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Mini-Pile #1 “Me of Little Faith” by Lewis Black

7 Jan

Most books I like to read and ponder over..some just leave a bad taste in my mouth, and some I am more or less indifferent to. The sad thing is that most of the “indifferent” books out there rarely, if ever, get exposure, and that is a shame, because the author (usually) invest a great deal of time, effort, resources, and energy to write. And I feel bad for authors that never receive attention. My intention with Piles and Philes is to review what I have read, no matter my reaction to it (good, bad, ugly, indifferent).  So I am introducing a new type of entry the “Mini Piles”

Me of little faith / Lewis Black ; edited by  Hank Gallo.  New York: Riverhead Books. 2008.  237 p.

original review can be found here “Me of Little Faith” http://www.amazon.com/review/R71BKI94QR89Y/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

I’m not familiar with Lewis Black. But I found this book in the “Recent Nonfiction” section of my local library more than a few month’s ago (more like a couple years ago at this point), and picked it up, thinking at the time that it would provide insight into how and why a person could loose their faith. Boy was I wrong.

Me of Little Sensitivity

This is a work of satire and comedy that that directs itself to religious faith and practice, and written in a semi-autobiographical vein. In this book he takes on organized religion by poking fun at it, which all good satire does. At the same time, though, he also shows his political bias. It is not a book I would read again. Nor would I read his previous or subsequent books.  Don’t get me wrong -I laughed all the way through it; but like with Bill Mahler, he comes across the wrong way – a way that says he believes what he says in a comic mode should be accepted seriously. I take more than slight offense at the seriousness with which he takes his potshots, because underneath the satire I read his real anger, dislike (call it what you will) toward other subjects, especially [now former-] President George W. Bush. (I only wonder has he done the same concerning President Barack Obama or political and cultural figures on the liberal side of the socio-political spectrum?)

Who is Lewis Black?

Black is a playwright, comedian and entertainer. He speaks and writes from a Reform Jewish cultural background, though he himself is not a practicing Jew. He thus takes on the persona of an outsider criticizing religious practice, yet he is not a sympathetic critic. In his sarcastic, comic way he pokes fun at the notion of absolutes, justifying it by the following appeal: “Because what’s true for you may not be true for the guy standing next to you” (p35) The problem of course,  is that with this philosophy as a guiding light you then have no basis for saying that the guy standing next to you who happens to be a skinhead Neo-Nazi  who believes that Jews are parasites on the body politic and deserve what happened to them in Germany of the 1930’s and 40’s is wrong to hold such beliefs. Of course I could be trying to read too much into a work of humour, but the best humour is built on an element of truth and sympathy, and I don’t find much of either in the background of Black’s writing, at least not in conjunction with each other.

To fall,  perchance to trip

Even though the stated purpose of Me of Little Faith is the application of humor, sarcasm and satire to religion, the work as a whole lacks unity. There is a thin thread of personal narrative, but mostly the chapters read like little vignettes, having little connection to each other, apart from their being a take on religion and public life.  Moreover. His satire is destructive rather than constructive. He seeks only to belittle. That is not the mark of a great book.  Rather, it is an example of what Conrad Hyers in And God Created Laughter: the Bible as Divine Comedy called “fallen humor”, a completely destructive form of discourse.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call his work ‘mean-spirited’ but it comes awfully close. And I would definitely not read anything else Mr. Black chooses to write. His words are too toxic for my peace of mind.

The second Mini-Pile will be Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy by Peter Schweizer, so until then, keep reading my friends!