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?
By now, we are all familiar with what liberation theology and Catholic social teaching have called the Bible’s “preferential option for the poor.” But what about a biblical preferential option for the rebel?
In a new book by biblical scholar Yoram Hazony called The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture—which I learned about from Jonathan Yudelman’s review—the story of Cain and Abel receives a reading different from any I have heard.
I have lately been reading stories of the desert monastics, collected by the monk John Moschos in the seventh century. I don’t think I get it.
My pattern has been to feel slightly offended—sometimes even disgusted—by a story, and then walk away from it, wander around for awhile and finally realize that the story was probably a joke. In its own context, the main thing it elicited was probably laughter. But for me the humor is so strange, so wry, so unexpected that I don’t perceive it for hours.
My favorite book of the summer is Turn Here Sweet Corn, a memoir by organic farmer Atina Diffley. Her husband Martin started delivering vegetables from his family’s land to co-ops in Minneapolis in the early ‘70s, when co-ops were a new idea in Minnesota and few outside resources existed.
Last spring I visited the Paris exhibition Cranach in His Time, where I was introduced to a sampling of Lucas Cranach Sr.’s diverse and sometimes puzzling range of work. Cranach (1472–1553) produced more than 1,500 paintings, not to mention engravings, decorative work and altarpieces.
I began my tour with his portrait of the powerful and shrewd Frederick the Wise, who was Saxon’s ruling elector, Cranach’s patron and Luther’s protector. A little further on I studied a portrait of Luther, Cranach’s friend and partner, painted as a nonthreatening monk—an effort to persuade his critics that he was not dangerous.
Margaret Farley’s Just Love: A Framework for a Christian Sexual Ethics is at #16 on the current Amazon sales list. When is the last time a sane, scholarly, carefully argued and theologically rich book of sexual ethics ranked that high?
I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it was recent. (Four out of the top five on the Amazon list are versions of Fifty Shades of Gray. If only those readers would open up Farley!) To make matters even stranger, the book is six years old and used mostly in seminaries and at religious institutions.
The flurry of interest was provoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.