Ulterior Lives

From the April 2014 Print Edition

Richard Rodriguez has been an occasional companion of mine for more than thirty years, since the publication of Hunger of Memory in 1982. I feel I know him well enough, in part because so much of his writing is autobiographical; but until last September, I’d known him only on the page. Then I heard and saw him give a talk in Dayton, Ohio, shortly before this book was published, which confirmed my admiration for this writer whose work is consistently intelligent, beautiful, and deeply Catholic. Writers who manage even one of these are rare enough; those who consistently combine all three are something close to a wonder.A visual image remains with me from that talk: a handsome, animated, small, brown, not-young man (Rodriguez was born in 1944) adopting on stage the posture of the crucified one to show, with just enough self-mockery, what lies at the heart of Catholicism in general and of Catholic pain-piety in particular. He notes in Darling that you can’t mock a crucifixion because it’s already a mockery. In the talk I heard, he managed to show this, too, without saying it; and to show at the same time that no human representation of the crucifixion can altogether avoid self-mockery. Holding all that together gives some sense of the texture and temperature of how he thinks about and represents being Catholic. Continue Reading »

Impossible Pluralism

From the June/July 2013 Print Edition

Robert Bellah understands religion as an activity that takes us beyond the quotidian. The everyday world is ordered by lack, of food, shelter, sex, and so on; it is a world of demand and pressure and need. The non-quotidian world is ordered by excess; it is a world of play and sleep and is . . . . Continue Reading »

Our Stories and God’s

From the March 2012 Print Edition

The Sense of an Ending ?by Julian Barnes ?Knopf, 163 pages, $23.95 You’re not the person you take yourself to be. That’s because the person you take yourself to be is a creature of narrative, and narratives are inevitably fabulous and fabricated, which is at least to say that they are . . . . Continue Reading »

From Eire to Eternity

From the January 2010 Print Edition

A Very Brief History of Eternity by Carlos Eire Princeton, 258 pages, $24.95 Carlos Eire, A Yale professor and the author of the 2003 National Book Award winner Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy , is clearly capable of remembering and writing about the smells and tastes and . . . . Continue Reading »

The Nature of Desire

From the December 2009 Print Edition

This is the monstrosity in love, lady,” Troilus tells Cressida in Shakespeare’s play, “that the will is infinite and the execution confined, that the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit.” Human desire, in other words, is doubly infinite: We are perpetually unsatisfied when we . . . . Continue Reading »