Sunday, January 18, 2004

City of God by E.L. Doctorow (hypertextual review)

City of God may have an experimental beginning that can be frustrating for some readers... don't worry though as you travel into the narrative landscape it slowly pulls together threads of meaning that create an evolving state of awareness, by page 50 you are recognizing clear patterns and by pages 80-90 you have the names of the main characters down. Don't let this frustrate you, this book is not a Bic Mac designed to be hastily gobbled down, rather, it is a sumptous feast for the senses and soul, a fulfilling meal designed to feed the spirit.

It tackles the big issues of the 20th Century and creates a dazzling array of voices to bring this historical moment of the century's end to dramatic life. It is so searing when it hits on all engines, the descriptions of the city are very powerful bringing a sense of the majestic aliveness of urban life and its chaotic sensory effect. The portrayals of the past through a World War II Jewish ghetto and a young boy's experiences are soul-shattering. The relationship of the main characters in the New York present are vivid and real...

The last 100 pages are a powerful literary experience of the continuing importance of religion in our society, while also providing a no holds barred critique of the reactionary traditions that try to stop us from evolving as humans and as spiritual beings (in a very subtle storytelling manner).

If this sounds interesting you might also be interested in Black Elk Speaks, Nothing Sacred by Douglas Rushkoff, The Concept of the Foreign by Rebecca Saunders, The Infinite Conversation by Maurice Blanchot, and The Cunning of History by Richard Rubenstein ... I read these books near the time I was reading "City of God" and they all speak to the need for new modes of interpersonal human relations or a new spirituality for a changing world.

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