Friday, July 01, 2011

Publishers Weekly Calls it, “Terrifying!” : "Midrash on the Juanitos"

Blurbs from the author's blog:
It begins with a lawyer and a pastor walking into a bar, almost like a self-conscious joke. But Rathbun’s newest novella is no comedy. Immediately, the plot warps itself, like the undulating barstools of the first chapter, into part horror, part theologizing, and part Alice in Wonderland story about an obsessive and mentally ill pastor’s search for a very particular answer in the Bible. The style of the novella is postmodern, recalling Thomas Pynchon’s disjointed realities as the unnamed protagonist, an unreliable narrator, is speaking lucidly at one moment about early Christian history and experiencing terrifying hallucinations the next. Ultimately, Rathbun’s narrator’s project is to provide a Midrash, a rabbinic-style commentary and interpretation, of the “Juanitos,” the three Epistles of John. Instead of coming away with a grounded understanding of the author’s biblical opinion, however, the novella elicits profound discomfort and fear, aided in no small measure by frighteningly deformed pencil-sketch illustrations accompanying the text. The search for absolute certainty and ultimate truth in scripture can be very taxing emotionally. But perhaps that is Rathbun’s point after all.
—Publishers Weekly

Rev. Lamblove rides again! It is as if one of Flannery O’Connor’s preachers has come to life, and and become manically melded into a character from Alice in Wonderland. Through this extraordinary creation, Russell Rathbun gives us an (I’m afraid) all too realistic portrayal of the obsession and paranoia necessary for preachers who engage in reading Bible texts, plunging into, and being carried off by, unexpected avenues of meaning.
—James Alison. Undergoing God

Praise for Rathbun’s Post Rapture Radio:
Søren Kierkegaard said that people held in the grip of an illusion cannot be directly reasoned with. One must assault them with appealing but apparently absurd stories and even contradictions in the desperate hope that indirect communication can accomplish what direct communication cannot. Russell Rathbun may be Kierkegaard’s great-grandson or something. If you have no illusions, you don’t need to read this. Otherwise . . .
—Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (

Hilarious, passionate, infuriating, revealing, alarming, perplexing, illuminating. In short, apocalyptic. And definitely required reading for anyone seeking a faithful Christianity in the heart of the American Empire.
—Andy Crouch, Christianity Today

Once in a while a book reaches out from the page, grabs me by the scruff of the neck, and says something so pithy, so smart, and irreverently funny that I almost bust a gut laughing. That’s what Post-Rapture Radio did to me on several occasions. The fact is, sometimes satire is the best way for us to see our own foibles, and this book is a wonderful antidote to much that ails the church. It’s A Confederacy of Dunces for Christians.
—Tony Jones, The Sacred Way

Funny and thought-provoking. It challenges the way one thinks about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church in his name.
—Gordon Gano, Violent Femmes

There are times when the tongue-in-cheek can become a light in the mind—when ‘off the wall’ becomes the plank of reality. Richard Lamblove was a driven crusader in his last-ditch stand against the shallowly fervent. I feel the fury in his futilely scribbling a final battle plan on the remnants of cereal boxes and scraps of cardboard. Alas, were it not for Russell Rathbun, we would not know of these lost writings nor feel the loss of great truth to the forces of evangelical glitz.
—Calvin Miller, A Hunger for the Holy and Loving God Closeup; professor, Beeson Divinity School

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