Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review of “Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir” by Susan Isaacs

When I was a junior in High School, my drama teacher wanted to put on Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. The play would have been quite a stretch for us. The show can be a stretch for anyone, Miller was said to have not been pleased with the original Broadway production (though it was the Tony for Best Drama.) It’s a moving show. I remember reading retelling of the Salem witch trials in the bath tub and crying at about the tortured fate of John Proctor. But just as Miller had intended the play to be an allegory about McCarthyism, my teacher intended the play to be a statement about the Briggs Initiative, a piece of legislation that sought to keep homosexuals from teaching in the public schools. It bothered me that a school production was being used for political ends. I was uncomfortable with what the play itself was saying about the church and Christianity. So I decided I just couldn’t do it. I went to talk to my drama teacher and tell him I wouldn’t be trying out. He reminded me that there weren’t many guys available and that if I didn’t audition, the show might not go on. He also indicated he was thinking of using me in the lead role, as John Proctor. But I said no, and he didn’t do the show................ If I had it to do all over again….hmmmm. John Proctor is a great role, and given the opportunity, I would probably leap at doing it now (though I’m probably too old.) The play is critical of the church, but much of the criticism is valid. And if the Briggs Initiative was on the ballot now, I’d vote against it. But at the time…. I did what I thought God would have me do. My faith and understanding may have been limited, but I did what I believed right at the time. And you learn to live with your choices................... A long time talking about me to bring up a moment in Isaacs’ memoir; she was offered a role in Barry Sonnenfeld’s film version of “The Addams Family”. But she refused the role because she was afraid that the film would be too dark and perhaps mock the Christian faith. This decision ended a key relationship she had with a casting director and had a devastating impact on her career. She made a decision for God, and as she saw it, God didn’t bless her for it. So she was mad................... In fact, when Isaacs reached her forties, she looked at her life; her career (such as it was), her romantic life (which was not) and her sense of fulfillment (not full) and decided that God had some explaining to do. In the book, Isaacs looks back through her whole life and asks God to explain to her why she hasn’t been given the deal she thinks she deserves. I suppose she could have laid out this book in the form of lawyers arguing in a court case. She could have put it in the form of doctors seeking the diagnosis of a difficult case. I suppose as a screenwriter and actor, she could have examined her life in the form of a difficult script with structure difficulties........................... But she takes a different approach. The book is written in the form of a couple seeking marital consulting. Isaacs writes about herself as a wife who just isn’t getting what she thinks she should be getting out of her marriage…to God. Being past middle age (unless I break the century mark), I certainly related to much of Isaacs’ dissatisfaction with life. Many of us get to a point in our life when we realize that many of our dreams of youth haven’t been fulfilled and are unlikely to be fulfilled. We look back at choices made, at what could have been and think, “Was it my fault? Or was it your fault God?”.............................. I know many (Most? All?) of my complaints about life are petty, especially when compared with your average persecuted citizen of the African subcontinent (a comparison the author often returns to.) But they are my problems and I can’t help aching from them, feeling them. First world problems is the phrase (“White girl’s problems” Isaacs writes), but that doesn’t mean they are real to first worlders (and white girls.) Sure, Job had it worse. But since I’m not Job, does that mean God won’t hear my complaints?.............................. Isaacs is sarcastic when talking to God. Sometimes, God talks back sarcastically. Isaacs argues that sometimes sarcasm is a valid method of communication. Isaacs book is more than just valid. It is vivid, rich and real. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

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