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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin

The raw language, powerful and harsh in its unadorned simplicity, matches the desolate landscape, both rural and urban, and the severeness of life for two working class brothers in Willy Vlautin’s novel The Motel Life. Deep loyalty, and a promise made as teenagers to their dying mother to stick together, make Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan inseparable, as they live in…

Book Review: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

During a period of intense anti-Catholic persecution, a nameless priest wanders through Mexico as a fugitive, trying to evade authorities that have placed a 700 peso bounty on his head. Stemming from pride, mortification and a sense of pastoral mission, the destitute priest hears confessions, anoints the sick and celebrates Mass in the communities he visits. But is father bringing…

Book Review: Pasmore by David Storey

Terse, aloof, cold, almost completely devoid of intimacy–this is how I would describe much of the dialogue in British novelist David Storey’s 1972 book Pasmore. The narrative, heavy on clipped dialogue, explores the mental unraveling of the 30 year old protagonist. Colin Pasmore is a university lecturer living and working in the London boroughs of Camden and Islington. He has…

Book Review: Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter

From seedy hotel rooms, grimy pool halls, the brutality of reform school in the 1950’s, county jail and ultimately San Quentin prison, Hard Rain Falling is a coming-of-age story wrapped up in the existential crisis and dehumanization of protagonist Jack Levitt. It also explores class conflict, how class plays a role in criminal justice in the United States, it touches…

Book Review: Fascist Souls by Rezső Szirmai

We know from the revelations of the past nearly two decades that some of the men who joined the Roman Catholic priesthood were socially and emotionally maladjusted, and used their position of authority to abuse the most vulnerable in their community. There are also today a number of priests, sometimes younger ones, who not only subscribe privately to the most…

Book Review: The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

“A door opens to me. I go in and am faced with a hundred closed doors…” Those thoughts from Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia lay some of the foundations of a theological study written in 1972 by Henri Nouwen that encourages Catholic priests and other ministers to reach out to the vulnerable they serve by recognizing their own personal vulnerability. As…

Book Review: The Tenth Man by Graham Greene

The Tenth Man, a story written originally in 1944 exploring the consequences of a wartime decimation order, only saw the light of day in 1983, when the unpublished typescript was found by accident in the archives of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about its existence, including the author himself, Graham Greene, who was 79 years old at the time…

Book Review: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

British novelist Evelyn Waugh was what one might call a traditional Catholic and Catholicism is central to his 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. Waugh was outright despondent following the liturgical transformations of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and felt as though he was losing the church and faith that he embraced after his…

Book Review: Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr.

The rich internal monologues and heavily accented dialogues, giving away the socio-cultural background of these Brooklyn residents, are what make Hubert Selby Jr.’s 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream such compelling reading. The fact that all of this dialogue is fully embedded in paragraphs, one sliding into the other, and that it lacks quotation marks (as well as apostrophes), can make…

Book Review: The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde’s seminal work. And it was also the story which, in the eyes of his scandalized detractors, helped confirm the belief that older gentlemen of influence and financial means, particularly the nobility, often corrupted younger men of lower social standing by making them the targets of their “unnatural” and self-indulgent sexual vices and…