Job describes “an iron pen” with which words could be “engraved on a rock forever.” Few writers have such a pen.Even C. S. Lewis might well have been surprised that The Screwtape Letters has enjoyed such a long life.
When I was a new pastor I imagined that I was breaking new ground, doing things differently than older colleagues. Funerals, for example—folks liked it when funerals were called “celebrations of life” and involved lots of personal stories about the deceased. “Your service was so personal,” a friend of the widow might gush.
They are overhead even now, making a racket as they chant Texas, Texas, Texas. The high cold air brushes the tips of their wings. It’s not a journey to make alone, so they stay in formation, each taking a turn as leader, honking encouragement to the leader, or drafting on the uplift created by the bird ahead.
You can take people out of Detroit—in fact, that’s happening more and more—but it seems you can’t take Detroit out of artists who know what to do with large-scale tragedy. The novelist Jeffrey Eugenides professes himself “haunted” by his former city’s decline.
In 1998, when he was 22, Eboo Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core (spelled “core” because it seeks to be the heart of a larger movement), which now has a presence on 140 college campuses. When the IFYC held its first national conference, 60 people attended.
Henry Ford never did things by halves. When he built a factory, it was a temple of industry, such as the mammoth plant at River Rouge. When he wanted a stable workforce, he paid five dollars a day, a sum that in 1914 seemed to his fellow capitalists irresponsibly generous.
Russo is an old-fashioned teller of tales who can make you burst out laughing. But don’t expect literary comfort food: he delights also in making readers deliciously uncomfortable. As his late-middle-aged protagonist reconsiders family life, there’s plenty of occasion to squirm.
My favorite writer isn’t for everybody. Or maybe she is. She writes only short fiction, and her subject matter rarely strays from the farms and small towns of southwestern Ontario. She almost never tells a story in linear fashion. Often I must read a story twice to figure out what happened.
Wally Lamb has a thing for lyrics. His own prose isn’t very musical—it clunks along like a muffler about ready to fall from an old Ford—but over and over again his characters find something they need in popular songs. His first novel, She’s Come Undone, took its title from the Guess Who and went on to play a veritable jukebox.
No one knows her name. She may have been widowed, for she lived with two younger men who were not her sons. Their boyish enthusiasms might have made her laugh. It’s also pleasant to think that her daughter had inherited her features—whether she was stocky, or had a slender build and expressive eyes.