Friday, August 11, 2006

The Messiah of Morris Avenue by Tony Hendra

Hendra, a founder of National Lampoon and an actor, perhaps best-known as Ian Faith, Spinal Tap’s beleaguered manager, wrote Father Joe, a controversial memoir that was admired by critics and readers last year but hailed as horseshit by his daughter who claims he sexually abused her. (Hendra refutes the charges.) This is his first go at fiction and it's not a bad start.

The idea: in the not too distant future, the Messiah returns to an
America that has allowed its arch conservative leadership to let the Bible mix so freely with the ship of state that the US is little more than a painfully uptight, fundamentalist Christian theocracy where heresy is an actual crime on the books. (I suppose some might embrace this vision of America as heaven and others as absolute hell. That's for others to wrestle with.) A young Hispanic man and a very motley crew of followers start to try to spread the word and, naturally, all hell breaks loose. I thought it was reminiscent of Richard Bach’s Illusions but a little less heavy-handed and the narrator, a down and out journo had a good voice. Tolstoy, it ain’t--the villain was a bit on the cartoon-y side and it's obvious where Hendra sits on the political fence. Still, an enjoyable, light read with some insightful social commentary about where we may be headed if the Democrats don't learn to fundraise more effectively.

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