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The Dead Goat Scrolls: A Cautionary Tale [Kindle Edition]

Margaret Jean Langstaff
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Hysterically funny (and rather irreverent) biblical "based" satire of our universal urge to do the right thing, figure out what that is, in fact, in our daily lives, and trust in providence. Our hero in this gem is Ishmut, an average decent fellow very very similar to today's hardworking people of conscience. Of course, when opposed or ignored, God "wins," God always does, having an incredible advantage vis-a-vis the rest of us. If you've read and enjoyed the *dark* humor and style of Flannery O'Connor, George Saunders and others like them, you will certainly enjoy THE DEAD GOAT SCROLLS.

A Mordantly Funny Fable for All Times
“Way back in time, after Adam and Eve, but before Noah and the Flood, lived a pretty good and honest man named Ishmut (His parents had given him this very ancient and honorable name, a name as old as dirt itself, meaning ‘he who sweats a lot.’).” So begins this wry, humorous and irreverent fable about a poor sap, a humble goatherd, with whom we can all identify. Hard-working, honest, faithful, loyal—Ishmut is Everyman just trying to make a go of it in this harsh, cruel world. He ekes out a small miserable existence with his three wives (Anthill, Shriek and Nan), three small daughters and assorted goats in a desert wasteland at the foot of the Hopeless Mountains. Tragedy and disappointment dog his steps spite of his arduous and earnest efforts to always do the right thing. He seems benighted, ignorant and foolishly (and relentlessly) hopeful in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Life often makes no sense to him and he frequently feels he is being punished for mysterious unintentional sins. Nevertheless, in the face of all his endless trials, Ishmut never wavers from his faith in a merciful providence (even when it seems prima facie absurd to cling to such a notion). Find out how Ishmut survives and finds beauty and happiness in the stew of misery that is his daily life.

Wink-Wink “Scripture” with a Southern Drawl
Writing tongue-in-cheek as a “translation from the Appalachian,” Margaret Jean Langstaff draws upon the conventions of biblical story-telling altered and seasoned by the lingua franca and story-telling lens of the American Deep South. The combination of the two creates a narrative style that is both ironic and hysterically funny. The result is a novella that leaves the reader both amused and strangely moved by this new take on a timeless theme. The Dead Goat Scrolls is a completely original and entertaining tale about one of life’s inscrutable, elusive mysteries and may well become a humor classic.

About the Author
Margaret Langstaff has written more than twenty books, both under her own name and as a ghostwriter for others, and countless feature articles and book reviews for prominent national periodicals, such as the L.A. Times, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, and the L.A. Times Book Review and Business Page. She is a former member of the National Book Critics Circle and former board member of the Book Industry Study Group. She is also the author of the acclaimed and popular humorous Florida mystery series, Garnet Sullivan Live from Florida.

Product Details

  • File Size: 159 KB
  • Print Length: 18 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Cedar Hill Press LLC (September 28, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00452VH6U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,938 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Amusing March 22, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a southerner raised on the doctrines that the Biblical Stories were lessons to be learned and adhered to unless you wanted to be smote by an Angel of God, this book is a wonderful funny telling of the lead-up to the "Great Flood of Noah", and it brightens up my old fears of the "smiting". The resulting three-part story is actually quite entertaining, and the ironic way it is written is like the best of the Southern writers; those who take their Mint Juleps with a twist of Arsenic will know what that means. George Saunders said; "Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up." Margaret has turned the volume way up on her writing style with this fabulous little story in three part harmony. The ability to take serious material and curve it around till it can laugh at itself is a true writers gift, and Margaret has done that with this delightful little Novella.
Margaret Langstaff has taken the favorites of the Old Testament hierarchy and crafted them into a single woe-be-gone character named Ishmut, and then she landed him in the middle of an unforgiving land, with three wives (two of which are enough to make the poor man gnash his teeth in anguish), a descending horde of mutilators, a guardian angel in the form of a goat, and raised his tent at the crossroads of Bedlam! Using Southern witticism, the author has taken liberties' with the Bible Belts firm stance on upholding the Holy, and brought humor out to play with the dire forbearance of the Holy icons! Laughing my way through a book is always the best way to read one. Combining true Mountain storytelling and Southern tongue in cheek sarcasm, Margaret has taken a well known story and made it brand new. Read this one with an one eye on the look-out for the absurd, and you will find it!(Look out for the "smiting") The Dead Goat Scrolls
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative and Original March 15, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The description of this story(it's a long short story...or a short novella I guess you'd call it)above is dead on...this is like a mix of an irreverent take on the biblical tales, somehow successfully combined with a wry Southern voice. It has a plot that never stops being surprising, and a cast of characters with names like...the Assyromaniacs....a god named Crud....Ishmut's wives: Anthill, Shriek and Nan....and his daughters: Sweetie Pie My Darlin, Honey Pie My Darlin and Sugar Pie My Darlin. It's not easy to describe something this imaginative and original. I really had fun reading it. Very good writing,too. By that I mean, it's written by a real writer, so all of it, in its own imaginative world, makes sense within its own world. A surprising story, and I'm glad I clicked on it and read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clever Biblical Spoof! July 31, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a clever fable, not for the squeamish or overly sensitive. Nevertheless, my grown son's and I enjoyed the hilarious satire. It is quite Funny. The author clearly based this Biblical Spoof on a vast array of ancient knowledge.

The Dead Goat Scrolls
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When rednecks meet the Old Testament April 7, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A humorous tale set in Old Testament times of a redneck's search for meaning and happiness in a harsh and cruel world. God's message may not be clear, but the story of our hero's efforts to discover it is funny, original, and creative.
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More About the Author


Trite and commonplace as it is, I'll admit Shakespeare (the well dressed, serious guy with the ear ring in the famous Chandos portrait) was my first hero and is still an inspiration and example in many ways for me.

But my own creative fiction probably has been most influenced by Flannery O'Connor, although more in a reactive way than in an imitative fashion.

Why? Two reasons, I suppose. Maybe more. But primarily: because in our time, although she has been dead many years, she remains the undisputed master of the short story form and that is the form that most draws me, the one I'm most comfortable with and in which so far, though some may disagree with me, I believe I have done my best work.

Secondly, I share her ferocious sensibility and write from an intuitive moral, though not theological, standpoint. I am similarly intent upon (and enjoy), calling out and firing at villains, sinners, reprobates and dangerous subversives what I hope are lethal poisoned darts of humor.

There is a possible third factor in that, for better or worse, I am naturally drawn to the American South as the sui generis of my characters and stories.

Oh, and a possible fourth thing, maybe actually a similarity between us: our often freakish fictional characters and the freaking duck soup they've made out of their lives.

However, I am more compassionate and forgiving than O'Connor and far less doctrinaire. Less severe.

I don't think most people are going straight to hell, for instance. (She is a STITCH.) I think too many people are already in hell, have engineered themselves there in the here and now, through poor choices. I am certainly less accomplished. She would probably dismiss me as a slacker, a spiritual weakling, and deficient in moral "fiber." She was tough.

But a little perspective on this.

If I were seriously sleep deprived or tipsy, and found myself in the ER as a result of one or both of those conditions, and someone asked me my blood type, like a robot zombie I'd automatically blurt Catholic.

It's more than a state of mind, it's more than belief, faith, theology, ritual and observance. If they get to you early enough, they suck out your blood, get the Holy Ghost to swirl it around in certain secret patterns, say words over it in Latin, dilute it with holy water, swing incense over it, pipe it back in, and you are Catholic. ( Below, what they did to me.)me 1st grade St F Academy. Period. For your whole guilt-ridden, tear-streaked, confused, cowering life. For all eternity you are thus marked, scarred and cursed (If there is such a horrible thing as eternal life I will have to live it as a Catholic). There is no escape. None whatsoever. There is no known cure for it yet and people will quit looking for one, even the most highly motivated seekers of such, other Catholics, once they realize what Catholic really is, assuming, that is, anyone (other than myself) ever does.

Nevertheless, I also admire and have picked up a thing or two from Twain.

I adore his work and return to it often for sheer enjoyment. The humor angle, the tendency to skewer by satire, the American stamp, his fluency in my native soil's lingua franca, his delight in the absurd.

On a more personal note-

I live on a small farm and spend as much time as I can outdoors.

In passing, before I forget it, I think I should just mention that I hate kale. You may not think this significant, but I do.

Anyway, Twain has Huck Finn say in a certain context, "There ain't no harm in a dog." Well, I agree and I love dogs. I seem to have a visceral understanding of dogs. I can speak "dog," apparently. If there are dogs within a 500 foot radius of me, they almost always suddenly stop whatever it is they are doing, look up as if surprised, check things out, and somehow sense me. They suddenly become, as it were, transfixed by my presence, transported to a state of happy blissedness, and will abruptly leave their owners, bones, the bottoms of other dogs they are investigating, you name it, and make a beeline for me as if I were the long awaited canine messiah, the Dog Jesus, and they would become my apostles. They want to sit at my feet and hear the gospel, the good news, according to Dog.

Funny, I love it. Strange, but this often makes my husband quite annoyed and uncomfortable.

I seem to hold the same charisma and fascination for horses, cats, chickens, wild birds, even lizards and snakes. I could do well without the latter, thank you very much. No idea where all this, this "gift" of mine, came from. I just get these guys and they get me. Too bad they don't read. If they did, I know I could sell a lot of books to them.

Incidentally, my favorite food is pinot noir.

I also love birds and I've tried keeping peacocks several times a la O'Connor, but so far each time I've bought a pair--and I've bought several--they have suddenly taken off on a hot lazy afternoon, launched themselves straight up in the air like helicopters or Mary Poppins, and whop-whop-whop, whirr-whirr, headed for the woods next door. In those dark woods there now flourishes a flock of peacocks, an angry histrionic chorus of critics, that sometimes shows up at the fence at twilight, my favorite time of day to be outside, to hurl vehement ear-piercing insults at me. The whole neighborhood can hear it. It's like being bashed in public by a mob of loud-mouthed bedlamites on crack.

I suspect O'Connor is behind this. It has all the hallmarks.

Finally, I have to own up to a serious debt to the mysterious but charismatic Emily Dickinson to whom I was introduced first (seriously) in college and whom I studied most seriously as a graduate student. I began with poetry, poetry remains my first love and abides in my highest estimation as the superior literary form. Dickinson's work and life were my introduction to and (remains my archetype for) the sere sacrifice (as well as the indescribable transcendence) of what it means to be a poet.

Whew. That was tough. Seriously.

The stark unadorned details of my professional background, my creds and education are available on LinkedIn. Actually, I wouldn't call them "details" per se. The info there is the bare minimum, an author's equivalent of a soldier's "Name, Rank and Serial Number." More like my Dog Tags or my toe tag in a morgue. Just in case. I mean, who knows? You never know, you know?

As far as I know, those are the facts as I know them.

It occurs to me, as I try to wind this windy whimsy up, that I write to defer, deflect and improve upon The Facts as we know them (always provisional), especially the most dangerous ones, and to lay bare The Lies that get in our way and subvert our lives.

Somehow it is impossible for me to do this seriously and effectively, and (most importantly) sincerely and authentically in my own voice, without humor. I guess that makes me a spasmodic optimist. Or something."


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