Communion: Contemporary Writers Reveal the Bible in Their Livesby David Rosenberg
Bestselling author David Rosenberg (The Book of J, written with Harold Bloom) has used his penetrating insight and ecumenical scholarship to bring together a spirited congregation of our most interesting, provocative and beloved literary writers to explore the Christian biblethe Old and New Testamentsin their lives. In a dazzling collection of original essays that are by turns illuminating, reflective, deeply personal and always revealing, writers as diverse as Joyce Carol Oates and Kathleen Norris, David Bradley and Michael Dorris, search out the literary traditions and spiritual meanings of specific books of the Bible-from Genesis to Ecclesiastes, from the Gospel According to Saint Matthew to the Gospel According to John-and examine how they conflict with, challenge, contradict or elucidate their work, their inner lives and the world around them. Entitled Communion, the collection embraces writers from a wide variety of (primarily) Christian backgrounds; some remain deeply religious, while others have fallen away from the traditions and spirit of organized religion. But for each, the Bible has had a lasting and often pivotal influence on their writing and their thought.
A bold and imaginative examination of the Bible in contemporary life, Communion is nothing less than a literary and intellectual feast."
Poet and translator Rosenberg (Testimony, 1989; The Book of J, edited by Harold Bloom) has once again assembled a compendium of writers' essays on a single topic, in this case personal reflections on the Bible, often going back to childhood. Most of the writers are from Christian backgrounds, though most now approach the tradition with a healthy skepticism, and a few, like Catherine Texier, with "a fresh rage." The most intriguing contributions demonstrate how some writers have felt compelled to employ biblical models in their adult writing. Valerie Sayers, for instance, observing the matriarch Rebecca's bitterness and conniving strength, casts her in a contemporary novel. Several other creative essays trace common narrative threads through two seemingly disparate biblical books; Kathleen Norris uses both Jeremiah and Revelation to demonstrate how the poetry of apocalyptic literature is lost when the Bible is no longer read aloud. And slightly off the beaten track, Terry Tempest Williams discusses her reconciliation with her Utah childhood and the Book of Mormon in a convincing rite-of-passage essay. But all too many of the pieces fail to illuminate the biblical text: John Barth makes a confusing foray into the physics of creation; Elizabeth Hardwick's essay on the life of Jesus is afflicted with the very banality she fears will taint any attempt to write one's thoughts on the much-interpreted Bible. Readers are also advised to skip Rosenberg's pompous introduction, whose basic premise is that the Bible has been monopolized for too long by tweedy academics and needs at last to be understood on a personal level. The book's contrived division into three untitled parts leaves the reader wondering about Rosenberg's careless organization.
With this anthology topping out at 560 pages, Rosenberg could have been more discriminating in his selections and their presentation.
- The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
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- 6.55(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.82(d)
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