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A Reality Novel

The Once and Future King by t. h. white penguin galaxy, 736 pages, $30 Terence Hanbury White died aboard ship in the port of Piraeus in 1964 on his way back from the United States, where he had been hoping to shore up his income with a lecture tour. His secretary found him alone in his cabin, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Deliver Us From Innocence

God preserve us from all innocence,” Querry tells Mother Agnes in Graham Greene’s 1960 novel A Burnt-Out Case. It’s a jarring assertion. Moral purity isn’t usually cast as dangerous, and people don’t ask God for protection from it. But Querry means it. He has another kind of innocence in . . . . Continue Reading »

A Gallery of American Dreams

Though only the first act of Denis Johnson’s Angels takes place in transit, the book has the feel of a road novel—specifically, an American road novel. The story is straightforward: Two people, Jamie Mays and Bill Houston, meet aboard a Greyhound. One is in flight from an unfaithful . . . . Continue Reading »

Henry James and the Heavenly Light

The Golden Bowl was Henry James’ final novel—and it remains the most morally challenging of his tales. The 1904 book tells the story of an American heiress named Maggie Verver who marries Amerigo, an Italian prince. But she is deceived about Amerigo’s past love affair with Charlotte . . . . Continue Reading »

Christ and Casserole

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 247 pp. $23. Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, published in 1981, is an extraordinary work of art, and many readers have waited impatiently for Robinson to publish a second novel. I’m among them, although I’ve waited more in dread than . . . . Continue Reading »

The (Mis)Guided Dream of Graham Greene

Graham Greene was a great novelist of a special kind. Unlike many literary practitioners in this century, he did not experiment with language, subvert traditional narrative, or choose exotic subjects. He simply used the powerful imagination that led him to speak of his work as a “guided dream.” . . . . Continue Reading »

The Several-Storied Thomas Merton

It is a timeworn literary conceit, but some writers seem to be several people. There always exists some disparity, of course, between writers and their work. Yet a kind of multiple personality disorder keeps turning up in writers—and writers with a religious bent seem particularly susceptible, . . . . Continue Reading »

Mystery and Desire

Ron Hanen’s Mariette in Ecstasy is a haunting, enigmatic novel that is almost impossible to categorize, and it represents a radical departure from Hansen’s previous work. His first two novels, Desperadoes and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert . . . . Continue Reading »

“J” in Bloom

The Book of J translated from the hebrew by david rosenberg interpreted by harold bloom grove weidenfeld, 340 pages, $21.95 The J of the title was discovered in 1711 by Henning Bernhard Witter, an obscure Lutheran pastor of Hildesheim, so obscure, in fact, that his role in the naming of this source . . . . Continue Reading »

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