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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 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 ...
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.
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.
CONTENTS ix Introduction Elizabeth Cox 1 Saved Gabriel García Márquez 13 A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings Mary Gordon 20 The Deacon Nathaniel Hawthorne 38 Young Goodman Brown Marjorie Kemper 51 God’s Goodness Hanif Kureishi 67 My Son the Fanatic John L’Heureux 77 The Comedian James A. Michener 90 Voyage Four: 1661 Yukio Mishima 99 The Priest and His Love Joyce Carol Oates 114 At the Seminary Edna O’Brien 131 Sister Imelda Katherine Anne Porter 150 The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Reynolds Price 159 Full Day Tova Reich 169 The Third Generation Rémy Rougeau 189 Cello Salman Rushdie 207 The Prophet’s Hair William Saroyan 220 Resurrection of a Life Isaac Bashevis Singer 230 A Night in the Poorhouse Khushwant Singh 241 The Mark of Vishnu Amy Tan 254 Fishers of Men Alice Walker 254 The Welcome Table Daly Walker 259 I Am the Grass Jessamyn West 277 Music on the Muscatatuck Kate Wheeler 290 Ringworm 313 Biographical Notes