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Literature, Writers

  1. A Chesterton for the Religious Right by Gary Wills

    Garry Wills takes a look at what he terms an "extraordinarily wrong-headed" reprint series of G.K. Chesterton’s writings.

  2. A Way of Seeing: Chaim Potok and Tradition by John H. Timmerman

    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?

  3. America’s Moral Landscape in the Fiction of Richard Ford by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

    Novelist and short-story writer Richard Ford is underrated and underread. Ford’s work discloses the moral consciousness of America in the ‘80s.

  4. Among the Lilies by James M. Wall

    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.

  5. An Interview with Marilynne Robinson by Debra Bendis

    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.

  6. An Interview With Ron Hansen by Amy Johnson Frkyholm

    Creativity is based on pushing boundaries, on taking risks, and religion provides the solidity and the connection needed in doing creative work.

  7. Annie Dillard and the Fire of God by Bruce A. Ronda

    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.

  8. Annie Dillard’s Fictions to Live By by Bruce A. Ronda

    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.

  9. Annie Dillard: Pilgrim at Midstream by Peter S. Hawkins

    Dillard’s small adventures are as exemplary of freedom as Augustine’s robbing the pear tree is of sin.

  10. Apocalypse and Beyond: The Novels of J. M. Coetzee by Michael Scrogin

    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.

  11. Are There Things a Novelist Shouldn’t Joke About?: An Interview with Kurt Vonnegut by Harry James Cargas

    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.

  12. Auden’ s Moral Comedy: A Late-Winter Reading by William F. French

    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.

  13. Bellow’s Gift by Paul Elmen

    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.

  14. Beware of the Scribes by Peter B. Rodgers

    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.

  15. Brideshead Revisited: A Twitch Upon the Thread by Paul Elmen

    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."

  16. C. S. Lewis: Natural Law, the Law in Our Hearts by Kathryn Lindskoog and G. F. Ellwood

    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.

  17. C. S. Lewis’s Visionary World by Gilbert Meilaender

    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.

  18. Christian Themes in Harry Potter by Leonie Caldecott

    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.

  19. Confrontation and Escape: Mysteries of Graham Greene by Peter S. Hawkins

    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.

  20. Control as Original Sin by James M. Wall

    Dr. Wall analyzes Sue Miller's novel For Love, and finds evidence of original sin.

  21. Damned in the Paradise of Sex by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  22. Dismantling The Da Vinci Code by Mark Burrows

    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.

  23. Dorothy L. Sayers: A Christian Humanist for Today by Mary Brian Durkin

    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.

  24. Equus: Human Conflicts and the Trinity by Mitchell Hay

    ‘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.

  25. Fantasy Literature’s Evocative Power by John H. Timmerman

    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.

  26. Flannery O'Connor: Her Vision by F. Thomas Trotter

    A Roman Catholic, Flannery’s vision was of a world deeply infused with grace.

  27. Flesh Becomes Word: The Incarnational Poetry of Scott Cairns by Jeff Gundy

    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.

  28. God as Best Seller by Lois Malcolm

    Christians must challenge the idolatry of any attempt to reduce God’s power and presence to our will for self-determination.

  29. Graham Greene: The Ambiguity of Death by Janet McCann

    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.

  30. Hemingway and Faulkner: Tracing Their Resemblances by Robert Drake

    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.

  31. Hints of Redemption by Jill P. Baumgaertner

    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.

  32. Isaac Singer at Jabbok’s Ford by Paul Elmen

    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.

  33. J. B.: The Artistry of Ambiguity by J. E. Dearlove

    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."

  34. James Reston: Prophet of American Civil Religioin by Leo Sandon, Jr.

    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.

  35. John Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ Saga by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  36. John Updike’s Theological World by Robert K. Johnston

    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.

  37. Liberation from Illusion by Diogenes Allen

    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.

  38. Margaret Atwood’s Testaments: Resisting the Gilead Within by Janet Karsten Lawson

    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.

  39. Moral Ambiguities and the Crime Novels of P.D. James by Patricia A Ward

    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.

  40. Murdoch’ s Magic: The Consolations of Fiction by Roger Lundin

    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.

  41. Mystery Women by Betty Smartt Carter

    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..

  42. Notions of Purity: An Interview with Mary Gordon by Trudy Bush

    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.

  43. Passing Through Hard Facts: The Poetry of R.S. Thomas by Ephraim Radner

    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.

  44. Playing at Life: Robert Coover and His Fiction by R. Grant Nutter and Robert Johnston

    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.

  45. Psychoanalyzing C.S.Lewis by Gilbert Meilaender

    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.

  46. Pym’s Cup by Jean Caffey Lyles

    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.

  47. Rabbit Runs Down by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  48. Robert Lowell: Death of an Elfking by Paul Elmen

    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.

  49. Robert Penn Warren’s Enormous Spider Web by Robert Drake

    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.

  50. Robertson Davies: Shaking Hands with the Devil by Peter S. Hawkins

    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.

  51. Seeing with a Thousand Eyes by Lawrence Wood

    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.

  52. Solzhenitsyn: Postmodern Moralist by Robert Inchausti

    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.

  53. T. S. Eliot’s Christian Society: Still Relevant Today? by Philip Yancey

    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.

  54. The Endless Quest for the Perfect Novel by James M. Wall

    Summary: Dr. Wall analyzes Kazuo Ishiguro's 1989 novel The Remains of the Day.

  55. The God of Narnia by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  56. The Grapes of Wrath Fifty Years Later by John H. Timmerman

    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.

  57. The Marrying, Burying World of J. F. Powers by Matthew Giunti

    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.

  58. The Meaning Is in You: Flannery O’Connor in Her Letters by Jill P. Baumgaertner

    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.

  59. The Modest and Charitable Humanism of John Cheever by Ralph C. Wood

    Cheever’s restrained and compassionate kind of humanism can provide at least a distant echo of the gospel.

  60. The Other Borges: A Precursor from the Future by Enrique Sacerio-Gari

    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.

  61. The Play that Carries a Plague by Tom F. Driver

    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.

  62. The Possibility of Repentance (Mark 1:4) by Ronald Goetz

    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.

  63. The Thanatos Syndrome: Exciting, Horrifying, Disappointing by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  64. The Theater of Revelation: Art and the Grace-Fullness of Form by Judith Rock

    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.

  65. To Be Accurate and Blunt: The Activist as Writer by Harry James Cargas

    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.”

  66. Tolkien’s Crucible of Faith: The Sub-Creation by John H. Timmerman

    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.

  67. Toni Morrison and the Color of Life by Ann-Janine Morey

    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.

  68. Transforming Vision: Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston by Trudy Bush

    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.

  69. Updike’s Song of Himself by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  70. V. S. Naipaul and the Plight of the Dispossessed by William L. Sachs

    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.

  71. Walker Percy as Satirist: Christian and Humanist Still in Conflict by Ralph C. Wood

    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.

  72. Women, Men and the Engendering Word by Jill P. Baumgaertner

    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.