THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REVIEW
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
October 8, 2014Martin E. MartyHistorian George Marsden, an influential expert on Protestant fundamentalism and also on secularization in the academy, chooses in this book to critique two ways of conceiving America that he claims prevailed about three-score years ago. That was the zenith time of public Protestantism and “consensus-based” reliance on aspects of the 18th century Enlightenment. In Marsden’s image for the change, “twilight” is now here. Over against the darkness which would naturally follow dusk, he envisions a kind of wan possibility of dawn.
October 8, 2014A word of warning to book reviewers, especially for Catholic periodicals like this one: what you say about what Catholic authors are saying about our current cultural reality may someday become fodder for a critical construction of what is not being said, or more precisely, what is forbidden to be said, about the same in more theological and ecclesial circles. In other words, whether you know it or not, you’re more than simply commenting about what’s going on in Catholic books.
October 8, 2014William BoleIn July of last year, aboard a plane returning to Rome from the World Youth Day celebration in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis made clear to the world that he was pontificating in a new key. He walked back to the press compartment and stood in the aisle for 81 minutes, answering every question in a spontaneous exchange with reporters and uttering his now-emblematic “Who am I to judge?” remark about gays. Scarcely noted was another comment by this product of the Society of Jesus: “I think like a Jesuit.”
October 2, 2014Perry PetrichThere’s no place better suited for supermen than long distance cycling. Take the Tour de France, the sport’s greatest race. This year’s event covers 3,656 km over 21 days (think Detroit to Los Angeles with the Alps standing in for the Rockies and the Pyrenees for the Sierras). As one 1924 rider put it, the (then shorter) tour “is like martyrdom.
October 2, 2014Franklin FreemanI’ve heard it said: hurt people hurt. If anyone was ever hurt as a child, not physically but emotionally, it was Tennessee Williams. His mother Edwina’s denial did the hurting, denial she turned into an art form, which her son turned into art. And John Lahr, senior drama critic of The New Yorker for over 20 years, has written a beautiful biography of the artist.
October 2, 2014Jon M. SweeneyThe African novel has come of age in the early 21st century North American diaspora. Straddling homelands, histories, myths, looking for values and identity somewhere in between—those are the grand topics of the African novel.
October 2, 2014Sidney CallahanFew works deliver on the promise of their title with such success as Mary Christine Athans’s book on Mary. The scholarship is solid, the prose accessible and her personal reflections engaging. The book can also be provocative, since discussions of Mary lead to questions about the contested role of women in the church.
October 2, 2014M. Ross RomeroWhen I was in doctoral studies in philosophy, a Jesuit professor in another discipline asked me what my dissertation topic was. “Plato!” he chafed, “What could you possibly have to say about Plato that hasn’t already been said?” His remark provided me with ample motivation to finish my dissertation. From the standpoint of academic scholarship, Rebecca Goldstein doesn’t offer much that is new about Plato. Instead, in Plato at the Googleplex, she does something better: Goldstein brings Plato back to life.
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