State of the Arts
Illustration By Delia Robinson
Some say God is dead. But in Marc Estrin’s latest book, Tsim-Tsum, He’s alive and well and living in a ’96 Hyundai.
Thing is, the Lord is really upset with His creation, specifically mankind. His trusty Bose brings him news of bloodshed and brutality spanning the last millennium. So God — the narrator of this 135-page novella — decides to check out.
According to Kabbalah lore, creation could happen only after God performed a tsim-tsum, the Hebrew word for contraction, to give mortals some room. Estrin imagines God “contracting” a second time. He wants people to stop pestering Him with their whiny prayers and start becoming more godlike themselves. “I mean,” God asks, “if I’m all Good and maddeningly ubiquitous, where is there room for Goodness elsewhere?”
There’s nothing mystical or magical about this process. God eats Himself, starting with the tail. Estrin gives the Creator a body that’s very material indeed, and the results are thought provoking, grotesque and just plain funny. Take God’s response to someone who doesn’t recognize Kabbalah doctrine: “Even Madonna gets a better grade than you. No, not Madonna, the BVM ... the Madonna...”
Imagine God performing His own theodicy in the style of postmodern vaudeville and you’re starting to get the idea. To learn more about where Estrin gets his ideas, catch him at the upcoming Burlington Book Festival, where he discusses reworking great literature of the past at a panel called “Piggy-Back on the Shoulders of the Classics.”
The other panelists are Seth Steinzor, the South Burlington poet who recently updated Dante’s Inferno in To Join the Lost, and Deborah Noyes, author of Angel and Apostle, a 2005 novel that imagines the life of Hester Prynne’s daughter.
Newly founded, Burlington-based literary mag The Salon: A Journal of Poetry & Fiction is unveiling its second issue, featuring poetry by David Budbill and Greg Delanty. If you miss the release party — September 16 at Off Center for the Dramatic Arts — catch the journal’s editors at the BBF, where they’re hosting an all-day information center on Saturday. Reps from Marc Awodey’s minimal press and Jon Turner’s Seven Star Press will also be there.
All three local outfits have taken innovative — or deliberately low tech — approaches to publishing: The Salon is hand-printed on a letterpress. Seven Star books feature handmade paper and sometimes Combat Paper (made of recycled military uniforms). Awodey, once known to stock vending machines with poems, now uses print-on-demand. Stop by for spirited conversation about the future of books in the Kindle era...