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13 February 2007 @ 08:08 am
Pete Hautman's GODLESS (4.5 stars)  
15-year-old Jason Bock and his friend Peter Stephen Schinner (AKA Shin) are scrounging around the town's water tower when Henry Stagg shows up with his fists and an attitude. That single event, combined with Jason's antagonism toward his parents Catholic religion, leads Jason and Shin to create their own religion. The Ten-Legged One watches over the town, pumping life through the piped veins of the city, so why not worship the life giver?

"Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion? All you need is a disciple or two. And a god."

Cleverly dispersed throughout the opening pages of the chapters, the myth of The Ocean and the secrets of their religion grow and mutate. Chutengodianism is born and spreads. Friends join. Sides are drawn. The water tower becomes the focus of their lives, the center of their adventures (midnight swims, brushes with cops, endless restriction, and snail collecting), the bane of their existence.

Resonating with the spirit of great works like Orwell's ANIMAL FARM, Hautman's ludicrous tale raises important questions about religion. Who or what defines religion? Is religion a good thing? And what happens when religion is taken too far?

After all, people shouldn't make such a big deal out of it. It's just a religion. Right?

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ryan_fieldryan_field on February 13th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Just a religion...
As a catholic I think I'd be interested in reading this.
And, I think religion is taken too far when people expect too much from it.
bryanreardon on February 14th, 2007 01:56 am (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
I'm always up for good religion fiction. I thought that was what I'd end up writing, but not so much it seems.
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on February 14th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
I'm curious as to why you thought you'd end up writing religious fiction? Were there any certain reasons? What do you think veered your writing in a different direction?
bryanreardon on February 14th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
I guess, subconsciously, it was because I am (used to be) Catholic and when I was in college, I really started to question. Not my faith but the doctrine. So my first ms went in that direction. But then I ended up writing a YA sci-fi. And so far that has been a little more successful for me. I think a big challenge for me will be sticking with a genre. I'm a little willy-nilly about that. But I think I'll go back for the next one. Who knows, right?

Are you consistently writing in a genre?
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on February 14th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
I don't consider Y.A. a genre, so I don't think I'll be sticking to a single genre. My first two (as yet unpublished) novels both deal with day-to-day adolescent life. My next one is going to be a big shift away. A fun one, though.
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on February 14th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
It's an interested read and one of the few Y.A. novels that has been allowed to tackle religion.
christy_lenzi on February 15th, 2007 07:42 am (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
Do you think the subject is kind of taboo, or just not hugely popular?
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on February 15th, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Just a religion...
I imagine that as people in society continue to know less and less about the individual religions, novels will have a harder time relating religious topics to their readers.

My 20th Century American Literature class just finished reading and discussing Sherwood Anderson's WINESBURG, OHIO, and I've never seen so many people miss a whole layer of a book because of their ignorance of the Bible. At times, it was a mixture of humorous and sad hearing them incorrectly attribute portions of the Bible to Anderson's collection of stories
ryan_fieldryan_field on February 14th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
I'll trust...
I'll trust your opinion on this and order it. Thanks, man.
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on February 14th, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC)
Re: I'll trust...
Enjoy.
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on January 23rd, 2008 07:57 am (UTC)
Re: I'll trust...
I don't know why I was clicking through this review again, but I'm curious...what'd you think of this book back when/if you read it?
ryan_fieldryan_field on January 23rd, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
Re: I'll trust...
To be perfectly honest it didn't grab me. I didn't even finish it. Now, to be objective: it was well written and as far as books go I think it has an audience. I just wasn't the right audience, is all. When I start reading something that gets too far fetched I lose interest...unless I'm reading good fantasy or SciFi, which in that case I expect to get far fetched. This book reminded me of some of the chick lit I've read...it's not bad in the first couple of pages, but then the narrator loses things to say, and the dialogue becomes too cute and banal(example: the MC says to the expected gay friend, whom she considers her adopted brother, "He bro, what's shaking?" And the gay character replies with a cheesy nick name, "He sissy-min-noo-noo, nothing much.") , and I lose interest and close the book. So I guess my opinion of this book is like my opinion of Barbara Streisand: she's very good, but not my personal taste. My taste runs more along the lines of NORMAL FOR ONCE (the real stuff), which I hope you're still pitching. I hope this helps?
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on January 23rd, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: I'll trust...
Fair enough. I can totally see your take on it. I remember the religious satire/criticism rang true with me, and ever since reading Haruki Murakami, I've taken a liking to magical realism of sorts. Anyway, I hope my review wasn't misleading in any way. One of my hopes is that people might find quality reading through the reviews.
ryan_fieldryan_field on January 23rd, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: I'll trust...
Your review was great. I'm the quirky one :-)
(Anonymous) on February 16th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)
I just had dinner with Pete Hautman the other night. He says 'hi.'

Well, no, he didn't. But I did have dinner with him and his partner, Mary Logue. It was a very surreal experience. Mary taught the YA Lit class I took last summer. I don't know what felt more bizarre: listening to Mary turn to him and rave about the 10 pages of CHASERS she'd read or just sitting and talking craft with them both. But it was kinda cool.

--Brian
Dispatches
The Blog of Author Jonathan Stephensjonstephens on February 19th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
That's pretty cool. You're a lucky guy, live interviews and dinners with reputable authors. I can only imagine...

That's so cool that they were diggin on CHASERS! For serious!