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The Life of Jesus: An Apocryphal Novel
Green Integer Series No.: 220
ISBN: 978-1-55713-441-7, Pages: 252
The first full fiction by now noted American poet and fiction writer, Toby Olson, The Life of Jesus is not precisely the work its title might suggest. The book is neither a historical fiction nor a devout retelling of the mission and passion of Christ. Rather, Olson's work is an unabashed and intimately revealing autobiographical fiction told primarily in the terms of Gospel legend. As the author writes:
To a boy raised in the bosom of the Catholic Church in the early 1940s, the life of Jesus and the Holy Family was felt as his own idealized autobiography. His mother was of course a Virgin. His father, who was ill and died young, was more a watcher than a participant. And he himself was guilty, because he was no Jesus and could not cure his father. The Life of Jesus is a result of that somewhat tortured matrix.
As the novel proceeds from the fairy-tale-like childhood of Jesus, through his public life of miracles, temptations, and teachings, it moves closer to autobiography. Only after Jesus has lived through the difficulties of being neither completely God nor man is he able to proceed to his own necessary death, to return to his father.
The mythology of this novel is constructed from that sense of the life of Jesus which was received by a young boy, in Catholic School, from the Bible stories of Irish nuns.
Olson's gently believing and, at times, apostate work has been praised by numerous poets and fiction writers. Poet Diane Wakoski wrote: "The The Life of Jesus is a rare work. Alluringly erotic, imaginative, witty and funny, the book is a daring parable of 20th-century autobiography. The New Testament as science fiction. The story of one's life is an understanding of miracle."
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