Q&A with micah edwards,
author of okay, so look:
a Humorous retelling of the book of genesis
Maybe God just did it in as complex a manner as possible so that he'd remember what he made; after all, he made a couple of people the easy way in the first chapter of genesis, and completely forgot about them. The rib trick could just have been God's way of making it memorable this time.
Chances are, you know someone who references the Bible as their spiritual guide. But have they actually read it? For many people, the answer is no, because the Bible really isn't that much of a page turner. In steps author and comedian Micah Edwards to help us get to know the material a bit better. Here, Edwards (who, it should be noted in the interest of transparency, is my brother-in-law) talks about his goals in writing this book, how people react to a humorous retelling of a sacred text, and why ancient scribes should have invested in an abacus or two.
Victoria Fullard: As someone who has more than once said about religion, “If Andrew Lloyd Webber didn’t include it in Jesus Christ Superstar, I don’t know it,” I learned quite a lot from Okay, So Look. I also laughed out loud multiple times (“Ecame, Esau, Econquered”). Was being educational or entertaining paramount as you wrote this?
Micah Edwards: Being entertaining, definitely. When the source material is funny and interesting, there's no need to try to educate; it will stick with people automatically. I've got a half-dozen friends who can recite the entirety of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but I couldn't tell you a single person who could accurately quote more than a single statistic from An Inconvenient Truth.
For me, obviously, the Bible has always been very interesting, and my goal here was to make that true for other people, too. Humor's a way to make things more accessible. If you can laugh at something, then it can't be intimidating.
VF: Tackling religion always invites controversy: what are some of the more provocative reactions you’ve received?
ME: So far, I haven't gotten any negative reactions from anyone who's actually read Okay, So Look. That's not to say that I haven't gotten any negative reactions, though. Shortly after the book came out, it was reviewed on The Friendly Atheist, a popular blog run by a gentleman who emphatically does not believe in God. Some of the commenters on Facebook were violently opposed to the idea that the Bible had anything worth reading in it, and they were offended that I'd suggested otherwise. They called it a book full of murder, rape, and destruction and blamed it for basically everything that's wrong with the world.
At the same time, there was another group commenting who were there to tell the militant atheists how wrong they were, because the Bible was full of light and hope. They also hadn't read my book, of course, but they were sure it was wrong because it poked fun at the fallible bits of the Bible, and they didn't like talking about those.
If either one of these groups had gone after me alone, I might have had a hard time of it, but since they both showed up, they got into a brawl with each other and my book and I escaped largely unharmed.
VF: Throughout the book, you tell us what biblical characters’ names mean (e.g., Jacob: deceitful, Esau: hairy). What does Micah mean, and do you have any funny commentary to offer on the name/meaning?
ME: Micah was a prophet in the Bible, and he's got a book named after him which is full of doom and gloom. There were basically two types of prophets in the Hebrew Bible: the court prophets, who worked for the government and saw a future of death and destruction for everyone except Israel, and the street prophets, who saw a future of death and destruction for everyone, especially Israel. Micah was one of the latter and was known for going around questioning people about whether their faith really made them pure or holy enough. As such, the name Micah means "Who is like God?"
So the guy was constantly questioning, exhorting others to cast off their apathy, and needling the establishment. I couldn't pick a better guy to be named after if I tried.
VF: As you’re now something of an expert, what do you consider the most bizarre takeaway from the Book of Genesis?
ME: Honestly, the thing that surprised me most was near the end, in chapter 46. There are plenty of weird and well-known inconsistencies before that, like the two creation stories or the duplicated explanations for location names. But Genesis 46 just has an elementary math error. It lists 34 of Jacob's sons and daughters, and then says that there were 33 of them. I checked over it a dozen times to make sure I was right, and I actually just went back and counted again to be certain. It's just wrong, and it's been wrong for a few thousand years, and quite a few editions of the book. That's a long time for a mistake to make it through the editing process.
It's obviously a minor thing, but it's just very weird to me that it's so demonstrably wrong. There's so much of the book that you can argue about and apply interpretations to, but here, it's just a math problem. Thirty-three does not equal 34, no matter how strong your faith is.
VF: Before penning Okay, So Look, you wrote Ricky’s Spooky House, a child-friendly retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher. You clearly don’t shy away from well-known source material. What adaptation will you take on next? Is a sequel in the works, ala a humorous adaptation of the New Testament?
ME: I never meant to become the guy who rewrites things! That said, a number of people have asked for sequels to both Okay, So Look and Ricky's Spooky House, so they're probably both in the pipeline. In the case of Ricky's Spooky House, I'm planning to move on to "The Raven" and try my hand at children's poetry.
For Okay, So Look, the obvious next move is the Book of Exodus, which I've just recently begun work on. It's a long way from needing a title, but in my head I'm calling it "Here's the Deal."
VF: What’s your favorite writing advice you’ve received?
ME: It's the most simple piece of advice out there: if you want to be a writer, then write. All it takes to go from wanting to be a writer to being a writer is to start writing.
It takes more than that to be a good writer, of course, but you can have all of the technique and plot ideas and character development in the world, and it won't do you a bit of good if you don't just start writing it down.
VF: Fill in the blank (hopefully in an unexpected way): People who like _______ should read Okay, So Look.
ME: I'm going to say Penn & Teller. Penn is, of course, a well-known and outspoken atheist and skeptic, but it's more than that. They like to pull the curtain away from things, to show how they're done, and they do it by learning the techniques fully themselves. I like to think that that's what I've done here, to show you the human and error-prone side of Genesis, and by so doing to give you permission to talk and think about it.
When you consider the Bible as the infallible word of God, you have to take it or reject it absolutely, and I think that's a false dichotomy. By looking at it as a cobbled-together book of instructions, you can pick out what's meaningful to you, disregard what's not, and learn a lot about everyone who's ever used this book as a guideline in the process.