only begotten daughter


'When Murray Jacob Katz was ten years old, he'd begun wondering whether he was permitted to believe in heaven, as were his various Christian friends. Jews believed so many impressive and dramatic things, it seemed only logical to regard death as less permanent than one might conclude from, say, coming across a stone-stiff cat in a Newark sewer. "Pop, do we have heaven?" he'd asked on the day he discovered the cat. "You want to know a Jew's idea of heaven?" his father had replied, looking up from his Maimonides. "It's an endless succession of long winter nights on which we get paid a fair wage to sit in a warm room and read all the books ever written." Phil Katz was an intense, shriveled man with a defective aorta; in a month his heart would seize up like an overburdened automobile engine. "Not just the famous ones, no, every book, the stuff nobody gets around to reading, forgotten plays, novels by people you never heard of. However, I profoundly doubt such a place exists."
Decades later, after Pop was dead and Murray's life had been relocated to Atlantic City, he began transforming his immediate environment, making it characteristic of heaven. The whole glorious span of Dewey's decimal system soon filled the lighthouse, book after book spiraling up the tower walls like threads of DNA, delivering intellectual matter to Murray's mammalian cortex and wondrous smells to the reptilian regions below—the gluey tang of a library discard, the crisp plebeian aroma of a yard-sale paperback, the pungent mustiness of a thrift-store encyclopedia. When the place became too crowded, Murray simply built an addition [...]'


Only Begotten Daughter
(Page 12-13)


'Good intentions, Julie learned, were among the more innocuous commodities paving the road to hell. The sea lanes threading the archipelago were dark sewery channels choked with dead tuna, while the islands themselves suggested humpback whales stitched together by Victor Frankenstein. The predictability of Wyvern's operation depressed her: one heard from earliest childhood that in hell the convicted dead receive atrocious punishments, and that was exactly what each island offered. Training her binoculars on a plateau, she saw over a dozen naked men chained Prometheuslike to huge rocks; crazed panthers ripped open their bellies, hauling their soppy intestines down slopes like kittens unraveling yarn. On the shores of the adjacent island, a long line of sinners stood buried up to their necks, their exposed heads resting atop the sand like beachballs; shell-crackers fixed in their claws, ravenous lobsters crawled out of the surf, breached the skulls, and, buttering the exposed brains, feasted. On other islands Julie beheld the damned drawn and quartered. Skinned alive. Broken on racks, impaled on stakes, drilled to pieces by hornets. And always the pain was infinite, always the victim wound find his mangled flesh restored and the torment beginning again. Contrary to Dante Alighieri's inspiration, hell's motto was not, ALL HOPE ABANDON, YE WHO ENTER IN but merely, SO WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?'

- (Page 169)


' "Babies are like kittens, Julie, they grow into something much more sinister." '

- (Page 258)


' "You really don't know what happened up there?" Julie dipped her ladle into the stream. "You don't know you became the center of Western civilization?"
"I did?"
"Uh-huh."
"You're kidding."
"There are Christians in every corner of the globe."
Jesus helped the goitrous man off the slab and escorted him out of the cave. "There are who?"
"Christians. The people who worship you. The ones who call you Christ."
"Worship me? Please . . ." Jesus scratched his forehead with his ladle. " 'Christ'—that's Greek, isn't it? An anointed one, a king. Next!"
"By 'Christ,' most people mean a savior. They mean God become flesh."
"Odd translation." As Jesus refilled his ladle, a woman entered whose hair was singed down to her scalp, giving her the appearance of a chemotherapy patient. "What else do Christics teach?"
"That, by following you, a person obtains remission from original sin. You don't know this?"
"Original sin? When did I ever talk about that?" Jesus wet the hairless woman. "Ethics was my big concern. Read the Bible." His birdish hands wove through the air, landing smoothly atop his King James version. "Original sin? Are you serious?"
"Your death atoned for Adam's guilt."
"Oh, come on," Jesus snickered. "That's paganism, Julie. You're talking Attis, Dionysus, Osiris—the sacrificial god whose suffering redeems his followers. Every town had one in those days. Where was Paul from?"
"Tarsus."
"I dropped by Tarsus once," said Jesus, leafing through the epistles. "The local god was Baal-Taraz, I believe." He pressed the open Bible against his chest like a poultice. "Good heavens, is that what I became? Another propitiation deity?"
"I hate to be the one telling you this." Julie ministered to the hairless woman.
"So the gentiles won the day? Is that why John's book talks about eternal life instead of the kingdom? Did Christicism become an eternal-life religion?"
"Accept Jesus as your personal redeemer." Julie corroborated, "and you'll be resuscitated after you die and taken up into the clouds."
"The clouds? No, 'Thy kingdom come on earth,' remember? And look at my parables, all those gritty metaphors—the kingdom is yeast, Julie, it's a mustard seed, a treasure in a field, a landowner hiring workers for his vineyard . . ."
"A pearl of great price," said the woman on the slab.
"Right. We're not talking clouds here." Jesus' beautiful hand soared, wrist holes singing. "I mean, how can you bring about utopia with one eye cocked on eternity?" His hands fell. "Oh, now I get it—that's how they accommodated my not returning, yes? They shifted the reunion to some netherworld."
"Evidently." Julie removed the bald sinner's shingle.
"What chutzpah."
"While we're at it," gasped the prisoner, "maybe you could settle a major controversy. Does the wafer turn into your flesh and bones?"
"Does the what do what?" said Jesus.
"The Eucharist," Julie explained. "The wafer becomes your body, the wine becomes your blood"—her voice trailed off: how, exactly, would he feel about the next step?—"and then, well . . ."
"And then?"
"And then we eat you," said the bald woman.
"You what?" said Jesus.
"Eat you."
"That's disgusting."
"No, the whole thing has a real, mysterious poetry," the bald woman hastened to add. "Through the Eucharist, we partake of your life and substance. Go to Mass sometime. You'll see."
"I think I'll pass on that one," said God's son. "Next!" '

- (Page 184-186)


Sorry, i couldn't choose.


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