Book recommendation: The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show

The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show by Ariel Gore

The story of a troupe of seven performance artists, narrated by a lapsed Catholic whose “trick” is manifesting stigmata, and what happens to them when they get a little too much media attention.  Gore’s father is an excommunicated Catholic priest, and her bio says she grew up attending his rebel Catholic church in San Francisco.  It shows.  The book is interwoven with irreverent takes on the lives of the saints.  (Representative quote: “Thérèse [of Lisieux], you were little, but bad-ass.  Teach me to be such an awesome failure.”)  The structuring mythologies are equally Catholicism and the punk performance aesthetic: other performers include a bearded woman with the singing voice of an angel and a drag queen who can levitate.  It’s firmly rooted in the multicultural, diverse and kind of hippy-dippy world of the West Coast.

Some books have been on my radar for years, but I don’t get around to reading them until later.  Some books come along at the perfect time in my life.  This book is in both of those categories.  At this literal, exact moment, I needed to remember that Catholicism and the joyous, feminist anarchy of punk aesthetics can mix.  Catholics can have tattoos too!  (So stop looking at me weird during mass.)

Recommended if you like: the imagery of Catholicism, The Hold Steady, old-fashioned revivals meet circus freakshows (minus the conversion or the Othering), punk performance art, diverse casts of characters, hagiography.

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