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Roger's Version

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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 ...
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Roger's Version: A Novel

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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.
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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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449912188
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/1996
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 829,569
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.69 (d)

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.

Biography

With an uncommonly varied oeuvre that includes poetry, criticism, essays, short stories, and novels, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike helped to change the face of late-20th-century American literature.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1954. Following a year of study in England, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, establishing a relationship with the magazine that continued until his death in January, 2009. For more than 50 years, he lived in two small towns in Massachusetts that inspired the settings for several of his stories.

In 1958, Updike's first collection of poetry was published. A year later, he made his fiction debut with The Poorhouse Fair. But it was his second novel, 1960's Rabbit, Run, that forged his reputation and introduced one of the most memorable characters in American fiction. Former small-town basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom struck a responsive chord with readers and critics alike and catapulted Updike into the literary stratosphere.

Updike would revisit Angstrom in 1971, 1981, and 1990, chronicling his hapless protagonist's jittery journey into undistinguished middle age in three melancholy bestsellers: Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest. A concluding novella, "Rabbit Remembered," appeared in the 2001 story collection Licks of Love.

Although autobiographical elements appear in the Rabbit books, Updike's true literary alter ego was not Harry Angstrom but Harry Bech, a famously unproductive Jewish-American writer who starred in his own story cycle. In between -- indeed, far beyond -- his successful series, Updike went on to produce an astonishingly diverse string of novels. In addition, his criticism and short fiction became popular staples of distinguished literary publications.

Good To Know

Updike first became entranced by reading when he was a young boy growing up on an isolated farm in Pennsylvania. Afflicted with psoriasis and a stammer, he escaped his self-consciousness by immersing himself in drawing, writing, and reading.

An accomplished artist, Updike accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University. He decided to attend Harvard University because he was a big fan of the school's humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.

One of the most respected authors of the 20th century, Updike won every major literary prize in America, including the Guggenheim Fellow, the Rosenthal Award, the National Book Award in Fiction, the O. Henry Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Union League Club Abraham Lincoln Award, the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and the National Medal of the Arts.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Hoyer Updike (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 18, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Shillington, Pennsylvania
    1. Date of Death:
      January 27, 2009
    2. Place of Death:
      Beverly Farms, MA

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2000

    Truly Shows the Disfunctional Relationships in the US

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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