Heaven Can’t Wait

I Am God

by Giacomo Sartori, translated from the Italian by Frederika Randall
Restless, 206 pp., $17.99 (paper)
God 6, 106 x 72 inches, 2013 by Dana Schutz
Dana Schutz/Petzel, New York
Dana Schutz: God 6, 106 x 72 inches, 2013. For more on Schutz’s work, see Sanford Schwartz’s essay in this issue.

I Am God is an almost outrageously charming book. In the first of his seven novels to be published in English, Giacomo Sartori takes a simple, playful premise and sets the universe crazily spinning. The Italian writer has conjured up a delicious, comical stream of omniconsciousness: a pensive diary by the original omniscient narrator, God. Sartori’s God, a being of authentic complexity and paradoxical humanity, of both otherworldly dignity and satirical absurdity, is an irresistible character. He is also in love.

Imagine how disconcerting this is for God. “The probability that my eye should come to rest on that particular girl is far less than the chances that a particular grain of sand should twice end up in the hair of the same camel-driver,” he marvels. He starts the day being God, innocently minding his own godly business with unruffled calm and expertise:

God is not the sleepy old fart that many believers imagine—let’s get that straight. He likes to keep up with what’s going on in the cosmos, he intervenes when he needs to, although intervention doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a giant tantrum or staging a Biblical-scale massacre. There are also moments (and these can go on for several million years) during which he just loafs around in his (as it were) slippers.

He is enjoying himself; he likes to “putter around” the galaxies. “Like a tourist, I have no precise objective, like a tourist my frame of mind is receptive and benevolent, I’m unstressed, I like to compare, digress.” Then, randomly—out of the blue, you might say—God, one who ought to smite, is instead smitten. “My eyes (if you know what I mean) fall on a…tall girl with two purple pigtails who at every opportunity is shoving her arm up a cow’s ass.” The object of these newly aroused feelings is a punky atheist geneticist making extra money by artificially inseminating cows with bull semen. God is not supposed to have feelings for her. He’s not supposed to have feelings for anyone. He’s not supposed to have feelings at all. Feelings are “the egotistical charms” in which the bipeds indulge, yet he, God, finds them clinging to him now, “corroding my divine aplomb like sly woodworms.”

The young woman who has inspired these feelings is named Daphne, though God does not mention her name for a hundred pages or so. For most of the book, he refers to the girl of his heart in epithets Homer never quite got around to chanting: “the big beanpole in farmworker’s overalls,” the “bespectacled beanpole,” the “giantessa,” “the lofty biker,” “the lanky unbeliever,” the “neo-Mendelian cow-sodomatrix,” and, my favorite, “Rosa Luxemburg of the purple…

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