Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Book Review: "The Messiah of Morris Avenue"

I haven't done nearly as many book reviews on Charging RINO as I intended to when I started blogging, and that's one area that I really want to expand as the summer moves forward and I get a little bit more of that "free time" people are always talking about. I did just read one that I thought I'd post some quick thoughts on though.

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from a marketing director at Henry Holt regarding Tony Hendra's new first novel, The Messiah of Morris Avenue. The author of Father Joe, Hendra has previously edited National Lampoon and Spy, and according to his bio he also performed in college with John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Apparently he's quite well-known as a satirist, although I admit I hadn't heard of him. In the email I received, the Holt marketer wrote "There are plenty of reasons to get depressed or angry about the current political climate, but sometimes it's fun to mix in a few laughs with all the politics. Since you write on political topics on your blog, I hope you'll be interested in this book and will help spread the word to others who could use a laugh in their day." He offered to send me a free copy, which I accepted.

I received the book late last week; since it's short (245 pages) and I've had several lengthy T-rides recently, I finished it already. I was pleasantly surprised. The book was indeed amusing at times, but it's also a sharp-edged vision of a dark near-future in which America is controlled by Christian fundamentalism, from the presidency to Hollywood (rechristened "Holywood" by the man running the show, Reverend James Zebediah Sabbath). Hendra's plot revolves around the emergence of Jose Francisco Lorcan Kennedy (aka Jay), who claims to be the son of God and begins criticizing those in charge for distorting the true message of Christianity to their own ends.

While the course of the book is (necessarily) somewhat predictable, and Hendra's cliches get a bit tiresome, the message is an important one. In every satire there is a core of potential truth, and this book trenchantly (even chillingly at times) brings out some of the real dangers humanity faces when fundamentalists (of any sort) rule the roost. Hendra has written a provocative novel that I feel perfectly comfortable recommending. It's not Orwell, granted, but it's worth a read.

- Hendra's webpage contains some interesting podcasts to accompanying the book: sermons ("Godcasts") by the Reverend Sabbath himself, as well as a few background news stories (narrated by Hendra) of how America has changed in the years before the book's events occur.

- Yes, it feels weird to be recommending a book that the publisher sent to me. I almost wanted it to be bad so that I could pan it and not feel like I was selling out. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it.


At 4:25 PM, Blogger The Screaming Centrist said...

...I admit I hadn't heard of him.

He was the band manager in "This is Spinal Tap."


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