How many gadgets are de rigueur these days? I’m considering upgrading from my “dumb phone” to a smart phone, and I’m tempted to try an e-reader. At the same time, I’m troubled by the unspoken reality: we gadget people are an elite minority, a society of first-world people who have access to a network and its benefits that others don’t have. Or do we really believe that the entire world will soon be “like us,” connected into one happy progressively social network?
The other day on St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis embraced a man suffering from a disfiguring disease called neurofibromatosis, which causes tumors to grow all over the skin. The pope’s action had a stunning, parable-like clarity, evoking Gospel stories of Jesus reaching out to the sick and marginalized.
In The Sea and the Mirror, W.H. Auden audaciously wrote new poems in the voices of each character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, all set after the action of the play concludes. The result is a work both wonderfully reverent and plainly modern—you might even call it modern in its reverence.
I would have hoped that anyone presuming to put out a book called A New New Testament would borrow Auden’s approach and give us a genuine literary and theological invention.
Taras Grescoe is a straphanger: he prefers and relies on public transportation for day-to-day travel. He’s not hesitant to use a car occasionally, but he’d rather be on a train, bicycle or just on foot.
My Lenten practice has almost involved some kind of endurance. As a child I usually gave up something like chocolate or sweets. My practice evolved into committing to walk to the grocery store or buy nothing but food or, one year, give up plastic.
But regardless of what I took on or gave up, I have always intended for this to last through all of Lent. The practice ends—or finds a new form—at Holy Week, and the endurance test ends with it.
This year, Lent has an entirely different rhythm for me—because of a book by writer and Benedictine oblate Paula Huston.
A crime is committed at the round house, a sacred Ojibwe space on a North Dakota reservation. Immediately victim Geraldine Coutts and her family see their lives change; while she retreats to her room and into silence, her husband begins to second police in their investigation.
“Anyone who reads independently and spiritedly is going to carry an eclectic canon around in his head,” writes Christian Wiman. “That is half the fun of it all.”
For the past five years or so, I have had the responsibility of coming up with the novels to put on the Century’s list of Christmas picks for fiction. At first I was baffled by this job. Did I have to read every new book?