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Garry Wills takes a look at what he terms an "extraordinarily wrong-headed" reprint series of G.K. Chesterton’s writings.
By freely engaging life, tradition grows stronger, gaining muscle through hard experience. Not rejecting ones own tradition, but being rejected by it is the greater pain. Where does the seeker go then? If tradition is sometimes a bed of misunderstanding and hatred, and the world a maze of ready but insufficient answers, is he or she left to walk a precarious tightrope buffeted by forces beyond his or her control?
Novelist and short-story writer Richard Ford is underrated and underread. Ford’s work discloses the moral consciousness of America in the ‘80s.
In his masterpiece In the Beauty of the Lilies, John Updike attempts ‘to make God a character,’ although in ways that illuminate the spiritual emptiness in American life.
Novelist Marilynne Robinson expresses her insights into the role of pastors, contemporary and traditional worship, contributions of mainline churches, the abolitionist movement, the challenges of writing fiction and nonfiction, work and play and the joy of writing.
Creativity is based on pushing boundaries, on taking risks, and religion provides the solidity and the connection needed in doing creative work.
In her interfusion of suffering throughout Dillard’s contemplative writing, we find a paradigm of the mystic life in our time. Annie Dillard’s work proposes that suffering is a chief characteristic of the contemporary mystic way. Her connection between knowing deeply and suffering deeply makes her a mystic for our time.
Annie Dillard takes us on a remarkable journey, out from naďve unreflection into nature, suffering and despair, into an adventure with subjectivity and out the other end into commitment to others and the Other.
Dillard’s small adventures are as exemplary of freedom as Augustine’s robbing the pear tree is of sin.
All who write for publication in South Africa, both black and white, run the risk of being censored, banned, exiled or worse. Although Coetzee’s criticism of apartheid has been strong, he has escaped the usual censoring.
There is a difference between the comic and the humorist. Humor is an almost physiological response to fears. The comic is content with surface laughter while the humorist’s laughter is found at a deeper level.
Auden’s humor is designed to remind us that our attitude to our own limitations may govern how we respond to the harsh times of tragic choices.
Despite his disarming drollery, Saul Bellow has also accepted the role of agonist. His is a "subtle analysis of contemporary culture." As a novelist he remains something of a sociologist, though, to be sure, without graphs and statistics. Bellow has agreed that a novelist is inevitably a moralist.
A review of Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. The book reviewed gives a thorough introduction to New Testament textual analysis. It challenges the reviewer to do research in biblical criticism.
Evelyn Waugh thought of his novel not as entertainment but as a camouflaged sermon, a case study of mercy being rejected and then accepted in the end. The real point was "to trace the divine purpose in a pagan world."
According to C. S. Lewis, we learn more about God from Natural Law than from the universe in general, just as we discover more about people by listening to their conversations than by looking at the houses they build. Natural Law shows that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty and truthfulness.
Lewis’ God asks not for a part of our life, but for the whole of it. Dr. Meilaender reviews four books about C.S.Lewis’ insights.
Rowling never loses sight of the eventual goal, which is ultimately Christocentric if not overtly Christian. She would argue the theme of the Potter books is more about character than magic.
Book review of a biography of Graham Greene. The book tells us something about the man who has given us one notion of what it may mean to be a citizen fighting for a city that is no longer home.
Dr. Wall analyzes Sue Miller's novel For Love, and finds evidence of original sin.
Walker Percy's Lancelot seems at once pretentious and unfocused -- characters too cursorily sketched to sustain interest, the clanking machinery of the plot irritatingly audible, and the narration shifting unsatisfactorily from lucid monologue to leaden description.
Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, is a conspiracy tract set in a fictional frame. It is based on manifestly bad history and driven by ideological passions. His religion of the grail requires no discipline of thought, no virtue in act and little in the category of spiritual commitment.
Despite her recent reputation as a Christian humanist, certain Christian themes recur in all of Sayers’s writings -- detective novels, dramas, poems, essays and scholarly studies. She viewed all life in terms of the incarnation.
‘Equus’ prompts us to look again at the mystery of Christian faith through the analogy of parental, filial and professional conflicts. The play compels audiences to ask the ultimate meaning of life.
Fantasy literature as a genre has the capacity to move a reader powerfully. And the motions and emotions involved are not simply visceral as is the case with much modern literature -- but spiritual. It affects one’s beliefs, one’s way of viewing life, one’s hopes and dreams and faith.
A Roman Catholic, Flannery’s vision was of a world deeply infused with grace.
One of the better-known poets who accepts the label "Christian writer," Scott Cairns is probably best known for a single erotic poem, "Interval with Erato," and the controversy that erupted when the administration of Seattle Pacific University became aware of the poem and withdrew a job offer as a result.
Christians must challenge the idolatry of any attempt to reduce God’s power and presence to our will for self-determination.
There is a death-centeredness in much of Greene’s work. In his novels, human love is a destructive and also a redeeming force which clouds all moral issues and makes the world an even more dangerous place.
Hemingway and Faulkner, who were contemporaries, shared some of the same concerns, wrote on some of the same situations, became obsessed by some of the same themes -- yet they seem about as different as two writers can be from the standpoint of style and geography.
Dr. Baumgaertner defends good poetry in his review of two books on the subject -- The imagination and its image-making, word-creating, storytelling functions now and then afford us life-giving glimpses of the transcendent.
To a marked degree, Singer possesses the Hasidic sense of the excitement hidden in the commonplace, the theology which recognizes a cosmic act in the proffer of a glass of water. It is a tribute to Singer’s broad appeal that he makes all his readers feel as though they were living on Krochmalna Street in the Warsaw ghetto.
From a limited, bitter satire, Archibald MacLeish’s verse drama grew into a larger, poetic statement about the human condition. Job asks "Why?" He gets no reasoned answers but rather and act of faith. MacLeish’s modern story seeks not rationally comprehensible solutions but rather an artistic evocation of this "leap of faith."
The writings of one of the nations most prominent journalists, James Reston, demonstrate that he has been a consistent and influential spokesman for civil religion. His is a prophetic voice whose Calvinist heritage has shaped his attitudes toward the behavior of people in power.
The product of Updike’s natural religion is his conviction that God is discovered, if at all, in the irresolvable dialectic of human existence. John Updike is our finest literary celebrant both of human ambiguity and human acceptance.
John Updike might seem just another writer clever in his use of words and in his ability to capitalize on sex, but he has faced today’s spiritual malaise by exploring what is close at hand -- family, tradition, loves -- in the hope of uncovering spiritual truth.
Reviewing a recent biography of Simone Weil, Professor Allen reflects on the power of her life and thought and her curiously marginal status among theologians.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is a futuristic novel about the wretched future which has much to say about the present. Although it is harrowing in its vision, it is not without an element of hope. She is neither a rescuer of biblical religion from its feminist critics nor only a "post-biblical feminist" who must reject the Bible wholesale as a gynocidal text. For her, women cannot live toward the future without having roots, nor is it safe for them to forget where they have been.
The modern detective story has moved away from the earlier crudities and simplicities. Crime writers are as concerned as are other novelists with psychological truth and the moral ambiguities of human action. Theological and moral concerns have become apparent in Patricia James’s more recent fiction. The realities of evil and death are inescapable for her characters. How we live our lives is a sign of how we handle death, that unavoidable remind of our human condition.
Book review of Iris Murdoch's The Book and the Brotherhood, which seeks to salvage the aesthetic riches of the Christian tradition and to do so through the glorious ambiguities of art. Only art, with its spell of magic, can conjure up a world to shelter the good we desperately seek to hold on to.
Review of several mystery novels. Beneath the surface of every one lies a powerful, sustaining faith: that perfect justice is not only possible but inevitable. Truth and righteousness ultimately will prevail..
In this interview, Trudy Bush brings out the views of Mary Cordon about women’s choices and about moral and spiritual struggles in the context of strong family connections.
The poetry of Ronald Stuart Thomas, though deeply religious, can also be disturbing in its starkness. Where Christ has specificity it is at the end of along process of encountering the hard and unnuanced substance of the world’s surrounding.
Coover suggests that we live in an essentially random universe and that whatever order may be derived says, more about the creative and imaginative faculties of men and women than about the world itself. In his latest book, Coover debunks America’s patriotic fervor and its quasi-religious sense of destiny.
One of the most striking qualities in all of C.S. Lewis’s writing is that he makes his readers want to read what he has read. Moreover, with respect not only to literary criticism but to all his writing -- Lewis’s conversion to Christianity released in him a literary flow which only ceased with death.
The author details Barbara Pym’s work as a gentle satire of the quirks and concerns of Anglican life. Readers who have spent their share of time hanging around churches -- even non-Anglican, American ones -- will find something familiar in Pym’s truthful fictions.
Rabbit Angstrom is one of us: the average sensual man, the American Adam, the carnally minded creature whom our moralistic religion and politics cannot encompass.
Robert Lowell saw that pain can be managed when it finds a perfect expression. Having faith smaller than any mustard seed, he saw no chance of moving mountains except by courage and incantation.
In a tribute to Robert Penn Warren, the author traces some of the recurring motifs in the work of the late poet, novelist, critic and teacher.
Perhaps Robertson Davies is a writer of Christian apocrypha, restrained by the canon of Christian thought, not a heretic, but a self-proclaimed moralist who holds that while we reap what we sow, it is often difficult to know the nature of the seed or the outcome of the harvest.
In reading great literature, as in worship, the participant-reader becomes a thousand men and yet remains himself while transcending himself, and never more himself than when he does.
Solzhenitsyn seeks to recover human integrity by attending to the particulars of history as part of a larger, if hidden, spiritual drama. It is as a moralist that he may have most influenced the thought of our time, for he has invented an aesthetic that recoups the traditional Christian verities on the other side of literary modernism.
Modernist in poetic style, traditionalist in almost every other respect, T.S. Eliot espoused the concept of a hierarchical, unified Christian society. He believed that unless England and America recovered a form of Christian society, they would fall into the paganism that had overtaken Germany and Russia. He believed that liberalism was a corrosive force, for it provided people with no positive values. A liberal society is a negative society, for it does not work toward any end, it merely creates a vacuum.
Summary: Dr. Wall analyzes Kazuo Ishiguro's 1989 novel The Remains of the Day.
If the Disney version of the Narnia stories features radical conversions of hearts and wills – rather than easy victories of good over evil -- then we shall have cause to be thankful.
John Steinbeck’s classic novel, while important as a social document that vivifies the despair of the early 1930s, is also significant for its spiritual affirmations.
For author J. F. Powers, the enemy is boredom, careerism or despair. The real challenge is keeping the faith while battling life’s endless monotonies.
The novelist Flannery O’Connor’s Catholic faith nourished her art is amply evidenced in her letters as well as in her fiction. Because she accepted sacrament as truth, she found it easy to view the natural thins of this world as vehicles for God’s grace.
Cheever’s restrained and compassionate kind of humanism can provide at least a distant echo of the gospel.
A discussion of some of the lesser known aspects of the famed blind Argentinian writer, the late Jorge Luis Borges. He was a master of the fantastic tale, a critical theorist ahead of his time, who discarded old genres in order to create his own, which challenge and enrich our literary traditions. Borges’s intertextuality is baffling to some, but a treat to hedonic readers and lovers of literariness.
Mr. Driver was disturbed by signs of commercialism in the village, by the cardboard figure interpetations on the huge stage, and the evidences of anti-Semitism in the production.
In an unexpected way, Jesus was the warrior Messiah of first century Israel’s hope, for he vanquished the elemental spirits of the universe; he conquered sin and death. By setting us free, he cast our repentance in a wholly new light.
It is not a restored religious humanism that will make Christian faith a vital answer to the thanatos syndrome. Perhaps Percy should consider writing a novel in which, instead of having apes teach humans how to communicate, Jews teach Christians how not to be ashamed of their scandalous specificity of God’s redemptive people.
For the artist, the physical world may not be the only reality, but it is the theater of revelation, just as it is in the story of Christ’s incarnation.
An Interview with Philip Berrigan: “I’m trying to, number one, clarify for folks what resistance is and the necessity for that as just a means to living a sane life; and number two, I’m trying to share with them the various directions that resistance might take in their lives.”
By simplicity of diction, appropriate naming, skill in evoking mood and emphasis upon concerns which affect every human being, Tolkien has created an accessible world that both invites and directs us.
The author looks at the writings of Toni Morrison. Color, once part of the language of oppression, is being transformed into the language of life itself. To reclaim color, all color, is part of reclaiming the inseparability of body and spirit and the historic witness of the enduring community.
The contributions made to black women’s literary tradition by the pioneering folklorist/storyteller Zora Neale Hurston and contemporary novelist Alice Walker are assessed. The great achievement of both writers has been to open the larger literary tradition to black women’s voices and to transforming the spiritual power of their vision.
Ralph C. Wood regards John Updike as a writer to be "reckoned with theologically" though he finds in the novelist’s recent memoirs -- and in his work as a whole -- more "justification by sin" then justification by faith.
Naipaul's writing highlights the experiences of non-Western peoples who have been uprooted by historical currents. He presents a consistent image of social reality in the non-Western world where dispossessed people search for order in their lives.
Walker Percy’s satire is premised on the conviction -- fictionally adumbrated rather than overtly stated -- that the God who sits in his heavens and laughs t our folly is first and finally the God of grace who, in Jesus Christ, humorously accepts and thus transforms our sin into the occasion for his mercy.
Jill Baumgaertner reviews an assortment of biography, poetry and fiction, including works by Octvio Paz, Alan Trueblood, Louise DeSalvo, Jeanne Murray Walker, Malcolm Glass and Hugh Cook.