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The Devil and Daniel Silverman

The Devil and Daniel Silverman

3.5 2
by Theodore Roszak

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Danny Silverman’s first novel reached #10 on the New York Times best-seller list, but that was 20 years ago. Now middle-aged, he and his partner, Martin, an African-American actor, are getting by on the residuals from Martin’s cancelled TV cop series when Danny gets an offer he can’t refuse: a speaking gig in a Minnesota bible college that


Danny Silverman’s first novel reached #10 on the New York Times best-seller list, but that was 20 years ago. Now middle-aged, he and his partner, Martin, an African-American actor, are getting by on the residuals from Martin’s cancelled TV cop series when Danny gets an offer he can’t refuse: a speaking gig in a Minnesota bible college that will net him a small fortune. Why me? Silverman wonders, but he’ll take the money and run. What can happen? Only a record-breaking snowstorm that traps him under the same roof as the evangelical Christian faculty who see this Jewish homosexual writer from San Francisco as the incarnation of the anti-Christ. Forced to defend all he believes in—sexual equality, human rights, same-sex marriage; dancing! vodka! coffee!—Silverman finds himself on the front lines of the culture wars dividing the nation today.

Best known as a social historian, Theodore Roszak is also the author of cult-status novels such as Flicker, a Hollywood horror satire, and The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, a sensual retelling of the gothic classic. Now Roszak brings us a hilarious novel of politics and ideas in which the battle for the moral heart of America is waged between a college full of scripture-spouting fundamentalists and one gay humanist who thinks they’re full of crap.

Theodore Roszak lives in Berkeley, where he is a professor of history at California State University, Hayward. The author of 18 books, including the international bestseller The Making of a Counter Culture, he has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s. The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein (Random House) received The James Tiptree Award for "literature that expands our understanding of gender."

Editorial Reviews

Kevin Greenberg
Roszak has already demonstrated his remarkable scope, moving easily between the bestselling social history The Making of a Counter Culture and graceful novels such as Flicker and The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein. His latest novel is a very funny satire with wisdom at its heart. Danny Silverman was once a promising fiction writer. His first book rose as high as No. 10 on the New York Times bestseller list, but he has since ebbed into middle-aged mediocrity. Then one day he receives a tantalizing offer: a tidy sum for a single speaking engagement at a Minnesota bible college, whose simple name does little to reflect the fundamentalist dogma of its administrators, the Free Reformed Evangelical Brethren in Christ. Danny is Jewish, and gay, but it's hard to walk away from the money. So he flies to Minnesota, where he's promptly trapped by a snowfall that leaves him at the mercy of the college's bible-thumping faculty, who force him during the course of his interment to defend his humanist position on everything from the Holocaust to dancing and drinking. Roszak has a delightful ear for dialogue, which he employs to great effect. It's fun to watch Silverman's politesse dissolve into sarcasm, then acrid disbelief, when confronted with his conservative captors.
Publishers Weekly
This story of a gay Jewish novelist's trip from San Francisco to a small religious college in the Midwest is an uneven, fitfully entertaining satire. Roszak, a social historian (The Making of a Counter Culture) and novelist (Flicker), begins with some witty jabs at the publishing industry. Daniel Silverman is a writer whose last success was nearly 20 years ago, when Analyzing Anna ("solid middle-brow exercises in mordant but good-humored social satire") spent one week at number 10 on the New York Times bestseller list. Now his job teaching university extension courses isn't paying the bills, and his agent has long since dumped him. When Minnesota's Faith College invites him to speak on humanism, he can hardly refuse-they're offering $12,000. When he arrives, he finds that the faculty members believe, among other things, that homosexuals are unclean and humanists are going to hell. To make matters worse, he is trapped by a ferocious blizzard for several days. At this point, the book becomes bogged down in broad, predictable sendups of the American religious right. Silverman has heated arguments with his bigoted hosts, who talk about "the nearly monopolistic influence your people hold over the mass media" and insist that evidence for the Holocaust is "exaggerated." Roszak does some damage control by turning to farce, as a liquor-soaked Silverman begins to suspect that his hosts are planning to kill him before the end of the storm. But the novel's intermittent pleasures are weighed down by the clumsy social critique. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Things would be better for Daniel Silverman, a gay, Jewish, middle-aged novelist, if his books would sell more and his partner Marty's TV series hadn't been canceled. They are scraping the bottom of the financial barrel when Danny is offered $12,000 for one speech. As he must make this speech in Minnesota at a Christian school over New Year's, he is reluctant. However, a combination of flattery, first-class travel, and Marty's dental bills impel Danny to accept. On arrival, he finds himself with four lone allies: the head of the college and the three students who invited him to be the first speaker of the Religious Humanism program. Everyone else is hostile-especially upon discovering that Danny is gay. When he finishes his speech, which involves outing himself and defending the existence of the Holocaust, he finds that he and the faculty have been snowed in and that everyone must deal with one another. During this time, Danny confronts many issues concerning his childhood, his personal views on God and religion, his role and identity as a gay man, and, of course, his position as a writer and educator. A two-time National Book Award nominee, Roszak (history, California State Univ., Hayward) presents a story that one wishes were parody-but it isn't. This important work is highly recommended for all public libraries.-T.R. Salvadori, Margaret Heggan Free P.L., Hurffville, NJ Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sinclair Lewis might have liked this ebullient lampoon, whose targets include writers' frail egos and crowded psyches, the publishing industry's deranged priorities, and the nuts and bolts (especially the nuts) of religious fundamentalism. Social critic Roszak (The Gendered Atom, 1999, etc.), whose unconventional fiction includes Flicker (1991) and The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein (1995), treats himself and us to a deliciously promising premise: gay San Francisco novelist Danny Silverman's trip to North Fork, Minnesota, to lecture (as a visiting "Jewish Humanist") at conservative Faith College, run by the Free Reformed Evangelical Brethren in Christ. Ignoring the pleas of his black partner Marty, Danny plunges into moral-majoritarian Middle America, predictably offends his dour hosts, then finds he's stranded among them when a monster snowstorm shuts down the entire region. If the FREBC takes artistic umbrage at Silverman's decreasingly popular rewritings of literary classics (e.g., Moby-Dick from the whale's viewpoint), his political and sexual liberalism raise beyond boiling point the hackles of such intemperate true believers as the school's motherly-bigot CEO Mrs. Bloore, a gay-bashing state senator, a pair of missionaries who luxuriate in gory details of African poverty and misery, and various other anti-abortionists, Holocaust-deniers, and haters of sex in almost all forms. The narrative bogs down in lengthy arguments between Silverman and selected North Forkers, but it does have a fairly lively plot, which gets cracking when the desperate Danny, having survived a guided tour of "one of the largest demonological libraries in North America," attempts escape, gets rescued by asquadron of "Snow Ghosts" (i.e., Christian snowmobilers), and, emulating Dante's epic journey, reaches his misadventure's climax on a frozen lake. Much too long and more than a little self-indulgent-but for most of its fractious, farcical length, most readers will be having too much fun to notice.

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Leapfrog Press
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

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The Devil and Daniel Silverman 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apprentices den.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago