Thursday, October 10, 2013

My fifteen minutes

I was live on a nationally syndicated radio show today! The show is out of Boston, so I had to go to a radio studio in the Flatiron, and was pretty much alone with my mike and my notes. (A kind technician brought me a cup of lemon ginger tea, and indulged my request for a photo!)
The experience was a little strange. The host was busy (mine was the second half of his program) so all my communication had been with an assistant; a second assistant greeted me when we were about to go live. I had assumed there would be a brief hello from the host before the program, but no - we dove right in, live, without so much as a how-do-you-do. I probably was like the sound equivalent of a deer in the headlights, at least for the first segment... It didn't flow. This isn't going well, I thought.

But once I settled into it, after a brilliantly apposite sound clip from the Police's "Wrapped around your finger," it was fun! I'd started out a little cross because it seemed we weren't going to talk about my book, but about the Book of Job itself, and "the modern age." Here's the opener:

[Host:] The Book of Job is a brutal corner of the Bible.  A good man, Job, thrown arbitrarily, suddenly, into a life of absolute agony.  Stripped of his wealth.  His children killed.  Plagued and hounded and showered with misery.  His only consolation sounds like none: “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Deal with it.  The Book of Job is so harsh.  It’s about unrelieved injustice and the suffering of innocent humans.  About grief and rage and the human condition.  And maybe about wisdom that goes right beyond the Bible.  Up next On Point:  The Book of Job, and life right now.

I thought I'd insulated myself from all such questions by writing about other people's (indeed people in the past's) takes on the book - how naive! I've had my head in books about books too long: these aren't just academic or historical question for most folks (my line when it's just professors talking...!). So I had to speak, at least some of the time, in my own voice! It was a learning experience. I'm that E. M. Forster character who doesn't know what she thinks till she hears what she says.

The author of The Book of Job: A Biography apparently buys Bruce Zuckerman's theory of Job as a parody the authorities coopted since they couldn't suppress it, as well as David Cline's speculation that the story is the nightmare of a rich person, and thinks that the wager is the most awful part of the Book of Job, that God ignores human concerns in his speeches, that Job seems to be the moral winner over God... but also that the Book of Job empowers those whose worlds have collapsed around them, has been a comfort to the disenfranchised, describes what true patience looks like in a world like ours, presents a grand God, and affirms the reality - as no human source perhaps can - of truly innocent suffering. Oh, and a faltering theist outted himself by using (however inconsistently) the word "Godself" to avoid the masculine pronoun!
By the second half, when a somewhat formulaic second guest was brought in, I think I was getting the hang of it. But it's definitely a good thing I didn't do any research on the program, which I know I've heard referred to, before the broadcast. It's syndicated to over two hundred NPR stations across the land! Yoicks. Much better to think it was just me and the cup of tea on the phone with some folks in Massachusetts...

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