David Blackburn

Across the literary pages | 4 April 2011

Though not strictly a weekend literary supplement, the Flavorwire has 19 pictures of achingly sharp authors working at their typewriters. They include Tennessee Williams, John Cheevor, Slyvia Plath, Francoise Sagan and William Faulkner.  

A.C. Grayling was on the Today programme this morning, debating his secular Bible, The Good Book, with the Canon Chancellor of St. Pauls. Grayling has also given an interview to Decca Aitkenhead in the Guardian, where, among other things, he expands on secular morality, spiritual understanding and the importance of language.   

‘He insists that his new book does not belong in the same canon as Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great. “No, because it’s not against religion. There’s not one occurrence of the word God, or afterlife, or anything like that. It doesn’t attack religion, it’s a positive book, there’s nothing negative in it. People may think it’s against religion – but it isn’t.” But then he says, with a mischievous twinkle: “Of course, what would really help the book a lot in America is if somebody tries to shoot me.”

With any luck it shouldn’t come to that, but Grayling is almost certainly going to upset a lot of Christians, for what he has written is a secular bible. The Good Book mirrors the Bible in both form and language, and is, as its author says, “ambitious and hubristic – a distillation of the best that has been thought and said by people who’ve really experienced life, and thought about it”. Drawing on classical secular texts from east and west, Grayling has “done just what the Bible makers did with the sacred texts”, reworking them into a “great treasury of insight and consolation and inspiration and uplift and understanding in the great non-religious traditions of the world”.

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