Sinclair Lewis might have liked this ebullient lampoon, whose targets include writers’ frail egos and crowded psyches, the publishing industry’s deranged priorities, and the nuts and bolts (especially the nuts) of religious fundamentalism.
Social critic Roszak (The Gendered Atom, 1999, etc.), whose unconventional fiction includes Flicker (1991) and The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein (1995), treats himself and us to a deliciously promising premise: gay San Francisco novelist Danny Silverman’s trip to North Fork, Minnesota, to lecture (as a visiting “Jewish Humanist”) at conservative Faith College, run by the Free Reformed Evangelical Brethren in Christ. Ignoring the pleas of his black partner Marty, Danny plunges into moral-majoritarian Middle America, predictably offends his dour hosts, then finds he’s stranded among them when a monster snowstorm shuts down the entire region. If the FREBC takes artistic umbrage at Silverman’s decreasingly popular rewritings of literary classics (e.g., Moby-Dick from the whale’s viewpoint), his political and sexual liberalism raise beyond boiling point the hackles of such intemperate true believers as the school’s motherly-bigot CEO Mrs. Bloore, a gay-bashing state senator, a pair of missionaries who luxuriate in gory details of African poverty and misery, and various other anti-abortionists, Holocaust-deniers, and haters of sex in almost all forms. The narrative bogs down in lengthy arguments between Silverman and selected North Forkers, but it does have a fairly lively plot, which gets cracking when the desperate Danny, having survived a guided tour of “one of the largest demonological libraries in North America,” attempts escape, gets rescued by a squadron of “Snow Ghosts” (i.e., Christian snowmobilers), and, emulating Dante’s epic journey, reaches his misadventure’s climax on a frozen lake.
Much too long and more than a little self-indulgent—but for most of its fractious, farcical length, most readers will be having too much fun to notice.