October 31, 2013
(++++) HOLY WHATEVER
There Is a God! 1,001 Heartwarming (and Hilarious) Reasons to Believe. By Richard Smith and Maureen McElheron. Tarcher/Penguin. $14.95.
Here’s a shamelessly exploitative book filled with tiny snippets of amusement and loads of white space – a pamphlet disguised as a $15 paperback. And darned if it isn’t worth it. Richard Smith and Maureen McElheron simply throw together 1,001very, very short comments on things that make life wonderful, sometimes for a moment and sometimes forever (or at least for a very long time). Then they toss in 46 “miracles” (of modern life, that is), stir briskly, and lo, the result is a book in which the juxtapositions are as delightful as the individual items – sometimes more so.
Here you will find the occasional touch of depth, such as #898: “Your unshakable faith in your faith.” And the more-frequent touch of the risqué and/or trendy, such as #854, which is both: “Trading sex for Invisaligns.” The somewhat thoughtful, such as #566: “The mystery of genius.” The one-worders, such as #820: “Bach.” The faint whispers of illegality, such as #915: “Disney World on Ecstasy.” The touches of absurdity, such as #673: “Finding a little lost penguin while cleaning out your freezer.” The touches of everyday wonder, such as #643: “Your little girl’s eyes when she shakes a snow globe.” The items you have to think about for a moment, such as #766: “Your sweetheart left her husband and needs a place to stay.” Or #754, “God-fearing atheists.” And the items requiring no thought at all, such as #450: “Make-up sex.”
And then there are the “miracles.” No. 13: “Claiming your tree house as a home office is cool with the IRS.” No. 19: “Ikea’s furniture now assembles itself.” No. 37: “An okay from your doc to start smoking until you get over her.” Yes, that last one is weird, and so are a lot of the items here, but because there are so many comments on so many topics with so many degrees of wryness, it’s just fine to skip over something you don’t like (or just don’t get) and move quickly on.
In fact, moving quickly on is a big part of the point here, to the extent that there is any point at all other than pure enjoyment. For it is only by zipping from item to item that you get the full flavor of the juxtapositions that bring so much fun to There Is a God! For example, here are items 79 through 83: “He didn’t feel threatened when you asked for a key.” “The club car.” “The tapas at that little place in Barcelona.” “Singin’ in the Rain gets better each time you see it.” “A morning-after pill that alleviates serious hangovers.” And here are numbers 516 through 520: “You find a warm waffle tucked into your JetBlue seat-back pocket.” “Freckles are back in style.” “Air-conditioning.” “You unclogged the sink yourself.” “They didn’t check your references.”
It helps not to think too much about the snippets that don’t bear thinking about – that waffle on the airplane, for example – and in fact this is not much of a book about thinking at all. It’s a book that goes straight for the emotions, wiggling in by way of the funnybone to implant occasional bits of seriousness here and there. It is certainly no confirmation of any deity, and is not intended to be; but as a compendium of the little things that make life better than it would be without them, it is decidedly reassuring.