Roger's Version

Roger's Version

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by John Updike
     
 

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As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a middle-aged professor of divinity, is buttonholed in his office by Dale Kohler, an earnest young computer scientist who believes that quantifiable evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating. The theological-scientific debate that ensues, and the wicked strategies that Roger employs to disembarrass Dale of his

Overview

As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a middle-aged professor of divinity, is buttonholed in his office by Dale Kohler, an earnest young computer scientist who believes that quantifiable evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating. The theological-scientific debate that ensues, and the wicked strategies that Roger employs to disembarrass Dale of his faith, form the substance of this novel—these and the current of erotic attraction that pulls Esther, Roger’s much younger wife, away from him and into Dale’s bed. The novel, a majestic allegory of faith and reason, ends also as a black comedy of revenge, for this is Roger’s version—Roger Chillingworth’s side of the triangle described by Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter—made new for a disbelieving age.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Remarkably interesting . . . One finishes it with . . . renewed respect for one of the most intelligent and resourceful of contemporary novelists.”—David Lodge, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Wonderful reading from beginning to end . . . The precise, laconic bull’s-eye descriptive passages in this novel continually amaze with their absolute accuracy.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Wonderfully tricky and nakedly sharp-minded . . . Updike’s Roger Lambert is a perfectly 20th-century beast—boastfully wicked in all directions.”—The Washington Post Book World
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sex and its combinations and permutations apart, two of Updike's commanding, long-standing intereststheology and various kinds of sciencecome together to form the matrix of his new novel. The conflicting ideas are as ancient as time: reason versus faith; science versus religion; belief versus any of the forms of unbelief. The contestants representing the fundamental opposition are the narrator, Roger Lambert, 52, a former minister, now a professor of divinity at a New England university, theologically a (Karl) ``Barthian all the way'' with a civilized tolerance for heretics and the steadfast conviction that God must be taken on faith; and Dale Kohler, 28, a computer scientist fixed in the belief that at the base of all science ``God is showing through,'' now working on a definitive demonstration by computer technology of God's existence. That would keep anyone busy, but Dale finds a few hours a week for an affair with Roger's angry, unhappy wife, and Roger's version of belief does not prevent him from having a brief fling with his half-sister's daughter, herself an unmarried mother. For all Updike's finesse and dexterity in the deployment of ideas, there is more arcane computerology here than readers, including his most devoted, can digest by force-feeding, and probably more theology as well. Most readers will also think the characters contrived, mouthpieces for the perspectives they espouse. (September 10)
Library Journal
Updike's 12th novel continues his portrayal of middle America in all its social, religious, and cultural ramifications. Divinity professor Roger Lambert is visited by Dale Kohler, an earnest young student who wants a grant to prove the existence of God by computer. The visit disrupts Roger's ordinary existence, bringing him into contact with the wild and sexy Verna (his half-sister's daughter), and leading to his wife's affair with Dale. Updike spends a great deal of time in this novel discussing religion, sex, and computers, not always to the advantage of the characters. There are some fine Updike touchesjust the right phrase or detailbut it still adds up to a rather lifeless work (perhaps intentionally so). Roger's is an unattractive character with whom we only occasionally become truly involved. Roger's Version is more Marry Me than Rabbit Is Rich. Thomas Lavoie, formerly with English Dept., Syracuse Univ., N.Y.
Charles McGrath
....[D]aring the reader to question the reality of his own perception of everyday life at least as acutely as he might doubt the existence of God or the reality of the unseeable -- The New York Times Books of the Century

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780449912188
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/1996
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
764,795
Product dimensions:
5.45(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.69(d)

What People are saying about this

David Lodge
There is, then, an unresolved enigma or contradiction at the heart of ''Roger's Version,'' blurring the exact nature and degree of the narrator's ''bad faith.'' For all its richness and virtuosity, the novel makes its effect by a somewhat arbitrary suppression of the discourse of objective report. Nevertheless, one finishes it with gratitude - for it is challenging and educative -and with renewed respect for one of the most intelligent and resourceful of contemporary novelists. -- The New York Times

Meet the Author

John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 18, 1932
Date of Death:
January 27, 2009
Place of Birth:
Shillington, Pennsylvania
Place of Death:
Beverly Farms, MA
Education:
A.B. in English, Harvard University, 1954; also studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England

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Roger's Version 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was assigned to read this book for a high school English class in order to throughly understand the importance of disfunctional relationships is the United States from 1976-1990. Well, it certainly does that. The characters from this book really do need to go on 'Jerry Springer' because each of them is really messed up in the head! Everyone is deceiving and in some way whether it be to themselves or to another person. Overall the book leaves the reader with a very negative feeling. Otherwise it's written very well. However, keep in mind that this book was not meant for immature readers. It has graphic descriptions of sexual acts, so keep this one away from the kids. Happy Reading!