expression open and trusting as a lamb. She had seen Bob for what he was, and loved him anyway. Mr B removed his spectacles, hoping to erase the vision in his head. That romance had ended with floods, tornadoes, plague, earthquakes and the girl's execution for heresy, a few weeks before her fourteenth birthday. By special order of Pope Urban II.
And, just our luck, this loser has gone and created man in his own image, "which anyone could see was one big fat recipe for disaster."
Earth's only saving grace is that Mr. B, God's administrative assistant, does care about earth and its creatures and tries his damndest to straighten out Bob's messes. (Right now he's dealing with the biblically-proportioned floods caused by Bob's trying to seduce a young girl named Lucy.) But Mr. B is nearing the end of his rope and has applied for a transfer. Who will look after creation now?
Although There Is No Dog sounds like it could be desperately cynical, in the end it isn't. Despite God's blunderings, miracles unexpectedly occur and death is cheated, at least for the moment. People have hope, and it doesn't feel empty. And it may turn out that our slacker of a God can be overthrown....
Nothing is finally resolved in this book, but then again, that's life, isn't it?