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City Of God


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* Large-space advertising campaign in the TELEGRAPH, GUARDIAN and SUNDAY TIMES * 18-copy + 3 FOC display bin with custom header also available separately * Submitted for trade promotions * Review coverage in the media and national press

About the Author

E L Doctorow's work is published in thirty languages. Among his honours are the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award (twice), the PEN/Faulkner Award and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. He lives and works in New York.


Who, what, and where is God? Inventing a writing style, an ambiance, and literally a logic of his own, Doctorow diligently answers this question in his most courageous novel yet. The main plot, which involves the disappearance of a brass cross from an Episcopal Church in Manhattan and its mysterious reappearance on the roof of the Synagogue for Evolutionary Judaism, is only a fragment of a picture that gets bigger and more complex toward the end. "This is my laboratory, here, in my skull," writes the narrator, who literally looks into the contents of his own mind as he attempts to write. (This is a novel about writing a novel.) As the narrator ranges from the absurdity of religion to the absurdity of life in New York, seemingly no thought or chronology is denied him; Doctorow's particular application of stream-of-consciousness technique would make Virginia Woolf proud. Retaining the memorable sensitivity of The Book of Daniel and the witty perceptiveness of Ragtime, City of God is everything Doctorow is recognized for and more. This rare mixture of facts and imagination, past and present, dialog and description, and poetry and scrutiny is absolutely essential reading. Only one objection: Why should this admirable literary quest even be labeled as fiction when it purposely defies all categorization? [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/99.]--Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

'A constant pleasure and an indication of the resources humankind can still pitch against the evidence for despair' INDEPENDENT 'Alchemical writing - a marriage of ideas to words in ways that carry on a debate between what is and what might be.' DAILY TELEGRAPH 'Doctorow's versatility, his verbal power and dexterity and range and sharpness of observation, his intelligence and clarity and yes, sometimes poetry, are impressive' SPECTATOR 'E L Doctorow is an astonishing novelist - astonishing not only in the virtuosity with which he deploys his mimetic skills, but also in the fact that it is impossible to predict even roughly the shape, scope and tone of one of his novels from its predecessors' NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 'Doctorow is a master of atmosphere ... He knows the art of storytelling inside and out' NEWSWEEK

New York at the end of the 20th century--hardly St. Augustine's city of God--is the canvas on which Doctorow paints an impressionistic portrait of man's frail moral nature and the possibilities of redemption. Challenging and provocative, this rambling narrative is a mix of alternating voices that touch on such matters as theology, popular music, astronomy, physics and science, war, carnal love, the verisimilitude of film to life (and distortions thereof). The story is at first difficult to discern, because the abruptly changing voices are not identified. But the episodic selections prove to be passages in a notebook kept by a writer called Everett, who is searching for inspiration for a novel. The easiest thread to follow, since it ties together and finally illuminates the other voices, is Everett's interest in a mysterious theft. In the fall of 1999, the brass cross from the altar of an Episcopal church in the East Village is stolen--and later discovered on the roof of an alternative synogogue on the Upper West Side. Fr. Thomas Pemberton, the spiritually restless rector of St. Timothy's, finds a kindred soul in iconoclastic Rabbi Joshua Gruen, the leader of the Evolutionary Judaism congregation. Together they probe the validity of religion in a century that has fostered epic barbarism and bloodshed. In fugal counterpoint to their conversations, the rabbi's wife, Sarah Blumenthal, herself a rabbi, discloses the story of her father's ordeals during the Holocaust, in which he tells of a manuscript hidden in the ghetto. Ensuing events cause a gentle, grieving Sarah and an unmoored Pem, whose chronic despair, intellectual arrogance and religious skepticism have cost him his pulpit, to draw together in need and understanding. This is merely the scaffolding of a story that ranges from stark tragedy to absurdist comedy, that includes quotations from popular songs from the first three decades of this century as well as speculations on infinity, a scenario for a sadistic love affair, the observations of a bird watcher, a free verse account of a WWII air battle, a consideration of the scientific discoveries that unleashed methodical human extermination and marvelous progress, minibios of Albert Einstein and Frank Sinatra, and the tenets of Christian and Jewish liturgy. Despite the fractured structure, suspense intensifies as the various segments intersect. Doctorow's language is both lyric and bracing, a mix of elegant, precise wordplay and brash vernacular. In a masterwork of characterization, he depicts a gallery of characters (including, hilariously, a retired New York Times editor who becomes an avenging angel) with vivid economy. At once audacious and assured, this profound existential inquiry will surely be ranked as a brilliant mirror of our life and times. 7-city author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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