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Do You Believe?: Conversations on God and Religion Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 13, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; English Language edition (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307280586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307280589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,748,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“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.”
Commonweal

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This is a thoughtful, provocative and concise volume.”
Publishers Weekly

“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.”
Booklist

“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.”
BookLoons.com

“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. ”
Library Journal, starred review

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
I thought this book was very intriguing.
T. Stewart
It reminds me of the kind of interviews you hear on NPR... I wonder if this may be where it got its start.
Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock
One extreme is "every type of fundamentalist aberration."
Jim Forest

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jim Forest on February 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rather than write my own review, let me share with you a review by Lawrence Joseph that was published in Commonweal magazine (31 Jan 2008):

In an essay titled "Monda's World" in the July 29 edition of the New York Times Book Review, Rachel Donadio introduced "arguably the most well-connected New York cultural figure you've never heard of." Antonio Monda: forty-six years old; Italian; a resident of New York City since 1994; author; film and literary critic; award-winning filmmaker and curator; artistic director of Le Conversazioni, a festival of prominent Anglophone fiction writers held annually on the island of Capri; professor of film and television studies at New York University. Antonio Monda, Donadio announced, is "a one-man Italian cultural institute." He is also "a practicing Catholic," Donadio noted in passing, "who sends his three children to parochial school."

Do You Believe? (originally published in Italy as Tu Credi? in 2006) consists of an introductory essay by Monda followed by conversations with some of America's most prominent cultural and artistic figures. Monda speaks with writers Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Elie Wiesel, Grace Paley, Derek Wolcott, Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Ford, Michael Cunningham, Paula Fox, and Nathan Englander; actress Jane Fonda; filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and David Lynch; architect Daniel Libeskind; and historian Arthur Scheslinger Jr. Deeply moving, Do You Believe? is a truly compelling book, bound to become a classic.

In his introduction, Monda notes that religion "obviously has played a central role in the important and often dramatic political and social choices of recent years." Do You Believe? is not, however, intended as a sociopolitical analysis.
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This book caught my attention because I'm interested in learning about different religions and how others view God and religions. I thought this book was very intriguing. The way that it was written was clear and understandable, although it doesn't go into detail about some of topics that are brought up you still get the point of what they're talking about.

This book was about the author Antonio Monda interviewing well known people about their thoughts of religion and how they feel, how they were brought up relating to religion and what they believe now. One of the themes I found throughout this book was the interviewers encounters with religion and their upbringing. Each of the interviewers had a different religion that their families grew up on but I noticed as they got older most of them didn't have a straight forward religion they followed and didn't have a view of who or what God is. Omnipotent was a word that was used to describe the being of "God" and it occurred often for example the author asks "You don't feel the need for a church that acts as a bond between you and this omnipotent being?". He chose that term because some people don't view God as a person rather than something with power. Before I read this book I did some research and got reviews I didn't agree with one review which said "He is hardly an unbiased interviewer" and I didn't agree with that because I felt he was very open to what others had to say about their opinions and just wanted to question them on why they felt that way. I did agree with a couple reviews that said "This fascinating anthology provides surprises and insights in almost every interview.
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Format: Paperback
"Do You Believe?" is a nice collection of interviews with famous artists about their religious beliefs. It is full of fascinating tidbits, such as David Lynch's assertion that he believes in "a divine being... who is omnipotent and eternal." I wouldn't have guessed that! There are agnostic, atheist, and general non-believers, along with those who believe. Few seem to adhere to one tradition. What I love about the collection is that it takes the form of a general philosophical discussion, not just a conversation about beliefs. I like Paul Auster's comment that "there are things we miss in every choice we make." Simple but profound. The interviewer, Antonio Monda, is a Roman Catholic and the interviews lean towards discussion of the Abrahamic God. I don't remember any discussion of polytheism or Eastern philosophies and traditions.

I read the interviews about three in a sitting, and that worked really well. More than that and the sequencing starts to feel slightly repetitive since Monda is basically interviewing from a boilerplate. This book is shorter than "Stars of David" which touches on some similar themes (although that book is strictly about Judaism) and more interesting than "A Place at the Table." It reminds me of the kind of interviews you hear on NPR... I wonder if this may be where it got its start.
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Format: Paperback
Dear Mr. Monda,

After reading your Do You Believe? twice, I write to thank you for your remarkable effort. As a daily practitioner of the Socratic method in my rhetoric classes, your prepared and spontaneous follow-up questions explain why your interviews are so revealing and why your book is so readable.

Your book must have babies. I hope that you follow it up with a sequel of interviews of equally important cultural icons. Your book will also help me revise the introduction of my Advanced Placement Unit on How Important Is God in Your Life?

Your interviews evoked a series of related quotations that have shaped my thinking and values the last forty years. The personal witnesses of faith in your interviews bolster my own fragile faith. Again, thank you, profoundly.

Sincerely,
Victor J. Moeller
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