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The Divine Farce (LeapLit) Paperback – November 1, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this darkly inventive second work of fiction, Graziano (The Love Song of Monkey) deposits his protagonist among the despairing crowds of an institutional hell. At first, the narrator, a thin man known as Sage, shares a tiny, dank cell with a woman and man, Rose and Henry Greene, so-called because of the color of their voices. Locked together in such close quarters, the three grow intimately close, even loving; when Sage later digs a hole in the concrete and they push their way out, they eventually lose one another in the mad flux of other cave dwellers. Sage follows the herd to the feed trough, learns how to jostle savagely for the hard biscuits (stamped with an H: hell or heaven? Sage wonders) and even feels a kind of comfort within the mob: the warmth of universal inclusion. His curiosity gets the better of him as he wonders what's behind the light holes in the ceiling: eternal freedom or eternal isolation? Graziano's grim allegory interrogates human existence with its visceral, sensuous description. (Nov.)
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About the Author

Michael S. A. Graziano, professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, is the author of the novella Hiding Places (New England Review, 1997), the novel The Love Song of Monkey (Leapfrog Press, 2008), The Seclusion Zone (finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Category, 2007), and The Intelligent Movement Machine (Oxford University Press, 2008).

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Product Details

  • Series: LeapLit
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Leapfrog Press (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935248049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935248040
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 0.3 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,504,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Graziano (1967-) is an American scientist, novelist, and composer. He was born in Connecticut and grew up partly on a farm in upstate New York. He is now a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University. He has published numerous novels, some under a pseudonym, scientific books on the brain, and books of music. His novels often take the form of parables or metaphors - fairy tales for the modern adult.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A friend of mine recently recommended this book, and having just finished Sandow's very loose translation of The Inferno, I was (oddly) in a mood to read about what might seem to be a hellish situation: two men and a woman are trapped in a mysterious, lightless cylinder. Nourished by pear juice that drips down the walls, Henry, Rose, and our narrator seem to have no past, no future, only an eternal present of flesh, juice, the feel of the walls of the cylinder, the Twister-like configurations into which they must squeeze themselves. Is it Heaven? Is it Hell? Purgatory? A Kafka-like nightmare?

Eventually, the protagonist breaks out of his confining chrysalis/womb/prison into an even larger and more infernal existence: a series of Hadean caverns stretching in labyrinthine extension throughout...where? Life is reduced to eating, drinking, crawling over the teeming myriads of others.

Graziano's prose is richly textural, sensual, alive with detail. Scents, the taste of walls, of flesh, the feel of strands of hair lost in the cloacal waste that carpets the cavern floors -- these details come alive with a vividity that never seems overdone -- indeed, this book is a quick read.

Though apparently simple, the book poses questions always worth asking (and answering): Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? Is our purpose, as King Lear stated, but to "sleep and feed"? Like Lear, Graziano ultimately suggests that to do so renders "man's life as cheap as beast's": that in order to achieve our humanity, our individuality, we must continue to aim above, to search out the unexplored -- and maintain those often-tenuous connections with the others in our world, the ones who (for us) have names and identities that distinguish them from all the rest.

A fabulous work.
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Format: Paperback
"Rose would twist herself down between us in angular spasms until she was sitting on the floor, one hand cupped gently around my ankle, the other hand around Henry's ankle. In this way she held us together, as if she were a telegraph, as if she felt the need to physically hold us in order to transmit her thoughts to us. She would hum, her head resting against my thigh or his. That was her hobby and her obsession." -- From The Divine Farce

Although I finished The Divine Farce weeks ago, I just couldn't bring myself to write a review. Why? Well, at the risk of sounding hyberbolic--it's not easy to review utter genius.

I feel inept, really, attempting to review The Divine Farce. Both my husband and I felt that we're in the presence of a literary giant when we read both Love Song of Monkey and The Divine Farce...that Michael S.A. Graziano will be "our little secret" until his name graces the annals of literary criticism, college textbooks and lists of "recommended reading" for students.

The premise for The Divine Farce appears rather simple: two men and a woman are trapped in a cement cylinder with grates at the top and bottom. A sweet liquid showers them regularly, providing them with sustenance (and, according to Brian, skin conditioning). They are pressed up against one another, with only Rose able to crouch down in some semblance of a seated position.

Their world is pretty much between the ears: the imaginings of appearance, consideration of words spoken, interpreting physical touch.

Not content to leave well enough alone, Brian begins to work at the cement wall, memorizing every smooth bump with his fingers, his tongue.

But then the hole.

What is beyond their cylindrical prison? Or is that cylindrical heaven?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Set in a self-contained industrial hell, this slim yet accomplished novella stars a curious adventurer among an unimaginative and indistinct population of barely living people who subsist merely by filling their basic bodily needs. In its opening pages, the hero Sage becomes conscious of his existence alongside two other humans inside a dark womblike enclosure whose walls are covered with a pear-like nectar providing all their basic dietary needs. The trio seems unable to recall any past existence, although they understand instinctively such earthly concepts as sailboats and football fields and nuclear physics (not to mention pears). The scene might resemble the opening of the cult film "The Cube," except the exotic existence here is a "mutual harmony" rather than a source of terror: "The rules of heaven were minimalist. They were elegant." Or so it seems at first.

Is this an afterlife? An otherlife? A dream? Whatever it is, it's not enough for Sage, who begins to wonder what's outside their enclosure and, through slow, patient machinations, the three burst out of their womb into a Dantesque hell crowded with zombie-like mobs with only two basic, alternating concerns: slaking their hunger and quenching their thirst. Knee-deep in muck and without any hope of bettering their plight, the masses circulate through an endless series of caverns and passages. There is no procreation and there is no death. The soulless rabble is "so driven by hunger and thirst, and so isolated from each other by the constant mixing of the crowd, and so numbed by the repetition of caverns and food troughs and rusty water pipes and perpetual battle, and so gratified at each orgiastic meal," that they have lost their "capacity for imagination.
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