fiction

Books

A dark thread runs through it

More Matter: Essays and Criticism, by John Updike

Books

Gertrude and Claudius, by John Updike

John Updike's 19th novel, plotted as a "prequel" to Shakespeare's Hamlet, is a beautifully crafted, captivating story. Updike owes much of his thematic treatment to Shakespeare and to modern Shakespeare scholarship, but it is his own fertile imagination that generates the novel's compelling narrative. This is his best book since The Witches of Eastwick.

Books

Doña Inés vs. Oblivion, by Ana Teresa Torres, translated by Gregory Rabassa

Winner of the 1998 Pegasus Prize for Literature, this novel is both a family saga and a fictionalized account of the history of Venezuela, focusing on the relentless conflict between races and classes over land ownership. A long list of historical figures march through its pages, including Simón Bolívar and a series of military dictators.

Books

Something evolving

City of God, by E.L. Doctorow

Books

Church victims

Altar Music, by Christin Lore Weber

I try to follow the old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but the blurbs on the back of this first novel by former nun Christin Lore Weber put me on guard. Mary Gordon, Karen Armstrong and Sheri Reynolds--concerned about how Christianity stifles women, especially when it comes to sexuality--offer their praise.

Books

Eternity, My Beloved, by Jean Sulivan

The Prodigal Son may have left home because home was permeated with a fainthearted love-a prudent and stunted love-that made him want to get away. So suggests Jerome Strozzi, the main character of this novel by the late Jean Sulivan. "After we pass through the valley where souls are formed, there will no longer be families, but only persons-that is to say, friends.

Books

Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee

In this novel, perhaps his masterpiece, J. M. Coetzee emerges as the most old-fashioned kind of literary genius: a person whose strong imagination is guided by firm and deeply held beliefs. Coetzee's powerful style, admired so much for its own sake, seems to grow from these beliefs.

Books

Fictional pastors

Douglas Alan Walrath's astute survey of American novels about clergy is essential reading for budding pastors—as well as for anybody who wants to understand why we American clergy are the way we are.

Books

Free for what?

Franzen has turned his considerable novelistic talents to a kind of inquisito­rial examination of the American ideal of freedom. He shows how freedom is negatively construed—focused on what we are free from and not on what freedom might be for, what worthy ends it might be used to pursue.