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Terrorist: A Novel

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ISBN13: 9780307264657
ISBN10: 0307264653
Condition: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"Terrorist is a wonderfully sharp work. Part extreme coming-of-age story, part thriller, it is carefully plotted, articulate, and fortified with good writing. But it also has an old-fashioned willingness to make the great problems of the day personal, human-scale, and funny, and it is for this reason that Terrorist is a book to admire and be entertained by at once." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

"John Updike should have run a thousand miles away from this subject — at least as soon as he saw the results on the page....Despite all the Koranic homework, there is a sense that what is alien in Islam to a Westerner remains alien to John Updike. What he has discovered, yet again, is merely the generalized fluid of God-plus-sex that has run throughout all his novels." James Wood, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The ever-surprising John Updikes twenty-second novel is a brilliant contemporary fiction that will surely be counted as one of his most powerful. It tells of eighteen-year-old Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy and his devotion to Allah and the words of the Holy Quran, as expounded to him by a local mosques imam.

The son of an Irish-American mother and an Egyptian father who disappeared when he was three, Ahmad turned to Islam at the age of eleven. He feels his faith threatened by the materialistic, hedonistic society he sees around him in the slumping factory town of New Prospect, in northern New Jersey. Neither the world-weary, depressed guidance counselor at Central High School, Jack Levy, nor Ahmads mischievously seductive black classmate, Joryleen Grant, succeeds in diverting the boy from what his religion calls the Straight Path. When he finds employment in a furniture store owned by a family of recently immigrated Lebanese, the threads of a plot gather around him, with reverberations that rouse the Department of Homeland Security.

But to quote the Quran: Of those who plot, God is the best.

Review:

"Ripped from the headlines doesn't begin to describe Updike's latest, a by-the-numbers novelization of the last five years' news reports on the dangers of home-grown terror that packs a gut punch. Ahmad Mulloy Ashmawy is 18 and attends Central High School in the commuter city of New Prospect, N.J. He is the son of an Egyptian exchange student who married a working-class Irish-American girl and then disappeared when Ahmad was three. Ahmad, disgusted by his mother's inability to get it together, is in the thrall of Shaikh Rashid, who runs a storefront mosque and preaches divine retribution for 'devils,' including the 'Zionist dominated federal government.'The list of devils is long: it includes Joryleen Grant, the white trash slut with a heart of gold; Tylenol Jones, a black tough guy with whom Ahmad obliquely competes for Joryleen's attentions (which Ahmad eventually pays for); Jack Levy, a Central High guidance counselor who at 63 has seen enough failure, including his own, to last him a lifetime (and whose Jewishness plays a part in a manner unthinkable before 9/11); Jack's wife, Beth, as ineffectual and overweight (Updike is merciless on this) as she is oblivious; and Teresa Mulloy, a nurse's aide and Sunday painter as desperate for Jack's attention, when he takes on Ahmad's case, as Jack is for hers. Updike has distilled all their flaws to a caustic, crystalline essence; he dwells on their poor bodies and the debased world in which they move unrelentingly, and with a dispassionate cruelty that verges on shocking. Ahmad's revulsion for American culture doesn't seem to displease Updike one iota. But Updike has also thoroughly digested all of the discursive pap surrounding the post-9/11 threat of terrorism, and that is the real story here. Mullahs, botched CIA gambits, race and class shame (that leads to poor self-worth that leads to vulnerability that leads to extremism), half-baked plots that just might work — all are here, and dispatched with an elegance that highlights their banality and how very real they may be. So smooth is Updike in putting his grotesques through their paces — effortlessly putting them in each others' orbits — that his contempt for them enhances rather than spoils the novel. 150,000-copy announced first printing (June 12)." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"John Updike's new novel is set in a New Jersey mill town that has fallen on hard times. Once home to energetic, white immigrants from Eastern Europe, this city, New Prospect, has decayed to the point where 'those who occupy the inner city now are brown, by and large, in its many shades.'

Brown-ness and its discontents are central to the novel, and Updike is acutely aware of the many tints... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"This marvelous novel can be accurately labeled as a 9/11 novel, but it deserves also the label of masterpiece for its carefully nuanced building up of the psychology of those who traffic in terrorism. Timely and topical, poised and passionate, it is a high mark in Updike's career." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Discursiveness, coincidence and a barely credible surprise ending compromise, but do not critically impair, Updike's intriguing 22nd novel....Updike, approaching his mid-70s, continues to entice, provoke and astonish. Who knows where he'll take us next?" Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Unfortunately, the would-be terrorist in this novel turns out to be a completely unbelievable individual....Though Mr. Updike manages to extract a fair amount of suspense from Ahmad's story, he does so with the heavy reliance on unbelievable coincidence." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Review:

"Updike...has written something like a teen coming-of-age story, but he wants his 24 moment too and indulges in some gratuitous button-pushing along the way....In a certain regard, Terrorist is an interesting, if failed, thought experiment." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Terrorist leaves the reader ripping through the book to its finale, desperate to find out what happens....Updike's most adventurous and accessible novel in decades, and possibly the summer's most rewarding book for readers who want more than escapist fluff....Terrorist is one compelling and surprising ride." USA Today

Review:

"Terrorist is not without flaws. The plot turns on clunky contrivances and coincidences....Nor does the dialogue ring true....Terrorist burrows beneath the surfaces of American popular culture, which Updike traverses so well, to truths worth remembering." Philadelphia Inquirer

Review:

"[F]or all its marvelous writing and philosophical cogency, Updike's Terrorist is an awkward, overdetermined drama acted out by gritty urban characters he can't bring to life....These are characters — and this is a thriller — that Richard Price should have written. (Grade: C+)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"[T]he richest, most various [novel] Updike has produced in some time...very much contemporary in its apprehension of the difference made by recent events in America..." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"Updike's ability to get inside the mind of his Ahmad — to deliver the young man's devotion as well as his fear, uncertainty, and malleable innocence — is what renders the novel credible and sometimes wrenching in its authenticity." Boston Globe

Review:

"Not all of Updike's fiction over the last decade has been entirely satisfying, but Terrorist makes the case the lesson of the real masters is that we can never anticipate them or how they'll end." Houston Chronicle

Review:

"Terrorist's pages are scattered with dozens of stylistic gems....What's most welcome is the page-turning pace the book sets right from the start....We go along for this ride with a keen taste of what it takes to become the driver." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"Terrorist fails because Updike doesn't know Ahmad Mulloy....Somehow, for all the textual accuracy, the book never achieves anything deeper than a rhetorical truth." St. Petersburg Times

About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. 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 and since 1957 has lived in Massachusetts. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

readerbook, July 5, 2006 (view all comments by readerbook)
Like all novels by Updike, "Terrorist" is well-written, engaging, and theologically astute. It's also frightening. What is so chilling about the novel is how very ordinary it is. It's not a "thriller" but an engaging story of an 18 year old named Ahmad and the people in his life: his clueless mother, his world-weary guidance counselor, the girl who flirts with him at school, the manipulative imam at his storefront mosque.
The idea of a religiously-zealous teenager getting involved in such a violent plot is, in Updike's telling, entirely believable. Ahmad's obsession with "purity" and a strict adherence to his religion start out as youthful idealism, but they easily pave the way to religiously-motivated violence.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(18 of 30 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307264657
Author:
Updike, John
Publisher:
Alfred A. Knopf
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Terrorism
Subject:
Egyptian Americans
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;terrorism;islam;novel;new jersey;american;thriller;literature;american literature;21st century;updike;contemporary;contemporary fiction;fundamentalism;usa;america
Copyright:
Publication Date:
June 2006
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.66 x 5.97 x 1.3 in 1.2 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Terrorist: A Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780307264657 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Ripped from the headlines doesn't begin to describe Updike's latest, a by-the-numbers novelization of the last five years' news reports on the dangers of home-grown terror that packs a gut punch. Ahmad Mulloy Ashmawy is 18 and attends Central High School in the commuter city of New Prospect, N.J. He is the son of an Egyptian exchange student who married a working-class Irish-American girl and then disappeared when Ahmad was three. Ahmad, disgusted by his mother's inability to get it together, is in the thrall of Shaikh Rashid, who runs a storefront mosque and preaches divine retribution for 'devils,' including the 'Zionist dominated federal government.'The list of devils is long: it includes Joryleen Grant, the white trash slut with a heart of gold; Tylenol Jones, a black tough guy with whom Ahmad obliquely competes for Joryleen's attentions (which Ahmad eventually pays for); Jack Levy, a Central High guidance counselor who at 63 has seen enough failure, including his own, to last him a lifetime (and whose Jewishness plays a part in a manner unthinkable before 9/11); Jack's wife, Beth, as ineffectual and overweight (Updike is merciless on this) as she is oblivious; and Teresa Mulloy, a nurse's aide and Sunday painter as desperate for Jack's attention, when he takes on Ahmad's case, as Jack is for hers. Updike has distilled all their flaws to a caustic, crystalline essence; he dwells on their poor bodies and the debased world in which they move unrelentingly, and with a dispassionate cruelty that verges on shocking. Ahmad's revulsion for American culture doesn't seem to displease Updike one iota. But Updike has also thoroughly digested all of the discursive pap surrounding the post-9/11 threat of terrorism, and that is the real story here. Mullahs, botched CIA gambits, race and class shame (that leads to poor self-worth that leads to vulnerability that leads to extremism), half-baked plots that just might work — all are here, and dispatched with an elegance that highlights their banality and how very real they may be. So smooth is Updike in putting his grotesques through their paces — effortlessly putting them in each others' orbits — that his contempt for them enhances rather than spoils the novel. 150,000-copy announced first printing (June 12)." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Terrorist is a wonderfully sharp work. Part extreme coming-of-age story, part thriller, it is carefully plotted, articulate, and fortified with good writing. But it also has an old-fashioned willingness to make the great problems of the day personal, human-scale, and funny, and it is for this reason that Terrorist is a book to admire and be entertained by at once." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review A Day" by , "John Updike should have run a thousand miles away from this subject — at least as soon as he saw the results on the page....Despite all the Koranic homework, there is a sense that what is alien in Islam to a Westerner remains alien to John Updike. What he has discovered, yet again, is merely the generalized fluid of God-plus-sex that has run throughout all his novels." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "This marvelous novel can be accurately labeled as a 9/11 novel, but it deserves also the label of masterpiece for its carefully nuanced building up of the psychology of those who traffic in terrorism. Timely and topical, poised and passionate, it is a high mark in Updike's career."
"Review" by , "Discursiveness, coincidence and a barely credible surprise ending compromise, but do not critically impair, Updike's intriguing 22nd novel....Updike, approaching his mid-70s, continues to entice, provoke and astonish. Who knows where he'll take us next?"
"Review" by , "Unfortunately, the would-be terrorist in this novel turns out to be a completely unbelievable individual....Though Mr. Updike manages to extract a fair amount of suspense from Ahmad's story, he does so with the heavy reliance on unbelievable coincidence."
"Review" by , "Updike...has written something like a teen coming-of-age story, but he wants his 24 moment too and indulges in some gratuitous button-pushing along the way....In a certain regard, Terrorist is an interesting, if failed, thought experiment."
"Review" by , "Terrorist leaves the reader ripping through the book to its finale, desperate to find out what happens....Updike's most adventurous and accessible novel in decades, and possibly the summer's most rewarding book for readers who want more than escapist fluff....Terrorist is one compelling and surprising ride."
"Review" by , "Terrorist is not without flaws. The plot turns on clunky contrivances and coincidences....Nor does the dialogue ring true....Terrorist burrows beneath the surfaces of American popular culture, which Updike traverses so well, to truths worth remembering."
"Review" by , "[F]or all its marvelous writing and philosophical cogency, Updike's Terrorist is an awkward, overdetermined drama acted out by gritty urban characters he can't bring to life....These are characters — and this is a thriller — that Richard Price should have written. (Grade: C+)"
"Review" by , "[T]he richest, most various [novel] Updike has produced in some time...very much contemporary in its apprehension of the difference made by recent events in America..."
"Review" by , "Updike's ability to get inside the mind of his Ahmad — to deliver the young man's devotion as well as his fear, uncertainty, and malleable innocence — is what renders the novel credible and sometimes wrenching in its authenticity."
"Review" by , "Not all of Updike's fiction over the last decade has been entirely satisfying, but Terrorist makes the case the lesson of the real masters is that we can never anticipate them or how they'll end."
"Review" by , "Terrorist's pages are scattered with dozens of stylistic gems....What's most welcome is the page-turning pace the book sets right from the start....We go along for this ride with a keen taste of what it takes to become the driver."
"Review" by , "Terrorist fails because Updike doesn't know Ahmad Mulloy....Somehow, for all the textual accuracy, the book never achieves anything deeper than a rhetorical truth."
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