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All Too Human

From the Aug/Sept 2008 Print Edition

Original Sin: A Cultural History by Alan Jacobs HarperOne, 304 pages, $24.95 Chesterton said of original sin that it “is the only part of Christian theology that can really be proved””by which he meant empirically demonstrated in every era, in every culture, and in every human . . . . Continue Reading »

The Saints of John Paul II

From the March 2006 Print Edition

Of the making of saints there is no end cries the modern Ecclesiastes, and with some justification. A thousand years ago—or even twenty-five years ago—the roster of canonized saints was severely circumscribed. From 1000 AD to 1978 AD, fewer than 450 men and women had been “raised to . . . . Continue Reading »

Seeking Signs and Wonders

From the November 2005 Print Edition

The Miracle Detective by Randall Sullivan Atlantic Monthly, 448 pages, $25 Few things rankle the modern mind more than religious apparitions. See a ghost, and you may raise a few eyebrows; see a celestial being, and eyes will roll, tongues clack, friends worry and strangers edge away. To believe in . . . . Continue Reading »

In Defense of Jabez

From the October 2001 Print Edition

“Read not the times, read the eternities,” said Henry David Thoreau. It isn’t often that the two realms intersect, but they have this year”and not only in the New York Times , but in news media across America”with the runaway success of Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer . . . . Continue Reading »

A Paradoxical Genius

From the June/July 1999 Print Edition

Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures.By Richard West.Carroll & Graf. 427 pp. $26. The best physical description of Daniel Defoe comes to us, fittingly, from a wanted poster: “a middle siz’d spare man, about 40 years old, of a brown complexion, and dark brown-coloured . . . . Continue Reading »

Dear James

From the August/September 1994 Print Edition

Some writers capture national headlines; others capture local hearts. This observation was brought delightfully home to me a few months ago, when I dropped a small pile of books on the checkout desk at my neighborhood public library. The librarian working the computer screen, a small, quiet woman . . . . Continue Reading »

A Peculiar Little Test

From the February 1994 Print Edition

Every two or three years, at a small, elite New England university, I offer a graduate-level course on “Nature Writing.” The students, as you might guess, exhibit a keen interest in birds, blossoms, bugs, and bears. Despite shared tastes, the composition of the class is impressively diverse, a . . . . Continue Reading »