Wood vs. God

God wins!

It would be nice, of course, if Wood's thoughts on theology—either those we read in Thomas' BAG or those uttered by characters in conversation—were compelling, but we don't get much help here, either. We read one multipage rant from the BAG against Kierkegaard that so fundamentally misconceives the Danish philosopher's theological spirit that it's hard to know if Wood is trying to expose Thomas as a charlatan of a thinker or if Wood simply doesn't know his Kierkegaard. And as for the conversations, they're basically the kind you hear in college dorms: "I don't believe that a God exists who created the world we live in. And if you ask me for 'proof' of this certainty, for how I know this, what do I do but ask you to look at the world. There's the proof! A place of horror and pain and utter senseless longevity for millions and millions."

Again, if this is just comic characterization, that's one thing, but the novel's power rests on the reader's caring about the theological struggle that Thomas is in, and it's simply so clich├ęd a struggle that you have to settle for the novel's minor pleasures—the village scenes, the characterization of Thomas' father—if you're going to get anything out of this. The novel's a big disappointment.

James Wood, The Book Against God. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 pp., $24.
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