Synopses & Reviews
"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."
The ninth-century sage Lin Chi gave this advice to one of his monks, admonishing him that this Buddha would only be a reflection of his unexamined beliefs and desires. Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet took Lin Chi's advice to heart and set out on a car trip around America, looking for Buddhas along the road and the people who meet them: prophets in G-strings dancing to pay the rent, storm chasers hunting for meaning in devastating tornados, gangbangers inking God on their bodies as protection from bullets, cross-dressing terrorist angels looking for a place to sing.
Along the way Manseau and Sharlet began to wonder what the traditional scripture they encountered everywhere -- in motels, on billboards, up and down the radio dial -- would look like remade for today's world. To find out, they called upon some of today's most intriguing writers to recast books of the Bible by taking them apart, blowing them up with ink and paper.
Rick Moody recasts Jonah as a modern-day gay Jewish man living in Queens. A.L. Kennedy meditates on the absurdity of Genesis. In Samuel, April Reynolds visits a man of tremendous vision in Harlem. Peter Trachtenberg unravels the Gordian logic of Job by way of the Borscht Belt. Haven Kimmel dives into Revelation and comes out in a swoon. Woven through these divine books are Manseau and Sharlet's dispatches from the road, their Psalms of the people.
What emerges from this work of calling is not an attack on any religion, but a many-colored, positively riveting look at the facets of true belief. Together these curious minds tell the strange, funny, sad, and true story of religion in America for the spiritual seeker in all of us: A Heretic's Bible.
"[M]arvelous, profoundly personal observations." Booklist
"As disjointed and freakish as this biblical sequel sounds, the editors manage to pull off a most impressive work. This is some of the most original and insightful spiritual writing to come out of America since Jack Kerouac first hit the road." Publishers Weekly
"Range[s] from the densely poetic to the whimsically academic and the truly hilarious." Montreal Gazette
"[Q]uirky, far-ranging... With a format as complex as many people's relationship with God, it shouldn't work, but it does a literary leap of faith." Elle
"The tone is both grave and exhilarating. So is the effect.... Killing the Buddha is a genuine stab at a saucy kind of spirituality thats as bold as it is refreshing." New York Observer
"A profoud, peculiar, and fascinating collection." Emma Donoghue, author of Slammerkin
"Killing the Buddha proves that fear and trembling are only human but a sense of humor is divine." O, The Oprah Magazine
For the majority of Americans a background in some sort of religion is a given, whether they have chosen to embrace, redefine, or completely reject the teachings of childhood. In this highly evocative work, Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet manage to do all three.
Having both been given traditional religious upbringings, the authors began to question every corner of their faiths as they came of age. Their mutual curiosity eventually led to the launch of a literary magazine (awarded Utne Reader's prestigious Independent Press Award for 2002), and ultimately inspired them to go on a search for the spiritual across America. As they made their way across the country, they became increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional Bible's relevance in the modern world. They instead have turned to some of our most provocative writers to recast many of the good books: Rick Moody recasts Jonah as a modern day gay Jewish man living with his parents in Queens, to A.L. Kennedy meditating on the absurdity of Genesis while never shaking her own faith, and Randall Kenan's breathtaking new Gospels, to name a few. What emerges from this work of calling is not an attack on religion, but a look at it from the inside a timely attempt to push the limits of faith in order to see what lies beyond.
About the Author
and Jeff Sharlet
are the founding editors of the online literary magazine KillingTheBuddha.com, winner of the Utne Independent Press Award. They began working together at the National Yiddish Book Center, at which Peter designed exhibits and Jeff edited Pakn Treger
, an award-winning magazine of Jewish culture. Peter studied religion and literature at the University of Massachusetts and Boston University. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jeff has written about religion and culture for numerous publications, including Harper's Magazine, The Washington Post, The Baffler
, and Salon.com. He lives in Brooklyn
Table of Contents
MORTAL, EAT THIS SCROLL!
by Peter Manseau & Jeff Sharlet
THE BOOKS OF SCRIPTURE
by A. L. Kennedy, Francine Prose, Michael Lesy, lê thi diem thúy, April Reynolds, Peter Trachtenberg, Darcey Steinke, Charles Bowden, Melvin Jules Bukiet, Eileen Myles, Rick Moody, Randall Kenan, and Haven Kimmel
SONG OF SONGS
THE BOOK OF PSALMS
by Peter Manseau & Jeff Sharlet
New York, New York
Henderson, North Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Broward County, Florida107
An Orange Grove, Somewhere in Florida
Mount Vernon, Texas
East L.A., California
Unincorporated Territory, Oklahoma
Read an exclusive essay by Peter Manseau