Combine the horror of a terrified writer trapped by a winter storm in Stephen King’s Misery with the rigid fundamentalist society found in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Then, just for laughs (because this novel is full of them) tell that story with the satiric irreverence of Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men and you’ve got the The Devil and Daniel Silverman, the funniest political novel of the season.
Known internationally as a cutting edge social critic (“Forever holding current mores and institutions under the scrutiny of his own evolving perceptions and values.” —Bill Moyers), Theodore Roszak is also a prize-winning writer of outrageous fiction. After taking on the legend of America’s best known ‘monster’ in The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the ‘horrors’ of the movie industry in Flicker, he has set his incredible novelistic imagination (“Like Thomas Wolfe on acid.” —The Boston Globe) on one of the most frightening aspects of contemporary society: religious fundamentalism. In The Devil and Daniel Silverman Roszak has created two of the most divergent life styles on the planet (that of a gay Jewish writer from liberal San Francisco and anevangelical Christian sect in northern Minnesota) and literally “snowed them in” under the same roof to force a hilarious exploration of the political and spiritual schism in contemporary American culture. Roszak began the book during the Clinton impeachment, alarmed by the political grandstanding of the morally self-righteous bible thumpers of the far right and finished it just after the trade center bombings, when the potentiality of intolerant fundamentalist doctrine became tragically apparent.
Danny Silverman is an over-the-hill novelist bullied by his agent into accepting a strange—but strangely high paying—speaking gig in an obscure evangelical college. After his lecture ends in a near riot, Danny’s escape is thwarted by a massive snowstorm and he finds himself stranded inside a religious sect that scoffs at the theory of evolution, condones the assassination of abortion doctors, abstains from alcohol, dancing, movies, views even coffee as an evil stimulant, and thinks all homosexuals are the incarnation of the anti-Christ. Alone, afraid, and frankly appalled, Silverman finds himself forced to defend ideas he’s taken for granted all his adult life, and to defend his life as well.
Funny, bawdy, scholarly, wonderfully over-the-top, and yet remarkably fair to liberals, conservatives and every one of us attempting to navigate a moral course through our contemporary money- and media-driven culture, The Devil and Daniel Silverman is a brilliant satire that uses humor to deliver one simple moral theme: intolerance is a bad way for people to relate to people.
When early readers started calling this book the funniest political novel they had read since The Milagro Beanfield War, we sent a copy to John Nichols, the author of Milagro, and this what he said:
"'Oh no!" cried I when The Devil and Daniel Silverman blew into my house as if propelled on the fierce gusts of a mirthful blizzard: "Not another book to blurb!" To be polite, however, I read the hilarious first couple of pages, which was like eating of the Evil Apple, and I was hooked. Thank you, Eve! I fell right into the infidel trap of this bawdy novel and couldn't stop myself from charging headlong through the wild, delightful, learned, and passionate romp that followed. This book is My Favorite Mortal Sin of the Year, a first class Snow Job, right up there with the best and most outrageous works of, say, Philip Roth and...Thomas Berger. It's whacky and wise and very relevant to all the issues of the day: The Scarlet Letter meets Sabbath's Theater, with echoes of Little Big Man(!). Or would you believe Portnoy meets Theron Ware? Hey, that may sound like a stretch, but this book is a wonderful stretch by a writer galloping all out at the top of his form. How do I know? The Bible tells me so."
"Hilarious...Urgency drives this novel's dark comedy...This spirited send-up of Daniel Silverman's misadventures in Christendom invited us to laugh at pious narrow-mindedness but also reminds us never to underestimate the harm such self-righteousness can do."
—The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Social critic Roszak treats himself and us to a[n] ebullient lampoon, whose targets include writers' frail egos and crowded psyches, the publishing industry's deranged priorities, and the nuts and bolts (especially the nuts) of religious fundamentalism."
"A two-time National Book Award nominee, Roszak presents a story one wishes were pardoy, but isn't. This important book is highly recommended."
—Library Journal (Starred review)
"A very funny satire with wisdom at it's heart. Roszak has a delightful ear for dialogue, which he employs to great effect. It's fun to watch Silverman's politesse dissolve into sarcasm, then acrid disbelief, when confronted with his conservative captors."
“Delicious! Roszak manages to create a good deal of merriment from hapless Danny's long, strange trip to the hinterlands. His message is worth pondering in these post-Sept. 11 times: Intolerance is itself a deadly sin.”
—The Hartford Courant
“Funny and passionate…Right on target in its unsparing portrayal of dogma and doctrine, the book skewers ultra-right-wing orthodoxy, but is equally unflinching in its critique of closed left-wing minds.”
—The Oakland Tribune
“Hair-raising…an intellectual pilgrimage and adrenaline-fueled face-off [which] manages to combine expositions on apostasy and animated snowmobile chase scenes, often seeming to take on its own cinematic quality: a more simplistic rendering of the bleak Midwestern landscape that fills Alexander Payne films like "Election" and "Citizen Ruth." Characters seem drawn for the big screen; the book's Christian campus ensemble seems primed to include Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and, as the professor obsessed with spiritual torment, Joaquin Phoenix.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“The Devil and Daniel Silverman takes on the bizarre circumlocutions of the fundamentalist mind with hysterical results. Roszak’s novel is a real accomplishment. This is the funniest novel I’ve read in a long time.”
"Compulsively readable and often hilarious."
"A warm and witty satire that made me laugh out loud."
—National Public Radio
“Theodore Roszak has long been one of our most astute cultural observers. In this very funny novel he takes mischievous delight in skewering fundamentalist bigots and having us revel in the experience.”
—Howard Zinn, Author of A People’s History of the United States
"Damn! Here is a novel about America's culture wars that is disguised as nothing but fun. There is much gaiety in Theodore Rozak's The Devil and Daniel Silverman—but even more wit."
—Richard Rodriguez, Essayist for PBS News Hour & Author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
“The Devil and Daniel Silverman is not only a profound exploration of the political and spiritual schism in contemporary American culture, it is hilarious and one of the best laughs I've had in years.”
—Mary Mackey, Author of The Year the Horses Came
Theodore Roszak lives in Berkeley, where he is a professor of history at California State University, Hayward. He is the author of eighteen books, including the internationally praised best seller, The Making of a Counter Culture. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly and Harper's. His novel about the movie industry, Flicker, (“A brilliantly executed metaphysical thriller,” -The Sunday Times of London) has become an international cult favorite and The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, a retelling of the horror classic, received The James Tiptree Award, for "literature that expands our understanding of gender.” Flicker is scheduled by 20th Century Fox/Regency Pictures to become a feature film, directed by Darren Aronofsky, director of "Pi" and Jim Uhls, screenwriter of The Fight Club.
Theodore Roszak Answers Some Questions
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