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good omens.jpg

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

By Patty O'Green | Books | January 10, 2011 |

By Patty O'Green | Books | January 10, 2011 |

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
-The Usual Suspects

In college I was introduced to the writings of Neil Gaiman and I have never looked back. The Sandman graphic novels are as breath-taking as they are fantastical. I had not heard of Terry Pratchet (most known for his Discworld series) until the summer I spent with the Texas Shakespeare company. A friend gave me this book, and it has been one of my all-time favorites ever since.

A review of Good Omens in the San Francisco Chronicle states “It reads like the Book of Revelation rewritten by Monty Python,” and I couldn’t agree more. The story switches narratives frequently, with everyone from Satanic nuns to the Four Horsemen to the Antichrist himself, but the majority of the perspective is from an angel (Aziraphale) and a demon (Crowley), who first met outside the Garden of Eden.

These two characters, albeit perhaps Crowley slightly more so, are what bring me back to this book over and over again. The authors’ interpretation of ancient evil versus modern evil is both funny and deeply convicting. It has been on my mind lately as I read C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. Seeing temptation and sin from the eyes of the demon opens your mind to a lot.

There is a brilliant scene early in the text where Crowley has a meeting with two high-ranking demons, Hastur and Ligur. These two reside in Hell, while Crowley has a posh flat in London’s district of Mayfair. The meeting is essentially a progress report on acquiring souls. Both Hastur and Ligur tell stories of planting one temptation into the life of one person, saying things like, “In a decade, we shall have him.” You almost picture a pale, stooped elder working away in a basement, perfecting every tiny nook and cranny on a work of art, readying it for a showroom.

Crowley then reports that he “tied up every portable telephone system in Central London for forty-five minutes at lunchtime.”

This means nothing to the Dukes of Hell, who do not understand the modern world in any way.

What could he tell them? That twenty thousand people got bloody furious? That you could hear the arteries clanging shut all across the city? And that then they went back and took it out on other people? In all kinds of vindictive little ways which, and here was the good bit, they thought up themselves. For the rest of the day. The pass-along effects were incalculable. Thousands and thousands of souls all got a faint patina of tarnish, and you hardly had to lift a finger.

I come back to this book again and again, laughing at new things every time. And each time I find something new that causes me to stand back and reevaluate my life. Perhaps that makes me simple, to find beauty and lessons in something as small as humorous fiction. I can live with that.

Read this book. I can not say it more simply.

**I recently found out that, if Terry Gilliam had been able to make the film (originally set for 2002, later moved to 2006, eventually shelved), he desperately wanted Pete Postlethwaite to play Shadwell. It would be such a great casting. It is truly a shame the movie couldn’t have been made during his lifetime. **

You can find more on Patty’s of writing on her blog.