recently heard a panel discussion in which the conversation turned to the sorry
state of American political discourse, which too often descends into
sloganeering--assertions about "smaller government," "equal rights," "personal
responsibility" or "liberty," as if that ends the discussion.
Rash writes stories that have as much impact as any I've read; those in this
collection often left me feeling as if I'd been kicked. Rash lives in and writes
about Appalachia, and his stories never leave that home, even when they're set
at the end of the civil war ("Lincolnites").
Several years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Wertheimer of
National Public Radio about the then extraordinarily popular Left Behind
series. At one point, she asked me if I thought the Left Behind books were
funny. I paused, trying to absorb all the layers of her question, and then came
up with a brilliant answer: "No. Why? Do you?"
The world will
always be fascinated with Vincent van Gogh. It doesn't matter that his
sunflowers are on mugs, t-shirts, calendars and billboards, or that
psychologists have spent years studying every facet of van Gogh's emotional and
all the books that might be read to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, one of
the most probing is by a law professor at Yale, Paul Kahn. In Sacred
picks out two distinctive political problems of our post-9/11 world--terrorism
and torture--and argues that they are parallel.
Dramatic conversion stories are the exception, not the rule,
in the life of faith. Coming to faith usually involves a gradual adjustment of
one's vision and habits, rather than the kind of dramatic turnaround described
in those oft-sung words of "Amazing Grace": "I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see." Life is rarely so black and white.
Right now I'm
reading In the Garden of Beasts, by
master storyteller Erik Larson. It is the captivating story of William E. Dodd,
U.S. ambassador to Germany during Hitler's rise to power. Dodd's young adult
daughter Martha, a socialite who had affairs with the head of the Gestapo and a
Russian spy, steals the show. Next I plan to read Stephen Ozment's sweeping
survey A Mighty Fortress: A New History
of the German People.
A Discovery of Witches, by
Deborah Harkness. I'm a fan of the Twilight series and early Anne Rice. This
promises to be a good read in the same vein. For some reason, the title brings
to mind a murder