Review: E.L. Doctorow’s “City of God”

by writereaderly

e.l.doctorow city of godThis description of the book’s hero acts as word-portrait of the novel as a whole: “He is not even six feet but appears larger, the size of a strong presence, a divinity student with a good name and no money to speak of, and manly as hell” (p.186). Doctorow’s novel is comprised of half a dozen distinct, high-falutin’ male narrative voices, questioning god, life, meaning, etc., etc. For me, they never resolved into a transcendent chorus of meaning, but remained enmired in performative masculine literary self-doubt, ie a tiresome cacophony that delighted in pretentious spectacle. I tried hard, I finished it despite the pain, thinking that at some point I would be appropriately revelated to feel as the worshipful back-cover reviewers did about this book. But no: I did not enjoy it and I did not feel transcended. Try-hard religious glamour.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
A few days of intermittent reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “I wonder if revelation comes not like light to the eye but as an imposed ordering of that part of the self so deeply interior as to be anonymous.” (p.169)
Reminds me of/that: This one and that one that I’ve recently read: more of the erudite machismo ilk
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Behind Closed Doors by Monia Hejaiej