Zombies are like garlic, you can never have enough of either

I’ve subscribed to an epistolary novel, which may be of interest to readers of this blog.  It is titled Ora et Labora et Zombies.  Ora et labora (pray and work) is a motto of the Benedictine monks; et Zombies is where the plot kicks in.

The story is set in the present day.  There has been some kind of cataclysm, and our protagonist has retreated with his son to a Benedictine monastery.  His wife was out of town as the crisis broke, so he is writing letters to her, in hopes that she will make it to their agreed upon meetup location and one day read them.

If you subscribe to the story, one of the protagonist’s letters is delivered to your house each week.   I’m four letters in, and I quite like the experience of reading the serial and just the pure fun of having a little chunk of novel show up in my mailbox.  I’ve included an excerpt below, to tempt you.

Is it possible that there are cupcakes at the end of the world?  Like a farewell party?  Brother Anselm baked them after dinner for us — not for the other monks, he joked, just for us visitors in the Retreat House.  They were yellow cake with chocolate frosting (my favorite), and he offered it to me with such joy that I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d given up sweets for Lent.  So I took one, and it was a beautiful fleeting taste of normal life.  As I was savoring the last bite, I thought perhaps that giving up some paltry thing as penance rings a little hollow in our current situation.  It may well be that we are in the process of being made to give up everything.

 

I feel compelled to add that when I went to college and saw the Grove Street Cemetery for the first time, I thought the inscription over the gates was a student prank.  I didn’t know the scripture reference, and I assumed some zombie-related hijinks were about to begin to welcome us to school.

Oh, and speaking of that title, I had a great deal of success making rolls from this recipe for garlic sourdough bread, except I added two cups of grated cheddar cheese and upped the amount of garlic to two heads.  Judging from their expressions when I unwrap a roll at lunch, my coworkers are at least part vampire.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Joe

    If you subscribe do you start out with letter one, or do you just receive what ever letter they happen to be mailing out that week?

    • leahlibresco

      You get the ones you missed all in a bundle. And you don’t have to subscribe to the whole series. You can order the first six, see how you like it, and then decide whether to reup.

  • Adrian Ratnapala

    One of the my former flatmates was allegic to Garlic. Since I regularly used her chopping boards, I just gave up on the stuff almost completely. It didn’t noticably change my cooking. I live elsewhere now, and am back to putting enormous amounts of garlic into everything (but not cornflakes, I don’t eat cornflakes).

    I am sure this tells me something about the useless nature of habitual desire. Perhaps it means we are zombies.

    • rachel

      When I make Ratatouille, I use an entire clove of garlic. Then again, i cook for 6-8 people.

      • http://Geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

        An entire head, maybe? A clove is only about a teaspoon, minced.

        This is a crucial distinction! When I had my first apartment, my mom hand copied a huge quantity of recipes for me, including her tomato sauce, on which she wrote: 2 heads garlic. Which is wrong. I’d peeled all of one head the first time I made it before I thought to call and ask her if this was accurate.

        • Rachel

          My bad. yes I meant an entire bulb.

      • Ted Seeber

        Only ONE clove for 6-8 people?
        I use 40 cloves just to make chicken…..and a cup of olive oil.

  • https://www.facebook.com/52WeeksTheSearchForTheAmericanZombie Chris Peters

    We hope to catch an interview with the author for our zombie documentary series. You can find out more on facebook
    https://www.facebook.com/52WeeksTheSearchForTheAmericanZombie

  • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

    The upper image on this post has a lovely illusion happening with it. Get the image at the bottom of your screen and then scroll upwards. If you’re like me, you’ll see the writing on the letter move inwards.

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

      Sorry, I have that reversed. Put it at the top of your screen and scroll up.

  • grok87

    the pricing seems a tad high.
    $216 for a 288 page paperback.
    perhaps I’ll buy it on Amazon in a year for $10 ($5?)
    cheers,
    grok

  • keddaw

    “THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED.”

    And not for the first time according to Matthew 27:52…

    Which obviously didn’t happen and it’d be nice to have a decent explanation of why anything in Matthew can be taken as ‘Gospel’ truth if this rather absurd claim is clearly false?

    • deiseach

      Okay, why “Which obviously didn’t happen”?

      (1) The dead stay dead, there is no magic coming back to life, zombie movies are fiction?

      Reply to objection (1): Which is no more than to say you don’t believe in miracles, so how do we get any farther forward? You obviously don’t believe anything in the Gospels is truthful, accurate or historical, so why pick on this single incident – it’s disingenuous to say “Oh, I otherwise would believe in the miraculous draught of fishes or the Incarnation, but this one thing makes it impossible for me!”

      (2) You accept the broad story but don’t believe this happened because… well, why exactly ‘because’? Back then, people didn’t have Science, so they didn’t know the difference between when people were really most sincerely dead and when they were only mostly dead, so they would naturally swallow a fairy tale about the dead coming back to life – unlike us sophisticated modern people who know the dead stay dead?

      Reply to Objection (2): Yep, that’s true. Back then, people didn’t know where babies came from, so they were prepared to believe you didn’t need a man to have a baby, and they didn’t know that dead means dead, so they were prepared to believe that after three days in the grave and warning the bystanders that ‘if you open that grave, the body will stink’, a man could still come back to life and they didn’t know that the surface tension of water wasn’t sufficient to support the weight of a human body so they believed a man could walk on water.

      Isn’t it great we have SCIENCE!!!! to tell us different nowadays?

      • keddaw

        (3)
        (i) It’s not mentioned in any of the other gospels.
        (ii) It’s not mentioned by any contemporary writings
        (iii) It would be the most important event in the history of the Roman Empire and would have led to massive expeditions to find out what happened and why, yet no word of the event or investigation is recorded
        (iv) It would have led to civil unrest, panic and people fleeing the city to spread word of the event (zombie uprising) to other cities, cultures and countries – none of this is reported anywhere other than the snippet in Matthew

        deiseach’s either A or B tactic is one I have seen more and more frequently by religious writers and commentators recently, I don’t know if I’m noticing it more or if it’s a tactic that perhaps works better in an unchallenging environment, but it really won’t do on a blog that frequently mentions LessWrong.

        Anyway, I would be interested in your response to (3), deiseach.

        Incidentally, 3iii and 3iv are the answer to “so why pick on this single incident”. It’s the one miracle with enough witnesses and impact to be reported in many, many sources out-with the Bible and yet it isn’t.

        Also, with regards to your reply to the 2nd objection (which I never made) people thought life spontaneously appeared up until quite recently, so there is not as much push back on reanimation as you think – Jesus wasn’t even the 1st person in his story to come back from the dead, it was Lazarus.

        • Ted Seeber

          3(iii) and 3(iv) are not convincing to me. From the account in the gospels, a few dead people visited their descendants over a weekend excursion between Hell and Heaven. Every one of these people would have been Jewish, their descendants would have been Jewish, so if they had reported it to the Roman Authorities at the time, the response would have been “Nice new myth, now get back to growing olives for the empire”. The Romans *tolerated* local religions (well, mostly) but there is no reason why such an event would have caused any reports to even leave the province.

          The only reason we think of Christianity OR Judaism as important today at all, is because of what happened 400 years later. Otherwise, it’s just a couple of interesting little local religions in a world full of interesting little local religions.

          Oh, and to top it off, in the Greek and Roman world, people coming back from the dead wasn’t exactly a shocking miracle. Do even a small study of the local myths of those cultures, and it would seem that zombie apocalypses were happening relatively often.

        • deiseach

          Oh, yes, spontaneous generation – why not mention phlogistion and the quintessence while you are at it? My point was that back then, people knew a dead body just as well as they do nowadays, and if stories of dead arising were being passed around, someone would have surely said “Hang on, what do you mean?”

          It is not a good enough answer to say that people back then didn’t know how organic life arose, or about DNA, or hadn’t discovered electricity or the likes. Death is constant and it wasn’t one thing back then and another now; you cannot just get away with saying “Of course they believed it back then, they believed all kinds of things, they didn’t know any better.” A farmer might not be sure whether or not the gods had visited the next village (maybe that strange traveller was Mercury, who can be sure?) but he would be fairly sure that a dead body was indeed really dead and that for it to walk around would be an extraordinary thing, not just “well, who knows what life is, sure, maybe the dead can rise again of their own accord!”

          Yes, I know about Lazarus – he was raised from the dead by Jesus. A forerunner and first fruits of the Resurrection. There are also the accounts of the widow’s son at Nain and the daughter of Jairus. I don’t get your point here.

          “It’s not mentioned in any of the other gospels.”

          And John’s Gospel contains different matter to the other three. You know, I’ve seen this argument both ways: (a) the Gospels aren’t identical in all details, so they can’t be true, because they wouldn’t be different – despite the fact that they are written by different individuals at different times (b) the Gospels are identical, so they can’t be true, because in real life witnesses don’t have perfectly matching stories so they must be copies of one document cooked up by the Church as the official line.

          There have been and continue to be all kinds of historical-critical theories, from an unknown source document “Q” onwards, to account for the existence of the Gospels and what is and isn’t factual or accurate. You could go the Thomas Jefferson or Jesus Seminar route and just cut out all the supernatural elements and the parts you feel Jesus wouldn’t have said, and come up with a nice, non-miraculous account of an itinerant wisdom teacher who stole most of his notions from the Buddha and was put to death for going around telling people to be nice to each other.

          “It would be the most important event in the history of the Roman Empire”

          Not if the officials in charge shared your attitude, keddaw. A report comes in of unrest and wild talk in that troublesome province that is always having some kind of religious-based quarrel. A troublemaker, one of a batch of recent revoluntionaries, has been executed in a criminal trial and his followers are spreading wild tales. One of them is that some dead bodies apparently came to life again. Sure we’re going to send a special envoy specially to check this out. Would your American defence department, getting reports of prophecies and allegations of miracles from Afghanistan amongst the Taliban, drop everything to send out an investigation team or would they, like you, dismiss it as the kind of propaganda you’d expect zealots and fanatics for a religious cause to whip up and disseminate amongst the credulous peasantry?

          “It’s not mentioned by any contemporary writings”

          First, we don’t have surviving every single scrap of contemporary writing. But I’m going to assume you mean “It’s not in Josephus and he was the expert on Jewish affairs writing at the time”. And of course, a Jew writing for a Gentile audience and trying to present the best side of Jewish affairs to a sceptical and inclined to be prejudiced Rome is going to prop up the claims of some rabble-rouser who was put to death for revolutionary actitivities against the Empire, isn’t he?

          Though I must thank you for informing me that apparently I didn’t come up with the idea all on my own but am using a tactic that is becoming prevalent – either it’s “Great minds think alike” or “Fools seldom differ”!

          • Ray

            “I’ve seen this argument both ways: (a) the Gospels aren’t identical in all details, so they can’t be true, because they wouldn’t be different – despite the fact that they are written by different individuals at different times (b) the Gospels are identical, so they can’t be true, because in real life witnesses don’t have perfectly matching stories so they must be copies of one document cooked up by the Church as the official line.”

            Both arguments are valid, but the differences in question are not the same kind of difference. The differences supporting argument (a) tend to be either outright contradictions, or at least omissions that would not be expected — leaving out truly remarkable events, that should at least be big news amongst those inclined to believe such tales. The agreements in argument (b) are not just agreements of content, but agreement in wording, sentence order etc. which indicate that where the gospels agree on substance, it is only, or at least primarily because they copied from one another.

            ” And of course, a Jew writing for a Gentile audience and trying to present the best side of Jewish affairs to a sceptical and inclined to be prejudiced Rome is going to prop up the claims of some rabble-rouser who was put to death for revolutionary actitivities against the Empire, isn’t he?”

            Josephus seems to have mentioned Jesus at least once, and possibly twice (depending on how much of the Testimonium Flavianum is interpolated,) but to heck with Josephus, what about Paul? — here’s an author inclined to believe all sorts of Christian claims, who’s been to Jerusalem, who has a notable interest in the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, and he never mentions anything about anyone having risen from the dead other than Jesus.

            Now you are correct about one thing. The miracles unique to Matthew are greater miracles, in the Humean sense, than the miracle of said miracles not being recorded elsewhere. And they therefore should be rejected, even in a hypothetical world where we had much better written evidence of them. But the Christian case requires both miracles to occur, for the Gospel of Matthew to be accurate. And while you might make a case for why a God, if present, might want to arrange the former miracle (raising of the dead), it seems pretty inexplicable why he would arrange the the latter one (miraculously poor preservation of records of the former miracle.)

            In contrast, the atheist alternative requires neither miracle.

        • keddaw

          Ted, Matthew is more than a few ghost stories, there are claims of much physical evidence, from earthquakes to tombs being rent asunder. It strikes e that the magnitude of the empty tomb is somewhat diminished by the fact that Matthew claims there are many such tombs at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. And the first to see the events were Roman centurions, not ‘family members’. So, yes, Roman authorities would have investigated these claims because they would have come from their own and not some religious nutters in the Empire’s backwater.

          Ted: “Oh, and to top it off, in the Greek and Roman world, people coming back from the dead wasn’t exactly a shocking miracle.”
          deiseach: “My point was that back then, people knew a dead body just as well as they do nowadays, and if stories of dead arising were being passed around, someone would have surely said “Hang on, what do you mean?””

          Do you two want to have a little discussion about whether dead was dead and whether people of the era would be surprised by the dead rising?

          More importantly, can you see why this is difficult for atheists to argue when two Catholics (I presume) are on the opposite side of something so fundamental? I attack X and Ted defends Y, I attack Y and deiseach defends X, I cannot win…

          • keddaw

            Of course, as I have learned to my cost, one should at least set some ground rules on what constitutes evidence, science, likely events etc. when arguing with religious people. For example, if a Catholic thinks their God intervenes in the natural world on a regular basis to produce miracles to enable the beatification of saints, then perhaps the magnitude of this event and the evidence it provided is not significant on them. Or perhaps they’re a non-literal Catholic who doesn’t actually believe all New Testament/Gospel stories have to be true, it’s the message that counts.

          • Ted Seeber

            One needs to be somewhat familiar with Greek and Roman mythology to note that coming back from the dead wasn’t exactly unheard of in those mythologies.

            In addition, I don’t think you quite understand, kedaw, how an empire operates. Or at least how this one did. It was 300 years before anybody bothered to look into these events. Palestine may have been at the center of the trade routes, but in Imperial terms, it was the kind of backwater that you send your worst centurions to; like the Russian Front for the Germans in WWII, Siberia for the Russians, or Alaska for the Americans. *nobody* cared what went on in those hinterlands, as long as Ceaser continued to get his taxes. By far the rebellion in 70 A.D. was a much more important event than anything happening under Pilate, who was sent to govern the place as punishment.

            I am always amazed at how much credence those who supposedly don’t believe in the Bible, place in the Bible’s idea of what 1st Century Roman Society looked like; at a time when even by the fastest sailing vessels available it was a three week journey from Palestine to Italy.

  • Skittle

    My first three letters arrived this morning, all the way from Texas to England. I’m glad I had those first three, because the second one made me not sure whether I’d enjoy it enough to be worth the cost, whereas the third letter left me anticipating the next. I’m enjoying the stretched anticipation, and the excitement of receiving international letters in the post rather than just bank statements.

  • evetushnet

    The last line of the excerpt you quoted reminds me of my very favorite horror-movie poster tagline, from a poster for “28 Days Later”: BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING, FOR SOON THERE WILL BE NOTHING.

  • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

    LOVE the idea of this epistolary novel,not to mention I love getting actual real mail. Have subscribed to the first two bundles. What fun!!


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