VATICAN CITY (RNS) Several days after the Vatican's official
newspaper reported that characters Homer and Bart Simpson are Catholic,
the source of that supposed discovery has distanced himself from the
My local Starbucks—and
probably yours too—has a large sign on each door that proclaims, "Take comfort
in rituals." When I'm being cynical, I read it as a multinational company
preying on our cultural longing for meaning by suggesting we can buy happiness
with a $4 cup of coffee.
In The Kids Are All Right, a sperm donor connects with his biological children but is eventually dismissed as an "interloper" in their lives. To believe that the kids are all right, we have to agree with this judgment.
Franzen has turned his considerable novelistic talents to a kind of inquisitorial examination of the American ideal of freedom. He shows how freedom is negatively construed—focused on what we are free from and not on what freedom might be for, what worthy ends it might be used to pursue.
So Jesus’ wealthy friends did prove useful in the end. All four narratives seem to agree on this. Joseph, after all—the one from Arimathea, not his Dad— Joseph pulled strings with Pilate. Did he have to call in a few favors earned in questionable ways so he could claim possession of the corpse? Old Nicodemus too, Jesus’ night-shift friend from the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus makes his own fleeting reprise, carting along a ton—almost—of fragrant spices, nard and myrrh (again!), for preservation purposes. Although where he got such pricey stuff, late on a holiday Friday afternoon, is never quite explained. And that convenient, fresh-hewn, garden tomb; even back in the day, sepulchres such as those did not come ten-a-penny! Add in all the hired help they must have needed to get stuff from here to there and, of course, to roll and seal that massive rock . . . Whole thing makes you wonder—doesn’t it?— wonder if that narrow needle’s eye got prized wide open— camel-size, at least—to accommodate these late allies.
When Toni Morrison taught creative writing at Princeton University, all her students had been told in previous classes to write about what they knew. She said to forget that advice because first, they didn’t know anything yet, and two, she didn’t want to read about their experiences. She told them to imagine people outside their own experience, such as a Mexican waitress in Rio Grande who could barely speak English. It was amazing what these students came up with, Morrison said, when they were given license to imagine something outside their realm of experience (American Theatre, March 10).