Novelist Kent Haruf has often drawn on his upbringing on the sparse eastern plains of Colorado. But in his latest novel, Benediction, Haruf inches closer to his roots than he ever has. One of his central characters is a minister in a small town church that’s much like the ones that Haruf grew up in as the son of a Methodist minister.
Paula Huston’s novel follows Eva, a tough young American photojournalist, as she searches for her brother Stefan, a priest who has gone missing into the Lacandon jungle, a hotspot of guerilla warfare in southern Mexico in 1993.
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.