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Roger's Version: A Novel Paperback – August 27, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449912183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449912188
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #473,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sex and its combinations and permutations apart, two of Updike's commanding, long-standing intereststheology and various kinds of sciencecome together to form the matrix of his new novel. The conflicting ideas are as ancient as time: reason versus faith; science versus religion; belief versus any of the forms of unbelief. The contestants representing the fundamental opposition are the narrator, Roger Lambert, 52, a former minister, now a professor of divinity at a New England university, theologically a (Karl) "Barthian all the way" with a civilized tolerance for heretics and the steadfast conviction that God must be taken on faith; and Dale Kohler, 28, a computer scientist fixed in the belief that at the base of all science "God is showing through," now working on a definitive demonstration by computer technology of God's existence. That would keep anyone busy, but Dale finds a few hours a week for an affair with Roger's angry, unhappy wife, and Roger's version of belief does not prevent him from having a brief fling with his half-sister's daughter, herself an unmarried mother. For all Updike's finesse and dexterity in the deployment of ideas, there is more arcane computerology here than readers, including his most devoted, can digest by force-feeding, and probably more theology as well. Most readers will also think the characters contrived, mouthpieces for the perspectives they espouse.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Updike's 12th novel continues his portrayal of middle America in all its social, religious, and cultural ramifications. Divinity professor Roger Lambert is visited by Dale Kohler, an earnest young student who wants a grant to prove the existence of God by computer. The visit disrupts Roger's ordinary existence, bringing him into contact with the wild and sexy Verna (his half-sister's daughter), and leading to his wife's affair with Dale. Updike spends a great deal of time in this novel discussing religion, sex, and computers, not always to the advantage of the characters. There are some fine Updike touchesjust the right phrase or detailbut it still adds up to a rather lifeless work (perhaps intentionally so). Roger's is an unattractive character with whom we only occasionally become truly involved. Roger's Version is more Marry Me than Rabbit Is Rich. Thomas Lavoie, formerly with English Dept., Syracuse Univ., N.Y.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

This book shows, yet again, why Updike is a modern master of fiction.
Scott George
The distance with which Updike tells the tale and the very simplicity of the situation allow for an incredible amount of relating to the situation.
stockwell001@yahoo.com
There are so many gems, so many brilliant observations, in this book.
Outside Looking In

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Outside Looking In on March 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
It was Ian McEwan's piece on John Upike in the New York Review of Books that made me finally take "Roger's Version" off the shelf. An Updike acolyte, I had yet to read this book, but as McEwan focused on Updike's vision of a `dead spot' at the center of America, a recurring theme in Updike that McEwan notes in "Roger's Version," I knew it was time to crack it. McEwan notes that in this book `that dead spot was the ruined inner city of `Roger's Version,' a spoiled landscape through which a divinity professor takes a thirty-page stroll - one of the great set pieces of the entire body of work...'

Indeed. "Roger's Version" is a book that is loaded with landmines - lines, sometimes paragraphs, that a casual reader might quickly gloss over (and there are so many). But it is here that Updike is really making his points.

His uncanny, unsparing and totally accurate rendering of the inner city `hood is certainly a Boston area locale, but Updike is eerily prescient in that his description of a place that is very similar to Lowell, Mass., down to a multi-level that has survived a fire: `On this same corner a building, its lower floor reshingled in stylish irregular shades, had survived a fire in its top floors, which had left charred window frames empty of sashes; but the bar downstairs continued open, and sounds from within - the synthetic concussions of a video game. . . indicated a thriving business, well before the Happy Hour though it was.'

This is an exact description of the Rainbow Café, (a Kerouac haunt) though the fire did not happen until years after "Roger's Version" was published.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hans Castorp VINE VOICE on April 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Reading this finally convinced me that Mr. Updike really is a true master of the language! It seems impossible to top this as purely imaginative, yet true to life commentary on 1984-85 America, written in 1986. When a 29 year old computer Grad Student approaches Roger, the ex Methodist Divine, now Theology Prof, about a Grant which the young man hopefully pursues to prove (?) the existence of the Deity through Computer Technology, we're off to a great start in world of Academia, Theology and Scepticism, Family History, Friendships, Race Relations, Medicine, Evolutionary Science, Computer Science (hard to follow, even if dated!), City Neighborhoods of all kinds, not to mention author's usual reflections on adultery and stale marriages. Note how Mr. Updike smoothly switches between 1st and 3rd Persons, which is probably Roger's dream version of his wife's seamy escapades. The very last sentence seems strange, but throws another loop into this fine and seamless story!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tom Adair on August 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There is something not quite human about how much John Updike actually KNOWS. Roger's Version is a substantial novel about the relationship between a professor of divinity and an expert in computer science. Updike does not shy from - rather he wholeheartedly immerses himself in - the details of these spheres of interest, seesawing between the complexities of heretical sects in the early Christian Church and the voluminous realms of astrophysics. One minute we are reading long quotations in medieval Latin; the next we get - for example - 'Since z = 2.5 constitutes a plane, then by setting z equal to the transformed coordinates of the model carbon molecule atoms Dale creates a series of more complex intersections...'. The story is about the extent to which the two esoteric schools can be made to meet; basically, can one 'prove' the existence of God through science? In pursuing the argument Updike, naturally, does more than just thrash through the intellectual issues; he structures the whole affair with his typical artistry, so that the idea of, say, the binary opposition informs a raft of clever leitmotifs - most gorgeously: 'At her attack, the delicious flutter of ambiguity beat its wings, necessarily two, through all my suddenly feminized being.' This is a magisterial, monumental book. It's a fine, heavy book. In the scale of both its intellectual and artistic pretensions I honestly think one can call it Miltonic.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Scott George on September 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am an avid reader of John Updike, but I sometimes have trouble relating to some of his characters.

This novel centers around the theme of faith versus science in the world of divinity professor Roger Lambert, who is aging and questioning many things these days. When confronted by a faithful computer science student who believes he can use computers to prove the existence of God. Lambert is attracted to the idea and the debate but is, ultimately, intent on discouraging or discrediting the students efforts.

As is always the case, the book is about much more than the theme. Updike captures the mood of the Reagan era, the environment of a decaying Northeastern city, and the attitudes and changes that come with aging like no other author can. This book shows, yet again, why Updike is a modern master of fiction. It is intellectual and engaging.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By roGER on September 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Updike at his effortless best in this profound yet brilliantly flowing novel that explores the alkward relationship between religion and science...
The story is narrated by Roger, a morally dubious yet entertaining and witty doctor of divinity at an Eastern university. Roger is approached by a gangling, spotty computer scientist (who is also a born-again Christian) seeking a grant to "scientifically" prove the existance of god!
Things get complicated when the student begins having an affair with Esther, Roger's wife, while he himself begins an affair with a distant relative who lives across town in a housing project. Within this simple yet touching quadrangle of relationships come excepts from Roger's lectures on heretics, and comments on modern cosmology...
Add to this Updike's effortlessly telling descriptions, from the feel of cold streets to the elaborate rituals of academic board meetings and you have a very fine novel indeed.
One slight critisism - the computer technology so lovingly described is virtually obsolete already. This makes Roger's Version an unusally dated Updike work.
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More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

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