Morte d'Urbanby J. F. Powers
The hero of J.F. Powers’s comic masterpiece is Father Urban, a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Charming, with an expansive vision of the spiritual life and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, Urban enjoys a national reputation as a speaker on the religious circuit and has big plans for
Winner of The 1963 National Book Award for Fiction.
The hero of J.F. Powers’s comic masterpiece is Father Urban, a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Charming, with an expansive vision of the spiritual life and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, Urban enjoys a national reputation as a speaker on the religious circuit and has big plans for the future. But then the provincial head of his dowdy religious order banishes him to a retreat house in the Minnesota hinterlands. Father Urban soon bounces back, carrying God’s word with undaunted enthusiasm through the golf courses, fishing lodges, and backyard barbecues of his new turf. Yet even as he triumphs his tribulations mount, and in the end his greatest success proves a setback from which he cannot recover.
First published in 1962, Morte D’Urban has been praised by writers as various as Gore Vidal, William Gass, Mary Gordon, and Philip Roth. This beautifully observed, often hilarious tale of a most unlikely Knight of Faith is among the finest achievements of an author whose singular vision assures him a permanent place in American literature.
"Superbly comic" — Nancy Pearl, Book Lust
"Each sentence tends to be an event; yet every event, like every firm but fluent sentence, is an open door into the next half—expected, half—shocking encounter….Morte D’Urbanis [J.F. Powers’s] supreme fiction." — F.W. Dupee
"…[Powers’s] priests were creatures of a vivid, sympathetic, and unerring imagination…." — Andrew Greeley, Commonweal
- New York Review Books
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Meet the Author
J. F. Powers (1917-1999) was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, and studied at Northwestern University while holding a variety of jobs in Chicago and working on his writing. He published his first stories in The Catholic Worker and, as a pacifist, spent thirteen months in prison during World War II. Powers was the author of three collections of short stories and two novels—Morte D’Urban, which won the National Book Award, andWheat That Springeth Green—all of which have been reissued by New York Review Books. He lived in Ireland and the United States and taught for many years at St John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007) was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and educated at the University of Kentucky and Columbia University. A recipient of a Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is the author of three novels, a biography of Herman Melville, and four collections of essays. She was a co-founder and advisory editor of The New York Review of Books and contributed more than one hundred reviews, articles, reflections, and letters to the magazine. NYRB Classics publishes Sleepless Nights, a novel, and Seduction and Betrayal, a study of women in literature.
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Morte D'Urban is one of the finest novels ever published in America. Thank goodness The New York Review chose to have it reissued as one of its classics in its series devoted, among other things, to literary rescue and, hopefully in Powers' case, prevalence. Powers' great novel about the Roman Catholic priest, Father Urban, finds that immensely talented soul in Rome (as now Minnesota, Chicago and other American places) and trying to do as the Romans do--even for awhile thrivingly caught up in doing so--but in the end not quite losing his soul. The Place in the novel is that of the American Catholic priest in the early to mid 20th century but the much older World is, it seems to me, America/Everywhere/All Times writ large in the endless human conflict between idealism and materialism. The writing is simply superb. I urge you to read this masterpiece. It will please you greatly. You will carry its story with you always.
A mildly amusing story of another Catholic priest. It's actually a comfort to know that these guys are a lot like us. I can keep my beer, and still be a priest. Less depressing than 'Edge of Sadness', it has a similar theme - downsizing the church by shedding the older, less productive veterans. I enjoyed the read.