The National Catholic Review

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  • July 4-11, 2016

    I sometimes think that the most meaningful difference between Catholic novelists today and half a century ago (when Greene, Percy and O’Connor ruled the literary roost) is, well, very little. Those writers were not interested in being labeled with their religious tradition (except for Flannery O’Connor, who even called herself a “thoroughly Christianized novelist” in a late essay); neither are Alice McDermott and Christopher Beha today....

  • July 4-11, 2016

    Ever since President Bill Clinton implemented his plan to “end welfare as we know it” in the 1990s, low-income households have found it increasingly difficult to pay their rent. Welfare payments have barely budged in the last 25 years, while housing costs have soared. As successive administrations have adopted “tough on crime” laws and skimped on cash payments to the poor, incarceration has come to define the lives of black men, and eviction has shaped the...

  • July 4-11, 2016

    A few years back, I was returning to Jerusalem from Ramallah by way of the Qalandia checkpoint. “Checkpoint” is a euphemism. This isn’t merely a couple of Israeli soldiers checking your ID Instead, you pass through a series of turnstiles, concrete barriers, barbed-wire tunnels that act as elongated cages, two-way mirrors and of course X-ray machines. You are surveilled, re-surveilled and surveilled again. No words are used. You are waved on not by hand, but...

  • Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” among many things, is a tale of paralyzing inaction in the face of violence. Confronted with the murder of his father, Hamlet is haunted by his dead father’s ghost and later by his own psyche, both of which beg him to do something . Yes, Hamlet must decide how he will enact revenge for his father, but the climax of the tragedy revolves around Hamlet’s existential choice of whether or not he will act at all.

    Confronted with the ghosts of 20 children who were...

  • June 20-27, 2016

    Incorporating the title of Wallace Stevens’s first collection of poetry ( Harmonium , 1923), this is Paul Mariani’s sixth literary biography, preceded by his lives of Hopkins, Berryman, Lowell, Williams and Hart Crane. Mariani adds his seasoned wisdom and remarkable narrative skills in capturing a poet’s ethos to earlier and current Stevens biographies by Joan Richardson, Alison Johnson and Al Filreis.

    Mariani’s impeccable...

  • June 20-27, 2016

    There is much written about Pope Francis today, especially the pontiff’s public life of service. People from different religious and nonreligious backgrounds concede his public acts of kindness and inclusive rhetoric are admirable. Marco Politi’s Pope Francis Among the Wolves: The Inside Story of a Revolution reiterates Francis’ venerable public life but also sheds light on the pope’s revolution within church institutions. At times Francis’ public life seems...

  • June 20-27, 2016

    James Joyce famously wrote in Finnegan’s Wake that “Catholic means ‘here comes everybody.’” Catholics have repeatedly created new forms of community to respond to the signs of the times and the “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties” of their particular context. In the postmodern West, where we are increasingly isolated and disconnected from each other—experiencing what Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone dubbed a serious “loss of social capital”—questions of...

  • June 6-13, 2016

    History has not been kind to Éamon de Valera.

    By the 1990s, the roar of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger had put a merciful end to the recession of the 1980s. Those dreary years had sent yet another generation of youngsters abroad, desperate (as the Irish-American rock band Black ’47 put it) “to get out of the land of de Valera.”

    In 1993, Tim Pat Coogan published a long biography that cast a harsh light...

  • June 6-13, 2016

    The most recent installment in Oxford University Press’s Women in Antiquity is everything that one would hope for in a book designed to offer “an accessible introduction to the life and historical times of women from the ancient world.” For those who are unfamiliar with her, the Byzantine empress Theodora (A.D. 500-48) is an especially illuminating figure by which to bring so many aspects of the ancient world into focus.

    Born...

  • May 23-30, 2016

    Out of his vast knowledge of the ancient world, Robin Lane Fox, an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, has drawn a remarkable picture of Augustine—the child, the teenager, the youth, the man. His method is not unlike the contemporary quest for the historical Jesus. He situates Augustine in his time and place(s), comparing and contrasting him with well-documented lives of men his age. This is especially effective in discussing Augustine’s earliest years....