i am not a particularly religious person but I am comforted and inspired by certain rituals, particularly the observance of seasons and holidays. As a one-time New Orleanian, my favorite season is naturally the carnival season, a season of decadence and abandon that reaches a climax on Mardi Gras day. I also practice Lent—the season of abstinence and reflection that balances the hedonism of carnival. For me, observing Lent has been a way to experience and experiment with various forms of asceticism. One year I eschewed the wearing of make-up; another time I abandoned the use of cutlery and ate with my hands for six weeks—I was single then; needless to say, I didn’t have many dinner dates.
This year I instituted a new Lenten tradition: to re-read one of my favorite novels, Franco Ferrucci’s The Life of God (as Told by Himself), which I discovered for the first time last spring. I mention it here because it can be appreciated by anyone, from snake-handlers to steadfast atheists. The book reads like God’s memoirs, and as someone who is fascinated by human notions about and experiences of the divine, I found Ferrucci’s take refreshingly original. Part satire, part poetics, and part romance, the book recounts God’s youthful struggle to understand himself and the universe he unwittingly creates.
Ferrucci’s God is the original artist, a being possessed of such creative power that his every whim is concretely manifested. The stars, for example, are explained as the product of an emotional outburst. Ferrucci’s God has the tempestuous nature characteristic of artists and is, at turns, self-absorbed, inspired, philosophical, and despairing. “Creation,” he tells us, “was a superabundance of hypotheses.” And yet, Ferrucci’s God also attempts suicide following a severe bout of something like writer’s block.
Ferrucci’s God is also an innocent, and the book is as much a chronicle of God’s quest for self-understanding as it is a humorous account of miscommunications and experiments gone awry. Winter, he concedes, was a “half-baked idea.” His early days are spent exploring the parameters of his power—and there are parameters. For instance, Ferrucci’s God cannot unmake any of his creations. Once realized, the creations take on lives of their own, developing in ways that dismay or delight their creator. For instance, the evolution of Man takes place while God’s attention is elsewhere, preoccupied, but it is in humankind that God at last finds the companionship for which he has longed. God’s so-called “adult” years are spent rubbing elbows with the Who’s Who of human history, including Heraclitus, Einstein, Satan, Christopher Columbus, Mozart, and, of course, a prostitute named Mary with whom he has a one-night stand and the son dubiously attributed to this union, Jesus.
Ferrucci’s subtle humor and clever reconception of God would be enough to make this book worth revisiting each year, but as a writer I’m particularly fascinated by the book’s description of the creative process—both the disappointment and the exaltation. According to the laws of Ferrucci’s universe, all works of art contain a kernel of the genius that inspired them and as such are able to infect others with creative energy. This premise holds true, proves true, not only within the novel but of it as well.
—E. D. Watson