The New American Book of James

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Virginia Tech


The New American Book of James, told through the comic first-person perspective of Dickie James, explores a world where the mythic elements of Christianity become hyperbolically realized as an extension of Dickie’s tormented psyche. As he grows larger, hungrier, and more desperate, his sins never fail to evoke Old Testament retribution while he both seeks and dreads New Covenant redemption. His downward spiral coincides with his father’s, Pastor Daniel James, who’s certain he knows how all stories end.

Set in the swampy Tidewater region of Virginia, the book opens when Dickie, at the age of eight, experiences a vivid night terror and claims it was a demon. His father clumsily attempts an exorcism, traumatizing his son and robbing him of sleep. Daniel, believing he’s cast out a demon, grows increasingly fanatical, and as Dickie ages his doubts not just about Christianity but also his father deepen, even as he convinces himself that he is the cause of the plague-like disasters wreaking havoc on his town.

The New American Book of James encompasses seven years and features characters haunted by demons: Dickie’s ferocious best friend, Rodney; Dickie’s mother, Maggie, whose religious attachment to her kitchen counterbalances the faith of her husband; and middle-aged seductress Ms. Miller, drawn to Dickie’s mannish size and guileless nature. Dickie wrestles with the analogous influences of faith and despair, spirit and flesh, and explores how, in a world where sin and righteousness are many shades of gray, reality itself is (re)constructed through orthodoxy, belief, and fear.