Tuesday, February 06, 2007

You can thank these jerks for this cold ass weather

Oh right, like you're so perfect

Regardless of our familiarity with the story, Maine adds some spice to what could easily have become a trite retelling by adding depth and insight that is lacking in the original. His ability to maintain the reader’s interest is even more praiseworthy when one considers that Maine structures the novel backwards, removing (one would assume) the potential for surprises. The novel opens as Cain, now an old man, prepares to die, and the novel ends with the expulsion from the garden. Although the reader always knows what will happen at the end, Maine inserts surprising elements along the way. We are able to see how Cain’s act was the result of numerous actions which came long before he decided to murder Abel. We are reminded how even the most inconsequential of actions can have powerful effects.

One surprising element is the depth he adds to the novel’s stars, who are little more than flat characters in the Bible. Each of the novel’s four sections is narrated by a different main character, allowing for greater insight into the actions and decisions of each: first, there is Cain (an alienated and inquisitive boy who does not except the facile answers given to him by his father), then Abel (a bossy momma’s boy who knows everything), then Adam (an indecisive individual who must painfully accumulate experience in order to learn even the most basic of truths), and finally, Eve (a demanding woman soon sapped by age and constant childbearing).

Maine uses his characters philosophical musings to ponder the obvious questions provoked by Genesis. For example, if God is all knowing and all powerful, why would he allow evil into his perfect world? And why would he allow Eve to fall for it? Are we, then, innately flawed? And if so, whose fault is that? The characters themselves arrive at no clear answers; as time passes, God speaks to them less and less frequently until they are completely alone.

For his part, Maine seems to assert that the Fall was all part of the plan. We were meant to fall in order to find our way in the world, to move from caves to huts to cities. We were meant to grow and learn. Spiral out, muthafuckas! Before, we just had a Garden. But now look at us! We have the internet, and celebrity magazines, and SUVs, and fundamentalists, and we make good things with God's creation, like meth and trans fats. See? God always provides. Except, of course, when he doesn’t. But then you can just eat some bugs and think of the first people as they started out in the world. Crazy cave dwellers.

Back off, bitch

In a nutshell: Maine takes a well-known story and adds a depth—and a humanity—that I, at least, have never encountered. Beautifully written and engrossing.

Bibliolatry Scale: 4.5 out of 6 stars

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