The National Catholic Review

Books

  • March 9, 2015

    “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” That counsel of despair famously confronts the condemned who pass through the gates of Dante’s Inferno. In that hell, as Robert A. Ferguson observes, everlasting punishment “can never be fully satisfied no matter what the doomed do or say.” Ferguson’s own Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment convinces us that our state or federal prisons could aptly place Dante’s inscription on their 21st-century...

  • March 9, 2015

    In a 1993 essay, David Foster Wallace suggested a turn away from the irony that had come to characterize his generation of American writers: “The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles.” With a few exceptions, Wallace’s hope has yet to materialize....

  • March 9, 2015

    In what now seems a moment of serendipity, I received the request to review Mortal Blessings, by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (an America columnist), just as I finished reading and discussing William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying with a handful of fellow book club members. Faulkner’s agonizing yet powerful account of the death of Addie Bundren, as told by Bundren...

  • March 2, 2015

    President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.) on March 23, 2010, and it’s been dogged by conservative attempts to reverse it ever since. The fundamental belief that motivates most, if not all, conservative opposition is unmistakable: Health care should be a privilege rather than a right. If you can’t afford health insurance on your own, that is not the government’s problem.

  • March 2, 2015

    “I suffer from a shrinking heart,” I confessed to the priest, and I was not referring to a bizarre physiological condition. It was summer, a tough season for me, an inner-city Catholic Worker. The isolating cold of winter had passed, and the chaos of my neighbors’ lives tumbled out onto front stoops and into the street, impossible to ignore.

  • March 2, 2015

    Mary Gordon is a writer we need to pay attention to. No, her prose is not stylistically exciting. She favors the mannerly sentence, the back story, characters hyperconscious of their shortcomings. Yet it is exactly these qualities that permit her to examine with care and concern the theological, ethical and moral questions she wants to raise. I remember reading with particular pleasure her 2005 novel, Pearl, in which a girl of 20 determined on...

  • February 23, 2015

    At first Tammany Hall was, well, a hall. It was the Manhattan clubhouse and meeting place for an organization that had been named (for reasons obscure) after a legendary 17th-century Indian chief in Pennsylvania who was later—even more strangely—identified as “Saint Tammany.” The building served as an informal gathering spot where the endless talk that is part of politics could be carried out in congenial surroundings. It was the scene of strategy sessions,...

  • February 23, 2015

    In 2009, Liam Matthew Brockey published his fascinating Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579-1724. Here he greatly expands his territory, covering the larger picture of the Jesuit Asian missions not only in India, China and Japan, but also those of East Africa, which once formed part of the Jesuit Province of India, with its headquarters in Goa.

  • February 23, 2015

    Like most of the developed world, America has made a Faustian bargain with fossil fuels. We have traded the immediate benefit of cheap, abundant energy for environmental costs that are generally borne elsewhere by others, now or in the future. In The Real Cost of Fracking, Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald—a veterinarian and a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell University, respectively—take a closer look into what some of those costs may be...

  • February 16, 2015

    Much of what we in the United States know about Cuba is in the form of stereotypes, often cartoonish and unrevealing: there is Fidel (the dictator); and Raúl (no different from Fidel). But of course, how things work in Cuba is in fact nuanced and complex. The recent thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations has opened up new possibilities for Americans to acquire a sense of what Cuba is really like.