Read Roger's Version by John Updike Online

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As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a middle-aged professor of divinity, is buttonholed in his office by Dale Kohler, an earnest young computer scientist who believes that quantifiable evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating. The theological-scientific debate that ensues, and the wicked strategies that Roger employs to disembarrass Dale of his faith, form the sAs Roger Lambert tells it, he, a middle-aged professor of divinity, is buttonholed in his office by Dale Kohler, an earnest young computer scientist who believes that quantifiable evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating. The theological-scientific debate that ensues, and the wicked strategies that Roger employs to disembarrass Dale of his faith, form the substance of this novel—these and the current of erotic attraction that pulls Esther, Roger’s much younger wife, away from him and into Dale’s bed. The novel, a majestic allegory of faith and reason, ends also as a black comedy of revenge, for this is Roger’s version—Roger Chillingworth’s side of the triangle described by Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter—made new for a disbelieving age....

Title : Roger's Version
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780449912188
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Roger's Version Reviews

  • Manny
    2018-11-27 09:53

    - I'd like to talk to John Updike.- Speaking.- My name is Manny Rayner -- Do I know you?- No. I'm calling by intertemporal communicator from the year 2013. I -- You'll excuse me, Mr. Rayner, I don't find this kind of thing particularly -- Please don't hang up yet, Mr. Updike! I believe you're writing a book called Roger's Version.- Yes, I am as a matter of fact. But I don't -- You've nearly finished it.- I was working on the final pages when you called. Now I -- They're in a revolving restaurant. He starts with the consommé, she has the prawn cocktail.- How the hell did you know that?- I tell you, I've read it. It was published 27 years ago.- Jesus Christ, you really are calling from the future?- I am.- I... I need a moment to get used to the idea. I'm sorry. I -- Take your time.- So, uh, so I guess I could ask who the President is and so on, but let's cut to the chase. Do people like the book? In 2013?- It has its fans. - Did you like it?- To be honest, I found it absolutely unputdownable. I've been at a conference this week in the beautiful city of Seville, which I've never seen before. But any time I had a spare moment I took it out and read some more.- Ha! Okay, you've started off the right way. Please continue.- I loved the narrator. Roger is one of your finest creations. So wonderfully cold and manipulative and full of intellectual insincerity. He's fantastic. Verna and Esther are nearly as good. Dale is a terrific nerd. The writing is consistently brilliant, even by your high standards. Once again, you show that you are the true heir of Flaubert.- You do know how to pile on the flattery.- I particularly liked the oral sex scene. Surely the most perfectly realized blow-job in all world literature. No one else could have thought of intercutting it with passages from Tertullian in the original Latin, and if they had they wouldn't have been able to make it work. Chapeau, Monsieur.- I wondered if I'd gone too far.- No, it's a miracle that it holds together, but it does. You make your point in an extraordinarily imaginative and original way. Not gratuitous at all. I'm lost in admiration.- Well, thank you. Other people agree?- I am far from being the only one.- This really is very good to hear. So was there anything you didn't like?- As a matter of fact...- Uh-oh.- Look, don't get me wrong. The idea of using the modern Argument from Design as the heresy was excellent. I happen to know a lot about that, and I can see you've done your homework. You present it with your usual ironic wit. But -- But?- But when Dale's actually going to look for evidence of the existence of God in the physical world, why does he use that ridiculous method? You don't put a foot wrong before or after, and it's such a disappointment to see you screw up at this pivotal moment. I mean, with some novelists I wouldn't nitpick, but I know you love to get the details right. It simply wasn't worthy of you.- Look, what on Earth was I supposed to use? I'm not a cutting-edge cosmologist. I did the best I could. At least I know about computer graphics.- I can see you do, Mr. Updike. Good old Common LISP. It made feel quite nostalgic for the 80s. But here's what you should have done.- I'm all ears.- You know about the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation?- As you've read in the book, I do.- In 1986, people are just starting to find patterns in it. There's a guy called Smoot -- I'm sorry, you're breaking up. Please say that again.- Smoot. George Smoot.- Boot? It's terrible, you were completely clear a minute ago -- SMOOT. S-M-O-O-T. He's developed methods for measuring the tiny variations in the CMBR. His team is trying to launch a satellite experiment to do the measurements. It's called Cosmic Background Explorer, COBE. You need to check it out. Dale could take the data Smoot's team will find and use his image processing expertise to develop a new way to analyze it. He could find something extraordinary. Ambiguous, needless to say, but possibly extraordinary. So COBE -- It's so frustrating, I can't make out a word you're saying. Adobe? Did you say Adobe? - COBE. COBE.- Kobe? In Japan?- COBE. C-O-B-- You're breaking up completely.- C-O- Hello? Hello, Mr. Updike? Are you there? Hello?- Hello? Hello?- Damn!

  • brian
    2018-11-26 10:52

    roger’s version concerns a young scientist who believes he can prove the existence of god on his computer. as he puts it, “…these numbers are the basic physical constants (of the universe), these are the terms of creation...” recurring patterns in these numbers, the glue of the universe, prove something beyond the mere physical, Dale explains, in hope of receiving a grant from professor of hereticism, Roger Lambert. as laughable as it sounds, his arguments are made convincing as updike is never ready to dismiss or accept creationism, evolution, god, or technology without a knock-down brawl. (one is constantly awed by how much information, knowledge, and wisdom updike manages to pack into his novels) contrasted against this are the fragile human characters who, as deeply and powerfully as any characters ingmar bergman has given us, suffer greatly in a cold and indifferent universe. and like bergman’s characters they turn to religion and sex and drugs and consumerism and, well, anything, to create chatter where god’s silence prevails. given how horrible, even in 20th/21st century america, is the human condition, how terrible the burden of existence, updike seems to ask over and over how and why, rather than huddle around the fire for warmth and protection, rather than band together and flee plato’s cave, do we choose to turn away from one another, do we remain alone and content with flickering illusions on a stony wall… and the way he writes about sex in this novel... as a means to flee rather than to come together; with minds that are infinite and bodies horrifyingly finite, with bodies that shit, sweat, stink, and exist in a perpetual state of decay:”…Esther’s surprisingly substantial, downward-conical breasts with their bumpy mud-colored nipples, the left one of which has around it a few unnecessary hairs. She likes to thrust her breasts alternatingly into her young lover’s mouth while her wet nether mouth stretches around his prick; with Esther it all becomes a matter of mouths, opening interlocking and contorted like the apertures and intersections of hyperspace, Veronese surfaces graphed in more colors than nature can normally hold and that not even insects can see. Dale feels at times, intertwined with her, caught up in an abnormal geometry, his body distended on a web of warping appetite.”kind of terrifying, huh?updike didn’t write a single ‘great’ book, a moby dick or a scarlet letter, that will stand the test of time… but, in my mind, the totality of his body of work represents the post-war 20th century american experience in a way no other writer’s does. from the majesterial smallness of the Rabbit cycle to the ‘post-pill paradise’ of couples, from the 80s middle-class disillusionment and turn to eastern religion of S, to roger’s version’s mix of theology, technology, science, and god… there is, perhaps, no one who depicts with more accuracy and courage how we lived at this/that point in time…

  • G.R. Reader
    2018-12-12 12:41

    Mom asked me please not to read this book, and I had respected her wishes up to yesterday. But when Manny posted his review, I'm afraid my curiosity finally got the better of me.Okay... well, Mom did go through a pretty difficult couple of years when I was a baby, and she's said a few times that she knew Updike. But I mean, everyone in her generation did. It doesn't mean anything.No, I just can't believe it. Not Mom. I refuse to believe it.You know, maybe she was right. Here's a hot tip to all you gals out there: if your mom, who usually lets you read whatever you want, says not to read something, then don't read it. She may know what she's talking about. Okay?

  • Bettie☯
    2018-12-12 12:54

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Christina
    2018-11-25 09:55

    'Penis with a thesaurus' strikes again.

  • John
    2018-12-04 14:55

    This is one of the few books I didn't complete. I found the story somewhat disgusting.

  • Hamish
    2018-12-12 12:01

    This year I'm doing my practicum training working with clients who have moderate-to-severe anxiety. One of the hallmarks of anxiety disorders is what we refer to as rigid thinking. Rigid thinking leads to anxiety in a number of ways: thinking that things must be just so can lead to distress when they don't work out that way; dogmatically sticking to one approach to things while refusing to consider others can lead to repeatedly encountering problems that cause anxiety; rigid thinking about how oneself should be can lead to automatic thoughts about oneself or one's efficacy that can be anxiety-producing; etc.After a few months of this, I've become more sensitive to my own patterns of occasional rigid thinking, particularly a tendency to stick to arbitrary plans, even as they become increasingly untenable or pointless. A while back, I decided that I was going to read every Updike novel through Rabbit at Rest. At this point I don't even remember why I made this plan, yet I feel compelled to stick to it, even as I enjoy his novels less and less. Part of me really thinks I should stop here, and yet I keep hearing that voice that says, "Keep at it! Only two to go!"As with other stylistically consistent, prolific writers who I've read fairly extensively (e.g., Nabokov, Wharton, Banville), I'm well past the point where anything Updike does surprises me. I know exactly what to expect. And, with Updike and the other three aforementioned novelists, the primary draw for me is the prose, which I happily devour regardless of the only minor deviations in subject matter and structure (though Nabokov is the least guilty of this). However, unlike the other three, I find myself gradually losing my interest in Updike over time. The writing keeps me enjoying him somewhat, but it's becoming more and more strained. Mostly each subsequent novel makes me wish that I was rereading one of his earlier, better novels (Couples, the Centaur, etc.). The prose remains strong, but I find that either his more irritating qualities as a writer come more consistently to the fore over time or my tolerance for these qualities is waning.What irritating qualities, you ask? Pretty much the same ones that most of his critics harp on: the weird sexual proclivities and the often embarrassingly poorly written sex scenes (this was such a common criticism of him that I often wonder if he kept including them, and even increased their frequency, out of spite. But good god they are bad), the hints of reactionaryism and racism, the overt sexism, the repetitious obsession with affairs, etc. And then there's the characters. Banville, for example, loves morally-detestable/sad/broken first-person narrators. And yet I never conflate those characters with the author; Banville seems to me like a perfectly okay human being. But Updike? Even when we're clearly supposed to find certain narrators to be detestable, there are certain trends that remain consistent across his characters that I can't help but see as being characteristics of Updike as well. I think we're now at the point where I kind of hate Updike as a person.And yet I'm still reading. Am I a masochist? A hopeless completist? I always explain that I love quality prose above all other elements of writing, and for this reason I'm willing to stick with Updike, who is certainly one of the all-time greats in that department. And yet that doesn't seem to explain the amount of time I've sunk into reading his work (or the fact that I've visited his homes in both Ipswich and Reading). Something keeps me reading.Which brings us here, where I've finished Roger's Version with much the same reaction as I've had to the past few Updike novels I've read. I disliked it (it made me feel icky) and I also enjoyed it and breezed through it. The prose was good. And I think I am out of things to say about Updike. Only two to go.

  • Joseph Hellion
    2018-12-01 14:58

    Put your seat-belt on! This trip inside the mind of a cynical professor of theology is not really a Sunday picnic. The food is of the heavy variety so you'd better have the stomach. What's on the menu this time? The old debate of science-religion : Cosmology, genetics, computer science and the old theology books in dead tongues. Add some sex, love, revenge and here you go. It's like Hawkings, Dawkins , The Bible and Game of Thrones in one book. It's like the carnal vs the spiritual in a sense. But let's try this :Lambert is filled with the contradictions of old age , the disparity between his pre-existence in the ministry and his current existence in the "religion business" seems huge. Did he lose faith or does he have his "version" of faith ? It's hard to say. Lambert is annoyed by Dale's proposition to prove God with computer science, he loathes the idea of proving God as a whole. He tells Dale that "Even Aquinas, I think, didn’t postulate a God Who could be hauled kicking and screaming out from some laboratory closet, over behind the blackboard”. Good stuff! But behind the curtains of the theological talk we hear the music of the flesh , the longing for youth. Leading Lambert to cross some moral lines. We hear the carnal song , leading Dale out of his theological/cosmological reasoning into the "arms" of Lambert's wife. Everything else dissolves in this polar liquid : The disparity between our most elaborate abstractions and our intimate animal nature.

  • Lori
    2018-12-03 09:48

    Roger Lambert, you might say, takes creepiness to new heights, or shall I say, depths. Despite a tenured professorial position and a fairly attentive wife, he can't seem to keep his hands off his nubile niece. Worse, he fails to protect the niece's tragic child from abuse. Roger is not what you might call a sympathetic character. There is a strong note of misogyny and racism throughout this book, some of it seemingly projected by the author. Calling the child a "tarbaby", repeatedly referring to the shape of its nose and other African characteristics--politically correct, this is not. The year was 1986, and I imagine Irving's later novels must be more enlightened, or at least I would hope so.Nevertheless, the writing is strong, if somewhat text-booky in sections. I don't know anyone who talks like the characters in this book; then again, the university setting may be a world unto itself.I had to take points off for the sheer sleaze-ball factor; if Irving was trying to present a sympathetic view of a near-pedophile, he did not succeed in my case. However, the book did keep my interest throughout, except for the repetition of the young zealot's scientific case for God, which was expounded upon ad nauseum. An interesting concept novel, rendered in somewhat hit or miss fashion.

  • Robert
    2018-11-17 12:48

    Roger's Version starts out with both barrels blazing, presenting two opposing sides (each persuading and well-constructed in its own right) of a God-vs-science argument between Roger, a jaded divinity professor, and Dale, a brash young grant candidate at his university. However, the book begins to bog down as outside forces in the characters' lives begin to chip away at Dale's once-unassailable beliefs and Roger's self-assured perceptions of moral superiority. Like a lot of Updike's work, the book explores dark regions of the male sexual identity, venturing into cringe-inducing seediness at times (like Philip Roth, Updike often gives the disturbing impression that the c-word once enjoyed a decades-long run of dominance as the euphamism of choice for female genitalia).The pacing of the book is appropriate, given the increasing complexity of the subject matter as the narrative moves forward. As the characters' beliefs and self-identities are alloyed through trying personal experiences, the prose becomes less clear and my reading slowed over the course of the book from an exhilirating sprint in the first 100 pages to a crawl through mud in the last 80 or so. While that may not make for an aesthetically enjoyable read, it's a rewarding allegory for how the more we learn about ourselves and our world, the more unclear our search for existential answers becomes.

  • Jafar
    2018-11-22 10:43

    I didn't read any Updike after I went through his Rabbit series. This book was a good reminder of what a masterful writer Updike is.Even though the book is almost 30 years old now, the points that Dale, the Christian graduate student looking for a grant from the divinity department to prove the existence of God with computer simulations, raises — how staggeringly fine-tuned constants of nature appear to be in order to support the emergence of galaxies and stars and planets and eventually life — still remain unanswered by physics. Physics hasn't been able to say anything other than the wild and untestable multiverse theory, or the 10-to-the-520th possible solutions of the string theory. Roger Lambert, the divinity professor bore, doesn't like a God who is cornered and forced to show himself through physics equations and computer simulations. God is supposed to be personal, not just another fact. Updike was clearly a theology buff, but this novel is not just theology and physics and evolution. To spice things up — and to show how our human nature can contradict and overrule our beliefs — there's family drama and sex.

  • Ryan Splenda
    2018-11-24 17:55

    Having never read anything by John Updike, I wanted to try one of his lesser known novels. I saw this novel at a flea market, and once I read the synopsis on the back of the book, I knew I wanted to give it a try.I must say, I was very impressed by this novel. It dealt with the very heavy themes of religion and life. It was wonderful to see the numerous battles between the two main characters about proving the existence of God. Science vs. religion has always been a difficult topic for me. I have tried to wrap my head around it for many years. This novel seemed to draw no conclusions...making wonderful points for both sides many times.I highly recommend this book to anyone who constantly questions life in general. One can not deny the massive impacts that both sides (science and religion) have made throughout history. Maybe we should consider merging the two to try and help explain WHY things are the way they are.

  • Greg
    2018-12-02 11:45

    You know, naturally, the premise won't be delivered upon: proof of God via math, science, computers, etc. (It's like one of those books about a book: you know going in you're never going to be able to read the book about which the author is writing.) Also, everyone here is unlikeable: they do and say unlikeable things. And the researcher himself has, apparently, just one singular attraction: a large penis of which he is particularly proud. (As if that will get him closer to God?) But it's Updike! He had won his first Pulitzer by the time "Roger's Version" was published, and won another one several years later. Without those two prizes, I don't think we would be reading much of Updike outside of his Rabbit tetralogy. But I like a "campus" novel, and Updike can throw out some great zingers like: "Still, you can't quit on reason; next thing you'll get somebody like Hitler or Bonzo's pal running things." Amen.

  • Pavel
    2018-11-17 09:55

    Brilliant portrayal of a learned, cynical, arrogant, adulterous and incestuous professor of theology, who lives a lie and becomes an accomplice in a case of child abuse. Still, one feels for Professor Lambert, his prevarications and distaste for his overenthusiastic student who misunderstands faith with proof of God's existence. The novel is also prescient, in anticipating recent hype over the question whether the universe can arise from nothing. Certainly Lawrence M. Krauss could recognize himself in the character Myron Kriegman, an insensitive and confident scientist who shreds into pieces Dale Kohler's idea of proving God's existence on the basis of the strong anthropic principle with the aid of computer simulation.

  • Gregory
    2018-11-16 13:01

    This is a book that I read once for fun and a second time to write a college paper for a religion course. Each reading gave me new thoughts on the religious debates between the two main characters (a divinity Professor and a computer science student). It's understandable that Updike would be capable of handling the (Karl Barth based) religious argument (religion figures into many of Updike's works) but it's amazing how he's able to handle the computer data arguments within this novel (I'm fairly computer literate so I'd know when he was off track). Updike proves just how amazingly capable he was at absorbing enough knowledge for his characters to speak intelligently on nearly any subject. This is one of Updike's more challenging novels.

  • David Goetz
    2018-12-09 15:42

    "By what you use, you are used,per carnem.Indeed, it has occurred to me that in my sensation of peacepost coitus,of sweet theistic certainty beneath the remote vague ceiling, of livingproofat Verna's side, I was guilty of heresy, the heresy of which the Cathars and Fraticelli were long ago accused amid the thunders of anathema--that of committing deliberate abominations so as to widen and deepen the field in which God's forgiveness can magnificently play.Mas, mas.Butthou shall not tempt the Lord thy God.

  • Apallant
    2018-11-20 10:00

    Can't say that I am an Updike fan. This book had wonderful challenging dialog about the differences between science and religion and their relationship to God. That was the highlight of the book. Updikes characters were not ones you care much about. I also found that I lost the thread of the story and had to work to keep going on because I didn't care that much. Clearly Updike is really intelligent and has an amazing command of the language. It was just too much for me.

  • Mike
    2018-12-03 09:48

    Man, Updike wrote a lot of books. Most of them are good, but I've had to resign myself to the fact that none of them are going to be as great as his Rabbit novels. Still, his extraordinary talent for description and imagery makes even a lesser book like this one worthwhile.

  • Susie Han
    2018-12-04 12:58

    Great writing...if you can stand his misogyny and racism. Its such a pity that his beautiful form is mired by such ugly values.

  • Matthew Everett
    2018-12-03 17:59

    Beautifully written with some interesting philosophical topics, but the ending was not satisfying to me in the least.

  • Irena
    2018-11-19 14:44

    Препрочетох романа с удоволствие. Писан е през 1986-та, у нас е издаден през 1995-та и тогава съм го чела за първи път. Разликата между тогавашното и сегашното възприятие идва от разликата в познанията за компютрите и в тяхното технологично ниво. Тогава вниманието ми привличаха подробните описания на научните занимания на младия Дейл, търсещ доказателство за съществуването на Бог в могъщия, но тромав от днешна гледна точка, компютър. Сега повече се замислях над версията (фантазиите) на застаряващия богослов Роджър Ламбърт. Той преживява банална криза на средната възраст, но Ъпдайк я е описал гениално.

  • Dustin Bagby
    2018-11-22 16:37

    Classic Updike: theology, faith, doubt, science, sex, the contrast of social classes, all of his major themes are here. I found the story at the same time captivating and repulsive in a way that only Updike can accomplish. Not my favorite novel of his and the story was pretty messed up but his writing is still phenomenal.

  • Bruce Thomas
    2018-11-27 10:54

    Nice wrapup of Rabbit series

  • Christian Schwoerke
    2018-11-30 14:52

    Updike revisits the themes and characters from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and in this of his three Scarlet Letter novels (A Month of Sunday and S are the other two), he takes on the case of Roger Chillingsworth, here translated to Roger Lambert, a college theology professor, formerly a minister. His marriage to Esther (one of two aspects of Hester Prynne), 14 years his junior and without any religious inclination, compelled him to leave the church for the security of the university, where he has settled himself into becoming a specialist in Christianity’s long legacy of heterodoxies.Chillingsworth’s dyspepsia is the defining characteristic of Lambert, who is seldom happy with the way things are in his life, even though he is relatively content. What shakes things up and introduces the other translation of Scarlet Letter characters is the appearance of a grad student, Dale Kohler (Arthur Dimmesdale) and his niece Edna (the other aspect of Hester Prynne) and her infant (Pearl). Kohler is seeking funding for a project to use his computing expertise to reveal manifestations of God in the complex equations available to the university’s mainframe. Edna’s fled her mid-western home to escape family and connections, though Lambert wonders why this flight has landed her close to him. Kohler and Edna become friends, though there is nothing sexual between them, he too wary about taking advantage, and she too leery of his earnest geekiness.Esther is cold and no longer respects Lambert, whose apostasy won her heart when they first fell for one another. The post-fall Lambert bores her, and she succumbs to temptation and has a six-month affair with Kohler, who visits the Lambert home regularly to tutor the Lambert’s affable but dim 12-year-old son. Kohler is unable to find the traces of God in his long vigils at the computer center, and he wonders at the moral mess he is making with Esther. Meanwhile Lambert tries to deal with Edna, and he is drawn into a sexual tryst with her, though it is never again repeated. He plays at being the good uncle, concerned for the infant, who is alternately neglected, scorned, or abused. Lambert attempts to help Edna when in a careless snit she breaks the child’s arm, but the doctors are obliged to involve social services and Edna goes through a probationary period, at the end of which she decides to go back to Ohio. Kohler, meanwhile, has left the university, defeated, and he heads back to the mid-west. Esther and Lambert achieve a state of truce, and life continues on as it had before the intrusion of Kohler and Edna.Roger Chillingworth was the leeching force in Hawthorne that thrived on Dimmesdale’s misery and guilt, and in Lambert the same energy seems to pervade; he is most comfortable when those around him are failing. He is an unpleasant and unwholesome character, though he does not see himself in that light. His account of the events in this novel affords him the consolation of his negative being.Updike’s writing is as always lucid and fluid. His chapter-long description of Kohler’s work in the computer center is akin to the account of a medieval saint seeking contact with God in some dark monastic cell, full of incantatory prose and visionary straining after the ineffable, which finally ends in a failure of both the flesh and the soul to achieve its end. There are very funny departmental politics, which have Lambert maneuvering with his colleagues in the matter of granting funds for Kohler. The manner in which Lambert describes his preparation for a particular class, with reference to all of the notes he needs to describe a particular apostate, is almost joyful. But despite these and other pleasant respites, the novel is intentionally sour and difficult to embrace. Lambert is a man pre-possessed with a knowledge of a great many religious things, but he appears to possess little access to spiritual or even human sympathy. Alas, while Chillingsworth shriveled and died at the conclusion of Hawthorne’s tale, Roger’s Version ends too soon on the events Lambert narrates to afford the reader the pleasure of seeing him receive a similar fate.Much hay could be made of the way in which the Hester role is presented as a dichotomy, as embodied in both Esther and Edna, neither of them admirable. The chaste manner in which Kohler deals with Edna and his robust lust in having Esther appear to correlate to Dimmesdale’s treatment of Hester. And Esther’s contempt for Edna is also perhaps another good illustration of just how well Updike has cleaved Hester into two characters, though in Hawthorne, there is a sense that she never really disdained her sex with Dimmesdale so much as regretted that it never received a proper absolution or confirmation from Dimmesdale.The novel, bolstered by enforced reference to Hawthorne, devolves only into a grim self portrait of a lonely and soulless man whose thoughts are often vile and his actions deplorable. Chilling…

  • Shane Eide
    2018-11-18 09:54

    www.emergenthermit.comDivinity professor, Roger Lambert, seems to have a great deal of problems. Being hassled and annoyed by a young science-minded evangelical student named Dale about a grant for a project involving the proof of God’s existence is a minor inconvenience on the scale. It would seem that Dale is just as determined to find God behind every biological and cosmological corner as Roger’s wife, Esther, is determined to corrupt Dale’s already fragile faith with fornication. As the divinity board decides whether or not they want to give Dale the grant, his faith slowly diminishes as his grant-project, symbiotically linked to his faith, becomes more difficult. Thrown into the mix is the ‘trashy teenage girl’ for whom Roger longs, as the back of my edition phrases it. I suppose they thought this description of the girl was tantalizing enough and less likely to repel airport readers than the fact of the matter: The teenage girl is, in fact, Roger’s niece. As Roger’s incestuous longings are slowly teased into fruition, Dale’s longings assault us abruptly, having given us little build-up save an awkward Thanksgiving dinner at the Lambert home. The assault takes the form of Roger’s fist-person narration morphing into a personal but emotionally uninvested God’s-eye view of what takes place in the bedroom between Dale and Esther. The violence of this high style is first evident as the reader questions what the implications of this narrative choice might be. We’re given no answer, ultimately. It serves, at most, to give Roger’s narration a set of jealous wise-cracks. Sometimes he sadistically (yet reasonably) says something to make Dale self conscious about the adultery business, but that’s about all. Where, then, does the tension lie? Is it the considered abortion of his niece? Well, considering Roger is both in favor of it and not the father, not really. Is it Dale’s impending loss of faith? The potential breakup of the Lambert marriage? Very little comes of any of it. In this case, Roger and the gang’s problems are dealt with just as tidily as Updike’s sentences. One wonders why he feels the need to take omniscient first-personal narrator liberties when he is capable of such fine regular old first-person perceptions as this one about his childhood: ‘My deserted, husbandless, pitiable mother and I would visit her people, the men horse-faced and leathery and placidly sexless but the women wide sloping mounds of fat trembling on the edge, it seemed to me, of indecency, with their self-conscious shrieks of laughter, their heads at each shriek darting to cover their mouths, their little teeth decayed and crooked, and the steaming food they were copiously setting on the table a malodorous double-entendre, something that excited them, served up in an atmosphere heavy with barn-yard innuendo as well as lugubrious piety.’ Few are the writers who make their quips and witticisms seem so easy. A Quaker on the Divinity Board is ‘ecumenically imperturbable.’ When Roger’s secular wife tries to quiet his boiling irritation with Dale by making light of their common religious ground, he replies, ‘Another end of it … Not distribution. You might call it quality control.’John Banville once said that most writers are either writers of sentences or writers of paragraphs. Though Updike has a great many beautiful paragraphs, he probably leans more toward being a master of sentences. This probably has something to do with the stubbornness of his sensuality. He pays as much attention to a woman’s cleavage as he does to a soiled diaper or a sketchy clinic, and often with little space between them on the page. Updike has his narrator proposition his niece, Verna, for sex, only moments after demanding she get an abortion. It would be to Updike’s technical favor if she wasn’t up for it. She is, in fact, up for it. This forces me to conclude that it is not simply the character but Updike himself who is bad at timing. The book layers abruptness on top of abruptness until the book ends, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but something more like a shrug. It is one of the few times you’ll see a novel where everything that could go wrong seems to go wrong, but where no one really seems miffed or troubled by it. Ironically, just as the intellectually eager, spiritually earnest Dale tries to reach a height at which there are no more questions as to the exact nature of God, Updike gives us a story in which there are no real questions either. Perhaps, after a long career of writing about adultery in some form or another, Updike thought this would be an interesting technique to change things up. It’s just unfortunate that the casualty to this change ended up being a sense of wonder.

  • Joseph Durham
    2018-11-18 12:34

    My to do list contains the goal to read John Updike's novels in chronological order. Roger's Version was the next one on the list.This is Updike's attempt to tackle the tension between science and religion. It surprisingly contains many of the terms of science heard today even though it was published in 1988. He adroitly and accurately describes the programmer's life. As in many of his novels, he subtly offers the Christian world view as relevant participant in the discussion between science and religion.His work always describes a fallen and broken world which is blessed by grace here and there. This particular novel is more dark than others and thus less enjoyable. Yet Updike remains a master of prose, describing life in all its variety with an economy of words.

  • Gary
    2018-12-03 11:40

    I'm always on the lookout for books that don't follow a tired formula, and I can honestly say that I've never encountered a novel like this. Where else can you find a novel with deep discussions of Christian theology, theoretical physics, and computer technology, punctuated with scenes of explicit sex?Roger Lambert is a professor at a distinguished East Coast divinity school (which sounds a lot like Harvard). A former Methodist minister, he was resigned his ministry after an affair that led to the marriage of his second (younger) wife. One day a grad student comes to him seeking his help to solicit a grant for the purpose of proving the existence of God using data from new discoveries in astronomy and physics with the help of state-of-the-art computers.Roger is contemptuous of the proposal. He's also contemptuous of the young man. In fact, Roger is such an elitist that there hardly seems to be anyone he admires or respects. He's really just a husk of a man who, though a professed adherent of the theology of Karl Barth (who championed the notion of a God who revealed Himself), ironically hardly sees God revealing Himself anywhere--least of all in humanity. He is definitely not someone from whom one would wisely seek spiritual counsel.Yet Roger and the young man enter into a relationship. The relationship leads Roger to introduce the young man to his family, and that leads the young man to enter into a steamy affair with Roger's bored wife.At least, Roger imagines them--in great detail!--having such a steamy affair. And since the entire novel is told from Roger's point-of-view (the book is called, "Roger's Version," after all), who really knows how many of the details are true? Having become as spiritually bankrupt as he is, the vacuum in Roger's life has to be filled with something, and it turns out to be the most primal of things--obsessions with sex. Indeed, Roger's emptiness leads to terrible personal transgressions of his own, but I'll not leave any spoilers.Having myself attended a prestigious East Coast divinity school (not Harvard) around the era when the novel takes place, I recognized the "type" that Roger incarnates. I have no idea, of course, what my professors' personal lives were like, but there was something about the atmosphere of the place that cultivated a certain effetism among many of them. Karl Barth vociferously made the point (as Roger himself stresses) that God is not an object, but is the Subject. But when academia sets to examine in God in earnest, is it not violated that cardinal principle? And the more intensely one makes God the object of analysis, what remains of the underlying power to fuel morals, ethics, and faith?What I missed in the book was an understanding of what made Roger into the man he was. Starting out as a minister, he must have had some spiritual calling. What led him to lose that and become so cold in middle-age? Was it because of his surrender to the affair that drove him from his parish? Or had the spark died within him beforehand, which led to his affair? Since Roger is the one telling the story, he remains aloof about the details. We are left to surmise, He remains a cipher.

  • Gina
    2018-11-22 12:42

    Updike died a few months ago amidst ecomiums so high, it gave me the guilts that I had read only one Rabbit book and several short stories. So when I happened upon this title, Roger's View, in a library book sale, I bought it. Two interesting but not contrary ideas came swimming to the surface of my consciousness as I progressed in the novel. Undoubtedly the man could create unforgettable characters and most mundane/miraculous situations into which to place them. The players in this story---very theological and profound and full of Updike's vast knowledge of history, philosophy and science --include one Roger Lambert, a former minister, now a professor in a New England Divinity school in a city supiciously like Boston. Fifteen Years before he had left his pulpit due to his passionate affair with his present wife, Esther. They have a learning-disabled boy who struggles with Math....very sympathetic character for me. Into Roger's study one afternoon walks Dale Kohler (like the plumbing fixtures, he says) and probes the prof about applying for a grant to demonstrate the existence of God through computers. Dale has befriended Roger's niece, Verna, daughter of his half sister. The family history is messy, Verna's mother Edna is the product of Roger's father's own adulterous liaison. Verna has fled her home in Ohio, also the birthplace of her "nunc" as she dubs Roger, and has given birth to a girl who is half black.Plenteous sex was the other fish that returned to my mind as being synonymous with Updike's writing. It is no shocker that Dale begins an affair with Esther (he is supposed to be tutoring the kid), and we see much footage of their wild doings in the attack of the Lamber's posh home. Most adroitly, Roger is imagining scene after scene of orgiastic love-making when he is not recreating, in vivid detail, his Portney like past. You won't drop dead of shock if I reveal Roger's lustful night with his niece will you?Meanwhile, there are pages and pages of computer formulas and theological ponderings: Roger is a Barthian but we hear also about every heresey in the early Church because those are his course topics.Reeling from attick to undecipherable math forumulas is more than any reader should have to bear. Well, I did my Updike: for life, you betcha!

  • Keelan
    2018-11-28 13:50

    I really like Updike's writing style, and there was much about this book that I enjoyed. It's not one of Updike's better known novels, and I heard about it from a mention in the New Yorker article about Philip Roth, "The Book of Laughter: Philip Roth and his friends", by Claudia Roth Pierpont in the Oct. 7 issue. Roth Pierpont wrote "Although they saw each other only occasionally...Roth wrote a note or made a call when he was particularly impressed by something that Updike had written. He remembers his excitement over "Roger's Version," published in 1986, a novel that took on the subject of computers before anyone was really writing about computers, and calling Updike to congratulate him." This intrigued me, and I thought there would be something about artificial intelligence or the relationship between technology and society. However, I was very disappointed to find out that role of computers in the book was to serve as a tool in a quest by the younger male character, Dale, to prove the existence of God. He argued that many related facts in biology, astronomy, and other fields of science are statistically so improbable that the only possible explanation is that they came about through an intelligent Creator. There are a few interesting discussions about this quixotic endeavor between Dale and Roger, the main character, who is a professor of religious studies and is opposed to Dale's approach. However, this entire plot element was difficult to read, because all of Dale's discussions were rendered meaningless by his complete ignorance of statistics (a condition that was extremely incongruous, given his apparent breadth of scientific knowledge). There was actually very little discussion of computers, and nothing at all about AI or the place of computers in society. So, perhaps my rating is a little harsh because I came to the novel with false pretenses. Regardless, I think the focus on Dale's misguided quest would have spoiled it for me. Also, the intellectual quality of some of the philosophical passages in the book were degraded by Updike's habit of jumping quickly to graphic descriptions of the main character's sexual fantasies--these were a little distracting, in my opinion. All in all, I was disappointed in this book, but it didn't make me less eager to read some of Updike's other works.

  • LK Hunsaker
    2018-12-11 17:39

    In this rather strange story, Dale, a grad student at a religious college, begs for a grant to "prove" God's existance using the school's mainframe computer. He starts the request through the story's narrator, Roger, an ex-minister and current professor specializing in religious heretics. He's leaned the way many college professors lean and is not so very religious anymore. He left his first wife by way of having an affair with a non-religious highly vain woman, which intentionally resulted in his getting kicked out of the ministry.Dale, on the other hand, is zealous in his beliefs. He meets Roger through Roger's niece Verna, a 19 year old who has an illegitimate mulatto baby. She was kicked out of her house by her religiously fanatic father because of the pregnancy. She's moved away from home and into Roger's city but they never meet up until Dale pushes them.What follows is a disturbing account of sexuality, racism, religion, and incest. The passages that focused on Dale's work were full of computer lingo I skimmed through because it was over a non-computer-tech's head and I simply had no interest in trying to follow it all. The parts dealing with the story of Roger and Verna were gritty and intense and real. Roger's wife plays a rather minor role and he shows her as fake and rather uninteresting. They have a pre-teen son who seems more an embarrassment to Roger than anything else, since he is learning disabled.Roger is a true anti-hero with almost no redeeming qualities. Verna is quite an interesting character and I found myself hoping she could get her life straightened out with some real help. Dale seemed to be nothing but a theory -- a tool. I did find it interesting that the writing portrayed the atmosphere: stiff while Roger was at home in his upscale house paid for by his wife's money, technical and dry while discussing theory, both computer and religious, and intense while in the midst of Verna's world.There is a lot to get out of this story, but be ready for a long emotionally charged although somewhat dry ride.