A very readable guide surveying the inner faith-lives of a generation most Americans find baffling at best.Read More
Jungian analyst Michael Gellert, in his new book The Divine Mind: Exploring the Psychological History of God's Inner Journey, sifts through the Old Testament, the Talmud, the New Testament, the Koran, and the Hadith in order to trace the mental and moral growth of the central character, the God of the three Abrahamic religions. The goal of The Divine Mind is to make some sense out of the figure Richard Dawkins refers to as “the most unpleasant character in all fiction”; in these pages, Gellert is asking the same question Scriptural scholars have asked all the way back to Saint Augustine and that believers have been asking in one phrasing or another since Adam and Eve were bustled out of the Garden of Eden: “What is it with this Guy?”Read More
The thriving “Last Interview” series from Melville House features slim volumes collecting the final public comments made by a wide variety of public figures – geniuses, charlatans, comedians, artists, successful frauds, and the occasional transcendent intellectuals. Here we get reflections in winter (whether they knew it or not) from such people as David Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, Hannah Arendt, Philip K. Dick, and Kurt Vonnegut, and this month the series takes in the late Christopher Hitchens, political commentator, outspoken atheist, and author of the bestselling God is Not Great.Read More
Marilynne Robinson began her novel Housekeeping while completing a dissertation on Shakespeare as a graduate student. Initially she wrote what now form the book’s preliminary scenes as exercises in extended metaphors. Evoking her childhood home of Sandpoint, Idaho, a lake town in the panhandle of the state (in the book she renames it Fingerbone) and remotely drawing off her ancestors, Robinson simply wanted to see if she could still write something other than scholastic essays. Also, she has said, she wanted to impress her friends.Read More
At one point in James Wood’s novel The Book Against God, the spiritually tortured narrator Thomas Bunting is transported to a painful recollection of adolescence. Thomas is the son of a kind and intelligent Anglican priest. His childhood was filled with love and attention. Then one day when he was 14, he says, he walked into his school’s assembly hall and, as though stepping through some kind of portal, entered into a state of self-consciousness:Read More
John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice, was perhaps the greatest philosopher of the 20th century. As an undergraduate at Princeton in 1942, he submitted A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith: An Interpretation Based on the Concept of Community as his senior thesis. Decades later, Professor Eric Gregory of the Princeton religion department found this thesis in the Princeton Library, and now New York University Law professor Thomas Nagel has edited it into a book.Read More
As Charles Homer Haskins pointed out in his humbly durable masterpiece The Renaissance of the 12th Century, the Dark Ages weren’t dark at all. Fiercely cold most of the time (due to a bout of climate change), but not dark in the sense of shuttered. Beknighted, but not benighted.
The great scholar John Addington Symonds (whose absence from bookstore shelves bloody well qualifies him for honoring here in Absent Friends, somewhere down the line) put it very prettily when he observed that any age without Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael must necessarily seem dark. The ostentatious showboating of the Italian Renaissance is the problem in a nutshell when it comes to thinking about the innocent ages that come before.Read More