Nov 11, 2007


You guys, I have got a serious treat for you today! (Who loves you? Guthieroo, that's who!) Today, for Guthmantics, we have my two new BFFs, Scott Korb and Peter Bebergal, authors of The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of G-d. Publishers Weekly said: "...questions of faith and G-d are actually what brought Bebergal and Korb together, initially through a correspondence related to their writings for various online magazines. No topic is taboo; amid their questioning of faith and G-d come tales of addiction, neuroses and ineptitude." Fabulous, delicious, down-to-earth meaty reading, my friends. (Ohh, dig the website, too!) I caught up with them and this is the scoopage they gave me:

Guth: Tell us what you write, what you have written and how you do it? (You guys know I like to ask that because I have such funky and specific writing rituals, myself.)

Korb: Writing Faith with Peter was a long, long collaborative effort. The book comprises ten essays, five by me, five by Peter. Joining these essays are ten transitional epilogues that work as if we’re finishing each other’s sentences. You know, something good friends do. While it wasn’t conceived of this way, Faith became primarily book about a faithful friendship between men. We keep each other honest.

Our process is to talk first. Or, over the years, talking basically just happened, wasn’t part of any process. One day we talked a lot about pornography. There’s writing about porn in the book. Another day, the day my stepfather died, we talked about that. There’s a lot about my stepfather in the book. One day I went to the doctor to learn why I have a facial tic. The doctor told me I have trigeminal neuralgia. I called Peter from outside the office. The book opens with an essay about that.

But the conversation that started us thinking about the book was the one that involved Peter asking me -- after we’d talked around the issue -- whether or not I believed in God. The book as a whole answers that question. In short: No. In long: Yes, a lot.

The process goes this way. We write an essay. We send that essay to the other person. We edit each other’s essays. From this point we diverge. I send my comments to Peter. Peter graciously incorporates my suggestions (to a point) and in a week or so has a finished essay. It’s smooth. Peter doesn’t even bother sending me my essays back any more. First, he calls. He tells me the essay needs work, often with the structure or my focus. I tell him to read it again because clearly he hasn’t read it carefully enough. He tells me he’s read it twice. I tell him to read it again. He does. He calls me the next day with the same comments. I disagree and yell at him. We get off the phone. I sit for two days thinking I am right and Peter is wrong. I reread the essay the following day and realize that Peter is right and I am wrong. I rewrite the essay incorporating Peter’s suggestions (to a point). In a week or so I have a finished essay.

After our editor offers her suggestions, we both have much better essays.

Bebergal: Scott has laid it out pretty well here. I can say that we both had our moments of being very protective of our writing, as if certain sentences and ideas were precious little kittens the other was trying to smother with a pillow. But even when we both agreed on certain things, our editor would see them and be appalled. That was the most humbling part of the process. At one point, after delivering some material, our editor said “I don’t really know what to say.” She said this not with excitement and enthusiasm, but as if someone had just smothered a kitten.

I do believe that if it wasn’t for Scott I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today. He has taught me so much, especially about slowing down and really reading over my work carefully. Scott loves words and sentences, and the way they work together. I get caught up in the intoxication of an idea and an image, and I often forget to make sure my expression of it is as clear and concise as it can be.

It will be a shock to begin our next larger projects mostly independent of each other.

AG: What grand things are next for you? What would you, we're talking dream gigs and adventures here, love to be next for you?

Korb: Another book that I can’t talk about. And I was supposed to be getting married. I can’t talk about that either. I can say that I’m taking my first hunting trip over Thanksgiving with a friend who is a vegetarian. He wants not to be so we’re going to kill a deer (we hope). I used to be a vegan. There is an essay in the book (excerpted in the current Gastronomica) that talks about that. A former ascetic, I used to consider my veganism a kind of holy eating -- or not eating. I was wrong. (We learn in the book that I was basically wrong about my whole life of religious disciplines.)

Bebergal: There’s also another book in the works for me, an extension of sorts of one of the chapters in The Faith Between Us. After that, I want to work on some fiction, specifically a reimaging of the fantasy novel in which a child find his or her way from this world into another through some kind of portal; a rabbit hole, a wardrobe, a looking glass. I am spending some free time building little solar power robots based on BEAM theory. But mostly I am trying to come up with new adventures to have with my son Sam. Not sure hunting is on the top of this list, but if Scott comes back with a warrior's glint in his eye and blood streaks on his cheeks, maybe I'll be inspired to take my son someday.

AG: What Smiths or Morrissey song or lyric sums it up for you right now?

Korb: Obviously, it used to be “Meat is Murder.” But that’s clearly not it now. “Girlfriend in a Coma” has always been a favorite. But since I’m the Christian in this book, I’ll have to say “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.” Bebergal: Well to be honest, I never listened to the Smiths. They were a little fey for my taste, which at the time consisted of nothing except for hardcore punk. In 1984, when the first Smiths album came out, I was listening to the new Minor Threat record, Out of Step. And of course, Bad Brains’ Rock for Light had been in steady rotation. So if I may, I will have to choose a little more broadly from this era. After we finished the book and sent it to the editor I felt a little like the 7 Seconds song “Clenched Fists, Black Eyes,” but then the next day, after it had sunk in, I am reminded of the Freeze song, “Idiots at Happy Hour.” But since I’m the Jew, I’ll go with Bad Brain’s “Rally 'Round Jah Throne”

Thanks, Amy.

Thank you, Scott and Peter. Come back anytime. Now, readers-my-darlings, you know what happens now. Head over to GoodReads, Shelfari and LibraryThing and befriend them and the book. And, be friends over on Jewcy, too, if that's your bag. And, add their website to your list of daily online reads and check back often to see what they're up to. And, go pick up a copy or ten of their wonderful, beautiful book. It's one of those books you'll read and then think of a handful of people who you'd like to give a copy to. So, by all means. And, for crying out loud, when they're at an event near you, butts in seats!

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