Utne Blogs > Literature

Enduring Infatuations (of the Writerly Sort)

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: Great Writing, Books and Publishers, Essay Writing, The Stranger, Paul Constant, James Morrow,

In a delightfully “gigantic, sloppy fan letter,” The Stranger’s books editor Paul Constant recalls his first encounter (and subsequent infatuation) with the novelist James Morrow. His charming opus is a must-read, I’d say, for anyone who’s ever had a love-at-first-chapter, life-changing stumble into an author. As Constant tells it:

When I was 10, I’d read all the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books and everything by Terry Pratchett. A friend recommended Kurt Vonnegut, and I cut a swath through his entire body of work like only an awkward adolescent could. I needed something new, and I browsed the science-fiction section, where I picked up a $4.50 Ace paperback with a hideous, faux-marble cover called Only Begotten Daughter, by James Morrow.

I don't remember what, exactly, drew me to pick it up, but I can tell you why I bought it with my gift certificate. The blurbs sold me—two compared Morrow to Vonnegut—and I liked the premise, cheesily described in the back-cover text:

It could only happen in New Jersey. Call it a miracle. Call it the Second Coming. Call it a mishap at the sperm bank. But somehow, a baby daughter was born to the virgin Murray Katz, and her name is Julie. She can heal the blind, raise the dead, and generate lots of publicity. In fact, the poor girl needs a break, even if it means a vacation in Hell (which is unseasonably warm). So what did you expect? It ain't easy being the Daughter of God... 

To someone raised Catholic who never had a devout moment in his short life, this was quite possibly the Most Appealing Book in the World.

Source: The Stranger