About the Book

At the center of this novel is John Venner, a thirty-five-year-old doctor of divinity bedeviled by lustful longing for the last virgin in America. For Venner, hurtling along the middle of life’s road, the clean white sheets of heaven and the goatish delights of hell compete for his soul in a riotous struggle between the flesh and the spirit.

Rooting for the flesh is Venner’s ex-wife Medusa (a.k.a. Sally), lapsed divinity student and lead singer in a punk-orgasmic rock band. Rooting for the spirit (maybe) is Sister Sabbathday Wells, a lovely twenty-three-year-old sworn to the Shaker vow of chastity and living in the moral atmosphere and right-angled symmetry of the New Eden Shaker village. On the purgatorial sidelines is Venner and Sally’s daughter, four-year-old Eve, conflictedly and passionately loved by her warring parents and heavily into the metaphysics of death. And there is Venner’s cat, Sometimes-Why, sitting on his windowsill, paws crossed in curmudgeonly judgment, giving Venner advice every step of the way.

Percolating under the book’s comic surface are complex themes. There is Venner’s search for salvation in a world short on messiahs. There is Sally’s search for identity in the construction of Medusa out of Max Factor and Victoria’s Secret. And at the heart of the book is a vision of an America riven by paradox, an America whose purity vanishes the instant it’s touched, whose promise of harmony–embodied in the Shaker ideal–is doomed to extinction, yet whose utopian essence still lingers in the shadow world of our dreams and desires. Salvation shuttles between Shaker authenticity and the electronic fakery of the modern world, between separation from the world’s people and immersion in a universe of TV iconography, whose flickering invasion of our secret selves is the serpent in Venner’s garden.

The Divine Comedy of John Venner is the tale of the search for paradise within the inferno of the human heart.

Among the Contents

  • Venner’s Inferno
  • Orders concerning Intercourse Between the Sexes
  • Self-Torture as an Aphrodisiac
  • On the Metaphysics of White Picket Fences
  • A Garden Enclosed Is My Sister, My Spouse
  • Venner’s Purgatorio
  • Doing What They Do Outside the Garden
  • The Persistence of Human Vision
  • The Monstrous Mysterium of the Loins
  • Confessions of a Once and Future Virgin
  • Venner’s Paradiso, Such as It Is