Dan's Reviews > Mr g: A Novel About The Creation

Mr g by Alan Lightman
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Mar 19, 12

Read from March 13 to 16, 2012

I've been a big fan of Alan LIghtman's ever since reading Einstein's Dreams, in which he explores in something of a fugue state the worlds made possible to the imagination by Relativity. Mr g is a powerful addition to his oeuvre. As the title suggests, this is a novel about creation. Part "Genesis," part satire, Mr g examines the complete life cycle of a universe very similar to our own from the perspective of an omnipotent, omnipresent, (potentially) all-knowing extra-universal being existing in the void. Call him God, for short. Our narrator awakes from a long nap - or what passes for a long nap in the absence of time (more on that in a bit) - and decides to create. He's supported and advised in his endeavor by his Aunt Penelope and his Uncle Dava, beings equally immortal but with limited powers. Mr g goes on to create time and space, energy and matter, life (somewhat accidentally, or, rather, inevitably) and a curious fellow inhabitant of the void who goes by the name of Belhor. Call him the devil, for short. But Lightman isn't concerned with good versus evil in the traditional sense. He has written an amoral book (the usual philosophical arguments regarding the necessity of evil, et al come up). What Lightman is after here is an examination of the creator's relationship to his creation. Belhor predicts that the nascent universe will be the mechanism by which the inhabitants of the void will come into the full blossom of their existence, and he's right. Having created the universe, Mr g finds himself changed on some fundamental level. He understands grief; he comes to realize how bored he was before; et cetera. And, having witnessed creation Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva also undergo a profound change.

There are weaknesses, though. While the interplay of science and philosophy is fascinating, I found myself often questioning whether beings in the void would really stumble onto the various realizations. Wouldn't they already have considered these things, especially before the creation of time and space when all thoughts, all existence occurred concurrently in one endless moment? I mentioned time, and it's creation. I want to dwell on this for a bit as it represents the initial instance of a larger problem within the story. I really wanted to give Mr g five stars, but in the end I couldn't because Lightman's representation of these, admittedly, thorny concepts wasn't particularly fresh (Calvino has a short story very similar to this book). The question remains: how best to depicts concepts we can't possibly experience? The result is often the use of anachronistic metaphors. While this device is used here to great (and often humorous effect), Lightman is never able to transcend the metaphor and describe the thing itself. Now, I may be asking too much - perhaps, it's enough to convey the concepts contained within these pages - but I found myself wanting some fresh approach to the experience of god in his world, and Mr g didn't deliver. As a character, Mr g was quite nuanced and interesting, however, so there's definitely that to recommend.
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03/13/2012 page 72
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