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5.0 von 5 Sternen Always connect
I must admit that many of the reviews to be found on these pages bemuse me. It's a while now since I read this book, but I recall it being one of the best I have had the pleasure to take up in the last decade. More than any novel book, it manages to successfully map the alienating fabric of the modern city to the metaphysical and moral quandaries in which people live...
Veröffentlicht am 10. Oktober 2005 von A. Melck
3.0 von 5 Sternen Don't expect the usual Doctorow with this novel
Doctorow has garnered so many writing awards-the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle awards, the PEN/Faulkner award, and the National Humanities Medal from the president, just to name a few-each successive novel is eagerly anticipated and closely scrutinized. And while I have no doubt that most critics will applaud this latest effort, I found it...
Veröffentlicht am 5. Juli 2000 von David P. Settle
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Always connect,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: City of God (Taschenbuch)
I must admit that many of the reviews to be found on these pages bemuse me. It's a while now since I read this book, but I recall it being one of the best I have had the pleasure to take up in the last decade. More than any novel book, it manages to successfully map the alienating fabric of the modern city to the metaphysical and moral quandaries in which people live today. Far from being anti-religious, I find that it is a sympathetic and very human account of one man's journey from one kind of weltbild to another.
Stylistically I grant that the novel will be difficult to approach for people who have never grasped the basics of literary modernism. However, it is a much easier read than any major novel by Joyce, Pynchon or even Beckett.
Above all I find the comment that the novel is a "grab-bag" or collection of random bric-a-brac highly unfair. Like Ulysses, I'd suggest that if anything the book is over-plotted - you just have to keep your eyes open!
4.0 von 5 Sternen Mind over Matter - "City of God" by E L Doctorow,
E L Doctorow's latest is typical of an unpredictable author. It is another of his attempts to connect historic fact in modern, or in this case, post modern reality. In this sense it is hugely ambitious but it rewards the adventurous reader, willing to journey on his roller coaster ride of themes and styles.
His ostensible subject is spirituality at the turn of the 20th Century. He explores this through the experience of a liberal episcopal priest in a crumbling downtown parish in New York City. Under threat from the Authorities his faith is challenged fianlly by the disappearance of his altar cross and ir=ts eventual reappearance on the roof of an uptown liberal Jewish synagogue. There appears to be no reason for this move.
Doctorow uses this fable to faith in the 20th century through the development of philosphical thought (principally Wittgenstein, whose parodic musings are a highlight)and in the teeth of the grim horrors of WW1,WW2, Vietnam and, especially, the Holocaust. All this is held together through the attempts of an author to bring the characters and themes together through his own notebooks. thus we also find notes and thoughts on other types of faith including the American popular song, for Doctorow, one of the most obvious expressions of secular belief the 20th century has to offer.
If this sounds a tough nut to crack, it isBut dull it is not. The reader barely has room to breathe as he or she is taken through fastidiously grim Holocaust narratives, elegaic descriptions of the beauties of faith and rough hewn poetry.
Through it all, this envigorating journey of the mind becomes a meditiation on the development of the soul and the role of faith in any future we might have. If his answers are not comfortable, his style is challenging and thrilling.
5.0 von 5 Sternen A veteran author comes of age.,
Some initial caveats: 'City of God' is not a straightforward mystery as its blurb suggests. Nor is it the impossibly cerebral challenge that some have suggested. It is not a theological manifesto. Nor does its blend of fact and fiction does not entail Doctorow's habitual ironic play with history.
This is a book about connections. Life and art, fact and fiction, and the past and present conjoin in the ruminations of a middle-aged writer attempting to make holistic sense from the seemingly disparate threads of the late twentieth century. The novel is therefore also about the potential difficulties of being middle-aged, and of trying to look to the future when one is increasingly compelled to reminisce (and confess) about the past. Its characters roam the city of New York and then the world for missing objects and people, including stolen brass crosses from churches, WWII diaries containing evidence of Nazi criminals, and excommunicated reverends. Predictably (but also pleasurably), more important than what they find is what they learn about both themselves and the age in which they live.
Some reviewers have criticised the novel for its fragmentary style. But here Doctorow produces some of his most lyrical, least mannered excursions into the human unconscious yet. The novel's chief difficulty for readers is not in trying to understand it but in knowing how to read it. My experience of its chief pleasures come not from looking at the fragments individually, but by examning the connections between them.
Moreover, don't expect the 'city' of the title to be teeming with carefully delineated characters. Perhaps it's best to think of the novel as the examination of one person (Everett, the writer who collects ideas for stories, poems and songs in this 'workbook') whose presence is replicated in a number of different stories which range across twentieth-century history. That said, this presence is most successfully telescoped into Everett's contemporary evocations of Tom Pemberton, a cleverly drawn character and a bewitching symbol of oft-thwarted yet surviving ambitions.
This novel is a joyful celebration of age, memory, regeneration and hope for the future.
Final note: this isn't a 'postmodern' novel, although its style is experimental. In my opinion the subject is more traditional: like Victor Hugo or Dostoyevsky, it is concerned with the power of art to transfigure and redeem history. Be patient with this novel, and enjoy the rewards.
3.0 von 5 Sternen Don't expect the usual Doctorow with this novel,
Doctorow has garnered so many writing awards-the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle awards, the PEN/Faulkner award, and the National Humanities Medal from the president, just to name a few-each successive novel is eagerly anticipated and closely scrutinized. And while I have no doubt that most critics will applaud this latest effort, I found it frustratingly demanding and wearisome. Those hoping to find another "Billy Bathgate" or "The Waterworks" will be disappointed. In "City of God," Doctorow has chosen to go down a new and entirely different path than his past efforts.
We are treated to a series of separate narratives that include a Holocaust survivor and discourses on everything from astrophysics to the lyrics of popular songs, to the meaning of life and role of God and religion at the end of the twentieth century. Many of the novel's moments are beautifully written, such as the recitations from the Holocaust survivor and the prayer offered by the Episcopalian minister at his wedding. And these moments are almost worth the time and trouble of wading through the remainder of the book. But many of the plot lines appear to lead to dead-ends, such as the prominent story of the cross that is stolen from the Episcopal church and ends up on the roof of the Jewish synagogue. Besides the torturous symbolism, what are we to make of this event that hangs over the story line but is eventually forgotten and dropped by the author?
Readers beware-"City of God" has its satisfying moments (and they can be surprisingly rewarding) but you will be made to sweat for each one.
3.0 von 5 Sternen E. L. Doctorow, "City of God",
In "City of God," E. L. Doctorow uses a number of late-modernist/early-postmodernist techniques to sketch (rather than tell) a story centered on the growing intimacy between Thomas Pemberton, a disaffected Episcopal priest, and Sarah Blumenthal, a progressive rabbi. The narrative is made up of pieces assembled by a third character, Everett, a novelist friend of Pemberton's who is writing a book about the priest. Among sections presented from Pemberton's point of view are others told by Sarah's father (who as a boy had been a victim of Nazi persecution), Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Frank Sinatra; meditations on cosmology and the movies; and a series of free-verse "jazz" riffs inspired by popular songs. Doctorow has taken a similar experimental approach before, most memorably in the novel "Loon Lake" (1980), but here his methods seem to take precedence over the story rather than elucidate it. Occasional nods are made to the societal anxiety brought on by the end of the millennium, but for another American novelist to say yet again that traditional novels are poor vehicles for communicating the dislocations of our violent century feels, in this case, schematic and secondhand. The book seems to be about the importance of love in a time when religious faith is perceived as insufficient to answer the questions about humanity and the universe that have occupied our century's greatest minds, but it is handicapped by Doctorow's decision to render this powerful theme only in arid fragments.
5.0 von 5 Sternen City of God,
Von Ein Kunde
I have just completed the first reading of Edgar Laurence Doctorow's latest novel, "City of God". It is not an easy read. It is disjointed. Some of the characters require imaginative guesswork. BUT it is well worth the effort. Anyone who has lived the majority of his or her life in the 20th century will find a "shock of recognition" on many pages. The conflict of science and religion, the newer studies in cosmology and the horrors we have been witness to, all pose questions that defy answers. Some of us may still find solace in our faiths. As a retired physician I found myself frequently facing a dark, starry sky with my fist upraised asking: "WHY?" How could God, an infinite, all-knowing, loving, immortal being allow so much hatred, so much misery, some of which occurred with the concurrence of organized religion to take place? The pat answers learned from my faith were not sustaining and have left a void. The author addressed many of these conundrums and stimulates the reader to begin or, in my own case, to continue to puzzle over these age old problems. He touches on the next centuries ecological catastrophies, which if dealt with with past solutions will surely lead to our extinction. His evolutionary concept of an evolving infinite being is intriguing. The novel is thought provoking, uncomfortable but thoroughly engaging. I will re-read it and would highly recommend it to all thoughtful yet perplexed readers.
2.0 von 5 Sternen A grab-bag of unconnected ideas and stories,
I'd never read any Doctorov until now, but had heard him acclaimed as a great 20th century author. Not on the basis of this book, I don't think. The theology is old hat, the cosmology is old hat, and the renouncing of Christianity by one of the chief characters is hardly surprising. What is the reader to make of this hodge-podge? I looked for connections, and occasionally found them (even complete sentences reappearing for no apparent reason) but it was more as if Doctorov had a lot of material he'd never got round to using and decided to try and bung it all together under one cover, under the pretence that it was a novelist's journal. Trouble is the novelist is a non-character, and the so-called 'mystery' of the missing cross is a non-event (I think Doctorov forgot about it after a while) even though Pemberton, the failing priest sees it as a sign. We're treated to dissertations on a wild variety of matters, many of which are interesting in themselves, but few of which seem to contribute to the novel as a whole. Much of the material is superbly written, which for me made it all the more disappointing that the novel (collage?) didn't seem to go anywhere. I read it through to the last page, and couldn't see why much of it had been included. I got hold of the book in the first place because Time Magazine gave it a rave review. Obviously there's something wrong with my perspective!
4.0 von 5 Sternen A laborious route to a magnificent ending,
I waited until I finished reading Doctorow's "City ofGod" before reading any reviews of this book - not sure why Imade that choice but once made I was thankful I had. If you're looking for his usual mix of historical fact with fascinating fiction, don't try this work. Work? Yes, that is exactly what this book is. And after wading through alot of pages that begged editing, I started over. City of God takes us back to college days, when we wandered from Philosophy to Religion to History to Psychology to Physics and to Biology classes. None of it pulls together until all the courses are finished THEN the magnificence of Doctorow's mind is appreciated. There is a good novel buried in this book, but the true rewards are found in Doctorow's philosphical excursions. His exploration of the beginning of the universe, his mingling the various philosophies that address man's condition and his search for meaning in a abusively chaotic cosmos, his paring down the tennants of Jewish and Christian thought - all these are done with enormous skill and read even better when approached a second and third time. Sometimes he is out of his territory - as when he maligns us with the oh-so-corny reinterpretations of banal songs. But Wow! this man's mind is impressive. And for those hardy readers who commit to finishing this literary task the retrospective gratification is magnificent!
2.0 von 5 Sternen Whatever happened to style AND clarity?,
I looked forward to reading this book because I thought Ragtime was excellent and from the reviews, I thought I would like this one. I was disappointed. Doctorow in interviews talked about his style of letting his thoughts flow and the reader must follow him, but I think that's simply a cop-out; an excuse for sloppy writing and a failure to edit anything. Much of the time, I had trouble following who the heck was doing the narration (Who is "I"?), the parody of songs was stupid, and there was just a failure of the author to communicate with his audience.Sure, some of the writing is beautiful, which makes it all the more disappointing when Doctorow just wants to take the money and run. He's capable of so much more. The Holocaust parts were excellent, the disillustioned priest searching for true meaning of religion in his life, melding Judaism and Christianity, had potential but was never fulfilled. I think it's probably politically incorrect to criticize Doctorow, but if this were someone's first novel, I think it might have been dismissed as the disconnected jumble it is.
4.0 von 5 Sternen It's worth the work!,
Like many of the previous reviewers, I was also tempted to give up without finishing...but then I would have missed the extremely satisfying passages in the last few pages of the book. Such as, Seligman's testimony challenging orthodox devotion as ancestor worship, and the insufficiency of our "praise" language for our Creator, in the light of the staggering amounts of modern knowledge and understanding of the universe. Also, the conversation of Pem and Everett, immediately following, as they discussed Seligman as a kind of modern day prophet. And Sarah's take on our evolving definition of God...looking toward new possiblities in the continuing journey toward faith. And Pemberton's petition to God in his wedding speech, envisioning the torments of hell. WHAM! Well, this more than makes up for all the hurdles, and even for the lack of closure regarding the mystery of the cross on the roof of the synagogue. Anyway, do we really want to know how it got there ? This book makes you think and question, and ultimately hope. I'm glad I happened upon it.
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City of God: A Novel von E.L. Doctorow (Taschenbuch - 19. August 2014)