The National Catholic Review

Culture

June 2016

  • June 23, 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....

  • June 23, 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...

  • June 23, 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...

  • June 16, 2016

    Summer at the movies? Sequels, sequels, remakes and more sequels. Already on hand this season are “The Conjuring 2,” the spine-tingling follow-up to director James Wan’s fright-fest of 2013, and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” a mutant movie far less urgent than its title might suggest. A fresh new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has just hatched at the multiplex, which will also be hosting another “Captain America,” another “Ice Age,” another “Star Trek,” another Bourne film, an all-women “Ghostbusters...

  • June 15, 2016

    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 9, 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 9, 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 9, 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...