From Publishers Weekly
Monda, a Catholic who teaches film at NYU, offers 18 interviews with renowned writers, thinkers, artists and film directors in this brief collection about God and faith. Though many subjects express skepticism about religion, some reveal a deep longing for faith: Novelist Michael Cunningham discusses his childhood fascination with religion, when he painted religious scenes and made communion wafers out of Wonder Bread, and Jonathan Franzen speaks of being influenced by the simultaneously terrifying and comforting character of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. Most of the interviewees voice concern about religious absolutism and fundamentalism, particularly when connected to politics; when Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., states that there is nothing more dangerous than a person in politics who is certain that he is acting in the name of God, he represents the group well. But there are also key differences here, from the Catholicism that infuses Martin Scorsese's films to the pantheism that Paula Fox espouses to Toni Morrison's idea of God as an infinite growing that discourages definitions but not knowledge. As a collection, there are uneven moments; Monda refers throughout to his interview with poet Derek Walcott, but Walcott's interview doesn't appear until almost the end of the book. Overall, though, this is a thoughtful, provocative and concise volume. (Nov. 6)
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“When the Italian writer Antonio Monda sat down to talk religion with American cultural leaders...he went straight for the big questions.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Deeply moving, Do You Believe?
is a truly compelling book, bound to become a classic.”
“As an interviewer, Monda has a light touch and a penchant for asking direct existential questions in the European manner: ‘Do you think images are replacing the written word?’ ‘Are you a pessimist or an optimist?’ ‘Comment on Dostoyevsky’s assertion that ‘If God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted.’ He’s a vivid exemplar of Italy’s baroque rhetorical culture, in which playfully meandering discussion is often prized over conclusions.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“In a series of short, informal conversations, NYU film professor Monda cuts to the heart of a question that not only provides the title for the book, but that he believes provides the key to existence.... The book should prove revelatory to believers and atheists alike, and to anyone interested in the ways in which spirituality informs art and culture.”
“This is a thoughtful, provocative and concise volume.”
“The premise here is simple and straightforward. Cultural critic Monda asked some of the big names in popular culture variations on two basic questions: Do you think God exists? and How has your answer affected your life choices? The responses are often surprising, even quite startling.... Provocative and entertaining.”
“Entrancing from page one.... Each interview provides a wonderful insight into ideas that are widespread throughout the country.... This short collection is easy-to-read yet full of intellectual dialogue that will cause you to think if nothing else. I haven’t been so intrigued by a book since college, and intend to buy a copy of Do You Believe?
for many of my friends and relatives for Christmas.”
“Monda...proves himself an adventurous and risk-taking dialog partner.... The discussion sends an empowering message to those raising preliminary questions about faith and is a touchstone for well-traveled souls. Monda’s humble voice and his ability to engage interviewees in a dialog that is both insightful and sincere make this book especially accessible. He offers readers the beauty, excitement, and perplexity of the journey, giving them hope to work out their answers. ”