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Post No. 100 (The Big, Fat, Round One. Yay!)

October 12, 2012

I’m usually wary of superlatives and unrestrained praise.

Something like “At once generously realist, wickedly surrealist and fabulous in the great American tradition” would make me run a mile, but when you consider that AS Byatt wrote it you assume it’s that “reverse code” that only Brits can do. You know … what American tradition?

She was talking about John Updike’s Roger’s Version.

I’m not really sure what is Updike’s point in the novel.

Most characters populating the story are royally screwed up. Adherence to some set of religious beliefs seems to have catalysed the process – except in the case of Verna, where depraved doesn’t even come close.

In his quasi-“stream of consciousness” babbling Lambert drops more names than a telephone directory – Church Fathers, heretics, philosophers. It is meant to give us the impression that  he knows his onions.

Religion, to him, stops at fact gathering. He is supposed to know everything there is to know – you get my drift – yet he fails to apply any of his knowledge in the face of moral dilemmas. His sole criterion for doing something is what he feels is right there and then.

It could have been Updike’s intention to make Roger appear hypocritical – you know an ex man of the cloth who tells us all about sinning but who, himself, couldn’t be bothered about colouring within the lines  …

Then there’s the other turnip. Kohler. He thinks he’ll find God in a computer (in 1986 haha). There is a God because the scientists who support evolution extrapolate their findings to elbow God out of the way (I didn’t get it, either). So he goes about bolstering his claim by circling numbers in random printouts or whatever and saying that these numbers can hardly be random. Possibly the precursor of that other harebrained theory of Intelligent Design. Only God knows …

What’s all this in aid of?

Hope springs eternal in the human breast or chest – as the chap said. Despite my Catholic upbringing I was a member of the Church-bashing brigade. I used to read all these pop science and pop cosmology books to broaden my horizons and learn why God is a logical impossibility. Their effect was the diametric opposite of what I thought – perhaps even hoped – it would be. (I still read said books, but with a different frame of mind and because I don’t understand maths)

Books like this – Roger’s version, i.e.  – rub me the wrong way. And I hope – against hope – that venting my frustration will strike a chord with somebody with nothing better to do than read my posts and perhaps tip the balance in favour of objectivity.

Long shot, I know.


From → Misfires

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