Paradise

March 14, 1994|By ANDREI CODRESCU

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans.--The biblical Garden of Eden always seemed to me an unbelievably boring place, begging for vandalism. Every day the same weather, no sex, no fruit, no thought, no language. Adam sees Eve. Eve sees Adam. Nothing to say. Nothing to do. No hello. No goodbye. Keep circling. God always spying. No wonder they went nuts. Went for the nuts. Blame the nuts.

Now comes ''The Lost Book of Paradise,'' restored by David Rosenberg from old manuscripts and ancient longings, a poetic rendering of a paradise stormy with emotional deprivation and strife. In Mr. Rosenberg's paradise, nature is alive, more alive than Adam who longs for Eve, just as fruits and nuts long for bees and bugs. Adam is alone for a long time, shapeless and without a mirror, until Eve shows up, out of his own desire and together they sing to each other until they upset the more practical fruits and flowers. Then God, who likes a balanced and harmonious garden, throws them out.

''The Lost Book of Paradise'' is a who-done-it, with David Rosenberg as the detective, tracking down the author through lost cities and libraries of the ancient world. The author of ''The Lost Book'' is a woman, a scholar from the 9th century before the Christian era, who is herself a detective seeking the lost story of paradise. Paradise itself exists nowhere outside fragments of poetry, shreds of song, interrupted longings.

In the end, it's a love story between two poet-scholars, a contemporary one. David Rosenberg, and an ancient one, a woman who sprang up from his desire and imagination.

It occurred to me, after reading this, that the only paradise there ever was was a love song. The Garden of Eden was a song. Still, the humans did sing louder than all the things of nature, and for that they were punished with silence and deafness and the inability to understand the language of flowers and beasts. As punishment they write books. And wail for the ''lost paradise.''

Andrei Codrescu is editor of ''Exquisite Corpse.''

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