Sunday, September 28, 2008

Danny Gospel: A book review

Was Francis of Assisi insane? Were he alive today, would he be on medication? Would John the Baptist be subjected to compulsory counseling? One wonders if Prozac or Haldol have deprived our times of a prophet or saint or two.

Danny Gospel These questions occur to me right after meeting a lovable lunatic who just might be a saint or prophet. I met Danny Gospel (and you can meet him, too) in a novel by the same name, written by David Athey. Danny is an Iowa farm boy, troupe singer, mailman, and misfit who addresses the reader in the first person, in a sort of fictional autobiography. But, no -- more like a stream-of-consciousness narrative, Danny telling his story as he is living it (as if recording every step for a reality show), and snatches of past stories as he remembers them.

Danny Gospel is not a gut-wrenching thriller or romance or any other typical genre. I'm not sure which bookshelf it fits. My first impression was that it was trite and corny, but a fun ride, and I wanted to keep turning the pages to see what nutty turn Danny would take next. The story line is quick-paced and ludicrous, like a Marx Brothers farce or Daffy Duck cartoon. But - quirky and unpredictable in a real life way, too. You've met guys like Danny: a Don Quixote / Frodo / Forrest Gump character, a wise idiot, a bumbling hero. Maybe you've been blessed to meet him in the mirror once or twice.

As I kept reading, I started to recognize something else, something deeper beneath the implausible surface. Where else had I encountered this mystical mayhem, this zany but profound allegory? Field of Dreams? The Chronicles of Narnia? Then I put the book down, and slept. And dreamed.

Of course, I can't tell you where Danny's quest leads him. Better let Danny tell you in his own words. If you like fun fiction and thoughtful fiction, I think you'll like Danny Gospel.

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