Where did the idea for this book come from? Is it something you've had in your head a while, or a relatively new idea?
There are several impulses that formed the idea for Mr. g. I have always loved magic realism as a form of writing. I have also been fascinated
for a long time with the intersection of science and religion. And finally, I am a fan of Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, which portrays a group of
celestial beings who, even though powerful, are willing to deal with the mundane affairs of mortal beings.
Any inspiration in particular lead to God having an 'Aunt Penelope'? Any reason in particular that God, or Mr. g, would have an aunt and uncle as
opposed to a grandmother and grandfather or a brother or cousin or friend?
From the beginning of my conception of the novel, it was clear that Mr. g would need some divine sparring partners, both to give a narrative to the book
and to flesh out Mr. g's ideas. The idea of an aunt and uncle, without any other relatives, seemed to me much more provocative and comic than a regular
family. Of course, once you create characters, you need to give them personalities and complexity to make the interactions more believable and
Music is granted a nearly divine status in this novel. It is present before creation and complexifies afterwards; music is the most striking way in
which humans change God. It's also during a poorly performed opera that we first see Belhor and his minions cause trouble on earth. Music plays a
role in Mr. g's emerging definition of good versus evil. What role does music play in your life?
Music is, of course, a universal emotional experience, cutting across cultures and languages. I studied piano for ten years as a child and consider
that experience one of the most valuable in my life. I still will sit down at the piano and play when I am wrestling with something emotionally or just
want to move into the musical world.
It appears that the single thing about intelligent life that most disturbs Mr. g and his relatives, and most intrigues Belhor, is the creatures'
longing for immortality, and their grief at being mortal. Mr. g winds up granting humans a fleeting consciousness of his own presence and
immortality as a sort of balm to this grief. We also see the dispersion of a human's atoms, upon death, and the beauty of their reabsoprtion into
the completeness of creation. What is the challenge of mortality to which you are speaking here?
I will speak for myself here, not for Mr. g. (Mr. g can speak for himself.)
For me, coming to terms with our mortality is the greatest challenge of being alive. Through the mysteries of evolution, our brains have developed such
a strong since of "I-ness," of being a special entity separate from the rest of the universe, that it is extremely difficult to accept the fact that we
are just material atoms, which will at some point lose the particular arrangement that gives rise to consciousness. (Indeed, some religious traditions
do not accept this idea of total materiality.) From a purely physical standpoint, it is natural that our atoms will eventually disperse and our
existence as conscious entities be ended, but this eventuality is extremely disturbing to most people. The Buddhists have developed a much better way
to live with mortality - believing that all is impermanent and that our souls will be reborn countless times.