An elven witch, a bar mitzvah cheater, and a Bible camp saboteur walk into a bar… and nine years later they walk out with a book: Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith, selected by the editors of Killing the Buddha and coming from Beacon Press on July 1.
The advance reviews are in:
“Shocking, exhilarating, and never dull…. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal, starred review.
“Smart, candid, and insightful… The voices are refreshingly honest.” — Publishers Weekly
STARRED REVIEW Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith. Beacon, dist. by Houghton. Jul. 2009. 263p. ed. by Jeff Sharlet & others. ISBN 978-0-8070-7739-9. $16.
From Beacon comes a book that, if not a beacon, is certainly a message from the vanguard of popular spirituality. This extremely diverse set of essays is the second to come from Killing the Buddha, an online religion magazine “for people made anxious by churches” and the ideal home for the “spiritual but not religious” and all the other great unchurched believers in America. Here you’ll find a Jewish adolescent who hopes she is the promised Messiah, an elven witch, a Zen A.A. memoir, and much more. Shocking, exhilarating, and never dull, these essays sometimes give off the self-conscious, twee air of modern memoirs à la Burroughs, but they are important voices. Highly recommended.
Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith Edited by Jeff Sharlet, Peter Manseau and the editors of Killing the Buddha. Beacon, $16 paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8070-7739-9
This is the second collection of contributions to the online magazine Killing the Buddha (which Sharlet and Manseau founded) to be published in book form. The editors are among the smart, candid, and insightful authors whose personal narratives form the book’s 35 brief chapters. The selections represent a wide range of experiences from cheating on bar mitzvah prep to discovering hunger as spiritual food in a Ramadan fast, from sabotaging Bible camp to stumbling upon barbershop theology. Contributions reflect the scope of religious diversity, including orthodox Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Zen Buddhism and even a meditation on agnosticism. Some are funny, others heartbreaking, and some are simply revelatory. Despite the variety, the collection is unified by the contributors’ wrestling with received religious traditions and expectations for belief and practice, each articulating a particular moment of the author’s life. The voices are refreshingly honest. Given the narratives’ personal nature, readers will not jive with each one but will find particularly thought provoking those that hone in on their own questions, suspicions and experiences. (July)
Not bad, right?
Believer, Beware is a mix of the old and the new, with previously unpublished confessions mixed in with the best from the first eight years of Killing the Buddha. That means that if you’ve been a loyal reader for a decade, you’ve seen much, but not all, of the work within–but never before on paper. Unless you printed it out. But never before between book covers! Unless you bound your printouts. In which case, you’re an obsessive and you should probably write us and join the staff.
For the rest of you, here are a few of the stories you’ll find in Believer, Beware…
“Jew Like Me,” by Peter Manseau
“The Mucus,” by Mary Valle
“Ouga Chaka Zen,” by Paul Morris
In case we haven’t made it clear: Buy the book.