This first novel (1966) by Gardner is intellectually deep and for the most part narratively satisfying. It's all about the fact that we live for a while and then die, and the relation between the living and the dead. It gets me thinking about the fact that we live most of our days not focusing on our eventual death or the vast weight of eternity stretching before and after our tiny light.I say it is only partially satisfying because the ending is frustratingly vague and unresolved. It comes close to a being multi-level work of art such as THE WHITE HOTEL or THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, but it seems as if the young Gardner did not figure out how to bring his philosophical story to a final act that does anything more than stop.Despite the weakness of the last section, this novel includes beautiful writing and really made me think about the problem or opportunity of consciousness.Jamey
I like Gardner as a person and I enjoyed Freddy's Book, but I just could not get anywhere with this one.Ian
The Resurrection, John Gardner's first published novel, tells the story of philosophy professor James Chandler's final days. In his early forties with a young wife (Marie) and three young daughters, Chandler learns that he's been stricken with an aggressive form of leukemia and has, at best, three months to live. With the death sentence imposed and the clock ticking, Chandler decides to move his family back east, from San Francisco to the town of Batavia in upper New York State, where he spent his childhood and where his elderly mother still lives in the old family home. Batavia, it turns out, is largely unchanged from when he was young, though it and the people he knew have aged considerably and become eccentric. Soon after arriving Chandler visits the home of his old piano teacher and her two elderly sisters, where, dizzied and overwhelmed by ghosts from his past, he suffers a seizure outside on the street after taking his leave. It is Viola Staley, the teenage niece of the three old women, who comes to the rescue and drives Chandler to the hospital. Viola, impressionable and exhibiting an engaging mixture of impetuosity, decisiveness, awkward vulnerability and creeping self-doubt, moves into the Chandler home to help Marie and Chandler's mother care for the girls. In a short time Viola develops a singular fascination with the family and a violent emotional attachment for Chandler himself. In the meantime, Chandler, recovering in the hospital, encounters John Horne, a man disfigured by misfortune whose doctor has told him he is dying. Horne, who comes across as a twisted projection of Chandler's aesthetic theories, berates Chandler at length with his own theories. It is with Horne that the novel comes somewhat unhinged. Gardner allows this character too much latitude to sound off and dominate page after page, with the unfortunate result that the reader is sorely tempted to skip these passages. The novel's ending is inconclusive and not entirely plausible, bringing Chandler and Viola together under contrived circumstances in a scene that would be more at home in a Gothic potboiler. Still, there is a lot to admire in The Resurrection, in particular Gardner's descriptive powers, and his ability to construct scenes, build dramatic tension, and infuse his characters with startling individuality. In the 1970s this author's genius would be fully realized in works like Grendel, The Sunlight Dialogues and October Light. This early novel might be inferior but is still well worth reading if you're curious to see what the young John Gardner was capable of.Rand
pretty words, hope.Sarah
More like 3.5Well structured and brilliant characterization. It is clear that the makings of Mickelson's Ghosts were present in 1966. The seeds are sown throughout the pages.Sarah
Very hard to follow. It was his first book. There are some gems of insight but you have to slog through a lot to find them. I guess though the over-riding take away was the image of the Aunt banging away on the piano at the recital and the child's realization that she is deaf and can't hear what she is playing. She is not Beethoven so it is a great metaphor for anyone that is convinced of what they think they know not taking into account that our reality can only ever be based on what we can access with our senses and even then that is imperfect and can be distorted- so for us is there even any such thing as 'reality'. Also backs up Whitehead's theory that all philosophy is just a footnote to Plato (as in allegory of the cave in this instance).