cover image Sophia


Michael Bible. Melville House (Random, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-61219-472-1

Bible’s (Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City) short, comic novel, which relates a bibulous Southern preacher’s perverse quest for sainthood, is full of small miracles. The Reverend Alvis T. Maloney is a Rabelaisian figure, the “lazy priest of [the] town’s worst church,” whose irrepressible appetites lead him into distinctly unholy alliances with his parishioners and the Holy Ghost, about whom he has recurring erotic dreams that would make John Donne blush. Whether he is a man more sinned against than sinning is an open question, but his desire to follow his own unorthodox righteous path is undisputed. The plot is almost secondary, though there is an excess of it: a cross-country chess tournament tour with Eli, a prodigy and Maloney’s “redneck Virgil”; an attack on a suburban house involving a hot air balloon; and a game of wits with a blind bounty hunter chasing Maloney and his pregnant lover from “the great Southern Bohemia” to New York City. Bible shrewdly pairs his maximalist comic style with a minimalist form. The novella is composed of short, paragraph-long scenes that are variously poetic, bawdy, and zany; snippets of absurdist conversations on faith, love, and sex; and dispassionate accounts of various saints’ gruesome martyrdoms. These tales lend a necessary counterweight to the story’s antics as Maloney, a “holy fool on the hunt for something worthy,” hopes to glean from the martyrs some clue to consecrating his picaresque adventures. (Dec.)