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God Jr. Paperback – July 10, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Try making up a world where having killed someone you love isn't important." Cooper (Closer, etc.) does just that—and it works, for a while. Pot-smoking, 40-something L.A. depressive Jim rammed his Lexus into a telephone pole, sending his son, Tommy, flying through the windshield and leaving himself crippled. He has subsequently lied about the cause of Tommy's death (Tommy lived long enough to wander from the scene) and begun working at a children's custom clothing company run by an all-handicapped crew. Upping his pot intake and drifting further from his wife, Bette, Jim has been obsessively constructing a monument to Tommy in his yard that has drawn media (and litigious) attention. Cooper's genius has always been for dialogue: the clipped marriage and workplace exchanges feature searing ironies and delicate nuances that are arresting. In the lyrical but muddled passages that dominate the book's second half, Jim loses himself in a video game of Tommy's, communicating mystically with the video game's flora and fauna while searching for a meaning to Tommy's life and death. Cooper leaves Jim and Bette stranded in their grief, and the various forms of sage-like solace he proffers fail to add up to much, either for Jim or for us.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jim has been an emotional mess ever since that terrible day a year ago when he got into a car accident that killed his teenage son, Tommy. Since then, Jim gets around in a wheelchair, but he has a secret: he can actually walk. He doesn't tell anyone because that would ruin a perfectly good punishment for himself: being disabled. He also smokes a lot of pot, which may explain why he is determined to turn one of his son's routine drawings into a huge monument in the backyard. When he discovers that Tommy made the sketch from a video game, Jim becomes obsessed with playing it--to the detriment of his job and marriage. The game--as well as the novel--takes on new dimensions when Jim feels he can actually communicate with aspects of the program, entering into an existential dialogue with a pixilated snowman on the nature of reality. Cooper lets the reader decided whether or not Jim has gone completely mad with grief in attempting to understand a son he knew only superficially in life. Jerry Eberle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"God Jr." is about soul-crushing grief and loss, and about how a father builds a tangible monument to his son to compensate for feelings he probably never had. The son died in a car accident while driving with his under-the-influence father. His parents find drawings of an odd structure and in homage to their dead son begin to build it -- at great expense -- in their backyard. Turns out the son didn't even draw it and that it is, in fact, just something he picked up from a videogame. Later in the story the father "enters" this videogame to try to discover who his son was. The son kept the main videogame character in a spot so long that the animals of the game became self-aware and began asking questions. They want to know who they are and why they're here. Because the son brought about this enlightenment, they assume he's God.
The most amazing thing about this book, for me, is Cooper's prose. He's reduced his writing to the absolute bare minimum. There is not a single wasted word here. He has sharpened and sharpened his meticulous prose with a razor and the result is simple yet stunning.
This book -- really a novella -- is a good companion piece to Kathryn Harrison's "Envy." It's interesting to see how two very different but equally capable writers handle similar subject matter so contrastingly.