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THE AFTERWORD

Mike Bryan, Author
Mike Bryan, Author . Pantheon $16 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-42212-6
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Bryan's sly, minimalist debut is written in the form of an Afterword to his bestselling novel, The Deity Next Door. The catch is that The Deity Next Door does not exist. The fictional essay opens with Bryan basking in his record-breaking sales as he answers his fans' questions about the novel. As he describes his creative process, he gradually reveals the story of The Deity Next Door, which follows a modern-day American messiah named Blaine, a secular computer programmer in New York City who is astounded to discover that he has divine powers ranging from making objects levitate to healing his cancer-stricken son. Bryan explains the various theological questions he wrestled with as he wrote, digressing frequently to discuss his relationship with a group of evangelicals at a Dallas Bible college who fueled his interest in Christian spirituality. He also probes the literary problems of writing about a messiah ("In the gospels, we don't really know Jesus as a fully rounded man.... How does Blaine feel? What's his interior life really like?") and discusses the reactions of his agent and editor. In spite of the arch, metafictional conceit, Bryan takes his subjects seriously; this is less a sendup of the publishing world than a high-toned meditation on Christian theology, spirituality and the writing life. The lively, concise book is cleverly executed and poses some provocative questions. Yet some readers may be put off by the self-important tone. There's something a bit ludicrous about a writer who compares the writing of his bestseller to the creation of the Bible, and Bryan's earnest approach suggests we're meant to take the portentous scribe seriously. Agent, Joe Spieler. (Mar.)

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