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I, Judas: A Novel Paperback – September 20, 2011
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Reich proves to be a thoughtful and meticulous provocateur - a much-needed voice in contemporary fiction. In I, Judas, there is a delicious lawlessness of prose, a revolt against conventional language and storytelling. Some may take offense to his insinuations; but isn't that often the case with great fiction? - Pasatiempo Magazine, New Mexican
"James Reich is a sensible product of 20th century literature, Faulkner, Joyce, Cortazar, Ginsberg, Dylan, -- and film maker Kenneth Anger...Best is his surprising ability to strike home continually with an exalted, consummate phrase, paragraph, even a word...a fascinating thinker...a genuine writer." - Charley Dunlap, Listomania
"Buy a copy of James Reich's novel I, Judas. Walk alongside Judas and Jesus, taste the wine, smell the whores, slip the noose over your head, witness the fear, self loathing and betrayal. Then... abandon all hope... of putting it down until you've finished reading it." - Dirt City Chronicles
As Taliban fundamentalists dynamited the Bamiyan Buddhas, with this book Reich blows up the Gospels...Yeats' Second Coming is so optimistic in comparison. Reich writes beautifully... a gruesome enchantment...a new and personal understanding of that old-fashioned word blasphemous...iconoclastic and brutal prose poetry. - The Historical Novel Review
*Book of the Week* With exquisite prose James Reich delivers a rich and provocative cultural elucidation as he poetically unfolds the relationship of Jesus and Judas across millenniums. - Bold Type Magazine
About the Author
James Reich is the author of 'Bombshell' (July 2013) and 'I, Judas' (October, 2011) published by Soft Skull Press. James is a member of PEN American Center and the International Association of Crime Writers: North America. He was born in England and has been a resident of the United States since 2009. From 2011, he has been a contributing faculty member at Santa Fe University of Art and Design where he teaches creative writing, posthumanism, science fiction, pulp fiction and literary theory and more. He is a founding member of the post-punk band Venus Bogardus, and has provided soundtrack music for a several cult independent films.
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The Bible has of course inspired numerous novels, poems, plays, essays and so on (not to mention theology) and James Reich's superb `I, Judas', while being just one of many in this sense, is nonetheless probably the most interesting addition to the modern/contemporary anti-tradition of biblical pastiche fiction for quite some time. In short, this is a book that anyone who has read the following books must read: Kazantzakis' `Last Temptation', Moorcock's `Behold The Man', Stuart Jackman's little-known but excellent `The Davidson Affair' (and its later thematic/conceptual twin, Gore Vidal's `Live From Golgotha'), Anthony Burgess' `Clockwork Testament' (the third Enderby book, which addresses the furore around the film version of `A Clockwork Orange' in terms of a New Testament free will debate), Barry N. Malzberg's `The Cross of Fire', Philip K. Dick's `Radio Free Albemuth' and `The Divine Invasion' and the short stories "Blast Off" by Kiril Bonfiglioli (from the anthology `The New SF') and "Let's Go To Golgotha" by Garry Kilworth. I mention all these works not to indicate that `I, Judas' is in any way unoriginal, or that it is merely an addition to an anti-canon, but because it bears comparison in terms of quality with all of these very fine books - and in my view, it's better than (or equal to) a number of them, not that qualitative judgements matter in art anyway, as it's all subjective. These are all books you should read if interested in the part the iconography/myth of Christ has played in shaping our culture and sensibilities. I've also mentioned some of these books as they are nominally SF and Reich, like these authors, is familiar with the very best that literary SF can offer as a context for sterling experimental and iconoclastic writing, in the same way that one of his major influences (William S. Burroughs) did.
James is fundamentally a stylist and ideas man but his narrative gift, which I think we'll see more of in later works is also visible here. His prose has very flavoursome qualities (I harboured some initial qualms in the first chapter, I admit, but Reich's confidence grows quickly and so did mine the further I read), his understanding and use of myth and iconography is magnificent) and his use of novelty and innovation is superb. I've really enjoyed the way he meshed the accepted iconography of avant-garde literature (the crucifixion, the JFK assassination etc) with new myths of recent times (the Ian Curtis references are excellent, for example) - none of it seems contrived or forced, either. Naturally, I loved the mention of Barry Malzberg and Normal Mailer in the bar....it's great to see one of my obscure idols uplifted by another soldier of the anti-tradition (I'm an expert on New Wave SF, so Malzberg is one of my idols). Really liked the Philadelphia Experiment aside too, the Grumman Hellcats (merging boyhood dreams of Airfix with burning damnation in the Pacific) and the beautifully subtle cut-up replays you deflty weave in,, not using repetition too much, just teasing the reader with it. The influences are clear - Burroughs, Keruoac, Ballard, Apollinaire, I could go on, but suffice to say Reich has done himself proud by echoing these voices and articulating his own voice in becoming a member of this esteemed anti-tradition.
If youn have a taste for avant-garde, exciting, thoughtful fiction, you MUST read this. James has the spirit of the 19th century decadents/symbolists, 20th century modernists, rock and roll outsiders and the cutting edge of post-post modernity wrapped up. As authentic as it comes. Much more, please!!!
Stephen E. Andrews, author of '100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels' and '100 Must Read Books For Men'
So, knowing very little about the book other than the title, it was still inevitable that I'd take an early peek at I, Judas. I'd picked through the above examples quite thoroughly, almost clean, and I was looking for a new twist. Saying I wasn't disappointed is an understatement. I, Judas is not only a retelling of the story between the titular character and Jesus, it is an examination of the story itself: its guts, its bones, its lymph, why it has such a tug on us. In less-skilled hands, with a less-inquisitive mind at the helm, the examination could have made a quite good thesis for a Bible as Literature or Comparative Religion class, but the insightful scholarship is only half of the answer. These characters, archetypes, and myths, their marrow sucked out through millennia of art, literature, and drama, needed an infusion of passion and imagination, needed to tell their stories anew after the exponential tragedies and violence of recent centuries. I, Judas achieves this poignantly, and traces lines that connects the Judas story to all manner of artist, musician, warrior, and dreamer.
While I anticipated liking the book's subject matter, the vividly painful beauty of the prose was delightful and affecting. At turns, I felt as if I was swimming in, drifting on, or digging through the text, or the words brought on bouts of self-immolation. It is rare nowadays to find such a well-wrought literary work paired with this depth of ideas. Yes, I sometimes looked things up, words and facts alike, and cerebral musings were well-complemented to the lyrical, elemental experience. The language is both traditional and experimental, at home with other writing from Burroughs or Kathy Acker to William Blake or Coleridge.
Regardless of your religious or philosophical bent, most of you who will read this book already regard Judas as either an historical character or a possible fiction. I, Judas adeptly proves that he's neither. Yes, he is an allegory, but one that needs to be listened to, closely and carefully. After two thousand years of being Jesus's scapegoat, hearing Judas Iscariot's tale is an ecstatically refreshing change.