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City of God Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 79 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of City of God.
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City of God Summary & Study Guide Description

City of God Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Related Titles on City of God by E. L. Doctorow.

Plot Summary

City of God by E. L Doctorow is a novel with an extremely unusual narrative form. The book appears to be shaped as a collection of writings from an author's notebook. Some passages are small chunks of a larger plot line. Some are autobiographical poems, and some are a first-person presentation of the lives and ideas of notable figures. In addition, the author occasionally plots a story or a movie script. Sometimes he writes about the universe from a scientific perspective, and sometimes he describes species of birds that he has seen. Still other times, he talks about the medium of film. At other points, he offers competing interpretations of popular songs in poetic form.

City of God has several gripping plots. The main plot centers around Pem, an Anglican priest who is having a crisis of faith. Pem's church has been a target of thieves, so he spends a lot of time tracking down the stolen goods. Pem calls himself the "Divinity Detective."

A thief steals a large metal cross from Pem's church, and the cross later ends up on the roof of a small progressive synagogue. A mutual attempt to solve the mystery of the cross by Pem and Joshua Gruen, the synagogue's rabbi, leads to a fast friendship among Pem, Joshua and his wife, Sarah Blumenthal, who is also a rabbi. Everett, an author, takes notes on the theft of the cross and begins writing a fictionalized account of the story. He interviews Pem to get details for the novel. Initially, Everett and Pem have a working relationship, but they become friends over time.

Everett also works on a writing project for Sarah Blumenthal. He is writing the story of her father, who survived a Nazi ghetto during the Holocaust. Mr. Blumenthal's story, City of God's other gripping narrative, includes exciting accounts of how he ran missions out of the ghetto to secure a secret diary that held records of German atrocities.

By the time Everett begins writing the story of the cross that mysteriously shows up on top of a synagogue, Joshua is dead. He has been beaten and killed in Lithuania, on a trip to find the lost diary that his father-in-law worked to protect. Pem has fallen in love with the widow Sarah, and Everett, who begins attending services at her synagogue, falls for her, too.

Pem cannot accept the failure of Christianity to change in response to the Holocaust, and he has doubts about such doctrines as original sin and the trinity. His crisis of faith leads to a reassignment, from a priest of his own church to a hospice social worker. Eventually Pem decides to quit Christianity altogether and convert to Judaism. Joshua and Sarah's brand of Judaism, which they call Evolutionary Judaism, fits Pem's beliefs. Their synagogue dedicates itself to going back to the origins of religion and identifying the essential parts of faith. After Joshua's death, Pem and Sarah prepare to marry, and both express the opinion that mainstream ideas of God have led the faithful to acts of war and violence. They want to find a new idea of God, one that can evolve in step with mankind's understanding of ethics and morality.

Everett, a confirmed bachelor, has relationships with two women over the course of the novel. One is the trophy wife of a prominent CEO, and the other is a famous war journalist. He grows jealous of the growing intimacy of Sarah and Pem, while still craving their friendship and seeing them as heroes.

Section 1 (pages 1-33) Summary

This section begins with Everett explaining and discussing the Big Bang theory. The theory holds that the entire universe blew out into space from a singular point, along with the space that holds the universe. Scientists believe that the universe continues to expand beyond measurement. Everett wonders how astronomers handle the thought that beyond the space that the universe currently holds there is something else, something that is not yet space. He believes that even the thought of God cannot alleviate the misery of such deep, hopeless infinitude.

Abruptly, Everett turns from thinking about the Big Bang to recounting a dinner party he has attended. At the party he sees a woman, "code name Moira," for whom he has felt an attraction for some time. Tonight it is clear that she shares his attraction. Moira is a quiet woman who wears no makeup or jewelry. Emboldened by wine, the writer confesses his feelings to her, and they make a plan to meet for lunch and visit an art museum.

A new section in the writer's notebook begins, with Everett writing about the start of the universe. In the new universe, stars drift and form clusters. A small and obscure accident occurs, and atoms join to form a single cell. Suddenly the first entity in the universe with its own will has come into being.

Everett's journal switches focus. In this section, an email message addressed to Everett from an Anglican priest named Pem contains answers to specific questions the writer has asked about the faith. Pem also describes a stolen cross per Everett's request.

The next section of the writer's notebook has a bold title: "Heist." It appears to be the start of a story written by Everett. A priest named Thomas Pemberton narrates the story from the first-person point of view. He walks through the streets of Manhattan in search of peddlers who are selling choir robes and altar candles stolen from his church. He finds these items and purchases them. "Heist" ends abruptly, and Everett recounts viewing Monet's water lilies at the Met with Moira. They have decided to meet again. She is unsure when she can get away, because of her husband and two small children.

Everett notes that he has been in the East Village scouting locations for his novel. He has found an Episcopal church off Second Avenue. To please the real Father Pemberton, Everett will change his protagonist's name. He notes that the East Village has short buildings left over from the nineteenth century and reflects that the city's grid was already established by then. He marvels over all the different people one encounters in New York City, walking among strangers in the city's public spaces.

In the next section of Everett's journal, the writer returns to the topic of science. He muses that most of the brilliant boys he knew when he attended the Bronx High School of Science were jerks. How else can he explain he cute names scientists give things like the Big Bang and WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles)? Perhaps scientists lack a holy apprehension of the forces they are studying.

The heading "Heist" appears again, and Everett continues his fiction where it left off a few pages ago. The priest visits a terminally ill patient in the hospital and is greeted with hostility by the dying man. In a neighboring room, he sees members of a black church who have gathered to pray for a sick member of their congregation. Later, he visits an old friend, Samantha, who is a widow. They talk about how Christianity's founders invented a religion from nothing. Then, they embrace and kiss.

Pem plans his sermon. He will open with the visitors he saw in the hospital and their humble faith. Then, he will question what it means to have faith. Why should anyone believe that his religion tells the right story of God? At lunch on Wednesday, Pem meets with his bishop Charley. Charley questions him on his sermon, and Pem notes that he only has five parishioners anyway. Charley worries that Pem's questioning of authority may lead him to self-destruct.

Everett interrupts "Heist" to provide an update on his personal life. Moira has visited Everett, and she has let herself be seduced by him. Everett returns to writing his story, "Heist." In the fiction, Pem struggles to write a sermon, finds the church's stolen fridge at a restaurant supply store in the Bowery and buys some marijuana from a dealer in Tompkins Square. He asks the dealer who is stealing the church's things but doesn't get an answer.

The priest waits in the church balcony with a stun gun to catch the thief. He dozes and then wakes to a crash. A large cross has been stolen. The police tell him that the cross has negligible resale value. In an interview with the Times, Pem says this robbery hurts less than when the diocese moved his food-for-the-homeless program to another church, causing an exodus of parishioners. The next day, Pem receives a furious phone call from the bishop, plus pledges of over nine hundred dollars of financial support from the community.

Everett turns his attention to science one again. He notes that scientists have just discovered that the neutrino has a detectable mass. Some say that Enrico Fermi figured out the neutrino had to exist, but Everett remembers that a jerk named Seligman proved the existence of a subatomic particle lacking properties in his notebook at the Bronx High School of Science in 1948. Everett ponders whether neutrinos make up dark matter and what that means for the expanding universe.

Everett's journal abruptly switches focus again. This section of City of God, titled "The Midrash Jazz Quartet Plays the Standards," takes the form of a poem. In the poem several speakers analyze the song "Me and My Shadow." They relate it to the fall of mankind, the stairway to Heaven and the notion that the staircase ends with just a door, with no Heaven beyond it.

The writer turns his thoughts to science again. Everett notes that the idea of the Big Bang is even more absurd than the idea of a Creator. He recalls that Einstein lived comfortably with the idea of God, whom he called the Old One.

The story "Heist" continues, only Everett no longer uses a heading to separate the story from other parts of his notebook. Pem stops by the elegant home of his former wife to visit his daughters, who are home for the weekend. As he walks past the dining room, where ex-wife Trish is holding a dinner party, Pem feels an old spark of attraction for her.

Everett interrupts "Heist" to provide an update on his personal life. While in bed with Moira, Everett learns that she grew up in a working-class home in Pennsylvania and worked as a temp in New York until she met her future husband, the CEO of the corporation that employed her. Moira says that her husband, a prominent businessman who left his wife of twenty years for her, is very insecure.

Now Everett returns to his story, "Heist." Pem is contacted by Rabbi Joshua Gruen from the Synagogue of Evolutionary Judaism, who requests that Pem meet him in person. Pem meets Joshua, who is a reform Rabbi, at his synagogue on the Upper West Side. Joshua introduces him to his wife, Sarah Blumenthal, who is also a rabbi, their two children and the children's Guatemalan nanny. Pem thinks how wonderful it must be for Joshua to have married a woman who also works for God and wonders what his marriage might have been like if Trish had been a priest.

Joshua takes Pem to the roof of the synagogue to see that the stolen cross has been placed there. An anonymous caller alerted Josh to the cross with a single sentence: "Your roof is burning." Joshua averts his eyes from the cross, and Pem apologizes for the fact that this has happened to the synagogue.

Pem and Joshua discover that they both read detective novels. They would like to solve the mystery of how the cross ended up on Joshua's roof. Pem tells Joshua that he thinks there are two separate crimes - the theft of the cross by the Lower East Side gang that has been bothering his church and the placement of the cross by someone else as an anti-Semitic act.

Section 1 (pages 1-33) Analysis

While reading the first section of The City of God, the reader's mind is likely to be reeling. It seems to contain unrelated passages about a variety of topics, and yet the characters and topics introduced in the first thirty-three pages will become relevant as the novel progresses. The only character introduced in the first section never to be seen again is the widow who becomes Pem's lover. Her character serves to foreshadow a future romantic involvement that Pem will have with another widow.

From the first meeting, Pem feels a sense of connection to the two rabbis. He and Joshua, for instance, share a love of mystery novels and distrust for those who adhere to orthodoxy. At first glance, Pem notices that Sarah is attractive, and he immediately wonders what it would be like to have a wife like her.

Section 2 (pages 33-66) Summary

Everett turns his relationship with "Moira" into a story. In his outline of the fiction, the beautiful trophy wife of a successful business leader takes a lover who gains control over every decision she makes. The lover decides what she and her husband will eat for dinner and where they will go on vacation. He wires the woman so that he can monitor private conversations between her and the husband. The lover then devises a grand finale that will turn his life into an art form.

Everett unexpectedly jumps into the voice of the physicist Albert Einstein. Einstein explains why he doubts the universe is as Isaac Newton described it. He cannot believe in absolute motion and absolute rest, since motion of a thing in the universe cannot be proven without relating it to something else in the universe. Einstein does not believe that anyone can move faster than the speed of light, because that would mean moving so fast that one could not be seen, and people are always visible to others. Even people traveling in rocket ships would be slow enough to see each other. In addition, a person moving faster than light would gain so much mass that the universe would bend around him.

The next section of the notebook seems to be written in Everett's own voice. Everett compares science to songs. He says that there are formulas that can determine how good a song is. The feeling of betrayal is equivalent to the cry of pain. When a song is good it expresses a truth that can apply to everyone.

Everett describes a sighting of a blue heron and a snowy-white egret on the dock. The heron and the egret stand back to back but do not acknowledge each other's existence. The egret, which seems lonely and unable to connect with the other bird, reminds Everett of himself, a bachelor.

The story "Heist" continues. Joshua calls Pem to say that no Jewish person would have stolen the crucifix, and yet an ultra-Orthodox fanatic might have placed at Joshua's synagogue to make a statement against his efforts to reform and redesign Judaism. He remarks that God's modern followers have denounced all human knowledge that came after Scripture. Pem is comforted by the fact that the church now has a security guard. He is worried about what he will say to defend his job before a panel of the bishop's examiners.

Everett suddenly jumps into the voice of Albert Einstein again. Einstein shares memories of his childhood. One memory is of getting disciplined for daydreaming in class. The teacher asks Einstein how he is to maintain his self-respect if his students do not pay attention to him. For Einstein, this question explains the root of despotism. On another day, the teacher holds up a rusty nail and says that a nail like that was driven through Christ's hands and feet, while looking accusingly at the young Jew Einstein.

Everett, once again writing in his own voice, considers New York City. In old silver gelatin prints of people who lived in New York, one feels that they are distant strangers. Before the city had mass transit, people walked on pavement, and the streets they walked on were narrative passages. Today, Everett says, the stories of New York are disassembled.

Everett meets with Tom Pemberton for a drink. He doesn't wear the collar anymore, although he has been unassigned rather than defrocked. Now he works at a cancer hospice. Pem praises Everett's writing but wants Everett to stop using his real name in the book. Everett assures him that "Tom Pemberton" is just a temporary placeholder. Pem tells Everett that he has the facts wrong. What really got him in trouble with the bishop was preaching about how Christians should respond to Holocaust. Pemberton suggested that perhaps Christians needed to experience a similar terrible suffering to assure them of the truth of their religion.

Everett makes more planning notes for the story based on his affair with Moira. Prompted by the lover, the wife convinces her CEO husband to take a job in Japan, and then she travels to Japan earlier than he does to set up house. The lover flies to Japan and selects furnishings for the new home. Then, he goes to Budapest and has plastic surgery to become a replica of the husband. When the husband shows up in Japan, he will be greeted by his new twin and thrown out of the house for trespassing. Finally, after driving the husband crazy, the lover plans to abandon the wife.

Everett sees crows on the dock and worries that they will take over. Crows, he says, are communal animals, and they will make trouble like a motorcycle gang. Then, once again the journal is being written in the voice of Albert Einstein. Einstein says that because of the Holocaust, the traditional religious concept of God can no longer be seriously maintained. Instead, he wants to know God (whom he calls "the Old One") though scientific laws.

A heading, "Sarah Blumenthal's Conversation with Her Father," sets apart the next passage in Everett's notebook. This passage takes the form of a first-person narrative. Sarah's father recounts how he was a ten-year-old runner for the Jews in the ghetto, which means he kept an eye on the Nazis and warned those in hiding if the Germans were conducting a search. The Germans killed all pregnant women, disabled people and the elderly as a rule, so those were the ones that had to be kept in safe hiding.

One night, the Nazis burn down the ghetto's hospital, including sixty-five people and twenty-three children, to stop the spread of typhus. Blumenthal recalls that his parents, both academics at a university, were forced to work as laborers. One day his parents disappear, and young Blumenthal is sent to live with Srebnitsky, an old tailor, and pretend to be his grandson. One day the tailor tells the boy that the Bible is a work of fiction. Srebnitsky laments that the Nazis have confiscated his sewing machine.

Everett interrupts the story of Mr. Blumenthal to record "Pem's Remarks to the Bishop's Examiners." In this passage, Pem argues that the intellect is a tool given by God, and therefore it should be used. He says that the Bible is filled with fictions, such as the story of Adam and Eve. Like a detective-story writer, the Bible's author wrote the story to explain suffering and death. Augustine's editing of the story to reflect the idea of original sin has become an instrument of social control.

Section 2 (pages 33-66) Analysis

Up to this point in the book, Everett has mentioned two birds - the egret, which is antisocial, and the crow, which congregates with others of his type. The egret suffers from loneliness, and the crow becomes a troublemaker when he joins the other crows. These birds represent the dual nature of human existence. We are individuals, but we must coexist with others of our species. One of the questions that different characters in City of God ask over the course of the novel is how can humans be truly individual and yet part of the society that influences them. Pem's distances himself from the hierarchy of the Anglican church in order to consider his individual religious beliefs. Another example of the conflict between individuality and the group is the struggle of the ghetto Jews to maintain their individual identities while being thought of as a single group by their oppressors.

Section 3 (pages 66-98) Summary

A woman from the Jewish council gives Blumenthal a sheet of comics from an American newspaper, and he treasures the panels because now he has characters and settings to use for stories in his head. One day he sees that Srebnitsky's sewing machine has returned, and Srebnitsky is sewing a Nazi uniform. The tailor tells the boy not to judge him for doing what he must to survive. Young Blumenthal realizes that the new name he has been given by the council, Yehoshua Mendelssohn, is a bitter one for the old tailor, because it is the name of his real grandson who was killed by a Lithuanian mob.

Everett interrupts the story of the ghetto to return to "Pem's Remarks to the Bishop's Examiners." According to Pem, the origins of religious faith have been traced back to the ancients. In ancient myths, the idea of sacrifice was important, just as it is in Christianity. The early Christians were divided into two groups - gnostic and synoptic. Synoptics believed the resurrection was a literal experience, while Gnostics accepted it as a spiritual metaphor. The Gnostics said no church was needed because people could achieve extraordinary knowledge on their own. Their opponents, who wanted an organized religion, set the path that led to bureaucratic Christianity. Pem argues that the church should be open to intellectual questions.

The next section of the book is set off by the headline "The Midrash Jazz Quartet Plays the Standards." The song "Star Dust" is analyzed in the form of a poem. According to the first interpreter, the singer obsesses over a lost love who shone for him like a star. The singer sentimentally imagines that being with his love was paradise. The second speaker says that the song is not a song but rather a dream of what a song should be, so it indicates a mind in disarray, as if a frustrated God had reset the world. A third interpretation holds that perhaps the singer is alone but still has the woman near him, only now they have nothing to say to each other. He sees slender young girls pass by and consoles himself with the thought that he once loved a lovelier woman. Still, this is no consolation.

Abruptly, Everett returns to the story of Sarah Blumenthal's father. S.S. Major Schmitz, the Nazi whose uniform Srebnitsky has mended, comes to pick it up. The boy steps outside to admire his shiny automobile and feel the warmth escaping from its engine. Srebnitsky hands Schmitz his uniform and asks for payment. Schmitz laughs as though this were a good joke. Srebnitsky feigns the need to cut a stray thread from the jacket and cuts a hole in it instead. Then, the Nazi officers beat him. After they leave, the boy runs over to help Srebnitsky, but a neighbor warns him that the Nazis will kill any known relations of the tailor, so he should flee.

Young Blumenthal runs to the Jewish council's headquarters, where he is given a garrison cap and assigned a post as runner. His first assignment is to tell everyone they must show up in the town square to watch Srebnitsky's hanging, on Nazi orders. The head of the council, a pragmatic dignified Jewish doctor named Sigmund Koenig, manages to create a sense of order and calm in the midst of unpredictable brutality. Before Srebnitsky is hung, he looks out over the crowd and smiles triumphantly. The boy realizes that the tailor has sacrificed his life but managed to keep his identity until death, unlike the patients and health workers who burned in the hospital fire. The boy wonders why Srebnitsky didn't stab Scmitz and then realizes that Srevnitsky knew others would have been punished if he had dared to kill an officer.

In Everett's notebook, he returns to writing in his own voice. Everett writes about how tumultuous yet livable planet Earth is. Then, he notes how competent the belted kingfisher is at catching prey. The next passage of the writer's notebook returns to the form of a story outline based on Everett's relationship with Moira. The unseated husband has gotten a secondhand van to live in and parks it outside the couple's estate. He pickets the house and attracts a newspaper to write a feature article on his colorful claim of identity theft. The lover invites the former husband inside and kills him. Then, he chops off the businessman's head and boils the skin to form it into a shrunken head, which he presents as a trophy to the wife. Before killing herself, the wife confesses to the police and tells them to look at the beads around her neck for evidence. Ironically, the shrunken head looks more like the lover's original face than the husband's, so the lover is brought to trial for killing himself. Now that the story has ended, Everett acknowledges that it is a bad one.

The next section is written in first-person vatic utterances, in the style of Ludwig Wittgenstein's philosophical work Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Wittgenstein presents a summary of his life and beliefs in a numbered list. He notes that he came from a wealthy musical family, chose to live as a poor person and taught elementary math to peasant children. After studying Einstein's physics, Wittgenstein wrote in his notebook that even if science could answer all possible questions, our problem is still not touched at all.

Suddenly Everett returns to his own voice. Everett meets with Pem and records their conversation. Pem says that he feels uncomfortable giving over his story to Everett. He wants to write his own book, which would be "nonfiction about fiction." Pem says that he and Joshua started thinking that the cross might not have been put on the synagogue roof by anti-Semites or Jewish ultras or mindless creeps. It may not even have been an offensive act.

Pem lists reasons why he does not wholeheartedly believe in Christianity. He says that Paul, who had a stroke on the road to Damascus, could not convince the Jews that he had found their messiah. He had an easier time converting Gentiles, after promising them that circumcision wasn't necessary. Pem notes that the Ten Commandments are modeled on ancient Mesopotamian lord-and-vassal treaties and that Greek myths, which were prominent during the dawn of Christianity, featured resurrections. In spite of all his doubts, Pem says, he still believes in sacred signs. The cross on the synagogue roof, Pem says, was a sign.

After a long break from Mr. Blumenthal's story, Everett returns to it. The Nazis have transferred more than five thousand Jews to the ghetto, tripling its population. Ten thousand others have been shot and left in mass graves. As a runner, Yehoshua lives with other boys above the council office and becomes familiar with the council personnel. Mr. Barbanel, second in command under Dr. Koenig, asks new residents to tell their stories and writes them down as part of an immense history. The Nazis have forbidden any recording of their deeds, so Barbanel has the boy clandestinely carry his writings to Greta Margolin, a nurse at the hospital, for safekeeping. By the time the war ends, both Barbanel and the nurse are dead, and their papers remain hidden.

At night Yehoshua listens with Barbanel to British broadcasts on an illicit radio. The boy notices that the numbers on the German-made dial look the same as the numbers he knows to write. He believes that the universality of the number system is a proof of God. The story of the ghetto stops abruptly, and Everett writes in his own voice about a conversation with Pem. Pem confesses that he is in love with Sarah, who is now a widow.

Section 3 (pages 66-98) Analysis

Yehoshua believes that numbers, being universal facts, are a sign that God exists. Proving the existence of facts is a central preoccupation for many characters in the novel. Einstein attempts to determine what things are facts by measuring them in ways that take into account how the measurement affects the fact. Wittgenstein aims to separate things from facts. Pem, Sarah and Joshua all seek to differentiate the facts of religion from the practices that have grown from individual opinions on faith.

Pem has invested a good deal of thought and paper to creating the story of the lover who steals his rival's identity. When the story ends, he rejects it. Why does Doctorow bother to include this story in the book at all? The fiction illustrates for the reader Everett's cynical thoughts on romance and helps explain why he has remained single and unattached.

Section 4 (pages 98-139) Summary

This section begins with a return to the story of Sarah's father. Greta realizes that Nazi spies are monitoring her actions, so she can no longer accept the pages of Barnabel's history. Yeoshua is regularly sent on dangerous missions to transport the pages out of the ghetto. With bleached hair and a new set of clothes, he crawls through a viaduct to the Lithuanian city that used to be his home. There he goes to a Catholic church and delivers the history to a priest via the confessional.

The writer's notebook switches focus again, and Everett returns to two of his favorite subjects - birds and the creation of the universe. This section begins with a firsthand account of bird watching in the Canadian Arctic, where one encounters Inuit and a gyrfalcon, a beautiful predator. It then jumps to a description of Earth's surface features and underwater life forms, noting that life exists everywhere on Earth as part of God's "Universal Plan."

A movie is being filmed on Everett's block, in Soho. He watches from his fourth-floor apartment. The scene involves a man jumping out of a cab and grabbing a woman by her shoulder. Everett turns the event into a movie plot: A man watches the scene being filmed and recognizes it as a moment from his own life, when his wife left just as he returned home. He wonders whether she has written the movie's script. In the following days, he manages to find the movie crew by showing up at places that were settings for his life with his wife, like a restaurant they liked. One day the movie crew shows up at his apartment to shoot a scene. Suddenly he is playing himself in the movie. Two detectives show up and arrest him. In the holding cell, he delivers a long monologue about how movies are taking over human life like a plague. Then someone yells, "Cut!"

In the next part of the notebook, Everett once again has the Midrash Jazz Quartet "play the standards." The song "Good Night Sweetheart" is analyzed in poem form. In the first interpretation, a man tells his wife how happy he is to have her and that he loves how she puts off his sexual advances when they are not clean and rested and sober. He wants to have a baby with her. In another interpretation, God is the sweetheart who says good night, leaving the man to have dreams in which his troubles will be illustrated and magnified. In the morning, he will find that God has abandoned him completely.

The journal again turns to Everett's private life. Everett goes with Pem on Friday nights to the Synagogue of Evolutionary Judaism (EJ). Sarah, who has quit her post with another synagogue to take over Joshua's job, leads services for about a dozen attendants. The group hopes to restructure Judaism by coming to understand the Torah and imperatives derived from it. They consider how heavily edited the Torah has been by previous readers who attempted to make sense of its contradictions. Joshua has been dead for over a year. Everett notices that Pem and Sarah seem to be growing closer. Pem says, however, that Sarah will never have him because her sons do not approve of him.

Everett switches into the voice of young Blumenthal. It is near the end of the war, and the Germans are attempting to cover up their crimes. The Nazis dig bodies out of mass graves and bury them. The smell carries into the ghetto. The survivors worry that they will be killed to cover up Nazi atrocities.

One night, the council receives a clandestine visit from Jewish partisans who have been living independently in the woods. The partisans, who are not much older than young Blumenthal, carry guns stolen from Nazis in combat. They say that they have been keeping hundreds of Jews safe by threatening farmers who refuse to supply them food or keep their presence hidden. They offer to sneak back into the ghetto and rescue its residents. Koenig and Barbanel wonder whether it will be safer for the Jews in the ghetto to stay or to try to escape. One of the partisans says, "People must choose for themselves. But if you impose your authority in this matter, you are as bad as the Nazis."

The council does give the ghetto residents, including the young runners, the option to flee. More than two hundred manage to escape with the partisans over the coming weeks. Yehoshua chooses to stay in the ghetto, because he feels close to the spirit of his parents there. Eventually, the Nazis stuff him and those who are left into boxcars.

The ghetto story is interrupted by action that is occurring fifty years later. Everett notes that Pem returns to his former home on Park Avenue to pick up some clothes and a suitcase. He notices that Trish has gained weight and realizes that he cannot remember being intimate with her. She asks Pem whether he has read her father's letter.

Suddenly, Everett again adopts the voice of Wittgenstein, the philosopher. Wittgenstein says that even if everything about the outer world could be known to man, man would still not know himself. The mind cannot consider itself because it is a product of language. On the other hand, the world cannot be known except as the experience of selves. He calls this a paradox of democratic solipsism - that is, each person is ruler of the world that depends on our mind for its existence, and yet is subject to the consciousness of others. According to Wittgenstein, the most poetic description of man's consciousness is in the term original sin.

The next section, titled "The Author's Bio," is in the form of a poem. Everett is born in the Bronx to Ruth, a gifted pianist, and her husband Ben, who courted her jealously before serving in the navy during World War I. He is the second of two boys. In between the boys, Ruth gave birth to a stillborn baby. Both parents are now in a cemetery in New Jersey, Ruth having outlived her husband by thirty-seven years to die at ninety-five.

In the war, Ben, a seaman, gets assigned as a naval observer to the U.S. army in France. When the army's signal lieutenant dies, Ben takes over, sending out runners to gather news from the field. The runners all die, and Ben runs out into the field to discover that the Americans have all retreated, leaving him alone with the enemy. Ben summons up a memory of Yiddish from his childhood on the Lower East Side and orders the Germans to move out before he "has their asses court-marshalled," which astonishingly they do.

Section 4 (pages 98-139) Analysis

The last days of World War II mean certain doom for the residents of the ghetto. Yehushua has personally witnessed the resistance fighters crawl up through a hole in a floor carrying guns confiscated from the Germans, and yet he does not put his faith in them. He chooses to remain in the ghetto even as he sees other people escaping with the help of the resistance. Perhaps he stays out of loyalty to Barnabel, who has kept him safe through his dangerous missions to transport the diary.

Section 5 (pages 139-183) Summary

Perhaps lullabies were the first songs, and perhaps they were modeled after the soothing sounds of water. Babies delight us, but they also enrage us with their screams and excrement. This paradox explains why lullabies are often soothing in sound but scary in meaning, such as "Rock a Bye Baby." Lullabies induce sleep but also enact the terror of waking.

In the next passage, which Everett titles "Things Noah Would Have To Have Two Of," the writer proposes that the Ark might have needed two pairs of dung beetles, to clean up the mess of all the other animals. He ponders the significance of the desert as the birthplace of religion and the significance of the number 40.

Everett jumps back into the story of Mr. Blumenthal and the Holocaust. While the stuffed train car carries the standing "Yehoshua" and the others out of Lithuania, he gnaws at the wood of the wall for nourishment. Along with the rhythm of the clacking wheels, he hears his parents' voices singing in his head. After a few days, a girl who has been hanging on to him from behind slumps down dead, pulling him down a few inches. Now the boy can see through a gap in the wood, and he shouts out the sights he sees to his fellow captives.

In the novel's next passage, Everett writes notes of a meeting he has with Sarah. He meets her for lunch to get her thoughts on the ghetto material he has written. He thinks that she is attractive and sexy. She tells him that she grew up in a non-observant household. Her interest in Judaism was spurred after the death of her mother, when Sarah started taking Yiddish classes because she remembered the sound of her mother speaking Yiddish.

Sarah finds some inaccuracies in Everett's account of her father's ghetto experiences, but she says he has captured the truth of the situation. She says that her father is currently suffering from dementia in a nursing home in Chicago. There are hints in the conversation between Sara and Everett that Joshua died while looking for Barbanel's diary. Sarah shows Everett a letter from Pem. Inspired by the sign of the cross that found its way to the roof of the EJ, Pem has gone to Moscow in search of the hidden text.

Everett continues to familiarize himself with the East Village for his writing. He walks past St. Timothy's and sees that the church, which was deconsecrated when Pem was removed form his post there, has been turned into a playhouse. A sign on the building advertises a production of "The Seagull."

B., a film director, floats an idea for a script to Everett. It is based on a true story. Several years earlier, he cast an unknown actress to play the lead in a movie about a sociopath who rapes and kills women in New York. In spite of great reviews, she continues to struggle as a relatively unknown actress. One night, she comes home, and a real maniac attacks her and bites off her nose. Now she has a prosthetic nose and lives in an insane asylum.

B. tells Everett that his casting is frequently prescient. Once, he hired an actor to play a heart attack victim, for instance, and soon the guy really had a heart attack. Everett refuses to work on the script, saying that he fears whoever gets cast to play the actress will also lose her nose.

Everett writes again about birds spotted on the Sound. He notes that swallows soar through the air as though it is their own universe but cannot resist the draw of gathering on a telephone pole. Then, Everett again writes from the point of view of Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein finds presenting philosophy frustrating. He numbers his ideas in an outline to make his ideas simple but still finds himself misunderstood. He feels alone and struggles with thoughts of suicide. He explains that denial is good for the soul. That is why he gave up his inheritance, gave up philosophy to teach elementary school and separated from all the young men he ever loved. That is why, obsessed as he is with language and thought, he enjoys the movies, whose strong images leave him speechless.

The Midrash Jazz Quartet makes another appearance in the writer's notebook. The song "Dancing in the Dark" is analyzed in the form of a poem. The first speaker wonders whom he is dancing with and where they are. He believes that someday he will dance with someone he loves, and then all will be illuminated. Until then, he consoles himself with the dancing partner he currently has. The next speaker says this is a song of love. He knows how a woman likes to dance, and it is a blessed darkness that he and his woman share. The third interpreter says the scene is a nightclub with a bandstand. A couple is dancing and falling in love. It is a scene from a movie set, and all the dancers are extras who are happy to get paid for being there. It is a depression-era film that beggars will spend their last dime to see.

Abruptly the poetry ends, and Everett takes notes on a meeting he has had with Pem's bishop. The bishop tells Everett that he cares deeply about Pem. His conflict, the bishop says, is largely self-inflicted. The bishop attributes it to Pem's militant 1960s spirit. He notes that Pemberton's father was also a priest, a stern guardian of the faith who charged another priest, Jim Pike, with heresy. He believes that Pem has internalized Pike's doubts on matters of faith. The bishop says that reason and faith do not need to intersect; they are parallel routes to knowing God.

Pem played hockey in prep school and became a hippy during the sixties, getting involved with protests, black voter registration and marches on Washington. Everett decides that his priest character will have entered the seminary at Yale because religion seems a source of truth and sanity in the face of civil rights denials and the Vietnam War. He will have read the Gospels as a manual for revolution. Everett will trace Pem's mid-college year in the Peace Corps and his romance with Trish vanden Meer, a suave political science major whose father serves in the Johnson administration, which the divinity student despises.

In a letter to Pem from his father-in-law, Trish's father assures Pem that he is not writing to try to bring Pem and his daughter back together. He has always wondered what they could see in each other anyway. Although the Vietnam War was decades ago, the former political advisor still receives hate mail. He seeks his son-in-law's advice, because Pem shares the protestors' opinions of the war. How should he deal with a disabled vet who pickets in front of his house every day in a wheelchair?

This next section of the notebook, "Author's Bio," takes the form of a poem. After using Yiddish to survive the war, Ben returns home, marries Ruth and starts work as an independent distributor of soundboxes (wind-up record players). He loses his store in the Great Depression. In 1943, he sits before the radio listening for news of World War II, because Everett's older brother Ronald is fighting in it. Ronald serves as a flying radioman for the Army Air Corps.

While on leave, Everett's brother has a brief affair with Miss Manderleigh, a young noble widow in the Cotswalds. The next day, he bombs factories deep inside Germany. While flying over Germany, Ronald's plane gets shot down. He manages to dodge flying debris long enough to get to France, where he parachutes into a boneyard. A French peasant finds Ronald and gives him shelter. He moves from one safe house to another for weeks until a fishing boat smuggles him across the Channel. Although Ronald is the only man from his unit to survive the flight, he is soon flying on other missions. In the present time, Ronald plays tennis, has three grown sons and remains loyal to his wife of forty-odd years and the High Holy Days.

Section 5 (pages 139-183) Analysis

The director's story and Wittgenstein's thoughts on movies emphasize a key issue in the novel. As individuals, humans are capable of all sorts of thoughts. When united as a group, we tend to think in just one way. We are like the sparrows that can fly freely through the whole sky but choose to cluster on telephone lines instead. There is perhaps no more mind-dulling group experience for humanity than watching movies, which engross us so that our minds are limited to thinking only about the onscreen action. The actors who experience for real their film misfortunes illustrate the power that film has to shape humans' reality.

Section 6 (pages 184-235) Summary

Everett records items from Sarah's father's file, which she has faxed to him. It includes a headshot of an elderly man whom three people testify to be the ghetto commandant, Schmitz. However, the man has been acquitted because he has an ID that says his name is Helmut Preissen. Across the street, Everett spots a nest of three peregrine falcon chicks. Their mother brings them a meal of city bird.

A reporter aspires to be a top-grade newspaperman but retires in defeat as a deputy editor of a lesser section in the Times. Liberated from work, the man stops grooming, acts mad and boorish, employs cheap prostitutes and does everything he can to break rules. Even so, he still aches for the assignments and servitude of his old life.

The reporter realizes that newspapers tell stories that don't really ever end. Even obituaries of men like Stalin do not mark an end to the suffering the man caused. He decides that the occupational cynicism of reporters is due to the fact that news stories never really do end with justice. The retired journalist decides that he will be the closure man, and he gathers old newspaper clips that lack conclusions. The first one is the story of a former S.S. sergeant living in Cincinnati.

Everett recounts the circumstances of Joshua Gruen's death. He was assaulted on the doorstep of a synagogue in Vilnius while searching for the historical archive smuggled by his father-in-law. In a flashback, Pem and Sarah, who have flown to Lithuania, find that he is barely alive with two broken arms, a fractured skull and broken ribs. In Joshua's hotel room, Pem finds a record of his search for the missing diary.

Suddenly, Everett jumps from his own voice to that of the philosopher. Wittgenstein explains that his work has served to distinguish things, which inertly exist, from facts, which are the propositions of things in relationship. He says that he is not interested in glory, but he finds it odd that Einstein is universally recognized while he remains an anonymous figure. He is offended by scientists' claim that light can be both wave and particle, both itself and not itself, which defies logic. Everett, once again writing as himself, believes that he is falling for Sarah. At the Friday night service, Sarah and the congregants raise questions about what it means to have a soul.

The ex-Times guy flies to Cincinnati to pursue the alleged Nazi war criminal. Unsure of how to proceed, he buys a bike at a garage sale. As he rides the bike for the first time, he mentally maps out a plan of confronting the old man with a gun. He loses control of the bike just as the suspected Nazi shuffles into the sidewalk before him, though. The two collide, and the old man is killed. The former journalist quickly flees Cincinnati.

Everett thinks about what makes a good song. A good song should be simple. It should be easily sung in the shower. That is why most popular songs resemble former popular songs. A standard is a song that seems to have always existed, even when first heard.

Pem has returned from Europe triumphant. At the synagogue where Joshua was beaten, Pem has met a woman whose son served as altar boy to the priest who hid the manuscript. The former altar boy, Josip, remembers that a Russian officer confiscated a sealed chest which the priest said contained Jewish documents. Pem has found it easy to buy the chest from the KGB. He does not feel altogether great about his work, however, because he knows that he did it to seduce Sarah, and in the process, he has bettered her dead husband.

In an office in New York's International Arrivals Building, the chest is opened in the presence of Pem, Sarah and a lawyer form the U.S. Attorney's office. It contains a tremendous amount of information, including personal histories of ghetto residents, lists of rules enforces by the Nazis, pictures of Nazi atrocities and names of the dead. All the documents are written in Yiddish. The chest has a detailed dossier on Commandant Schmitz's family background, work history and crimes against the Jews, plus a clear photo of him standing proudly before a hanged man on a scaffold. Among the photos, Sarah finds one of the council's boy runners and spots her father in the front row.

Everett records what he has learned about James Pike, the heretic bishop of California. Pike argued that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus and that the Trinity and Second Coming were unacceptable doctrines. Pem denies that Pike had an influence on him and notes that Pike was a "lightweight" who got conned by a medium after the death of his son and died while searching for Jesus in the desert without a map. Yet, when he tells Everett the story of Pike's death, Pem begins to cry and says that he loved the man.

The next passage, titled "Follow the Bouncing Ball," briefly recounts a deadly accident. Louis Slotin, a brilliant biophysicist, tests a nuclear apparatus with two hemispheres. Suddenly, the screw Slotin holds to stop the hemispheres from forming a ball slips, and the pieces unite as one sphere. Louis sees an intense blue light and hears a hissing sound. He quickly pulls apart the two halves of the ball. Afterwards, scientists wearing black armbands erect scaffolding in the desert to hold the Bouncing Ball.

The following section is written in the first person point of view, from the viewpoint of Pem. It is the story of Pem's sexual relationship with a tribal woman during his Peace Corps service. After a marriage ceremony, Pem makes love to a young woman. Months later, the tribe intervenes to save their relationship, because the girl no longer feels capable of loving him. Pem is called to a ceremony in which she removes her clothes and then takes his from him and impersonates Pem. Then, the shaman declares that she is no longer possessed, and she and Pem make love again. Now, Pem asserts, the woman really is possessed. She runs a missionary church and sends him letters every Christmas addressed to "Dearest colleague, Father Pem."

In Everett's notebook, he records thoughts about film. Movies are about action, not language. They tend to be linear and take place in certain spaces. Fiction, on the other hand, is not limited by time or by space. In the following passage, Pem sends Everett an email saying that Pike went wrong by going to the desert. "It" can be found in the city. Therefore, Pem says, he is quitting the church.

The next passage is in the form of a poem, and it is told from the first person in the voice of a disabled Vietnam War veteran. He notes that Everett's war stories are secondhand accounts from his father and brother and that Everett himself did not go to war. The vet says that he no longer has legs, a spleen or an asshole. He would like to share his stories of Vietnam, but there aren't sufficient words to express what it was like. It wasn't a real war, and he hates the people who say the war wasn't worth fighting as much as the ones who sent him there to fight it. He describes the animals that would prey on soldiers, including rats, leeches and the deadly violin spider.

The notebook is once again written from Everett's point of view. Pem explains how getting decertified as an Anglican priest works. He is afraid of returning to secular life and thinks he will stick out like a face that is suddenly not wearing eyeglasses. He wonders what to do with his vestments and religious texts. Pem decides that he will keep City of God, because Augustine is an amazing writer, even though he does say that unbaptized babies are headed for hell. Pem and Everett agree that City of God is a good title. It reminds them of taking a walk in New York to get a newspaper and a cup of coffee and then catch an afternoon flick. Everett's personal note taking ends abruptly. The next section of his notebook is titled "The Midrash Jazz Quartet Plays the Standards." "The Song Is You" is analyzed by a guest speaker.

An announcer says that the midrashim are honored tonight to welcome a legend of the business. It is a Frank Sinatra-like figure, although Doctorow never explicitly identifies him. "Sinatra" says that of course the man hears music when he sees the woman, because he is a songwriter. If he were a general he might hear war. Why can only he hear the song of her? She must wear thick glass and have a fat ass. He doesn't believe that the man is too shy to tell the woman how he feels. He doesn't believe in shyness. He wishes people he'd known were too shy to tell him how they feel about him.

"Sinatra" paints a picture of a difficult childhood, with a mother named Fanny who puts down his dream of becoming a singer in a band and a father who beats him. He gets his first look at a naked girl through a keyhole. The girl is on an examining table, about to be looked at by Fanny, who is a nurse and performs abortions.

Young "Sinatra" forms a musical group called the Fools of Song, and he drops out of high school after two years to try a career in show business. His friends and band members include Vinnie, called Slapsy, Mario, called Brick or Shithouse, and Aaron, aka Jewish. Once a week, the boys take a bus to Union City to see a strip show. Sinatra drops his friends and practices singing on the dock, looking out across the river at Manhattan. Eventually he takes a messenger job in Newark that pays enough so that he can travel to Manhattan by ferry and hear hotel bands. "Sinatra" admits that he was a callow kid, striving to build his singing career while ignoring the oppression people faced throughout the world.

Everett returns to his fiction about the reporter turned Nazi hunter. The ex-Times guy is walking taller these days, because he feels good about killing the Nazi. He tells himself that the bike crash was almost intentional, an act led by his body rather than his mind. The next unfinished story on his list is that of a former Guatemalan death squad commander who owns a restaurant in a mall in Queens.

The ex-newspaperman eats several lunches at the restaurant to survey the place. Each time the owner sits at the bar and ignores him. On his third visit, the former journalist brings a carving knife. Two government men in suits sit at his table with him, demanding to know what he is doing there and where he lives. The owner comes over and introduces himself as Guillermo, and the ex-Times guy says he is an avenging angel. The men in suits pin him to his chair, but he manages to spit at Guillermo. Guillermo instinctively jerks backward and slips, cracking his head on the concrete restaurant floor. The former newsman flees the mall, pleased with himself for another successful mission.

Section 6 (pages 184-235) Analysis

Everett says that the lowest form of writing is journalism, and his low opinion of journalists is clear from his portrayal of the ex-Times guy. The story of the Times reporter turned hunter of war criminals is an intentionally humorous one. It acts as a foil to Pem's more serious, and even potentially dangerous, efforts to find Barbanel's record of war crimes.

The story of the "bouncing ball" is a true incident that resulted in the death of Slotin, a scientist working on the Manhattan Project, by radiation poisoning. This passage is perhaps the most mysterious one in Everett's notebook because it does not directly correspond to any other passages. Doctorow may intend the joining hemispheres to symbolize the unison of the two plots in City of God, as Pem locates Blumenthal's archive.

Section 7 (pages 235-272) Summary

This section begins with several events written as personal narrative, from the writer's point of view. Everett and Pem are moving Pem's religious books to the top-floor library at Sarah's synagogue. Everett wants to stop and read each book.

Everett attends a dinner at the Waldorf in honor of a director who is receiving a lifetime achievement award. He thinks about the history of film and says that movies throughout history have served to model a form of living to which life must aspire.

On a Sunday afternoon, Everett joins Pem, Sarah and her boys in Central Park. Pem plays baseball with Sarah's sons. Everett has brought a woman he has been dating for a week, a notable journalist who casually tells harrowing stories of rape and violence that occurred while she covered foreign wars. Although Everett is not serious about this woman, she serves to show Pem and Sarah that he has a life outside of them. Everett suspects that they will soon be getting married, and Pem has urged Everett to keep his distance.

Everett returns to the subject of birds. In addition to the Earthly City and the City of God, there is the City of Birds in a Spanish garbage dump. It is a great aviary of birds who never migrate.

During the afternoon in Central Park, the boys and Everett spot a colony of ants. They notice that the ants send chemical signals to each other via touching antennae. Each ant has its own job, but they all serve the queen, even though most ants will never meet her. Everett explains to the boys that the Central Park ants are domesticated. There are more crafty and vicious ants in the wild.

Everett compares ants to people. If one watches one or two people, it is difficult to predict their next moves. However, a large mass of people, such as a crowd of people visiting the park on a warm day, is more predictable. They are there collectively to have fun. When people visit a park, the space affords them a chance to know themselves better and to reflect on their personal selfhood in the midst of collective enjoyment.

To prove this idea, Everett suggests that a person listening to a song will get caught up in its attitude, and while watching a movie, one's feelings are limited to the emotional parameters of its script. Humans are therefore subjected to a quantum weirdness. Sometimes, we are occupied by all the characteristics of the world, and sometimes we are occupied by the propositions of other minds.

Pem goes out to Roosevelt Island to visit a certain hospice patient, named McIlvaine, although it is no longer an official duty for him. McIlvaine is a retired newspaperman who is not religious but listens to Pem's Bible readings with politeness. Pem finds McIlvaine with a young nun. They are singing "hymns" together. The hymns turn out to be old popular songs. Pem joins in the singing, feeling love for God.

Pem is conducting pre-conversion studies with a rabbi from Temple Emanuel. Everett asks whether Pem is converting solely so that he can marry Sarah. Pem says that Sarah is a large part of it, but he also feels that Christianity got off on the wrong path when it promoted Jesus from prophet to deity. He says that Isaiah left Christians the opening to do that when he failed to make clear "the messianic idea as a longing, a navigational principle, redemptive not on arrival but in never quite getting there."

The EJ synagogue has attracted visitors. During one service, newcomers keep interrupting Sarah to ask questions about her brand of Judaism and whether it can include the rituals of mainstream Judaism. The regular attendees start to get annoyed, when a heavyset man stands up and cogently explains why limiting religion to the way it was practiced by the ancients amounts to reverencing the ancients rather than God. His eloquent words enable Sarah to continue the service. Later, Everett and Pem realize that the speaker was Murray Seligman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who attended the Bronx High School of Science with Pem. Everett interprets Seligman's presence at the synagogue as a sign.

In the next passage from the notebook, Everett records Sarah Blumenthal's Address to the Conference of American Studies in Religion, Washington, D.C. Sarah says that if one looks back over the events of the twentieth century, it is clear that doubt has led people to ethical behavior while the true believers have done the murdering. Sarah calls for a rethinking of God and an openness to let Him evolve along with science and morality. The American way of life calls for an "expansion of ethical obligation to be directed all three hundred and sixty degrees around, not just up one's co-religionists." The upcoming massive increase of earth's population requires that religion be transformed into a force of peace.

Sarah's speech ends, and Everett writes some personal notes in his journal. Everett makes a list of songbirds. He compares digital film production to the Big Bang. Ones and zeros are strewn out to create moving images. Everett imagines that Sarah and Pem will marry at City Hall and not invite him. In Judaism, Pem tells Everett, he finds himself feeling renewed as a Christian, only minus Christ.

By the time Everett writes the next passage, Pem and Everett have married in City Hall with Joshua's sister as the best woman. Pem attends a formal reception for them. It is hosted by Sarah's rich aunt, Myrna Fein. Myrna sees Everett sitting alone and engages him in personal conversation. She advises him to get himself a wife while he still can. She sees how he feels about Sarah and remarks that Everett shouldn't be the perennial extra man at Sarah and Pem's table.

Everett wanders the party. He talks to Pem, who informs him that Schmitz died two months earlier at his home in Yonkers. He visits the gift table and notices that Sarah and Pem have gotten flowers and gifts from friends that Everett has never met. He feels alone and starts to resent that the couple has time for friends other than him. Everett wants to leave, but Sarah pulls him out to the dance floor and whispers in his ear that he will always be their friend.

Pem makes a toast that turns into a sermon. He explains that the violent horrors of the twentieth century prevent him from continuing on the path of Christianity. He asserts that if mankind is to reinvent itself as a more peaceful body, then it must also remake its idea of God.

Some time has passed. Everett attends a show at an art gallery and thinks of the kinds of art he would like to see in Manhattan, including the projects of Christo, the music of John Cage and the work of an artist who has projected photos of Holocaust victims on the sides of buildings where they once lived. Everett says that the city needs all this. Everett marvels at the modern city, with its communal constructions formed from the disparate intentions of various generations. He wonders how much God has had to do with forming the city.

Everett outlines a movie script: The city becomes overcrowded past the point of self-containment. It cannot provide enough jobs or food for its population. Poverty and crime increase. Plague breaks out, and martial law is declared. The military mounts a coup. Television, radio and computers are banned. The government now enforces sterilization and grants parentage permission only to those who are genetically approved. At this point, the audience is introduced to the hero and heroine of the movie, a couple who run a small progressive synagogue on the Upper West Side.

Section 7 (pages 235-272) Analysis

Throughout the book, Everett has made notes about popular music in an attempt to define what makes a good song and why people are drawn to certain melodies. He claims that all good songs build on beloved songs of the past. Therefore, popular music is an evolving discipline built upon strong foundations. There is a clear parallel between music and religion, which evolves over time as certain beliefs get added to the original dictates of faith. Pem, who breaks down in tears as he sings with the hospice patient, feels close to God in that moment of song. Perhaps he realizes on some level that music is analogous to religious faith.

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