978-0-06-093248-0 / 9780060932480

Meetings with the Archangel: A Comedy of the Spirit


Publisher:Harper Perennial



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About the book:

It's as if Stephen Mitchell had been working on three books and decided that instead of finishing them separately, he would just combine them into one. There is the fictional story of a Jewish man who has the jarring experience, while high on broccoli (prepared in the secret Hasidic fashion), of identifying himself with Hitler. He exterminates Jews and feels proud to have done it. Subsequently, in the back of his mind, he is preoccupied with unraveling the problem of evil, a process that leads him to Zen practice and a brilliant account of its tribulations and rewards. Then there is the nonfictional essay "Against Angels," an erudite lambasting of the popular fascination with angels. We get not only a summary of it but a philosophical history, an outline, and extensive passages. The third story is of a man's encounter with the angel Gabriel, who doesn't know why he's there, but who initiates the man into the orgiastic bliss of archangeldom and troops him through the heavens--and the resemblance to the Divine Comedy doesn't stop there. What (barely) links these stories is that the Zen practitioner is the author of "Against Angels" and, ironically, the one to whom Gabriel appears. If there is an abiding theme, it is that the suffering of humanity is redemptive. In this first fictional outing for Mitchell, it is his laid back, whimsical tone that really holds it all together and makes each story worth reading for its own sake. --Brian Bruya

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