The Philosopher’s Apprentice, by James Morrow

April 23rd, 2010 § 0 comments

Among this novel’s many stunning delights: A cruise ship turned into a Maoist reeducation colony. A deliberately mad-scientist embryonic growth accelerator. A lobotomized mangrove. A utopian crusader with bodyguards who grew up reading her exploits mythologized in comic books, and a failed Ph.D. candidate (philosophy) who commits adultery with a clone of Joan of Arc: these two, locked in a Pygmalion-and-Galatea romance, trading places as maker and made. Largehearted and savage, untiringly surprising, a book that seems at once to flaunt its erudition and not to take it seriously: an ideally beguiling combination.

“Intrigued by the lurid poster, I suggested that we sample Motherhood Comes to the Holy Father. We slipped into the theater, taking care not to annoy the actor or disturb the other audience members, and assumed our seats. I quickly became absorbed in a situation of transcendent tastelessness. Through the machinations of a Wiccan sisterhood, Pope John Paul II had awoken one morning to find himself burdened with an unsolicited uterus and a concomitant unplanned pregnancy. Happily for the supreme pontiff, his silk robe billowed so broadly that his condition, like the fifteen Rosary mysteries, remained obscure. I could not imagine how Londa had obtained the tissue sample, and I did not want to know. The present scene was set in a Vatican clinic. Having dropped beseechingly to his knees, the pontiff was begging an audio-animatronic doctor to give him an abortion. A queasiness spread through me—political theater was one thing, feminist Grand Guignol starring reincarnated ecclesiastics quite another—and I politely told Londa that I wished to see no more. As we exited the theater, the Vatican physician presented the pope with a brochure touting the virtues of adoption.”

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