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City of God (2000)

by E. L. Doctorow

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1,378249,658 (3.44)127
In his workbook, a New York City novelist records the contents of his teeming brain -- sketches for stories, accounts of his love affairs, riffs on the meanings of popular songs, ideas for movies, obsessions with cosmic processes. He is a virtual repository of the predominant ideas and historical disasters of the age. But now he has found a story he thinks may become his next novel: The large brass cross that hung behind the altar of St. Timothy's, a run-down Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, has disappeared ... and even more mysteriously reappeared on the roof of the Synagogue for Evolutionary Judaism, on the Upper West Side. The church's maverick rector and the young woman rabbi who leads the synagogue are trying to learn who committed this strange double act of desecration and why. Befriending them, the novelist finds that their struggles with their respective traditions are relevant to the case. Into his workbook go his taped interviews, insights, preliminary drafts ... and as he joins the clerics in pursuit of the mystery, it broadens to implicate a large cast of vividly drawn characters -- including scientists, war veterans, prelates, Holocaust survivors, cabinet members, theologians, New York Times reporters, filmmakers, and crooners -- in what proves to be a quest for an authentic spirituality at the end of this tortured century.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I may not be the person this book was written for. I struggled with it, and by the end I could hardly wait to see the last page. Yet I sense an important message within.

A novelist writes what comes into his head, whether it is a recounting of a conversation or the beginnings of a story. Sometimes he writes as if he is another person, from that point of view.

Essentially, the story is about religion. About Christianity vs Judeism, to be simplistic. A main character in the story is a Catholic priest (I think Catholic...Christian in any case) who is constantly questioning his beliefs and the messages in the bible. He knows that the bible was written by men, and he questions their motives.

A strange theft takes place that seems to speak to this priest. Much of the book dwells, in one way or another, on the reason for the theft and what happened to the item.

The story, if you can call it that, is told in this disjointed way, with ruminations and backtracking and people out of nowhere (or so it seemed to me), and I just didn't feel like I could handle this technique. I got through it but I can't say I gave it my all. Might be better as a book to study in a group, bit by bit. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
If you’re after a pacy novel with a great storyline and memorable characters that zips you from A to B in a rush of finely written prose, you’ll need to get through this quick so that you can get yourself something that fits your bill. This novel isn’t it.

What it is though is a series of sketches that, together, give you an impression of contemporary New York and bits and pieces of WW2 Europe and what being Jewish means in both contexts. Bear in mind though that people who are Jewish absolutely love writing about being Jewish. People who live in New York also love writing about New York. Combine this and, well, you get writing that is entirely self-absorbed.

Was it worth it? I’m not really sure, and that shows that this novel is probably for people who consider themselves to have more literary intelligence than myself.

Either that or actually this is pretty terrible. Of course, that is a distinct possibility. If you want to judge a book by what you can take away from it, then this is going to make very little impact on your scale of judgment.

As for me, I took so little away from it that, when I came to write this review, I could remember absolutely nothing about it. Even the cover didn’t help me. I had to head to the web and get a summary and, while reading it, memories of the grind that it was to read came flooding back.

So, take all that for what it’s worth. After all, who am I? ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Sep 5, 2020 |
Actually the ISBN is for a Hardcover First Edition not a Paperback first edition. Kind of confusing. ( )
  can44okie | Aug 28, 2020 |
The best book I read in 2007, hands down. I enjoyed it so much and found it so inspiring that I scanned a page, printed it out, highlighted an important sentence, and mailed it to my beloved. It is now hanging on his wall. One of few books I wish had arms so that I could hug them. ( )
1 vote woolgathering | Jun 24, 2020 |
I don't usually like when books are described as "ambitious," but that's really the best description I can think of. It has some really, really great sections but i was hoping it would come together a little more in the end. ( )
1 vote Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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Alison
Gabriel
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TK
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So the theory has it that the universe expanded exponentially from a point, a singular space/time point, a moment/thing, some original particulate event or quantum substantive happoenstance, to an extent that the word explosion is inadequate though the theory is known as the Big Bang,
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All history has contrived to pour this beer into my glass.
"We are not so flamboyant now, we have culture, real art hangs on the office walls...We know who Wittgenstein was."
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In his workbook, a New York City novelist records the contents of his teeming brain -- sketches for stories, accounts of his love affairs, riffs on the meanings of popular songs, ideas for movies, obsessions with cosmic processes. He is a virtual repository of the predominant ideas and historical disasters of the age. But now he has found a story he thinks may become his next novel: The large brass cross that hung behind the altar of St. Timothy's, a run-down Episcopal church in lower Manhattan, has disappeared ... and even more mysteriously reappeared on the roof of the Synagogue for Evolutionary Judaism, on the Upper West Side. The church's maverick rector and the young woman rabbi who leads the synagogue are trying to learn who committed this strange double act of desecration and why. Befriending them, the novelist finds that their struggles with their respective traditions are relevant to the case. Into his workbook go his taped interviews, insights, preliminary drafts ... and as he joins the clerics in pursuit of the mystery, it broadens to implicate a large cast of vividly drawn characters -- including scientists, war veterans, prelates, Holocaust survivors, cabinet members, theologians, New York Times reporters, filmmakers, and crooners -- in what proves to be a quest for an authentic spirituality at the end of this tortured century.

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