Killing the deity

Waterville author takes atheism one step further
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  September 5, 2007


In God is Dead’s title story, God is searching — for unapparent reasons — for a boy named Thomas Mawien. In order to find him, God dresses as an injured young Dinka woman, and wanders into a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, where Mawien may be. God employs former US secretary of state Colin Powell, on a diplomatic mission and talking like a street pimp, to assist him, but the effort is in vein, and God is presumably murdered by a Janjaweed militia.

The rest of Waterville resident Ron Currie Jr.’s debut short-story collection explores the potential aftershocks of God’s death. Young boys loot, drink, and put each other out of their misery. Masses of people begin worshipping children as their deity. Postmodern Anthropologists and Evolutionary Psychologists start what looks to be the next world war. Throughout this surprising, funny, and often provocative book, Currie imbues his characters with a sobriety that allows his audacious concepts to take root. He’ll read from and speak about God is Dead at Longfellow Books in Portland on Thursday, September 13. What follows is an edited transcript of our e-mail conversation.

Title tale: An excerpt from "God is Dead"
“If I may speak frankly, sir,” the official said, “I’m not sure black is the word I’d used to describe you.”

Powell deployed a fierce, wide-eyed gaze, one he’d perfected through hundreds of hours viewing and reviewing Samuel Jackson movies. “Oh no?” he said.

The official, realizing he’d stepped directly into the metaphorical pile of dung, tried to backtrack. “Well, of course, I mean, ethnologically speaking, you’re black. Sir. Of course. I was thinking more of your appearance, a sort of benign, nonthreatening, ashy tone which — “

“I’m black as night, motherfucker!” With a sweep of his hand, Powell indicated the throng of Dinka surrounding the Suburban. “Those people out there,” he said, “are my brothers and sisters. My family.”

“Of course they are, sir,” the official said. “Sorry, sir.”

“Apology accepted. Bitch-ass.”
“Back to the keywords for tonight, sir. If we may.”

“Lay it on me.”

“Okay, so we’re talking about the Sudanese government and our attitude toward them. Keywords for our attitude, as regards the humanitarian situation here, include, but are not limited to: ‘steady,’ ‘demand,’ ‘firm,’ ‘control the Janjaweed,’ ‘do what’s right,’ and ‘solution.’”

“Got it,” Powell said.

“Keywords for the Sudanese government include, but are not limited to: ‘denial,’ ‘avoidance,’ ‘responsibility,’ ‘militarism,’ ‘racism,’ and — here’s your ace in the hole, sir — ‘obfuscate.’”

“The fuck does that mean?”

“To obscure or confuse. Ties directly into ‘denial’ and ‘avoidance.’ Trust me, sir, it’ll bring the house down.”

“If you say so,” Powell said. “Okay. I’ll go out and do my little soft-shoe routine. Make it look like that hillbilly actually gives a shit what’s going on here.”

Copyright Ron Currie Jr. Used by permission.
God Is Dead | by Ron Currie Jr | Viking Press | 182 pages | $21.95 | reading at Longfellow Books, in Portland | 7 pm September 13 | 207.772.4045

What are audience members saying at your readings?
In a lot of ways it’s great — there’s nothing better than having the opportunity to talk directly with someone who’s read and enjoyed and maybe even been affected in some way by your writing. It makes the whole thing real, in a manner of speaking, and insanely gratifying. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than standing in front of a crowd at some random Borders and realizing that most of them are there not to hear you read but simply because there are seats for them to park their lazy asses. One guy in particular, at a reading I did in Boston, was sitting directly in front of me, thumbing through a guidebook to China. Right in the front row. Which would have been fine, except that he decided that wasn’t quite rude enough and so stood up in the middle of my reading, went to the stacks, and returned with a different book. The only way this prick could have been any more indifferent to me was if I hadn’t been there at all. But, you know, I made a point of remembering his face.

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