Century Marks

Century Marks

Best of the decade

Literature professor Everett Hamner has selected the following works appearing from 2000 to 2010 as the best fiction reflecting religious themes: 1. E. L. Doctorow, City of God (2000); 2. Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2001); 3. Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and José Marzán Jr., Y: The Last Man comic series (2003–2008); 4. Joe Sacco, Palestine (2002); 5. Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (2003); 6. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004) and Home (2008); 7. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006); 8. Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2009); 9. Ralph Ellison, Three Days Before the Shooting . . . (2010); 10. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (2010). Hamner, who teaches at Western Illinois University, predicts that Robinson's books will show up in future American literature courses (Religion in American History blog, June 29).

A law against that

Three activists from the Orlando Food Not Bombs organization were arrested for feeding about 40 people in an Orlando park. An ordinance requires groups to have a permit if they are feeding more than 25 people in a park, and only two permits can be granted each year per group and park. Orlando Food Not Bombs contested the ordinance in court, but it was upheld (News-Press, June 3).

Best-read cities

Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the best-read city in the country, according to an Amazon.com list based on cities' sales data since the beginning of the year. Cambridge residents also ordered the most nonfiction books. Boulder, Colo­rado, lived up to its reputation as a health-conscious city—its residents ordered the most books in the cooking, food and wine category. Florida is the only state with three cities in the top 20, including Miami (6), Gainesville (8) and Orlando (12). The top five are Cam­bridge; Alexandria, Virginia; Berkeley, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Boulder.

Mormon mainstream?

Mor­monism is the fourth-largest denom­ination in the country; two Mor­mons are running in the Republican primary for the presidency; and the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon recently won nine Tony Awards. Yet other signs suggest that Mormonism is still outside the mainstream. A Pew poll found that a quarter of respondents say they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a Mormon. When Newsweek contacted the 15 Mormon members of the U.S. Congress, only four were willing to speak on the record about their faith (Newsweek, June 13 & 20).

Subversive prayer

When the late Abraham Joshua Heschel was asked by a journalist why he was demonstrating against the Vietnam War, Heschel said: "I am here because I cannot pray." He went on to explain: "Whenever I open the prayerbook, I see before me images of children burning from napalm." We ­shouldn't pray, he said, while we remain silent about the atrocities committed by our government in our name. "Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive" (Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings, Orbis).