by Christopher J. Scalia
Since the death of J. F. Powers in 1999, admiring reviewers (all of his reviewers have been admiring) have mourned not only his death, but the general obscurity of his novels and stories. Although his first novel, Morte D'Urban, won the 1963 National Book Award -- over the more familiar names of John Updike, Katherine Anne Porter, and Vladimir Nabokov -- and his work was praised by such major figures as Evelyn Waugh and Flannery O'Connor (more on her later), he is not very well known, even among Catholics whose Church and priests he wrote about with such skill, insight, heart, and humor.
Joseph Bottum attributes this oversight to the fact that the Catholicism of Powers's stories was so distinctly of the 20th century. "He really was the finest American Catholic writer of the twentieth century," Bottum declares, before adding an epitaph: "And that century is over." Perhaps. But I hope the strength of Powers's writing helps his stories transcend a single period of the Catholic Church in America.
Rather than describe and recommend all of his stories and both of his novels, I'd like to consider three short stories that are particularly moving and fascinating: "Prince of Darkness," "Death of a Favorite," and "Defection of a Favorite." All of these concern Father Ernest Burner, a frustrated and spiritually lazy diocesan priest in Minnesota. While he is a difficult character to like, the stories present very different visions of the priest, culminating in a surprisingly hopeful, though ambiguous, ending. Meanwhile, the purity of Powers's prose, his wonderful turns of phrase and observations, make the stories a joy to read...
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Welcome to the Reading Room
Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.
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- ► 2010 (54)
- Back to School
- The Trick
- GOP Soul Check
- Mostar bishop reiterates rules for Medjugorje pari...
- Catholic Martyrs of the Holocaust
- Obama's Too-Big-to-Fail Plan Is Too Dumb to Pass
- House Remodeling
- Mont St. Michel: Magnificence on a Mudflat
- Catholic public figures who scandalize faithful mu...
- The Campaign is Over, Mr. President
- Without Bush, media lose interest in war caskets
- In De-Christianized Europe, Ratzinger Focuses on t...
- The Brainy Bunch
- Even in Capitalists’ Bad Times, Europe’s Socialist...
- Death Be Not Proud
- Why Medical Malpractice Is Off Limits
- Democrats try to pack the courts
- There Are Only Two Choices Left on Iran
- Outsourcing Hate
- You Mislead!
- The Voice of Twentieth-Century Catholicism
- Pope urges Europe to remember Christian heritage
- Unanswered questions from the NEA
- Of Blight and Men
- Judge not. . .
- Iran’s Not-So-Secret Secret
- The Trouble with Obama
- Eugenio Zolli’s Path to Rome
- The Runaway Abbot
- Afterthoughts from the U.N. Address
- Congress Needs a 72-Hour Waiting Period
- Obama's Iran Formula
- Sorry, but U.S. and Libya are different
- Critics Call for Defunding the Catholic Campaign f...
- The Kennedys' Senator
- Senate Cloaks Obamacare
- Obama's Time Warp: The U.S. Is Still the Bad Guy
- From Our Lady’s Dowry
- Obama's Health Care Bait and Switch
- Vatican Official: Church Erred in Holding Kennedy ...
- On Waffling, Tradition, and the Magisterium
- Obama and the Politics of Concession
- Barack Obama, College Administrator
- The Argument from Conscience
- Hillary's Honduras Obsession
- Obama's Befuddling Afghan Policy
- The Art of Corruption
- Upon This Rock
- The U.N. and Double Standards
- Our Missile-Defense Race Against Iran
- Strangers to Dissent, Liberals Try to Stifle It
- Splitting social and life issues? Can't do it.
- The Truth That Tells a Lie
- On American Morals
- C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain
- ACORN and the Catholic Church
- Capitalism After the Crisis
- The Long Retreat
- Caritas in Veritate, Abridged
- Lawsuit Firesale
- Fort Sam Houston - Mother-in-law of the Army
- Ancient Churches in the Holy Land
- Hunt for priests in Xiwanzi diocese
- New Guide Recommends Faithful Catholic Colleges
- Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Columnist?
- Why Are the Christians Leaving the Holy Land?
- Race to the Bottom
- Hi-Ho, the Derry-O
- Santa Fe: Celebrating 400 Years of Holy Faith
- All in the Family
- Jared Monti’s soldiers watched him give his life, ...
- The Stimulus Didn't Work
- The Money Pit
- Apologetics for the Scripturally Challenged
- Anti-Americanism: Alive and Well in the Age of Oba...
- The Other Catholic Higher Education
- Georgia Pharisee
- Community service is not what made America great
- Patriarch's plea on behalf of the Holy Land
- What You Need to Know About the Mormons
- Media Malpractice: Tom Brokaw's World Implodes
- The Victory of the Cross
- The Problems with Special Ed
- My Name is Lazarus, and I Live
- Senator Kennedy's Final Attempt at Salvation
- Childhood, stalled
- The Authentic Transformation of “Useless” Human Su...
- Finally Catholic! My Conversion to the Catholic Ch...
- Any Friend of God is a Friend of Mine
- Our National 9/11 Schizophrenia
- Confessions of a cradle Catholic
- Private revelations: "Keep to what is countenanced...
- Obama's 'Gift' Has Stopped Giving
- Euthanasia and Murder
- Obama and the Bureaucratization of Health Care
- The Limits of Self-Hate
- What the Public Thinks of Public Schools
- Sorrowful Mother, Joyful Children
- Weird Things Happen: How Catholics Should Deal wit...
- ▼ September 2009 (123)
- Fr. Christopher George Phillips
- Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.