The Greatest Story Never Told – How The World Might Be If The Bible Had Only Just Been Written
The Bible. Otherwise known as “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But what if that story had not been told yet? What if I, as a writer, had just finished penning that epic tale? That’s pretty fucking unlikely, I’ll grant you, but let’s just imagine for a moment.
Let’s imagine that I am about to have a meeting about it with my agent, Maurice. I don’t really have an agent called Maurice. It’s a bit of a stereotype, I know, but I’ve always fancied having a Jewish agent. In my mind, that would add an extra layer of legitimacy to the publishing process. And yes, I am aware that if The Bible had not yet been written I couldn’t possibly have a Jewish agent anyway, but this is my fantasy and if you don’t like it, you’d best bugger off now.
So, I’ve written this new book called “The Bible”. I have a meeting with Maurice- or “Maury” to his friends. Here’s how that meeting might pan out:
Maury : Come in Bubby, come in. Take a seat and we’ll have a chat about this new book of yours
Me(taking a seat) : “Cheers Maury. What do you think then?”
Maury : Well, it’s a bit long. Even Tolstoy would look at this thing and say “That’s a bit wordy, isn’t it?” It’s got more characters than War and Peace and that’s saying something.
Me : A story takes as long as it takes Maury. “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry but above all, make ‘em wait” as the saying goes.
Maury : There’s not a lot of laughs in it though, is there Bubby? And it’s got a weird title. “The Bible”. Does that even actually mean anything?
Me (looking a bit sheepish) : Erm….Bible just means “book” actually Maury.
Maury : So the your new book is called “The Book” is what you’re saying? Not the most imaginative title, is it? Still, nabbing a good title is often the hardest bit. I’m sure you’ll think of something better later on. Nick something from Shakespeare maybe. That’s what everyone else does.
Me : Anyway Maury, what do you think the main problems are then?
Maury : I think the main problem is with the villain of the piece. This erm..(looks at his notes)…this “God” character. Look, you’re the writer and I’m the agent. I don’t want to teach my grandmother to suck eggs. But I think you’ve forgotten the old writers’ adage “make your heroes flawed and your villains charming”. Not very charming is he?
Me : But he’s The Supreme Being, Maury. The Creator of The Universe. He’s the hero, not the villain
Maury : He’s the hero? Sorry, but that just doesn’t come across at all. And the fact that he’s The Supreme Being just makes him important. It doesn’t make him charming. Just look at some of the stuff he does…
(Maury looks at his notes again at this point)
Maury : He destroys a couple of cities just because their occupants are having way too much fun for his liking. He turns someone’s wife into a pillar of salt just because she turns around 180 degrees. He even drowns the entire world at one point. He’s a fucking charmless nutcase.
(Maury steeples his fingers and looks at the ceiling. This is never a good sign. I brace myself for what’s to come. Maury continues.)
Maury : I mean, look at what he does to that poor “Jobb” bastard. You lay that on a bit thick, don’t you? His kids die, his servants die. He gets afflicted with boils and he loses everything. It’s fucking horrible.
Me : It works ok in the end though. He gets back his wealth and his health and has another family. He’s grateful to God for that. And anyway, his name is pronounced “Jobe”, not “Jobb”.
Maury : Is it? Well, fucking spell it that way then. You can’t expect the reader to just know how it’s pronounced without any clues. And so what if it works out alright for Job in the end and he thanks God? That’s like being grateful to a bloke because he’s stopped punching you in the face. Makes no sense.
Plus, God only does all this because he’s being egged on by his best mate this…(looks at his notes again)…Satan bloke. Now he is charming. You should have made him the villain and relegated God to sidekick. That would have worked much better.
(I’m starting to sag a bit at this point. Can’t even be bothered to argue that Satan is not, in fact, God’s best mate. These conversations with Maury are never comfortable, but that’s what I pay him his money for. Reluctantly, I venture another question.)
Me : “Anything else then, while we’re at it? Might as well do this all in one go.
Maury : Now you mention it, there’s these “Commandments”. There’s a hell of a lot of them. I counted at least six hundred. And some of them are, quite frankly, deranged.”
Me: Most of them are just sensible health and hygiene rules for a desert tribe living a few thousand years ago. I mean, that’s what that bit of the story is about, after all.
Maury : Some of them are sensible. You’re not wrong there. “Don’t eat eagles”. Sound advice, that is. Very level headed. But the thing is, who the fuck would try to eat an eagle in the first place? And even if someone did, how would they catch it? Eagles have cruel talons and razor sharp beaks. They basically kill things for a living. At the very least, you’d probably lose an eye.
Me : What would you recommend then? The story demands that the wandering tribe has some rules.
Maury : Thin them down a bit. Well, a lot. Maybe do a “Top Ten”. People like “Top Tens”. Cut out the ones about food. I can understand the “Don’t eat eagles” thing. There’s idiots in every tribe, after all. But “Don’t eat prawns”? Prawns are fucking delicious. Why wouldn’t you want to eat prawns? And no bacon? C’mon, everybody loves bacon. Even vegetarians love bacon. They’re not allowed eat it, obviously, but they still love it. The humble bacon sandwich has cracked many a vegetarian’s resolve.
Me : Aren’t we getting bogged down in the details a bit here, Maury?
Maury : You’re right, Bubby, you’re right. Let’s get around to the second part of the book. The bit with Jesus in it.
(This made my spirits lift a bit. He didn’t have to look at his notes to remember the name “Jesus”)
Maury : Starts off great, this bit. Nice little fairy tale vibe. You do fast forward from him being thirteen to him being thirty three, though. Bit lazy, but nothing the final edit can’t sort out. And Jesus is a great hero. Talks sense. Heals people. Nice to his mum. Bit flawed too, which is good. I like the bit where he goes nuts in the Temple. Nice touch. As lengthy as this book is though, I noticed in your margin notes that you’re thinking of cutting a really good bit.
Me : Which bit is that then?
Maury : The bit where Jesus says “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone”. And then he pauses a bit and says “Mother! Put that rock down!”
Me : I felt it detracted from the tone of the scene
Maury : You should leave it in. It’s funny. If there’s one thing this book needs it’s the odd bit of comic relief.
Me : I’ll think about it.
Maury : The second part sags a bit in the middle too. It’s just some bloke writing letters to people. All very avant-garde, but it does nothing for the pace of the thing. Plus, I thought you jumped the shark when you made Jesus come back from the dead.
Me : That’s the most important event in the whole thing Maury
Maury : Well, like I say, I thought you’d jumped the shark at that point. Then I read the final chapter. I mean, what the holy living fuck was that?
Me : It’s a bit “experimental” Maury, I’ll admit that.
Maury : Experimental? It reads like it was written by Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch on a peyote retreat in the Mojave Desert.
Me : It’s not that bad.
Maury : C’mon Bubby. In the end, everybody comes back from the dead.
Me : Maybe I did get a bit carried away. I wanted a bit of a grand finale.
Maury : You might just about get away with it. All that Zombie shtick is still in at the moment and doesn’t look to be going out of fashion in a hurry.
Me : So, Maury. Are you going to hawk this thing around for me or what?
Maury : Well….Like I say, it’s way too long. You’d have to do a lot of trimming back. You’re not James Clavell.
Me : Ok. Bit of trimming required.
Maury : And you’re going to have to tone it down too. It’s packed to the gunwales with rape and incest and war and murder. I know we live in a post “50 Shades” world, but not everyone is a bloodthirsty pervert.”
Me : Fair enough. I don’t want it banned.
Maury : Oh, you want it to get banned eventually. It could be your retirement plan if it gets taken off the market and then re-published after a suitable interval.
Me : Any ideas who might publish it?
Maury : We’ll have to go with one of the independent’s to begin with. The major publishing houses wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.
Me : Great stuff Maury. I knew I could count on you.
Maury : We can but try, Bubby. It’s only a potboiler, after all. It’s not like anyone’s going to found a religion on it or anything.
Me : It’d be a crazy old word if any one did, Maury. A crazy, crazy old world.
(Exeunt stage left, followed by a bear. Probably)
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2016