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Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited


Like many of their contemporaries, novelists Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke attended Sunday school as kids but drifted away from religion as adolescents. Now, as adults, they are grappling anew with the teachings of the Bible. Rejecting the hard-edged dogmas of many mainline denominations, they have reread the New Testament, reviewed their own life experiences — and come up with their own personal interpretations of Christian tenets.

Moody and Steinke's renewed interest in ...

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Like many of their contemporaries, novelists Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke attended Sunday school as kids but drifted away from religion as adolescents. Now, as adults, they are grappling anew with the teachings of the Bible. Rejecting the hard-edged dogmas of many mainline denominations, they have reread the New Testament, reviewed their own life experiences — and come up with their own personal interpretations of Christian tenets.

Moody and Steinke's renewed interest in Christianity struck a chord with other notable writers — and the result is this extraordinary collection of original essays. Gathering together some of the freshest and most thought-provoking voices in contemporary literature — including Madison Smartt Bell, Benjamin Cheever, Lydia Davis, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lucy Grealey, bell hooks, Ann Padgett, Joanna Scott, and Kim Wozencraft — joyful Noise offers a fascinating range of probing and very personal interpretations of what Christianity means today. Whether it's Kathy Bowman's poetic riffs on the significance of "Jesus's Feet" or Barry Hannah's guilt-tinged recollections of a neighborhood outcast who went on to find fulfillment as a hippie minister, these remarkable and wonderfully eclectic meditations are sure to find an eager audience among boomers and twentysomethings looking to renew their faith.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Novelists Moody (Purple America, LJ 2/15/97) and Steinke (Suicide Blonde, Atlantic, 1992) have brought together 21 essays by 21 different contributors including themselves, none of whom are biblical or New Testament scholars. They are all writers, howevernovelists, poets, playwrightswhich makes this book about faith a most interesting read. With a deep interest in religion, the contributors have selected New Testament passages or themes on which to provide very different kinds of commentaries or as launching points for personal reflections on religion. One chapter, for example, is a poetical reflection on Jesus' feet, another on the teenage Jesus with a consideration of the adolescent spirit vis--vis religion. Recommended especially for collections including inspirational reading.John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., New York
Kirkus Reviews
A bid to shed fresh light on the New Testament, weighed down by a disappointingly predictable party line: Jesus-as-radical-moral-teacher.

These baby boomer writers have mostly "revisited" only a fraction of the New Testament, the Gospels, which novelist Moody (Purple America, p. 164, etc.) sees as "great liberal documents in strong support of ethical universals." In rescuing the New Testament from the Christian Right, though, these writers don't realize that by almost exclusively using the Gospels, they've ceded some of the richest territory to the fundamentalists. That's why Joanna Scott's marvelous essay on Revelation is nothing short of a revelation (her discussion of symbols as "masks" in the text is truly stunning), and why Ann Powers's contribution, "Teenage Jesus," falls flat. In her zeal to make Jesus culturally relevant to bohemian boomers, Powers utterly trivializes his message and mission. Portrayals of Jesus as a rebel with a good cause, or a misunderstood ethical teacher, are beyond prosaic. Several of the writers mention that their views of Jesus were heavily influenced by the rock-opera movie Jesus Christ Superstar, which helps explain this book's unidimensionality. Why not try new turf and explore the irascible Paul? Aside from one obligatory essay on 1 Corinthians 13 (de rigueur at American weddings), Paul is completely ignored. Standout essays include bell hooks's creative offering on the transformative power of love; Benjamin Cheever's offhanded appeal to "judge not," and Jeffrey Eugenides's witty portrayal of the Holy Ghost in Acts: "Jesus gets all the attention, all the reviews," Eugenides wryly observes.

The editors of this anthology should have heeded his remark. In its narrow purview, this New Testament revisited is considerably less juicy than the original.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316579957
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 1/18/2008
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Moody
Rick Moody, a child of the 1970s and the privileged middle class of the Northeast, has become a specialist in dissecting both in his novels and short stories, which tend to focus on the troubled state of the nuclear family.


A bitter wind blows through the suburban landscapes created by novelist Rick Moody. Consider the elements of his second -- and most famous -- creation, The Ice Storm: Watergate hearings, marital infidelity, spouse-swapping key parties, familial disenfranchisement, and one teenager's chance meeting with an errant power line. All over Thanksgiving weekend.

"Rick Moody's The Ice Storm," wrote the Chicago Tribune's Adam Begley in 1994, "a bitter and loving and damning tribute to the American family, belongs to a subgenre I think of as suburban Gothic-tidy lawns and two-car garages, all the vulgar complacencies of affluence, mixed with brooding horror, melodramatic violence, extreme psychological states."

These Gothic-tidy lawns are the stuff of Moody's childhood. Though born in New York City, he grew up in various suburbs, including New Caanan, Connecticut, the home of the Hood family, his hapless, disconnected brood in The Ice Storm. A child of the 1970s, he apparently took copious notes, because his novels are filled with the detail of the period: the books, the articles, Masters & Johnson, Creem.

"[The Ice Storm] is not so much a novel as an excavation -- of that nearly but not quite extinct entity the nuclear family as it was in those dark ages, the 1970s," the Los Angeles Times noted. "The argot, the foibles, the fads and the artifacts: They're all here, meticulously catalogued and historically framed with discussions of the design, politics and groping psychology of the period."

In Purple America, Moody again visits the neighborhoods of privileged Connecticut, exploring the disappointments and debauchery of the American middle class. Set over a 24-hour period, the novel follows late-30s alcoholic Hex Raitliffe, who comes home to care for his invalid mother, abandoned by his stepfather, who manages a nearby nuclear power plant.

The Chicago Tribune pronounced the novel "dazzling" and even drew comparisons to Shakespeare: "While it might seem a blasphemous assertion, readers also may sense Moody's kinship to the young bard in his exuberance at the possibilities of language. Self-consciously artful but rarely obtrusive, Moody's prose dazzles with labyrinthine sentences of Faulknerian length. Its opening passage rings with biblical cadences, into the middle of which he tosses a Zen koan, all describing Hex giving his mother a bath. So rich, in fact, is this book that it demands to be read at least twice."

Following his studies at Brown University and the master of fine arts program at Columbia University, Moody worked as an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux -- a position that, one interviewer noted, made Moody wince upon recollection -- before releasing his first novel, Garden State, in 1992. He has also released two collections of short fiction, as well as a memoir, The Black Veil, in which he talks of the substance abuse that threw him into a life-threatening depression and recalls a relative who wore a black veil for much of his adult life, as atonement for accidentally killing a childhood friend.

"I'm naturally drawn to stuff you're not supposed to talk about," he told the The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. "I think literature is best when it's voicing what we would prefer not to talk about.... Literature is about interior states and emotional states, about what people think that they don't always say to their neighbors. I'm drawn magnetically with my tangled long sentences to those spots people don't want to talk about."

Good To Know

Moody wore a veil during his stint at the Yaddo artists' colony, where he worked on his memoir and family history, The Black Veil.

His father used to read from Moby-Dick at the dinner table each Thanksgiving.

Moody likes to write on the road on his laptop, listening to experimental music -- as a way to avoid distraction.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Hiram F. Moody, III
    2. Hometown:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 18, 1961
    1. Education:
      B.A., Brown University, 1983; M.F.A., Columbia University, 1986

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Parable of the Hidden Treasure 3
Jesus' Feet 14
Jesus Was a Convict 19
Marvelous Revelation 29
A Love Supreme 40
Within and Without 51
"Was" in John 61
Teenage Jesus 75
My God 89
Love's Alchemy 107
The Good Enough News 114
Underdog: The Holy Spirit of Acts 124
The Rock 135
Snake Bite 145
Corpus Christi 152
Judge Not 172
Paring Off the Amphibologisms: Jesus Recovered by the Jesus Seminar 183
The Magnificat 203
Sermon with Meath 216
Forthwith 228
Afterword: The Baby 237
Notes on Contributors 248
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