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Carl Sagan, a Jewish Reply


Professor Gansa's Dream, or Science as a Naked Lightbulb: a Jewish reply to Carl Sagan's Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.
By Peter Gimpel. Narrative poem in 75 "stanzos", satirizing Sagan's anti-religious agenda; with a critical exposé of Sagan's fuzzy thinking, sloppy scholarship, and Jewish self-hatred. With 11 "visualizations" by Jerry McGuinness.
Trade paper. 72 pages (including illustrations).

ISBN: 0-9631478-3-8. Price (US): $12.95.

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REVIEW

"Professor Gansa's Dream
Tackles Atheism and Jewish self-hatred."
By Chris Leppek, Intermountain Jewish News.

Peter Gimpel is sometimes a poet and sometimes a writer of prose, but he always manages to serve as eccentrically provocative commentator on such subjects as the meaning of life, G-d's purpose for man, the role of the Jews in the grand scheme of things, love, war and death. Fascinated and utterly unafraid of such philosophical morasses, he can be a remakably flexible wordsmith. When the mood (or the muse) strikes him, he can be touchingly tragic, bitterly ironic or simply funny.

One of Gimpel's frequent themes, reflected in earlier works, like the difficult-to-describe but memorable The Carnevalis of Eusebius Asch, is how humorous our human attempts at cosmic understanding can often be. "Professor Gansa's Dream is a perfect venue for this favored ponder of Gimpel's, a poetic dream sequence in which the renowned Jewish astronomer and pop scientist Carl Sagan—represented here by Gimpel's Prof. Gansa personality — is forced to come face-to-face with his own atheism and self-hatred as a Jew.

One evening,while traversing a parking lot, Gansa is whisked aboard what initially seems to be a flying saucer straight out of "The X-Files", but which turns out to be a sort of surreal tour of Jewish history, guided by a mysterious shtetl Jew by the name of "-steen.

Gansa's mockery of the Bible, his overt criticism of Judaism and Jewish history, and his unapologetic denial of G-d as Creator thus come under rhetorical attack by an ethereal assemblage of Jewish archetypes, Biblical characters, spiritual beings and glimpses of the Jewish past.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, the atheistic and potentially anti-Semitic Gansa returns to this dimension not entirely convinced of—yet still deeply troubled by—his "dream".

Reflecting the wit and brisk cadence of the poem itself, the narrative is provided by the psychiatrist whom the confused Gansa has come to consult after the experience.

The poem is replete with references to the late Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, a book which Gimpel acknowledges triggered this parody and counter thrust, and which plainly irked if not angered the poet himself. Yet Gimpel, to his credit, does not revert to angry epithets or simplistic solutions to show Sagan-Gansa the theological and philosophical error of his ways, and never loses sight of the fact that humor can be the most effective of teachers.

Like Charles Dickens' famed The Christmas Carol—an obvious inspiration for this work—the cynical protagonist of Professor Gansa's Dream is taken on a ghostly, supernatural, ulimately life-changing nocturnal ride. It's a pity that Sagan himself is no longer around to share the fun. He probably would have enjoyed it—and might even have learned a thing or two.

 

Professor Gansa's Dream, or Science as a Naked Lightbulb: a Jewish reply to Carl Sagan's Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.
By Peter Gimpel. Narrative poem in 75 "stanzos", satirizing Sagan's anti-religious agenda; with a critical exposé of Sagan's fuzzy thinking, sloppy scholarship, and Jewish self-hatred. With 10 "visualizations" by Jerry McGuinness.

Trade paper. 72 pages (including illustrations).
ISBN: 0-9631478-3-8. Price (US): $12.95.
Advance order from Red Heifer Press only.

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