To counter the pervasive influence of religion in our mountain hometown, my father once loaned me his copy of Mark Twain’s satirical Letters from the Earth. A decade later I encountered Twain’s barbed commentary on a famous line from the Sermon on the Mount.
There are some writers—a handful, a very few—who by looking intently and penetratingly at one place reveal piercing things about all places and all people, and so paradoxically they are the very antithesis of regional writers. Among them: Faulkner on Mississippi, Walker Percy on Louisiana, Steinbeck on California—and Alice McDermott on Irish Catholic New York.
This is a slightly longer version of the tribute Trillin wrote to his wife that appeared in the New Yorker (March 27, 2006). It is a wonderfully written love story about their romance and married life of 36 years and Alice’s 25-year bout with lung cancer (which she may have gotten from secondhand smoke).
To reimagine Christian ethics, Samuel Wells draws on the liturgy as his chief resource. That he does so in accessible prose without pausing to wrangle with other ethicists is welcome enough—all pastors and many laypeople could read this book profitably.
Let’s cut to the chase here. David Duncan, who is best known for his exuberant novels The River Why and The Brothers K, is one of the finest writers of spiritually minded essays in these United States.