The true novel of an intellectual affair.
Back in November I was contacted by a writer and professor in New Jersey named Danusha V. Goska, a former leftist who had begun posting powerful and personal articles about her political transformation. I interviewed her here, and subsequently she became a contributor to FrontPage Mag. She also happens to be the author of the novel Save Send Delete, which I recently read.
As powerful and as personal as her articles, Save Send Delete chronicles the intellectual love affair-by-email of Mira – a poor, Catholic professor – and Rand, an atheist author and celebrity. The tale is simultaneously a philosophical debate, an exploration of faith, and a passionate romance.
In my interview with Dr. Goska, she had explained that her novel was essentially her own true story, albeit with the names changed to protect the identity of the man who was once the object of her affection:
Several years back I was wrestling with the big, hard questions: Is there a God? Why is there suffering? I saw an atheist on TV and I sent him an email. To my great surprise, he wrote back. We corresponded for a year, debating the existence of God, and we fell in love.
Her novel grew out of that tempestuous intellectual affair between a confirmed atheist and a questing believer. But that intellectual bout is not as black-and-white as that might seem. “Save Send Delete isn’t a left-wing book or a right-wing book,” Dr. Goska told me. “It’s about confronting God and love and trying to dig down as deeply as possible for worthy, livable truth.”
The book opens with Mira emailing an outraged rant to Lord Randolph Court-Wright, a prominent philosopher, after she sees him interviewed by Bill Moyers on TV. She bluntly challenges his intellectual arrogance, calling him “as dogmatic in your atheism as a Monty Python parody of a pope.” To her shock and mortification, the celebrated philosopher responds graciously; Mira even suspects that it must be the work of a grad student reading Rand’s emails. And thus begins their conversation.
Mira is Christian because “Catholicism assured me that I had a place as good as any rich kid’s in the kingdom of Heaven… Inside a Catholic Church, I never doubted my worth. There was no reason.” Burdened at one point in her life with physical challenges, her faith gave Mira meaning to her suffering. “I approached every feature of my suffering: loneliness, pain, paralysis, despair, terror, rage, waste, poverty, as an obstacle on a course I was running for my own spiritual growth in the eyes of God – and nobody else. That choice was what made all the difference.”
Other than the Judeo-Christian tradition, Mira tells Rand, she knows of “no other narrative tradition where common, often peasant, women from two, and three, and four thousand years back, take on individual life and importance that outlasts the renown of kings.” On the other hand, she writes,
I don’t believe in a God who, the moment you cast your lot in with him, or read that bestseller about the power of positive thoughts, makes you happy, pretty, and rich. I do believe that there is a supernatural entity who can make you feel 100% better instantaneously, and his name is Satan.”
As for Buddhism, Mira tells Rand that, “like Merton, I’m grateful to embrace Buddhism’s gifts, like meditation, that don’t contradict my own beliefs.” But ultimately, “we humans are hot-blooded creatures, and Buddhism is as cold as empty space, and it demands that we be, as well, and we cannot.”
On the subject of Islam, Mira tells Rand that she didn’t learn about jihad from a book; she received a blunt education about it from a childhood Muslim friend named Narin, who told Mira calmly as they walked home from school together one sunny day “that when the time for jihad came, she’d kill me if I did not submit”:
The unchanging command that Muslim men must commit jihad and establish universal dominance is unique to Islam. No other world faith mandates the nonnegotiable, continuous and all-pervasive denigration of women and girls that has proven central to Islam… Islam allows no criticism, and, therefore, no growth, no change.
One of the reasons she revels in her correspondence with Rand is that, thanks to the “mind-crippling toxin” of politically correct education, she gets no intellectual stimulation from her functionally illiterate students or even from other professors: “It’s your feeeelings that matter most,” she says, scorning their vapid mindset. “There Are No Wrong Answers. Let’s all sit in a circle and make a communal collage expressing our anger at our enemy – rich, white, heterosexual, Christian, American men.”
In the process of their back-and-forth, Mira quickly finds herself becoming seduced; she confides to a friend that “it’s as if he knows what words I most crave to hear and is speaking them, one after another, in some order designed to move me to the maximum.” But the growing intimacy is not of a simple sexual nature: “He and I are not tearing off our clothing to reveal our nakedness, but, rather, we are revealing something far more intimate – our souls.” In doing so, she finds they are not so much opposites attracting as complementary halves:
He’s a glacier. I’m a blowtorch. His hyperrationality and stunted emotional life provide scaffolding. For once in my life I can lean back. There is finally a methodical, cold and rational yang out there equal and opposite to my arithmetically retarded, ever-exploring yin.
Mira’s world view is a reflection of Dr. Goska’s own, of course; they both categorically reject the deadly relativism of what Goska calls “capital A” Atheists who dismiss all religion as evil. Such relativism “has long been the thinking of mass murderers from the French Terror to the Khmer Rouge,” she stated in the interview.
Save Send Delete presents a compelling challenge to that absolutist mentality. It is a passionate, intellectually wide-ranging novel that wrestles with “the big, hard questions” and makes the case, as Dr. Goska put it, “not only for faith, but for civilization.”
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