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The Book Against God: A Novel

by

The Book Against God: A Novel Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"Wood's novel is packed full of wonderful sentences and observations ("crowds were shuffling along the pavements as if they were chained together at the ankles"), but its plot is stagnant. Ultimately, what saves The Book Against God is the thing the critic Wood most fully prizes in a novelist: character. His Thomas Bunting speaks poignantly to a jarringly modern — if somewhat banal — condition: Even the searcher, the questioner, is unable to tell the truth. And for a writer who believes the practice of writing novels to be the act of a modern saint, it can't help but resonate that Bunting has lived his life by creating what Wood sees even the greatest writers of our time creating: imperfect lies." Daniel Torday, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Thomas Bunting while neglecting his philosophy Ph.D., still unfinished after seven years, is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork--a vast atheistic project to be titled The Book Against God. In despair over his failed academic career and failing marriage, Bunting is also enraged to the point of near lunacy by his parents' religiousness. When his father, a beloved parish priest, suddenly falls ill, Bunting returns to the Northern village of his childhood. Bunting's hopes that this visit might enable him to finally talk honestly with his parents and sort out his wayward life, are soon destroyed.

Comic, edgy, lyrical, and indignant Bunting gives the term unreliable narrator a new twist with his irrepressible incapacity to tell the truth.

James Wood was chief literary critic of The Guardian (London) and is senior editor at The New Republic. He is the author of two collection of essays, The Broken Estate, and The Irresponsible Self. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

A New York Times Notable Book

A Los Angeles Times Best Book

Thomas Bunting, the charming, feckless, and exasperating narrator of James Wood's first novel, is in despair. His marriage is disintegrating, and his academic career is in ruins: instead of completing his philosophy Ph.D. (still unfinished after seven years), he is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork, a vast atheistic project to be titled The Book Against God.

When his father--a brilliant and much-loved parish priest--suddenly falls ill, Thomas returns to his family home, a tiny village in the north of England. There, Thomas hopes, he may finally be able to communicate honestly with his parents and sort out his own wayward life. But Thomas is a chronic liar as well as an atheist, and he finds, instead, that under their roof he soon reverts to the evasive patterns of his childhood years--with disastrous results.

The story of a husband and a wife, a father and a son, faith and disbelief, and a hero who couldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it, The Book Against God is at once hilarious and poignant; it introduces an original comic voice--edgy, elegiac, lyrical, and indignant--and, in the irrepressible Thomas Bunting, one of the strangest philosophers in contemporary fiction.

Wood] has succeeded remarkably well . . . The Book Against God] is neither DeLillo nor Dickens, but a silky work, part satire and part picaresque and, underneath, a novel of ideas.--Richard Eder, The New York Times

Wood] has succeeded remarkably well . . . The Book Against God] is neither DeLillo nor Dickens, but a silky work, part satire and part picaresque and, underneath, a novel of ideas.--Richard Eder, The New York Times

The Book Against God isn't stilted, safe, or derivative; it's real flesh and blood, rather old-fashioned, considering Wood's tastes as a critic, with humor, passion, and some serious flaws that strangely serve to make the novel more endearing.--San Francisco Chronicle

Wood writes like a dream and] nails his targets brilliantly . . . The book is] often wildly funny . . . A comic novel, very much in the curmudgeonly tradition of Kingsly] Amis and Waugh.--Daniel Menhelsohn, The New York Times Book Review

The Book Against God is a small, quiet novel, a piece of music for solo voice. That voice is often unpleasant, all too human, and rarely likable, and Wood's success is in the degree to which he redeems those very qualities.--Wyatt Mason, Harper's Magazine

Many passages in the novel delight, and show Wood's gift for insightful description.--Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

A] yeoman-like work full of intellectual twists and often delightful prose.--Jason Goldsmith, The Virginia Quarterly Review

A proficient, intellectually stimulating and amusing first novel. Wood does some technical things so well that it would be a shame if he did not continue in the trade. His characterizations are so vivid, their descriptions so precise, that this book could be used as an exemplar for students. For instance, there are three sets of parents here . . . and each individual among them is as sharply defined as any of Jane Austen's . . . He is also deft at moving backward and forward in time, something that many writers do clumsily, with ponderous flashbacks . . . His skittering leaps . . . work well because Wood has a firm grasp of form.--Alice K. Turner, The Washington Post

The witty, serious, and intelligent Book Against God . . . matches Wood's high critical standards.--Jeffrey Meyers, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Like Wood's criticism, The Book Against God is full ideas, irony, and intelligence.--The Miami Herald

The Book Against God is an elegant novel of ideas in the form of a mordant social comedy. The depiction of its breathtakingly objectionable narrator is brilliant . . . For intellectual pleasure, low comedy, acute psychological portraiture, this is a book to savor.--Norman Rush

The Book Against God, James Wood's much-awaited first novel, is so intriguing in part because of the technical resourcefulness with which it unites two hitherto distinct literary traditions: the familiar story of a young man's principled revolt against the faith in which he was raised, and the extravagant self-revelations of a tormented underground soul. If Edmund Gosse's Father and Son is an exemplary instance of the first kind of tale, then The Book Against God encompasses, as one of its strands, an updated version of what Gosse calls 'the record of a struggle between two temperaments, two consciences, and almost two epochs.'--Michael A. Bernstein, The Times Literary Supplement

Intelligent, skeptical, occasionally tender in spite of itself, Wood's novelistic persona reminds one of Nick Hornby or A. N. Wilson--fellow Brits who straddle easily the sorrow and hilarity of the human condition.--The

Review:

"Tom wrestles disarmingly with metaphysical and religious dilemmas that Wood gives fresh urgency and meaning. Like Iris Murdoch, Wood is the rare novelist able to dramatize the life of ideas and give it human dimension." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"[A] silky work, part satire and part picaresque and, underneath, a novel of ideas. It is his own seven-veils entertainment (decidedly entertaining despite a plot more cerebral than dramatic), and it has holes of its own, strategically placed." Richard Eder, The New York Times

Review:

"[A] proficient, intellectually stimulating and amusing first novel....[Wood's] characterizations are so vivid, their descriptions so precise, that this book could be used as an exemplar for students." Alice K. Turner, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"Wood proves himself to be a delectably witty writer....[H]is dialogue is crisp and his characters irresistible while in his lush descriptions...every judiciously selected word carries emotional, moral, or spiritual weight." Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"[A]n able and occasionally excellent first novel, filled with pleasures for the reader, flawed by pretentiousness, top-heavy with 'meaning,' wobbly in tone, hobbled, ultimately, by a failure to bring off the grand message it seeks to deliver." Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"[A] talky if intriguing first novel....Not really successful as a novel, but literate, provocative, and at times quite surprisingly moving." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[F]ew readers will be persuaded that atheism is one of the important philosophical issues of our time. One yearns for the diverting trivialities of Pynchon and DeLillo. This failed thesis novel demonstrates that Wood is primarily a critic and not a novelist." Library Journal

Review:

"It is rich, and clever, but quietly....The various gently comic minor characters breathe, and the realisation of Tommy's father is wonderful. It has something Tolstoyan about it....The Book Against God is a gifted and winning first novel." Galen Strawson, The Guardian (U.K.)

Review:

"[A] small, quiet novel, a piece of music for solo voice. That voice is often unpleasant, all too human, and rarely likable, and Wood's success is in the degree to which he redeems those very qualities." Wyatt Mason, Harper's

Review:

"James Wood, the novelist, is a talented beginner....In this novel, Wood stoops to fit inside his harried and self-deluding protagonist....I would love to see Wood standing up straight, and giving us characters who are as large and many-sided — and as brilliant — as he is." Brian Morton, The Nation

Review:

"A passionate, profoundly funny first novel from the best literary critic of his generation." Adam Begley, Financial Times

Review:

"James Wood has delivered an elegant novel of ideas in the form of a mordant social comedy. The depiction of its breathtakingly objectionable narrator is brilliant....For intellectual pleasure, low comedy, acute psychological portraiture, this is a book to savor." Norman Rush, author of Mortals and Mating

Review:

"On the scene but not a literary personality, writing with passionate intelligence and richly metaphorical style, James Wood has ignored the opaque aridity of literary theory and insisted on the human relevance of classic and modern literature." Jeffrey Meyers, The Los Angeles Times

Synopsis:

Thomas Bunting while neglecting his philosophy Ph.D., still unfinished after seven years, is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork--a vast atheistic project to be titled The Book Against God. In despair over his failed academic career and failing marriage, Bunting is also enraged to the point of near lunacy by his parents religiousness. When his father, a beloved parish priest, suddenly falls ill, Bunting returns to the Northern village of his childhood. Buntings hopes that this visit might enable him to finally talk honestly with his parents and sort out his wayward life, are soon destroyed.

Comic, edgy, lyrical, and indignant Bunting gives the term unreliable narrator a new twist with his irrepressible incapacity to tell the truth.

About the Author

James Wood was chief literary critic of The Guardian (London) and is senior editor at The New Republic. His first collection of essays, The Broken Estate, was published in 1999. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312422516
Author:
Wood, James
Publisher:
St. Martins Press-3pl
Author:
Wood, James
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
June 1, 2004
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 x 0.605 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Book Against God: A Novel New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$18.00 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Picador USA - English 9780312422516 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Wood's novel is packed full of wonderful sentences and observations ("crowds were shuffling along the pavements as if they were chained together at the ankles"), but its plot is stagnant. Ultimately, what saves The Book Against God is the thing the critic Wood most fully prizes in a novelist: character. His Thomas Bunting speaks poignantly to a jarringly modern — if somewhat banal — condition: Even the searcher, the questioner, is unable to tell the truth. And for a writer who believes the practice of writing novels to be the act of a modern saint, it can't help but resonate that Bunting has lived his life by creating what Wood sees even the greatest writers of our time creating: imperfect lies." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "Tom wrestles disarmingly with metaphysical and religious dilemmas that Wood gives fresh urgency and meaning. Like Iris Murdoch, Wood is the rare novelist able to dramatize the life of ideas and give it human dimension."
"Review" by , "[A] silky work, part satire and part picaresque and, underneath, a novel of ideas. It is his own seven-veils entertainment (decidedly entertaining despite a plot more cerebral than dramatic), and it has holes of its own, strategically placed."
"Review" by , "[A] proficient, intellectually stimulating and amusing first novel....[Wood's] characterizations are so vivid, their descriptions so precise, that this book could be used as an exemplar for students."
"Review" by , "Wood proves himself to be a delectably witty writer....[H]is dialogue is crisp and his characters irresistible while in his lush descriptions...every judiciously selected word carries emotional, moral, or spiritual weight."
"Review" by , "[A]n able and occasionally excellent first novel, filled with pleasures for the reader, flawed by pretentiousness, top-heavy with 'meaning,' wobbly in tone, hobbled, ultimately, by a failure to bring off the grand message it seeks to deliver."
"Review" by , "[A] talky if intriguing first novel....Not really successful as a novel, but literate, provocative, and at times quite surprisingly moving."
"Review" by , "[F]ew readers will be persuaded that atheism is one of the important philosophical issues of our time. One yearns for the diverting trivialities of Pynchon and DeLillo. This failed thesis novel demonstrates that Wood is primarily a critic and not a novelist."
"Review" by , "It is rich, and clever, but quietly....The various gently comic minor characters breathe, and the realisation of Tommy's father is wonderful. It has something Tolstoyan about it....The Book Against God is a gifted and winning first novel."
"Review" by , "[A] small, quiet novel, a piece of music for solo voice. That voice is often unpleasant, all too human, and rarely likable, and Wood's success is in the degree to which he redeems those very qualities."
"Review" by , "James Wood, the novelist, is a talented beginner....In this novel, Wood stoops to fit inside his harried and self-deluding protagonist....I would love to see Wood standing up straight, and giving us characters who are as large and many-sided — and as brilliant — as he is."
"Review" by , "A passionate, profoundly funny first novel from the best literary critic of his generation."
"Review" by , "James Wood has delivered an elegant novel of ideas in the form of a mordant social comedy. The depiction of its breathtakingly objectionable narrator is brilliant....For intellectual pleasure, low comedy, acute psychological portraiture, this is a book to savor."
"Review" by , "On the scene but not a literary personality, writing with passionate intelligence and richly metaphorical style, James Wood has ignored the opaque aridity of literary theory and insisted on the human relevance of classic and modern literature."
"Synopsis" by ,
Thomas Bunting while neglecting his philosophy Ph.D., still unfinished after seven years, is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork--a vast atheistic project to be titled The Book Against God. In despair over his failed academic career and failing marriage, Bunting is also enraged to the point of near lunacy by his parents religiousness. When his father, a beloved parish priest, suddenly falls ill, Bunting returns to the Northern village of his childhood. Buntings hopes that this visit might enable him to finally talk honestly with his parents and sort out his wayward life, are soon destroyed.

Comic, edgy, lyrical, and indignant Bunting gives the term unreliable narrator a new twist with his irrepressible incapacity to tell the truth.

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