BLAUGUSTINE / GOD INTERVIEWS
REVIEWS - PAGE 4
By Ian Vincent Mulder - via personal email January 30, 2015
Today I thought I would like to write a blog post about the God Interviews, but soon realized it wouldn't do at all---I must address you personally. Your book is concise and punchy, I find myself wanting to comment in snippets, almost as if imitating its format. & I shall give my personal reaction, not as some reviewer or critic whose job is to make judgements on behalf of the world (though everyone in the end can give no more than a personal reaction). So this is what I came up with: a kind of scorecard, evaluating the book under various headings.
The most profound page:
"What is really real about you?"
"That which cannot be imagined." (page 82)
Most engaging, striking, enlightening (or perhaps just my favourite--especially because of the angels):
"Why don't you just send angels to clear up the mess and end the pain?"
"There's been a drop in the number of angels signing up for those jobs. I'm having to rely on civilian volunteers."
It might be the most witty as well, but I'm not doing a beauty contest on the wit - there are too many contestants.
Comparison with Neale Donald Walsch:
I have a copy of his Conversations with God for Teens, having appropriated it from one of my younger children years ago. Walsch is wordy & ever-conscious of the misery in the world (his own life-experience, and thus the inspiration for his books, coming from a rather dark place). His format of short questions (apparently from real kids), answered by God at length with no word-limit, encourages the mushrooming of sermons, a multiplicity of selling points, examples, instructions. (He had a background in radio presenting, marketing & PR). Your comic-book format & artistic vocation dictates short questions and pithy answers. Your cartoon frames demand visual and conversational entertainment, inventive pictures and text. You are faultlessly fertile. Walsch soon gets tedious. I can't think of an instance where artistry and entertainment conspire to corner you into mediocrity, or a wrong note. But I will dredge up some critical points in due course.
Most memorable image:
The Eternitree (page 43). Memorable for conveying that God stands in one-to-one relationship with all who seek that.
Most informative exposition of "the way God works":
the double-page spread pp 48-49: one can only engage with God on his terms: love. The only divine power is to work as a team. The language is Goddish. I'm sure there are thousands of dense theological tomes which don't manage to say anything as useful, or if they do, not as clearly.
Most sustained, visually inventive & witty exposition of a complex idea:
Least successful chapter:
Chapter Two struck me as a little odd, but I took it at face value - God saying something arbitrary to prove that Augustine is not talking to herself. And then, "If you can't follow simple instructions, how can you prove that I exist?" which doesn't quite make sense, is rather a non-sequitur, but I took it on board, thinking I was just dumb.
But in Chapter Three, we have strawberry = heart-shaped = symbol of Love (divine love), which is then confirmed in Chapter Four and thereafter, specifically pages 49, 88, 91, where the heart-shape is also identified with the cardial organ.
There is no doubt in my mind that the equation God = Love is not just offered as a cliché, but something felt. But I find a general difficulty with the word love, when it is presented as the singular attribute of your cartoon figure. Love, especially in the West, is a word we hear many times a day: in conversation, gossip, songs, all the media. Language is democratic---or rather anarchic. Every meaning is valid, even when we say that a prostitute has love for sale.
So find a sogginess in the otherwise sharp & muscular argument, as expressed in images & words.
Best reference to Love:
"What did you do about it?"
"Cried, shouted, threatened, walked out, forgave, cried, punched, slammed, got revenge, cried, forgave, or didn't".
"You see, you have all those choices, I have only one."
"Love, love love! But we're not you - we're only human!"
Listen listen listen!"
And perhaps this is the most profound page too, for it presents the pathos of God, the helplessness. For God is the still, small voice. What can he do alone? Not enough angels are signing up these days (like doctors in A&E !) . . . And it offers the glimmer of insight, for those ready to pick it up, that God is the voice in the soul, that speaks to us. I would take it further and say that the soul is in everything, this force of Love is in everything, only as human beings we are pretty slow to catch it, we lose the connection. We are like a fish with no gills. Oxygen is all around but . . .
On the characters and their images:
Augustine is delightful throughout, even when incarnated briefly as a dog. God is vaguely Indian, and I wonder how much he owes to Krishnamurti? Visually, nothing. Perhaps a clean-shaven Osho/Rajneesh? Anyhow, he carries himself lightly, as befits a figment of the cartoonist's imagination who stands for the god within. He is part of her, or she is part of him. Walsch's God is a heavy-duty preacher. He doesn't lighten up, doesn't make jokes. I'll never be able to read him again (not that I was in the habit of!)
A delight. I don't usually read comic books. I watch The Simpsons a lot and appreciate how much humanity, humour and wisdom is poured into its rather crudely-drawn characters. Even your busy action frames are well-drawn where it matters. The main scenes, like the cover, where Augustine & God gaze eye to eye in profile, establish the delicacy---and I was going to say humanity, for God is portrayed as human for how else?---of the features, and the very expressive postures. Augustine with her little black dress, high heels & swept-back auburn hair, is all woman. God is athletic, like a yogi.
In the end of course, God is unknowable so can only be portrayed that way, as in the evasive "wavy" answers of Chapter 10.
What do I take away from the book? Entertainment, aesthetic pleasure; further confirmation that the answers are within and it's up to humanity.
What is the book's message? It doesn't have a message. It is art. It is what Natalie D'Arbeloff does: shares her joy & sense of fun with the world, so that she and the world end up enriched by the exchange.
It is a book to own. I'm glad of it.
ndemay Thoughts on God American Unitarian Forum September 1, 2009
When thinking of God becomes too much, I suggest reading this little book which you can download for a few dollars.
It is simple, but not simplistic; it is an honest portrayal of many of the thoughts we struggle with regarding God, and it also portrays God as an understanding, loving, patient companion-not a Father, King, or Lord.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Ndemay. I downloaded the book and read it. Very interesting read. It's the kind of thing I'll have to ponder quite a bit before I comment on it though.
Win Wiacek, Now Read This Comics Creators Guild June 26, 2007
Natalie d’Arbeloff is an artist, printmaker and author who creates comic strips on her blog featuring, I’m assuming, her semi-autobiographical character Blaugustine. In this book she has a series of chats with God – a friendly, mild-mannered, clean-shaven chap – about the kind of things that you would – if you’d been granted an interview. You know… ‘What’s it all about? Why does bad stuff happen? Are you really there?’
This gently philosophical – rather than theosophical – examination is whimsical and introspective, but never ponderous, delivered in a big, simple cartoon style and vivid, eye-catching colour, reminiscent of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film. With an easy humour that would be appreciated by older children of all ages with the same questions.
There aren’t really any big new answers but to paraphrase Bob Dylan it’s not really about answers, but how we seek them, right?
Jamieson Villeneuve, THE BOOK PEDLER June 24, 2007
Have you ever stopped to wonder who God truly is?
Is he a man or a woman? Is he black or white? Maybe she’s purple or yellow? Would he be wise? Would she be menacing? What if we could sit down with God and ask those questions we all have burning a fire inside of us. What if we could actually interview God
D’Arbeloff gets to do just that. In a series of comic strips, first featured on Natalie d’Arbeloff’s highly popular blog Blaugustine, her alter ego Augustine gets to interview God and ask him those burning questions. It might be interesting to note that God is a balding black man who is sometimes deep and sometimes evasive.
The God Interviews is flat out incredible. Augustine asks God some difficult questions: How do we know that God exists? Why does he allow hate? Why is there evil in the world? What is the most accurate portrayal of God? Why does God allow horrible things to happen?
You would think that a collection of comics dealing with such questions would be dark and morose fodder for evangelists everywhere, but d”Arbeloff manages to transcend religion and brings The God Interviews to another level entirely. The book is bright, fun and thought provoking and I found myself awed in quite a few places.
The focus in the comics isn’t religion. Instead, each comic focuses on something different and forces us to look within ourselves to view our personal reactions. In reality, each short strip (fourteen in all) is really a short piece of wisdom delivered through pictures and words. Each strip is so subtly simple you don’t realize that it’s affected you until much later
I was charmed by The God Interviews. I was moved, awed and impressed. Is it good? No; it’s incredible. I had wondered at the start whether or not a comic strip about God could work and, in d’Arbeloff’s hands, it does. Her simple but colourful art is the perfect compliment to such simple and wonderful wisdom.
I’ve read the book three times already and each time, the fourteen comics just speak to me and touch something in me. d’Arbeloff has given us a comic strip with a soul and one I love very, very much
If you haven’t had the chance to be charmed by The God Interviews, get yourself a copy, won’t you? It’s a beautiful, lyrical look at life and the world. It will make you laugh, think and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. That is the real power of d’Arbeloff’s work.
It stays with you days after the last page has been turned. Truly wonderful and very inspirational and incredibly enjoyable. Don’t believe me? You’ll just have to get your own copy and find out for yourself.
Cheryl Hagedorn, BLOOKING CENTRAL: COMIC June 12, 2007
Interviews with God
The Gospel According to Peanuts
In 1965, a 28 year-old pastor named Robert Short turned a popular slide show he'd been presenting while working his way through seminary into a book called "The Gospel According to Peanuts," using [Charles] Schulz's [comic strip] characters to explain the Christian faith. ... A small Presbyterian publishing house (John Knox) published it in hopes of inspiring some Sunday-school teachers to think outside the box, and, behold, their wish was fulfilled. Over 10 million copies were sold. (Amazon review)
Forty years later, a woman, born in Paris, raised in South America, the U.S. and Europe, trained as an artist, created "a fictional comic strip character who could never finish her housework because she just had to stop to muse over deep questions of philosophy." (Morning Star)
When that woman, Natalie d'Arbeloff, gave her comic strip alter ego, Augustine, a blog, what happened? Heaven and the internet world collided at a place called Blaugustine. The result? A blook called Interviews with God.
Unlike Charles Schultz who needed Robert Short, Ms. d'Arbeloff didn't need an intepreter. She took her questions straight to God. From The Velveteen Rabbi [not a spelling mistake!]
She doesn't shy away from the tough questions. In chapter four, a teary Augustine says, "I'm sorry, but I have to ask about evil." God explains that free will enables us to choose badly, if we want to, but that God's plan presumes we will ultimately choose love. Augustine is exasperated -- "You mean you're leaving it all to us while you sit and wait for love to rule the world?" No, God replies patiently. "I don't sit and wait. I give interviews. And I look for collaborators." His reply made me smile.
At The Cassandra Pages, I found a quote which seems to explain the mass appeal of both d'Arbeloff's blog and the subsequent blook:
Augustine allows us to whine, complain, cry, and be cluelessly thick right along with her, while God remains compassionate, funny, patient, unpredictable, maddening, and - at times - wonderfully clear.
This identification with the main character is what also made Jeremy Blachman's blog (and eventual blook) work. That d'Arbeloff manages to do it with a comic strip is amazing.
I'll be looking at other comic strips that became blooks this week, but I'm curious. Not all of us can draw, but, if you could, what kind of strip would you do? For anyone reading who does have a strip, I'd love to hear if you think there's a blook in your future.
Artist gets God scoop
By John Rety, MORNING STAR Sunday 29 April 2007
The God Interviews by Natalie d'Arbeloff
NATALIE d'Arbeloff has been drawing and writing for many years. Born in Paris, she lived in many countries before settling in London. Her main work involves art books, prints and paintings.
Her early work was "cyclo-styled" for a limited audience and was based on a fictional woman comic strip character called Augustine who could never finish her housework because she just had to stop to muse over deep questions of philosophy.
Exquisitely drawn and at times irrepressibly funny, the duplicated copies were eagerly collected by a small coterie of friends.
This present book is a full-colour version, although a bit more serious this time. After all, she is trying to achieve a scoop of interviewing divinity. There is now little time left for housework.
When Augustine asks: "Oh God, how do I know I'm talking to you and not to myself?" at least she understands that she is willingly deceiving herself.
Frances & Nicolas MacDowall, THE OLD STILE PRESS April 15, 2007
I take this opportunity to urge anyone who has not yet seen this wonderful book to mend the situation asap!
Natalie d'Arbeloff's enterprise with The Old Stile Press has been mentioned on this Blog, together with images of the amazing one-off artist's book we had from her some time ago, but all that is just a drop in the ocean!
An exploratory trip to her website... will undoubtedly lead to regular return visits BUT, for now, I urge you to find out more about the entirely life-enhancing The God Interviews.
Simon Wroe, CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL, London April 12, 2007
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