A highly unorthodox interfaith dialogue focuses on a new Messiah.
The latest from Spevakow (Off Track, 2009) takes the form of a protracted, multipart dialogue springing up over the biggest news in the world: the appearance of a new Messiah, right in present-day New York City—even though that luminary is his own doubting Thomas. The unfortunate person involved is Jesus Christian Schwartz, the 40-year-old founder of the public relations firm of Schwartz, Sushi, and Whitefish. As the story opens, he’s recently been going through a rough time in his life. He would lay the blame on his girlfriend, Cynthia Carp, who’s been pressuring him for marriage and a family, but the real culprit might be even more unsettling than a demanding lover. Jesus has recently begun hearing the voice of God in his head even though he’s sure the deity doesn’t exist. Clients have begun noticing his angry retorts to this mysterious voice; they are afraid it’ll start to hurt the business. Jesus’ own fears begin to run a little deeper as he accedes to his friends’ demands to see a psychiatrist, a man named Judas Karius. Judas quickly becomes convinced that Jesus is the divine lord he’s been awaiting all these years (“Sorry I screwed up last time,” he tells Jesus, in one of this short book’s many deadpan zingers). Joining the spirited discussion—which the author renders entirely in dialogue—is God. The deity’s not only disarmingly frank, but he also outlines a centuries-old plan by which humanity is aided by a series of “Avatars” possessing supernatural powers—of whom Jesus is only the latest. Spevakow’s narrative playfulness is often very captivating as he has his characters explore all the spiritual ramifications of the Messiah’s new mission, even though Jesus insists that his first message to the waiting world “will definitely not be religious.” While enough of the text is self-consciously precious that it will likely bother many readers, the author’s wit and sincere tone of inquiry win out in the end.
An inventive and ultimately thought-provoking discussion about a modern Avatar of God and the accidental craze he spawns.