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Only Begotten Daughter (1990)
por James Morrow
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miraculous conception in a sperm bank leads to Julie Katz, female non messiah
I hesitate in calling this a satire because it's a highly-charged emotional bomb of a great story IN ADDITION to being some of the cleverest novels of scattershot inversions, sly winks, and outrageously funny situations.
You know, as funny as meeting Jesus in Hell is going to be, serving heroin to the damned in a soup kitchen just before they completely obliterate themselves. Or the realization that Jesus has a sister. A modern one. A true begotten daughter of God. Julie: the one who talks to sponges, gets scolded for performing miracles, gets embroiled in a plot of Satan, and who absolutely ADORES science.
I love Julie. She's so earnest. A good kid. And we get to see her grow up, get into trouble with her alcoholic best friend, save Atlantic City from a conflagration, and send herself to hell for 15 years, voluntarily. Where she gets to know her brother.
The aftermath... ah well, the aftermath is the hard part, emotionally, but what a great read it all is. Almost every line has a freaking SHARP comment to be made on religion and its followers. From the conception of Julie by a Jewish man donating to a sperm bank only to have the authorities freak out because it somehow found an egg in the container, to the anticrucification of the antichrist. Or what God actually turns out to be or where Satan winds up. :)
The text is SHARP.
Sure, we've had a number of classics that skewered religion before, but few do it as regularly and consistently and as cleverly as this one. The real devil is in the details, and this one gets under your skin like the buckshot of a shotgun.
I think, after reading only two of James K. Morrow's books, I've found one of my top favorite authors of all time. :)
I really liked this book -- maybe I like blasphemy a little too much.
A funny, insightful, and, at times, painfully sad religious fantasy centering on Julie Katz, daughter of God and half-brother of Jesus, and her patchwork family. The tone's much closer to Douglas Adams than Dostoevsky: Morrow's a genuinely funny writer, and his humor sparkles on every page. But there's a lot of sadness here, too: major characters start getting killed off in the book's first twenty pages and the bloodletting never really stops. "Only Begotten Daughter" might be called an attempt to bring popular conceptions of Jesus in line with modern biblical scholarship: it's obvious that Morrow's done his reading, and is thoroughly acquainted both with the Bible and the latest historical interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth. But this is a book where the Devil is a fully fleshed-out (pardon the pun) character while God mostly stays on the sidelines. What's the daughter of God to make of a world where God doesn't answer her phone calls but where evil is so obviously present? It's a question that Julie and her family wrestle with throughout the book, and while the conclusion that Morrow comes to is elegant, after a fashion, it's unlikely to please actual believers. If the title wasn't enough, this is one that readers who are annoyed by religiously-oriented humor should probably stay away from.
There's also the curious fact that "Only Begotten Daughter" is set in the decaying, tacky tourist wonderland that is Atlantic City, New Jersey. This really grounds the book and gives it a lot of welcome local color, which runs from the city's pier and casinos to South Jersey's natural beauty. After a few surprising turns, Morrow uses the setting as a vehicle with which to comment on the problem of religious fundamentalism, or, to put it in a larger context, the space between Gospel and church. The book becomes bloodier -- and sadder -- when Morrow follows this plotline, but it's still a useful meditation on humanity's misuse of faith. What might be more engaging from a reader's perspective, is how likable and engaging the cast of characters that Morrow's assembled here is: from a lesbian novelty store owner to a lonely, bibliomaniac Jewish bachelor, to a lovelorn science nerd to Julie herself, who comes off remarkably human and vulnerable considering that she's God's only begotten, well, you know. Recommended for those who like their theological musings with a light, comedic touch.
As a postscript, I'm going to have to take issue with the cover that e-book publisher/packager Open Road has decided to give their edition of "Only Begotten Daughter." While their juxtaposition of a lipstick tube and a cross might be clever, it's pretty obvious that Julie Katz isn't the kind of woman who gives a lot of thought to makeup. It's yet more evidence that cover designers should be forced to read the books that they design covers for.
A lot of interesting ideas. The second immaculate conception occurs when a fertilized egg is discovered in a lonely Jewish man's sperm donation. The egg is placed in an experimental artificial womb, from which eventually is born Julie Katz, Jesus's half-sister. This book amused me more in college, now it's so far from where I am theologically it doesn't seem to hold together under its own weight. But I still get some sinister amusement at the idea of Jesus in hell, giving water to the sufferers, amazed to hear at what people are currently doing in his name.
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The World Fantasy Award-winning novel of a female deity trying to save a modern world gone mad--"Invites comparisons with Vonnegut and even Rushdie" (The Washington Post). Rejoice! A new messiah has come, and her name is Julie. Born to Murray Katz, the solitary (and celibate) keeper of an abandoned lighthouse on the Jersey shore, our protagonist arrives on Earth boasting supernatural abilities evocative of her divine half brother, Jesus. As a child, she revels in her talent for walking on water, resurrecting dead crabs, and treating fireflies as luminous alphabet blocks. But after she reaches adolescence, her life becomes as challenging and ambiguous as any mortal's. Not only is Julie Katz obliged to deal with a silver-tongued devil and self-righteous neo-Christian zealots, she must also figure out what sort of mission her mother--the female Supreme Being--has in mind for her. At once outrageous and affirming, this Nebula Award finalist is a magnificent work of contemporary satire that holds a mirror up to human nature, astutely reflecting our species' failings, foibles, and often misguided affections.
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Sistema Decimal Melvil (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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