The National Catholic Review

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  • February 15, 2016

    This story really begins with Will Eisner, who grew up poor and Jewish in the 1920s and in pre-War, Depression-era Brooklyn. Eisner published what’s generally considered the first graphic novel, A Contract With God , in 1978. He also coined the term “sequential art”—which helps to explain to some of us how comic books became graphic novels. Eisner taught a course on sequential art for years at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Before that, in 1940,...

  • February 15, 2016

    As cancer ravaged her father’s once-strong body, Ann Neumann did her best to at least give him a “good death.” She hoped that he could exit life at home, surrounded by family, free of pain. She became his full-time caregiver in an effort to make it so. Then his pain grew so intractable that Neumann rushed him to a hospice facility. He twisted in agony until stronger drugs took hold, and then he died.

    Neumann was left haunted...

  • February 15, 2016

    More is better in the land of Trump, even in the literary world. Our novelists garnering large advances and recognition write hefty novels chock-full of virtuosic sentences, one after the next. The result can be numbing. Glimmers of truth are obscured by pyrotechnic wordplay, making readers, at least readers like me, feel they are not smart enough to keep up.

    Not so reading Peter Stamm, the excellent Swiss novelist and short-...

  • February 8, 2016

    By reputation, Simone Weil is a writer about whom we cannot think apart from her body: the starvation that ushered in Weil’s tragic demise at age 34; her refusal to indulge in sugar as a young child during wartime privations; the horrible outfits; “her homeliness, her physical clumsiness, her migraines, her tuberculosis” (to draw from Susan Sontag’s famous litany). “By the age of fourteen,” Mona Ouzouf wrote, “she had achieved beyond her wildest dreams her...

  • February 8, 2016

    Paris lay inert, her breathing scarcely audible, her limbs relaxed, and the blood flowed remorsefully from her manifold veins. Paris was dying, like a beautiful woman in coma, not knowing or asking why.

    The voice is that of Eric Sevareid, a CBS News foreign correspondent, who has sent his wife and twin infant sons back to the United States while he and a team of reporters remain to risk their lives and make journalism...

  • February 8, 2016

    On Sept. 29, 1888, 18-year-old Mohandas K. Gandhi, traveling alone from India, disembarked in England to begin his study of law at London’s Inner Temple. The rail-thin young man had only one goal in mind: to support himself and his pregnant young wife back home. Upon completing his legal education three years later, the aspiring barrister returned home, where he struggled to set up his practice. Still so shy he could barely speak in public, he was fortunate...

  • February 1, 2016

    Two decades ago Israel stood on the verge of completing a peace process that promised to end years of fighting with its neighbors and the Palestinians. But the prospect of exchanging land for peace deeply divided Israel into two roughly equal camps pulling in opposite directions—one secular, the other religious. As Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who commanded the army that brought Gaza and the West Bank under Israel’s control in the 1967 Six Day War, had the...

  • February 1, 2016

    The “mess” in question in the title of this book is not actually the graduate school; the real mess is the market. By and large, graduate schools do what graduate schools are supposed to do: train new professors to replace old professors. Unfortunately, producing professors is woefully out of sync with the demand for Ph.D.’s in the academic market place. Positions for newly minted Ph.D.’s in four year colleges and universities have been declining since the...

  • February 1, 2016

    A friend in Philadelphia who is a lapsed Catholic tells me that when Pope Francis paid a visit to her area in September, she spent most of the weekend crying because she was so moved. And she wasn’t even at any of the events. She watched it all on television in her living room in the suburbs.

    In New York, a Muslim woman told a radio station that she had spent hours “praying to Allah” that she would catch just a glimpse of...

  • January 18-25, 2016

    An 11-year-old Dominican girl from Brooklyn spends two weeks in upstate New York, where she discovers an affinity for horses and learns that she is a natural equestrian, a skill she cultivates over the next few years under the sponsorship of a white, middle-class benefactress and over the objections of her immigrant mother. This, in one sentence, is the plot of The Mare , the new novel by Mary Gaitskill, whose reputation for tough, edgy fiction began with her...