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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mailer on God

Posted by Bill Benzon on 10/10/07 at 05:17 PM

In New York Magazine, an interview with Norman Mailer, 84, concerning his new book, On God. He begins:

Much of the world’s present-day cosmology is based on such works of revelation as the Old and New Testament, or the Koran, but for me, revelation is itself the question mark—not God’s word, but ours. I confess that I have no attachment to organized religion. I see God, rather, as a Creator, as the greatest artist. I see human beings as His most developed artworks. I also see animals as His artworks. When I think of evolution, what stands out most is the drama that went on in God as an artist. Successes were also marred by failures. I think of all the errors He made in evolution as well as of the successes. In marine life, for example, some fish have hideous eyes—they protrude from the head in tubes many inches long. Think of all those animals of the past with their peculiar ugliness, their misshapen bodies, worm life, frog life, vermin life, that myriad of insects—so many unsuccessful experiments.

Later on, concerning Intelligent Design:

Novelists can’t afford to be ideologically bound, even if, in practice, we are. Let me admit that I come to the question of Intelligent Design with, once again, no great cognizance of the subject. My feeling is that God strives to find a better, more well-adapted creation than His latest design. Remember that the dinosaurs, at one point, may have been a large part of God’s plan. He had dared to create this immense animal who might be able to rule the jungles, the mountains, and the plains. Then, He came to discover that He had misdesigned it. Back to the drawing board. God, like us, makes mistakes. I must say that if Intelligent Design is being welcomed by Fundamentalists, they are asking for considerable trouble in the future.

And the plastic Devil:

Let’s start with the Devil’s point of view—the word “evil” is not even present for him. My guess is that the Devil sees God as incompetent. I propose that the Devil’s belief is that He or She could end up with a better world, a better form of existence, a more sophisticated, more intelligent, well-run notion of things. I’m guessing technology is an arm of the Devil. Plastic is a perfect weapon in the Devil’s armory, for it desensitizes human beings. Living in and with plastic, we are subtly sickened. And the Devil looks to destroy God’s hope in us. Still, technology could be a third force, ready to destroy both God and the Devil—man’s assertion against God and the Devil.

In conclusion:

The point is that the purpose of life may be to find higher and better questions. Why? Because what I believe—this is wholly speculative but important to me—is that we are here as God’s work, here to influence His future as well as ours.


Lifelong trend-follower.

By John Emerson on 10/11/07 at 01:03 AM | Permanent link to this comment


Think he’ll challenge Dawkins and Dennet to a duel: “You would deny me?"

By Bill Benzon on 10/11/07 at 04:53 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Next: Rowan Williams on particle physics!

By Conrad H. Roth on 10/11/07 at 05:34 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Let’s start with the Devil’s point of view—the word “evil” is not even present for him. My guess is that the Devil sees God as incompetent”

Aw yeah that ol’ “Monotheistic paradoxical Rag.” Norm needs to review the cliffnotes to Ivan Karamazov again, or is it Candide..............

By Nekropolitan on 10/11/07 at 02:39 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Well, yah know, Mr. Nekropolitan (aka Anonymous 9999999yahoo), the interesting thing is that this book exists at all. Either Mailer is deep into narcissistic megalomaniacal senility or the old dog is up to something sly and sneaky. I don’t know which, but I’d bet it’s as good a read a Dawkins or Dennett. And may well have deeper insight into human nature, if not into The Big Guy Himself.

By Bill Benzon on 10/11/07 at 02:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I must say that if Intelligent Design is being welcomed by Fundamentalists, they are asking for considerable trouble in the future.""”

That point has been raised by numerous skeptics and Darwinists, hasn’t it?  Were Behe’s argument from Design to actually have some real force, Gott the Designer knowingly designs plagues, tidal waves, sharks, Hitler, Stalin, even Levi Ashers.  No loving omniscient Being would do such things, would He?  (we agree it’s interesting writing, though Norm. sounds nearly Fabian-like: the Dawkins/Dennett/Behe stuff all fairly mundane to anyone who ever spent a few weeks even with the popular writings of the fiendish.....Bertrand Russell. Norm of course could have knocked that imp the F. out)

By Nekropolitan on 10/11/07 at 03:08 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’t know Mr. Mailer or his works. But it is nice to see he had or is having his conversation with God the way he (Mailer) sees him (God) in his twilight years.  I read the article in the New York Magazine, and was struck by His creator as being a great artist.. I personally thought my creator was an illusionist.. (No matter)However, the reincarnation of souls is profound. I don’t believe in reincarnation. so I found this to be very interesting concept, And Mailer gives great detail to it.
The Devil, I think, Mailer’s right on the money here. Technology with combination of such.. desensitizes human beings.
The fighting for souls. I like the reference made which I can’t quote exactly, about the battle between God and Devil in the human heart (soul) to which neither God or the devil hold true ownership.  The dinosaurs, interesting.. Was that before Noah or after??  Any ways, It was an interesting piece. I won’t how ever buy the book.  I wouldn’t want someone else conversations with God intrude on my own conversation with God. One can get a lot of heat for doing so..
So I commend Mr Mailer for doing so .

By on 10/11/07 at 04:04 PM | Permanent link to this comment

That’s the spirit Nekro! Geezermania, sponsored by WWPF (World Wide Philosophical Federation), Live at the Garden!

By Bill Benzon on 10/11/07 at 04:08 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Justanother: Mailer is known mainly as a novelist. I’ve read two of them, The Naked and the Dead (a WWII novel that brought him to fame), and An American Dream. Don’t really remember either specifically, except I do think they were good reads. I don’t have any very specific memories of Armies of the Night either, which is a journalistic account of around and about a 1967 anti-war march on the Pentagon. I remember that book as being terrific.

By Bill Benzon on 10/11/07 at 05:12 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The early Mailer of the Deer Park--or the near-marxist writing of Armies of the Night--rarely sounded so speculative, or quasi-theological, Ezekiel-like as this: he was more or less naturalist ala Hemingway with a few beatnik- existentialist hints. Probably some Temple boys got to the aged prize-fightah (--if Gott’s dead, so is JHVH, raht). Or Mailer’s sort of cashing in on the “Whither Jehovah?” craze.  He now seems nearly....booj-wah.  How about Zizek/Mailer bout? Money’s on Zizek with quick “object petit a” to the jaw..........

By Nekropolitan on 10/11/07 at 06:06 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I turned against Mailer very early, partly because of his stupid sexual politics and partly because of “Armies of the Night”.

I have a decades-long aversion to sexual politics of any kind, and it started with Mailer, the left Freudians, the Reichians, etc. I remember his philosophical ruminations about virility, oral sex, domination, and masturbation better than I wish. I have carried this into the present, just replacing the players as the sexuality-of-the-month changes. (Call me a Puritan, I don’t care.)

As for “Armies of the Night”, it was pretty clear that he didn’t like the scene much, but it was Happening, so he had to be there. When he wrote a book about it, it was a book about Mailer—specifically, about Mailer pissing on his feet while drunk. He didn’t have the guts to do a Tom Wolfe and actually move to the right, so he dinked around.

By John Emerson on 10/12/07 at 09:10 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Mailer’s always been an egotist and sort of PT Barnum of la gauche. The ‘Nam bombings were roaring, millions dead, protests, etc. and Mailer writes about the vagina and anus of his favorite groupie, sells 100s of thousands (that was in Armies of the Night wasn’t it?  Or one of those 60’s Mailer- manifestos no one bothers to read anymore).  Indeed, if anyone recalls, Rabbi Mailer went into some detail regarding the God, of, er, Cunt as it were, and the Devil of Ass.  So here’s he’s simply developing the theme.

By Nekropolitan on 10/13/07 at 10:34 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmmm. God as Artist (Creator). That’s new. And ... Normal Mailer is an Artist (Writer). Nice to see he’s got off the megalomania kick.

I stayed on the boat until Ancient Evenings, which I threw across the room in disgust.

By on 10/14/07 at 05:28 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I love how he goes on this whole ‘God as artist’ kick, talking about successes and failures, then it turns out that the failures aren’t evolutionary dead ends but just the animals that Mailer considers funny-looking.

By on 10/15/07 at 02:12 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Leon Wieseltier on Mailer’s book:

”And I remember one night, wandering around Brooklyn through some semi-slums ... not even knowing what I was looking for, but going out, drinking in a bar, sizing up the bar, looking ... in those days you actually would go to a bar and look for a woman. ... Anyway, I found no woman. I went into an all-night diner--because I realized I was hungry, not only drunk but hungry--and ordered a doughnut and coffee, finished it. Then a voice spoke to me. I think it’s one of the very few times I felt God was speaking to me. ... This voice spoke to me and said: ‘Leave without paying’. It was a minor sum--twenty-five cents for coffee and a doughnut in those days. ... I said: ‘I can’t do it.’ And the voice--it was most amused--said, ‘Go ahead and do it,’ quietly, firmly, laughing at me. So I got up, slipped out of the restaurant, and didn’t pay the quarter.” This is perhaps the silliest passage I have ever read in the literature of spiritual autobiography, which is a literature of considerable silliness. Its author, the man to whom the Lord spoke from out of the doughnut, who found redemption through sin at Chock full o’Nuts, is Norman Mailer, who recalls it in his primitive new book, On God: An Uncommon Conversation. Chock full of nuts, indeed.


By Bill Benzon on 11/02/07 at 08:52 AM | Permanent link to this comment

This afternoon I bought Mailer’s “On God” for $2.00 off the clearance rack at a local used bookstore knowing almost nothing about Mailer, but being willing to give him the doubt that at the ripe old age of 80-something he might actually know a thing or two about God.

Boy was I mistaken.  Mailer may have written fiction deemed worthy of the Pulitzer Prize (really?  I find it hard to believe) but the man was an IDIOT with respect to larger issues of life.  I was laughing my A_S off by the middle of chapter two, but only because I found it hilarious that someone so stupid could take himself so seriously.

On a sober note, what does it say about America that this book (a/k/a waste-of-paper) was even PUBLISHED?

By Diane Stranz on 06/08/10 at 11:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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