"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain," reads the third commandment in the famous Ten! I thought of this when watching the Tony Awards last Sunday night on TV. They opened with the super neat evangelical men from "The Book of Mormon" singing the name of Jesus as the first production number from a Broadway musical. And the cast of the revival "Jesus Christ Superstar" followed shortly after, with their title song. It was exhilarating or blasphemous, depending on your point of view.
As the late Christopher Hitchens opined -- because The Ten Commandments, ostensibly given by God to Moses, were supposedly set in stone that still doesn't make all the commandments crystal clear. Hitchens claimed that there are three or four wildly different scriptural versions of the famed "Ten." Hitchens also said that these commandments should be considered a "work in progress" because they differ from Exodus 20 to Exodus 34 to Deuteronomy 5 and have "additions" and "changes" in the St. James Bible and elsewhere, just as the River Jordan comes into view. Here's Hitchens: "As with the gold plates on which Joseph Smith found the Book of Mormon in upstate New York, no traces of any of these original or conflicting tablets survive."
So to say something is or isn't "written in stone" makes the commandments suspect, at least to the writer Hitchens. Saying the name of God could be blasphemy but Hitchens maintained it was just a case of "injured vanity" on the part of the Almighty, as in "Nobody knows how to obey this commandment, or how to avoid blasphemy or profanity. I say 'God alone knows' when I mean to say 'nobody knows.' Is this ontologically dangerous? Ought not unalterable laws be plain and unambiguous?" asks Hitchens.
And then, the holy one we saw sang about at the Tony Awards was Jesus and not everybody believes that he (He?) was the son of God? Maybe it's all a sign of a general revival of interest in religion and Christianity? But Jesus got more mentions at the Tony Awards than the Shuberts or Nedlerlanders or Jujamcyns or even of producer Scott Rudin!
So you just know that author Jess Walter can really write too. (He is known for his award-winning fiction and the acclaimed "The Financial Lives of the Poets.") And when it comes to a more modern day horror vision of Hollywood, where artistic writers settle for getting "a pitch" - a description where one tries to sell an idea for a great film or even a commercial movie - well, the author's been there'n'done that too. The Hollywood version of creative hell is all here for everyone who ever thought about it. "Beautiful Ruins" from Harper is well worth your time, especially if you THINK you have a fabulous idea for a movie.