This memoir had a lot of LOL moments, and considerable depth too. I have never been that much of a spiritual searcher myself. I think I am comfortable enough with my own pseudo-scientific-magical interpretation of the universe, which seems to accommodate any and all new information, that I have never shared Richard Kemick’s need to put faith in any stories that sound to me like ancient fiction.
I was confounded by this sense of searching for much of the book, until near the end, when Kemick talked about mental illness. This to me was an undersold (on the book cover and publisher’s website) aspect of the book. I do not know that understatement was Kemick’s intent, but it made me wonder if a lot of the bizarre things he observed (all with sympathetic eyes, I should say, and written honestly and with an open mind) at Canada’s largest passion play had deeper roots in people’s struggles with mental illness. I am not saying they all suffer mental illness, but that our collective need for faith is perhaps a method of grounding ourselves when rationally observed reality often feels like it slides around and changes with each news cycle.The “crazier” the world gets, the more I think we’re all a little cracked, and hungry for some kind of great consistency. This hunger is perhaps a pull toward fundamentalism, or at least obsession with ancient faith texts like the Bible, and finding new ways to make them relevant and mainstream. (Kemick does venture into this territory with one character who suffers from addictions, and wonders if whatever as-yet-unknown addiction, whatever replaces the addiction–religion–that replaced the substance addictions, might be worse.)
I Am Herod is an intriguing and pleasurable read, with plenty of fun wordplay. It features several meandering threads that come together delightfully and in unexpected ways.
About the Author: Richard Kelly Kemick is the recipient of numerous awards, including two National Magazine Awards, an Alberta Literary Award, and the Norma Epstein Award. His debut poetry collection, Caribou Run, was published to critical acclaim in 2016. His writing has appeared in magazines, journals, and anthologies across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, including the Walrus, the New Quarterly, This Magazine, the Fiddlehead, Numéro Cinq, and Taddle Creek. He divides his time between Calgary, AB, and Rossland, BC. I Am Herod is his first book-length work of non-fiction.
About the Reviewer: Chris Benjamin is an author, editor and freelance journalist specializing in environment, social justice, and arts & culture. He is the author of Indian School Road and Drive-by Saviours as well as numerous short stories.
I Am Herod by Richard Kemick
Goose Lane Editions
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