It truly has been a "good" Friday for me.
I did two things that are just… awesome.
Firstly, I did not put on pants. I love it when I can sleep in, then walk around all day with just my jammies on [and by jammies, I mean underwear, basically] and get paid for it!
Secondly, I read an entire novel.
The Fire Gospel  by one of my favorite authors, Michel Faber. In a word? --> TERRIFIC!
Two? --> Redonculously good!
The last time I read an entire novel in one sitting was five years ago. Bernard Schlink's The Reader. Rarely am I so captivated by a book that I finish it hours from starting it.
The Fire Gospel is part of the Canongate "Myths" series, and I've read a few of the others. In this one, the myth of Prometheus is satirically treated. If you recall, Prometheus brought fire to humans in defiance of Zeus and was summarily punished by having his entrails plucked out by an eagle.
Here in Faber's book, Theo, a Canadian scholar on assignment in an Iraqi museum discovers hitherto unknown scrolls when a bomb explodes and a busted statue disgorges its inner contents. Surviving the blast, he stuffs these documents into his briefcase and smuggles them back to Canada. Theo is the world's leading expert in Aramaic and these scrolls are serendipitously written in that very language.
Turns out these scrolls contain eyewitness accounts of the last days of Jesus -- they indeed constitute a fifth gospel, and one written prior to the other four biblical ones.
In that sense, they carry a weight and authority that the others do not.
The author is Malchus, a servant to Caiaphas, the high priest who is said to have organized the plot to kill Jesus. This is almost crazy, but I actually gasped when I discovered that the author was Malchus -- just thinking of how valuable such a find would really be, in real life. This guy was present in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was betrayed by Judas [according to the Bible].
And the Bible says that one of Jesus' own disciples, in a fit of revenge, sliced off Malchus's ear with his sword. The biblical account has Jesus healing the amputation at the scene, restoring Malchus's ear to wholeness. However, in Malchus's own words, the wound was never really healed, per se, and his sliced ear sort of dangled from his neck the rest of his life, “like a woman's adornment.”
Malchus, present at the crucifixion, says that as Jesus is about to be affixed to the cross, he cries out and pulls his arms to his sides in fear, "in the manner of an infant tickled by its mother." The soldiers must place their knees directly on Jesus' arms as they pound in the spikes. Malchus says, "This was not cowardice. This is how the flesh behaves under such provocation."
Makes perfect sense to me, actually.
In Malchus's gospel, Jesus' last words are not "It is finished" but "Please, somebody, please somebody finish me." Again, seems pretty understandable to me.
He defecates and urinates all over, including directly on Malchus -- the new convert stays so close to Jesus as he dies. Birds pluck Jesus' eyes out.
All of this may seem downright sacrilegious for me to be even mentioning… especially as I am mentioning it on Good Friday, the very day that commemorates the death of Jesus on the cross. But The Fire Gospel, in its raison d'être, its construction, etc., is not at all about any sort of re-evaluation of what may have taken place on Good Friday. Not at all.
It's moreso about the emphasis we place on written accounts of anything, the reports of which, by the way, will contain varying degrees of accuracy and inaccuracy in the telling.
Theo's translation of the Malchus gospel becomes a smash success.
Millions of books are sold. And as Theo makes the rounds of the book tours, he is accosted by fanatics, offended at what he has unearthed. Undone by what he has done.
[Enter the Prometheus myth]… it is not long before some of these fanatics take it upon themselves to punish Theo, or at least undo the damage he has caused.
They do so, with their own brand of violence.
I don't want to give away too much of the action sequence of the latter stages of the story -- suffice it to say that I found it engaging enough to sit here, entirely pantsless, until the last page was read. And this is, as I said, rare for me.
What a terrific book. Faber has not failed me, ever.
Just the other day at work a co-worker of mine, a consummate Kidder-Arounder who shares a first name with an actual gospel-writer… he looked over at me and asked, "What exactly is Good Friday? Isn't that when Jesus was born?"
Again, not to be sacrilegious or anything, but this book has made me decry anew the level of [religious] ignorance at the root of many atrocities committed on behalf of "God"…. when ultimately, for most civilized people today, including Yours Truly, the real significance of religiously sponsored holidays is the fact that we do not have to go to work. We can stay home. In peace… at one with our undergarments.