Pumpjack Book Reviews

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Book Review: I Am God by Giacomo Sartori

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Pure magic.

I Am God by Giacomo Sartori (translated by Frederika Randall) is my new favorite work of contemporary fiction. It’s a short, amazing piece that imagines god—master of the infinite cosmos—falls obsessively, creepily in love with a quirky human woman and not just any woman. She’s a geneticist who pays the bills by inseminating cattle.

His obsession (and the gender part is a little off-putting, because it’s the only thing Sartori doesn’t address within the cosmic meta world of the book) forces god to question what it means to be divine and eternal, illuminating what it means to be human — in other words, mortal and deeply flawed — in the process.

I couldn’t put I Am God down and was consumed by the story and the writing. The author, Sartori, is a novelist, poet playwright … and agronomist. His day job is soil specialist and his writing is at once lyrical, earthy (see what I did there) and occasionally just pure gold snark.

I love the constant droll asides to readers, reminding them of the challenges of writing to readers who can’t comprehend the god experience: “I almost have a lump in my throat watching her weep like that. Omnipotence: it also means having a lump in your throat without having a throat.”

Don’t expect a particularly religious experience. This god is filled with disdain for the religious and irreligious alike, forever poking holes in biblical stories and running down fervent believer atheists alike. He is clearly disappointed in and disenchanted with his creation.

“Can’t help but reflect that men, in their grotesque presumption, consider themselves superior and unique when instead they are clumsy and shapeless, obtuse, sex-crazed and monomaniacal, ready to fall for every sort of superstition and fanaticism, to mutually eradicate one another and commit bestial acts that make your hair stand on end. And if that were not enough, they’re infested with parasites inside and out and with terrible contagious diseases. They’re dangerous, in short. Not to mention quick to putrefy.”

And: “I prefer turnips; at least they remain silent and like many other cruciferous greens have a genuine vegetable dignity.”

How then to explain falling in love with a mere human? He can’t, and it’s driving him to distraction.

“…my thoughts grow ever more labyrinthine; my faultlessness less crystalline and exemplary.”

In other words, he’s in love. Besotted. Creeping from on high. He can’t look away, and spies on her incessantly, jealously watching her life and loves unfold and then petulantly swearing to zip off to the other side of the galaxy to ignore the whole situation for eternity rather than suffer the indignities of irrational thought.

Of course, as any lowly human who as ever been infatuated will tell you, it’s not that easy to just forget about love. Especially since in this case, she smells “slightly metallic, copper, I’d say, with notes of clove and newborn galaxy.”

I don’t want to give anything away. Just do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s short and wonderful and pure magic. And shout out to the translator too, because this prose really sings.

I’ll close with one of my favorite lines:

“…if you never think, or worse, write, you won’t have moods or feelings, and you can live blissfully and serenely for billions of years.”

Unless you have the misfortune of falling in love.