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I collect quotes. Inspirational quotes. This is not one of them.

I’m currently reading City of God by E.L. Doctorow. About a year ago my husband went to a lecture given by Doctorow at Michigan State University. I was curious to know what sort of a writer he is but never got around to actually reading any of his works since then. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Friends of the Wixom Library Semi-Annual Book Sale and saw this book by Doctorow, read the back cover, and decided to buy it.

For me, it’s a very confusing book. First, it’s not written in a style that I’m familiar with. Second, above and beyond the metaphysical issues it presents, at times I find it difficult to follow because I get confused as to which character is talking when. But, despite this, I find myself oddly drawn to this book.

There are times in this book when I just have to say to myself “Brilliant!” E.L. Doctorow has a way with words. This quote bears that out. However, after reading it, I’m not sure you’ll be saying “Brilliant!” I thought it worthy to share nonetheless.

Normally, I wouldn’t use such language on my blog, but since these are Doctorow’s words and not mine, I’ll make an exception.

In this section of the book, the author goes back and forth between the father of one of the characters talking about his time as a young boy in a Jewish ghetto in Nazi Germany during WWII and talking about the natural world as God intended. Here he is talking about the natural world again and creatures that have “the amazing ability to fluoresce when they are attacked or need to illuminate their prey.”

God has a reason for all this. There is one fish, the hatchet, which skulks about in the deep darkness with protuberant eyes on the top of its horned head and the ability to electrically light its anus to blind predators sneaking up behind it. The electric anus, however, is not an innate feature. It comes from a colony of luminescent bacteria that house themselves symbiotically in the fish’s asshole. And there is a Purpose in this as well which we haven’t yet ascertained. But if you believe God’s divine judgement and you countenance reincarnation, then it may be reasonably assumed that a certain bacterium living in the anus of a particularly ancient hatchetfish at the bottom of the ocean is the recycled and fully sentient soul of Adolf Hitler glimmering miserably through the cloacal muck in which he is periodically bathed and nourished.

Source: Doctorow, E.L., City of God, Plume: February 2001, p. 105. (Plume is a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc.)

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