Morte d'Urban

Morte d'Urban

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590176603
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 11/21/2012
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 696,315
File size: 391 KB

About 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 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Smiley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful "lost" classic, This comic novel of priests and other people in rural Minnesota won the National Book Award in 1963. A delight!
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Father Urban is a priest in the fictitious Order of St. Clement. Based in 1950s Chicago, Fr Urban travels extensively, preaching at missions on the religious circuit throughout the mid-western United States. He lives somewhat of a high life for a priest, traveling by first class rail and dining in fine restaurants. He considers himself above the petty squabbles and politics of the Order, but one day he is transferred to a remote outpost in Duesterhaus, Minnesota (in fact, when I located Duesterhaus on Yahoo Maps, it literally placed me in the middle of nowhere).Fr Urban arrives by train and, finding no taxi available, walks over a mile from the station to St Clement's Hill. Ostensibly a retreat center, the rector (Father Wilfrid) and a lay assistant (Brother Harold) spend most of their time refurbishing the facilities, always at the lowest possible cost. Their only transportation is a run-down pickup truck. Signs are hand-painted by Brother Harold. Winters are bitter cold; most of the rooms are left unheated. The Hill is largely ignored by the Order -- out of sight, out of mind.During the week the men work on the property, and on weekends they have pastoral duties in churches nearby. Fr Urban begins making contacts in the community, building relationships that can benefit St. Clement's Hill and the Order. Fr Urban settles in reluctantly, but over time the place begins to grow on him. When he is called to fill in for a pastor who is taking extended leave, he throws himself into the work: church attendance goes up, he mentors a curate, and cultivates support for a building campaign. Fr Urban's Midas touch served him well on the circuit, and begins to pay dividends for The Hill as well.Throughout his time at St. Clement's, Fr Urban remains in contact with Billy Cosgrove, a wealthy benefactor in Chicago. Billy gives freely to The Hill, beginning with a television set at Christmas. Later his gifts become more substantial, and while Urban appreciates Billy's generosity, he also begins to see another side of his friend's character. Billy makes his generosity very public, expecting recognition and instant service. Urban is just as flamboyant as Billy in his own way, but performs innumerable acts of kindness towards others, almost always behind the scenes.This book is filled with dry wit, as J.F. Powers pokes fun at the Catholic Church, the priesthood, and small-town life. The emotional side of the story -- told through Urban's relationships with fellow clergy, Billy, and various townspeople -- sneaks up on you. When I began this novel, Father Urban struck me as something of a blowhard, but by the end of the novel he was a "real" person worthy of admiration.
jamguest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great tale of a priest in Minnesota. Surprised he really only wrote one major novel. Seems to possess a great narrative technique for setting and character. There¿s little plot, but I¿m a believer that a story is plot enough. And this a good story. Filled with interesting theological quips too.
puzzleman More than 1 year ago
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.