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Faith: Stories: Short Fiction on the Varieties and Vagaries of Faith
     

Faith: Stories: Short Fiction on the Varieties and Vagaries of Faith

by C. Michael Curtis
 

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Expanding the conversation begun in God: Stories, this important gathering of writers explores the diverse world of faith in all its guises: Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker, and Confucian beliefs, as well as Jewish and Christian ones. From James A. Michener to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from Amy Tan to Hanif Kureishi, Faith: Stories investigates the

Overview


Expanding the conversation begun in God: Stories, this important gathering of writers explores the diverse world of faith in all its guises: Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker, and Confucian beliefs, as well as Jewish and Christian ones. From James A. Michener to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from Amy Tan to Hanif Kureishi, Faith: Stories investigates the boundaries of faith and ritual in everyday life. In one story, a one-eyed Chinese child learns that all heavens are not the same. In another, a wealthy moneylender finds a relic of the Prophet Muhammad and decides to keep it instead of returning it to its shrine. In a third, a father whose son begins to blindly preach the Koran becomes engaged in a fanaticism of his own.
With subtlety and surprise, wit and candor, these stories explore issues of faith such as sacrifice, superstition, myth, and disbelief. Together they form an illuminating prism of the religious experience in today's world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"These beautifully written stories provide a useful platform for reflection and discussion of what it means to have faith." Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
In this collection of short stories about faith, Curtis, the fiction editor of the Atlantic Monthly, plunges the reader into a sometimes baffling, often disconcerting world of belief. Unlike the sister volume, God, whose stories were rooted in Protestant, Catholic and Jewish traditions, this sequel includes entries that reflect Buddhist, Muslim, Confucian and Hindu views. The stories are often beautifully descriptive, like R my Rougeau's gorgeously rich "Cello," about a provocative encounter between Cistercian and Buddhist monks. Salman Rushdie writes of the perils of faith commitment in "The Prophet's Hair," and Tova Reich looks at the reverberations in a Jewish family when the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors decides to become a Catholic nun in "The Third Generation." In the poignant "God's Goodness," Marjorie Kemper unfolds the story of Ling Tan, who finds her Christian faith put to the test when she nurses a teenage boy with a terminal illness. Other contributors include Reynolds Price, Alice Walker, Amy Tan, James Michener and Jessamyn West. Although most of the writers are contemporary, there are a few historical authors (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Katherine Anne Porter). The offerings are varied and diverse; believers are portrayed very realistically, even unsympathetically, and the power of religion to provide hope and meaning often takes a back seat to the darker side of belief. These beautifully written stories provide a useful platform for reflection and discussion of what it means to have faith. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twenty-four stories touching on faith, God, and religion. Atlantic Monthly editor Curtis (God, 1998) has compiled a pretty broad collection, ranging chronologically from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Kate Wheeler, but it's heavily weighted toward work of the late-20th century, and, even in its foreign selections, stays well within the American syllabus. Thus, we find contemporary American Christians (Mary Gordon and Alice Walker) standing alongside European Muslims (Hanif Kureishi and Salman Rushdie) and assorted Asians (Amy Tan and Yukio Mishima) with whom we are already on good terms. The most familiar selections are also the best: Katherine Anne Porter's "Jilting of Granny Weatherall," for example, describes a pious midwestern farm wife who faith is revealed on her deathbed to have been not much more than a bluff in the face of despair, while Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is an equally depressing account of a young Puritan's discovery of the pervasiveness of evil in an apparently pure world. Mary Gordon ("The Deacon") offers her usual portrait of dreary Catholics who use religion to compensate for the passion missing in their lives, while John L'Heureux ("The Comedian") creates a strange and witty account of a pregnant woman whose unborn child sings to her. Kureishi's splendid tale of Islamic fundamentalism ("My Son the Fanatic") is thought-provoking and timely, but Salman Rushdie ("The Prophet's Hair") and Gabriel Garc'a Márquez ("A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings") both trip up on the tangle of their own rhetoric. The younger authors tend to focus on experiences of alien traditions, and some of these (such as Wheeler's account in "Ringworm" of a California girl who become a Buddhistnun) work better than other (such as Rémy Rougeau's trite story of Catholic monks who study eastern mysticism in "Cello"). A mixed bag: Curtis hits all the representative groups, but his particular selections or omissions-where, for example are Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, and Peter De Vries?-are an invitation to debate.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618378241
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
11/15/2003
Pages:
338
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

Read an Excerpt


Introduction

This book began to take shape almost immediately after the publication of God: Stories, its partner-in-reflection. Several stories in the present volume could not be included in the earlier book, both because I ran out of room and because they seemed, somehow, not to fit. Once God: Stories was published, and reviewers began to tell me what I had failed to consider in putting it together, I began to realize that I had missed a number of mind- broadening possibilities. In choosing stories rooted in Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish traditions, I had unwittingly excluded more than half of the world’s believers.
Faith: Stories, at least in part, is an attempt to close this gap. And while such an attempt to be inclusive necessarily exposes the limitations of the exercise, this book attempts an encounter with spiritual traditions unremarked in its predecessor. I’ve included two stories—sections of novels, as it happens—that touch on matters fundamental to Quaker traditions and lore; other stories concern Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, and Confucian values and ideas. While none of these stories intend or accomplish a full appreciation of the traditions from which they arise, they do underline instructive truths about the strength and transformative power of diverse faith experiences.
Faith, of course, occurs in many forms, and with various consequences. We tell ourselves we need to believe in something beyond our own basic wish for survival and comfort, and readers should not be surprised to find here a scattering of stories about the stare-down between rationalism and steadfast faith in sacred agency. Hanif Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic” and Salman Rushdie’s “The Prophet’s Hair” are examples. The same might be said of Khushwant Singh’s “The Mark of Vishnu” or Marjorie Kemper’s remarkable “God’s Goodness.” In some stories faith is disorienting, even crippling, while in others it provides a gentle and unexpected respite from the hard realities of lives taken over by pain and disappointment.
God: Stories was intended, among other things, as a resource for reading and assessment by church groups like the one at the West Concord Union Church, in Concord, Massachusetts, where many of its stories were discussed well before they reappeared in book form. Faith: Stories will, I hope, extend that exercise, and its broader range ought to invite a conversation about ways in which faith commitments both divide and strengthen us.

C. Michael Curtis

Copyright © 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Introduction copyright © 2003 by C. Michael Curtis. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Meet the Author


C. Micheal Curtis, senior editor of The Atlantic Monthly, has edited three anthologies: American Stories: Fiction from The Atlantic Monthly, Contempory New England Short Stories, and Contemporary California Short Stories. He lives in Massachusetts.

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