August 20, 2009
Mary Doria Russell —
The Novelist as God

Our guest has grappled with large moral and religious questions on and off the page. We discover what she discerned -- in the act of creating a new universe -- about God and about dilemmas of evil, doubt, and free will. The ultimate moral of any life and any event, she believes, only shows itself across generations. And so the novelist, like God, she says, paints with the brush of time.

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is a retired paleoanthropologist and the author of four novels, including The Sparrow and Children of God.

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We probed a bit deeper into the musical affections of a "well-ordered" novelist — tastes that include Beethoven, Chopin, and Puccini but also Van Halen and Def Leppard. A light-hearted fiesta of conversation and sound.

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Giancarlo Neri's public sculpture "The Writer" on Hampstead Heath, London.

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Free will is an act of perpetual slavery, creating new universes of science fiction, literature, epic fantasies, with all multidimensional characters, many of them humans, with their flawed, believable actions, hidden secrets, . . . , without knowing there is a welcome sense of new beginnings in reality waiting to be unveiled for us.

The ultimate ethical moral in our becoming extinct human race is God's verb: the word of God. And we all know in one or another way, one faith or another belief, believe it or not, the last page of the book of revelation had already been written. The rest is just entertainment while the physical evolution is over.

Your best show yet--Novelist as God. I don't believe in God--I know he is. Hopefully he is in recovery.

Hi, I just read the commentary about the author of these two books and the books themselves, The Sparrow, and The Children of God.
I am intrigued and plan to purchase or get these books from the library.

It was interesting to read this, because I see God as the master storyteller, meaning I see that all books have one signature, and that we are channeling the Divine in our creative acts. It is as if the sieve of our individuality is the filter that provides the unique perspective or spin we all give to these stories, these novels, and even works of non fiction.

I know that religious rabbis, do speak of God's knowing everything, meaning all that we do and the outcome of all acts. For me, this does have an element of determinism embedded and yet, we do act as if we have free will and cherish this freedom. Maybe in a cosmic way, free will is an illusion and there is an answer to this conundrum.

But yes, I see what we do creatively as mirroring creation itself, in metaphor, and surely all good stories, as our lives, do depend on transformative elements and the characters learn through story as we do learn through life, so there are these deep mirrors.

If God wrote the entire story, and there is some deep religious/spiritual feeling this is true, then God wrote a story that has within, for us all, a deep learning curve. I would say for us all, as we converse and dialogue and experience, this thing we call life, this very give and take, is part and parcel of a cosmic dance.

I missed that program in January, heard it re-broadcast in August. I was surprised that Ms Tippet failed to ask Ms Russell about Dorothy Sayres, THE MIND OF THE MAKER. In that essay, Sayres, herself an author of several works of fiction, compares artistic creation with God's creation. Sayres' discussion is quite illuminating; if Ms Tippet is still unfamiliar with it, I suggest she'd find it useful. Sayres develops her analogy to show a "trinity" in the creation of, for example, a play. God the Father is like the concept of the play within the author's mind; God the Son is like the production of the play on an actual stage; God the Spirit is like the audience's communication with the author's mind as the audience watches the play acted out and absorbs its meaning.

This interview had me so captivated that I immediately went out and bought the "The Sparrow." This book gave voice to my own inner struggles with God and the question of theodicy. The line in the book "yes, but the sparrow still falls" brought me to tears and still haunts me to this day. Thank you for this wonderful interview and the new dimension of reflection it revealed.