In his workbook, a New York City novelist records the contents of his teeming brain--sketches for stories, accounts of his love affairs, riffs on the meanings of popular songs, ideas for movies, obsessions with cosmic processes. He is a virtual repository of the predominant ideas and historical disasters of the age. But now he has found a story he thinks may be-come his next novel: The large brass cross that hung behind the altar of St. Timothy's, a run-down Episco-pal church in lower Manhattan, has disappeared...and even more mysteriously reappeared on the roof of the Synagogue for Evolutionary Judaism, on the Upper West Side. The church's maverick rector and the young woman rabbi who leads the synagogue are trying to learn who committed this strange double act of desecration and why. Befriending them, the novelist finds that their struggles with their respective traditions are relevant to the case. Into his workbook go his taped interviews, insights, preliminary drafts...and as he joins the clerics in pursuit of the mystery, it broadens to implicate a large cast of vividly drawn characters--including scientists, war veterans, prelates, Holocaust survivors, cabinet members, theologians, New York Times reporters, filmmakers, and crooners--in what proves to be a quest for an authentic spirituality at the end of this tortured century.
|Edition description:||Large Print|
|Product dimensions:||5.73(w) x 8.78(h) x 1.12(d)|
About the Author
Hometown:Sag Harbor, New York, and New York, New York
Date of Birth:January 6, 1931
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:A.B., Kenyon College, 1952; postgraduate study, Columbia University, 1952-53
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This novel was very hard to follow. It's supposed to be like a notebook filled with different ideas and thoughts of a NYC novelist. I had a hard time distinguishing the characters and who was saying what. The story was incoherent, unorganized and disjointed. I didn't have any feelings about any of the characters. The only segment that was interesting was the ghetto in WWII. I had a difficult time finishing this book and it turned out to be a disappointment.
I think that this book is a sign that E.L. Doctorow has definitely 'modernized' his writing. If you start to read this book, yet get a bit lost or almost entirely lost after a while, don't just stop reading it because in the end it all starts to tie together. I'm one of the few 14 year olds around who actually reads novels like Doctorow's, but, that's probably because most kids my age aren't interested in writing that actually needs to be read thoroughly. To wrap this up I'll say, read this book! It really is a masterpiece!!!!!!
City of God is a wonderfully funny novel, a 60's style anti-establishment satire of New York intelligentsia. The book takes the form of a series of interleaved monologues, or half-conversations, by New York 'characters.' There's an aging hippy priest, turned pedantic old fogie. There's the lead part in a B-movie horror flick (a nicely Shakespearean touch) who perpetrates the ultimate identity theft. My favorite was an elaborate spoof on Wittgenstein, complete with carefully numbered sentences, logically connecting the philosopher's self-proclaimed genius to the peristaltic movements of someone throwing up.
This isn't to give the impression that the book is nothing but sophomoric humor. In between some kitschy rock lyrics and a klutzy reporter with a bad habit of accidentally killing the people he's interviewing, an old man remembers his boyhood in a Nazi-run Jewish ghetto, and a Nobel physicist defends his right to faith.
Doctorow can get away with handling some very sensitive subjects because it's not him we're disagreeing with: it's 'Murray Seligman', who used to be that fat slob at Bronx High, or 'Thomas Pemberton', the Yalie who spent his Peace Corps year enjoying the native 'talent'. St Augustine saw the history of the world as a fight between the heavenly City of God and the earthly city of men. It's worth bearing in mind that Doctorow's City of God was completed *prior* to the tragic attack on New York.
If you love good plots, you will hate this book. However, if you love human beings and puzzling questions like, 'where was God during the 20th century?' or 'after the Shoah, is rapprochment between Jews and Christians possible?', or, if for any reason, your faith has been profoundly shaken; this book is for you. It is written in the form of a personal journal, i.e. a scrapbook of cogitations, characters, songs, memories, interviews, etc. seemingly loosely tied or not at all tied together with the literary device called 'the mystery novel.' The real mystery at the core of this novel is the one Mystery--God. This is the first Doctorow novel I've read. I think of it as a kind of love letter. My only complaint about it is that one evil fictitious event, placed in the very near past, is said to have occurred in Vilnius, Lithuania. This is unfortunate, because today's Vilnius isn't a dangerous place for Jews or anyone else to visit. The novel implies that the Nazis destroyed Vilnius' Great Synagogue. They didn't. The synagogue survived the war and the surviving citizens carefully stored all of the objects sacred to the Jews in it. Stalin had the synagogue destroyed. A large number of Torah scrolls were saved and are in storage today. They await a benefactor. My husband's brother told me these things. He emigrated to Vilnius five years ago and speaks, reads, and writes the language.
Calling this new book by E.L.Doctorow a novel, as the cover and title page announce, is a stretch. More appropriate, perhaps, would be classifying it an anthology of short stories, essays, highly personal and heartfelt observations, metaphysical musings and what might be charitably termed bits and pieces. All of these sometimes satisfyingly effective components are rather loosely tied together in frequently reader-unfriendly fashion by a hardly visible central plot line. So is 'City of God' worth reading? What Doctorow work isn't. Yet it is clearly not vintage Doctorow. But hey, even vines that produce the most glorious of grapes occasionally have off years.