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Calling Bernadette's Bluff: A Novel Paperback – January 8, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"CALLING BERNADETTE'S BLUFF is an undoubted triumph of academic satire...easily a match for David Lodge and Jane Smiley in wit and depth" -- Curled Up With A Good Book

"A novel both entertaining and insightful...CALLING BERNADETTE'S BLUFF is genuinely brilliant." -- Theresa Ostrom, author of The Folding Year

"An outstanding novel....It was refreshing for me to read about a hero who considers integrity sine qua non." -- Panos Parissis, The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

"Wicked funny...CALLING BERNADETTE´S BLUFF cleverly captures the paradoxes of our humble yearning for truth in an age of absurdity." -- Cecilia Konchar Farr, author of Dancing through the Doctrine

"[CALLING BERNADETTE'S BLUFF is] a novel of principles and substance...bold and original." -- Robert Grunst, author of The Smallest Bird in North America

From the Publisher

This remarkable debut novel diverts the full force of the postmodern whirlwind onto a tiny fictional college on the Minnesota prairie, with results both thought-provoking and hilarious. Nonsense of every color --- political, religious, ideological --- finds fertile ground within the gates of St. Bernie's, a college perched precariously on a bizarre land formation of unknown origins, known (tellingly) as The Wedge. Author Dale McGowan puts the tiny trumpet of reason into the unsteady hands of Jack John Kassel, philosopher and humanist, whose attempts to live with a little intellectual integrity are shaken as much by the antics of his erstwhile allies as by his intellectual opponents. McGowan creates characters that are at once recognizable and absurd: the atheist priest, the New-Agey college president, the feminist warrior (and Leonard the Poet, who sublimates his love for her by reading dirty Chaucer), Satanists, liturgical cheerleaders, singing nuns... all with cards against the vest and each other in their crosshairs. The dialogue moves from classical philosophy to cheesy pop culture with merciless speed and devastating wit. On the surface it’s riotous entertainment, but for weeks after you close the cover this remarkable book will resonate in your head, tickling the mind in lovely and unfamiliar places.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Xlibris (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401036074
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401036072
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,577,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author, editor, and Harvard Humanist of the Year Dale McGowan is the founding executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief, a non-profit putting compassionate humanism to work for a better world. His books PARENTING BEYOND BELIEF and RAISING FREETHINKERS are the first comprehensive resources for nontheistic parents.

In ATHEISM FOR DUMMIES and VOICES OF UNBELIEF, he explores the history and texture of religious disbelief, while IN FAITH AND IN DOUBT offers the first comprehensive look into relationships between religious believers and nonbelievers.

Dale lives with his wife and children near Atlanta, GA.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dale McGowan's "Calling Bernadette's Bluff" will make you feel good about being a humanist--but not _too_ good.
The protagonist is Jack Kassel, a closet humanist teaching at the College of St. Bernadette. CSB is a women's liberal-arts college which attempts to be simultaneously feminist, with a strong postmodern leaning, and devoutly Catholic. Needless to say, if you're an atheistic, rigorously intellectual humanities professor, it can be a strange place to work.
Nor is this the only clash of philosophies confronting poor Jack. His five-year-old son, who lives primarily with his ex-wife, is being sandwiched between Jack's own atheism and the sadly intolerant brand of Christianity he is learning in school. A group of students starts up a humanist club, with his help, but the club is taken over by nihilistic Satanists. To make matters even more surreal, an old friend of his, an atheist in the robes of a charismatic priest, arrives to lead the campus ministry. Soon, Humanism, Satanism, Creationism, Catholicism, and postmodernism are all frolicking about in a philosophical orgy of farcical hilarity.
McGowan is critical, although gently so, of postmodernists who insist on valueing all opinions, no matter how absurd. He directs much more biting satire at conservative politicians who use atheism as a whipping boy to bring in the votes of insecure Christians. Nor do students and their bloopers escape his pen; one student lambasts an author for referring to a woman as "Indian," rather than "Native American." When Jack corrects her, explaining that the woman is in fact from India, she replies that the author still has no right to be racist.
"Bluff" takes place right here, and right now.
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Format: Paperback
This book is not only fun to read (I actually laughed out loud a number of times), but it really makes you think, and not about anything less trivial than the meaning of life, the origins of the universe, and the ignorance of the masses. McGowan's character names never ceased to make me smile (Robert Frapples was one of my favorites) and the dialog was very convincing. At some points I really felt as though I was sitting in a college bar with the author debating the intricacies of Faith vs. Reason over a pitcher of beer. Ultimately I felt both entertained and educated. This is a great book for anyone not afraid to think for themselves.
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Format: Paperback
When I heard about a "new humanist novel" I was skeptical, expecting something heavy-handed, one-sided, simplistic... maybe even one of these "happy humanist" bits, just bursting with joy. Fortunately this is SO much better than that. It's a hysterical ride through the postmodern as the main character tries to live a reasonable life in a world of nonsense, religious and otherwise. The humanists come off just as nuts as the True Believers whenever they turn their backs on reason. Very even-handed.
Some of the philosophical references went past me the first time, but it didn't matter. The style is so original and the ideas so compelling that I reread it and picked up a lot more. Really rich, really thought-provoking. It goes after ideas, not people, so it's funny and convincing without feeling like a personal attack.
I'm buying copies as gifts for two Baptist friends and one atheist friend...and I KNOW they'll all love it. How many religious satires can you say THAT about?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because everyone told me to ... despite some misgivings. I thought this would be a novel dripping with good ideas, but [I feared] poorly written. But that was not the case! This book is both chock-full of good ideas, and surprisingly funny, complex, and well-crafted. The author is obviously a fan of Vonnegut and Keillor, both of whom I can see in his style. And his philosophy is all freethinking humanism, a refreshing philosophy in modern fiction. While it is not perfect, it succeded surprisingly well. I hope it is not McGowan's last book.
The book gets four stars, by the way, because of the tense. McGowan tells his story in the present tense, instead of the more common (for fiction) past tense. It took some getting used to, which dulled the impact of the earlier parts of the book ... and bugged me a bit throughout. Not enough to make this a bad book [not even close!], but enough to lose it a star. Let's hope McGowan is a bit more traditional in his storytelling with his next novel!
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Format: Paperback
A lively and intelligent read, full of rich fodder for book club discussions. The author treats the reader as an intelligent partner, allowing room for interpretation and providing a consistent invitation to think for one's self about truly meaningful subjects rarely approached in fiction. Not to say the appeal's just cerebral, far from it: it's painfully funny, devastatingly so at times. A rare and lovely combination --- intelligence, wit, and relevance. A first-class piece of work.
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Calling Bernadette's Bluff: A Novel
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