Marc Estrin Takes on the Rapture in The Lamentations of Julius Marantz

I don’t know how familiar folks are with them in other parts of the United States, but down here in North Carolina, I’ve seen the bumperstickers that read “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned” all too often. The funny thing about the sticker though, is that the drivers of the vehicles they appear on seem to be deadly serious. They truly believe that they will be one of the 144,000 that will be bodily lifted into the heavens at any time. I’m not one to lampoon someone else’s religious beliefs in public (no matter how ridiculous they may seem), but if there are only 144,000 souls that will experience this end of the world, how can there be so many cars with those bumperstickers on them?

Since the intention of this piece is not to address this and other pressing theological questions but to review the latest fictional work from Marc Estrin, I’ll leave the quandary produced by those bumperstickers in the hands of men and women better trained in such matters. It certainly seems to be at least as important as how many angels can actuality fit on a pin-a question that is probably still being debated in some seminary on the planet.

Estrin’s novel, titled The Lamentations of Julius Marantz, (Unbridled Books, 2007), twists the rapture into a comic conspiracy of the right wing US government and the Sierra Club designed to rid the government of its leftist and Islamic enemies, end the leak in the ozone, and consolidate the government’s right wing political base. It all begins with the misadventures of Julius Marantz, a clubfooted Jewish-American physicist who has invented an anti-gravity device. Unwittingly, he allows the device, known simply as ‘the doodad,” to fall into the hands of GEKO, a rightwing coalition of corporate lobbyists, Christian religious leaders, military men, and a good portion of the United States government. The intentions of GEKO become all too clear as they begin to use the Doodad to remove their enemies from the face of the earth.

Thus begins Julius’ attempts to get the Doodad back while avoiding the GEKO secret police attempting to capture Julius and send him up with the rest of their raptured enemies. Meanwhile, back on earth, the reader is presented with a potentially real rally of bikers high on Jesus. Estrin’s manipulation of the language used by the Falwells, Robertsons, Swaggarts and their lesser brethren quietly exposes the vacuum behind the televangelists’ revival circus. Besides that, it points out the underlying comedic absurdity of it.

For Julius, who spent his younger years spying on adult life on Coney Island weekends, this newest circus is reminiscent yet less instructive than his boyhood jaunts. He learns nothing new about the fantastic extravagances of human nature. Indeed, he only learns more about those who would prevent those extravagances because of their own lust for money and power. Furthermore, like Estrin’s other anti-heroes Marantz looks to love for release from the ugliness he discovers. He goes underground in search of an old lover whom he hopes will join him in his crusade to fight the government and get the Doodad back. When that fails Julius, like Gregor Samsa, Estrin’s most famous protagonist from the novel Insect Dreams, ends up giving up his fight against the evil he knows lurks in the hearts of the powerful and decides to seek his release via death.

It’s another clever tale told here by Mr. Estrin. Nominally a Jewish novel (whatever the hell that is), it is a novel about the nonsensical manipulations we take in the name of religion. It is also a story bout how those manipulations can and are used against the religious–rarely for their own good. Like the tales of Jonathan Swift, Estrin’s satire of modern day America is more than just a joke. It’s a warning we might do well to heed.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. fred houseman said on October 4th, 2007 at 5:34pm #


  2. ron said on October 4th, 2007 at 7:14pm #

    to be honest, I don’t believe in the rapture.

  3. L. cooper said on October 5th, 2007 at 1:06pm #

    To bad you dont belive in the rapture, in this day and time with world in such a mess and doom and gloom on every news paper headline, It’s nice to have hope in a God who loves you enough to save you from the wrath(that is a whole lot worse than now) to come!!!
    Good luck!!

  4. hp said on October 5th, 2007 at 7:41pm #

    Maybe someone can show me a time on this world when there wasn’t death, disease, disasters, wars, etc., etc., etc.
    Gosh, what powers of prophesy, what supernatural goings ons, what shocking revelations.
    It’s just that now they’re all in living color on the TV

  5. gerald spezio said on October 6th, 2007 at 4:29am #

    David Korten, an ex-CIA guy and Ford Foundation scholar, came to my town.

    Mrs. Korten is a Ford honcho, where she toils to create programs for the poor and downtrodden.
    David is a scholarly program person.

    David says that the Goddess was right here, or close by, 5000 years ago when everything was joy, joy, and more joy.

    She will return any day now.
    The Goddess is one sweet lady with a bare titty for everybody.
    Just like Mama, before the Nestle MBAs done stole the titty thing.
    She will bring earth community, Davis Korten said.

    About two hundred new agers in the audience nearly pissed themselves with rapturous joy.
    Two older feminist ladies, who attended Cal Berkeley in the sixties, actually did pee themselves with happiness.

    Oh, the joy of it all.

  6. gerald spezio said on October 6th, 2007 at 4:46am #

    Oh, I forgot.

    David Korten is a Stanford Ph.D. and taught at the Harvard Business School after he completed his Vietnam service as a Psy Ops officer.

    David worked his hiney off in the Phillipines for the Ford “People.” helping local people build civil society and “local community.”
    David is a people person who knows his psychology.
    He says that; “It is all about relationships.”

    David knows all kinds of stuff.
    And he looks just like Santa, but more serious.
    You can believe David.

  7. Hue Longer said on October 7th, 2007 at 9:23pm #

    Hey Ron, are Fred and L. Cooper handles you made up to better sell your article/review?

    If not, I’m sorry Fred and L… it just seemed very timely considering how few rapture enthusiasts I mistakenly assume would read much less post on DV