The National Catholic Review

Culture

April 2016

  • April 28, 2016

    Recently in Los Angeles unusual billboards have popped up all over town. “To my loved one in Scientology,” they read, “Call me.”

    The work of two former Scientologists, these advertisements push back against the intense pressure Scientology, which is headquartered in Hollywood, puts on its members to permanently dissociate themselves from family members and friends who are not fully supportive of the organization. As much as recent documentaries, tell-all books and gossip columnists...

  • April 21, 2016

    With the opening of the Met Breuer in March, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has made a major move into modern and contemporary art. But do not let the new building and all the hoopla around the opening cause you to miss the seismic change in thinking going on at the Met. The contemporary focus marks a deep shift, like the moving of tectonic plates under the Metropolitan, an institution whose vast holdings span 5,000 years....

  • April 21, 2016

    In January 1692 in Salem, the devil is very real. An 11-year-old girl feels bites and pricks and goes into strange convulsions and contortions. She is soon joined by her 9-year-old cousin and two neighbor children. They together are able to identify a local beggar-woman as their attacker. The town is in turmoil. The beggar woman is arrested. Soon more Salem children feel the effects of witchcraft and identify more attackers. They report actually seeing...

  • April 21, 2016

    Contemporary intellectuals typically distrust tradition, employ market analogies to make sense of the world and celebrate the continuous advance of technological innovation. Marilynne Robinson does none of these things. A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist, she is both straightforward and polite in refusing to follow what is trending. Robinson’s appeal is tied to her trademark dissent, though her ability to yield an endless series of penetrating...

  • April 21, 2016

    Because of the simultaneous revelation and mystery of its shifting perspectives, Wallace Stevens’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” has remained a literary touchstone for nearly 100 years. Now the fiction writer Colum McCann uses its stanzas as epigraphs to the novella Thirteen Ways of Looking . Stevens’s poem, 13 stanzas published in the early 20th century, is imbued with symbolism about observation and the actions that knowledge can provoke...

  • April 18, 2016

    Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, William Congreve once (almost) wrote, but on Broadway currently, it is young women, especially, whose spurning reaps a virtual whirlwind. In two productions—a revival of Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic The Crucible, and a 2005 play called Blackbird by Scottish playwright David Harrower—intimate transgressions among unevenly consenting partners have world-shattering consequences. And while both plays ultimately generate more heat than light...

  • April 18, 2016

    When he was a boy, Jorge Galán would go up to the roof of his house in San Salvador to watch the bombardments. He did this at night, while his mother and his grandmother were sleeping. Had they found out, they would have tied him to his bed. During childhood, war is an adventure, a trail of blood, some broken glass on the ground, a basement where we can all sleep together.

    On March 24, 1980, a bullet struck and killed Archbishop Óscar Romero while he was celebrating Mass.* The day...

  • April 6, 2016

    It was in 1978 that I first met Mary McGrory, the subject of the well-crafted biography by John Norris, Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism . Time Inc. had just purchased The Washington Star. I had done some reporting for Time years earlier in Vietnam. Some of my old editors asked if I might want to leave The Detroit Free Press, where I had been a reporter for five years, and work as an editor for their new enterprise. It seemed like a good move—with...

  • April 6, 2016

    Scott Hendrix, emeritus professor at Princeton University and beyond doubt one of the leading experts in this country on Martin Luther, is a brave person. Just when the market for new Luther biographies appears to be saturated, he adds his to the mix. It takes its place alongside Martin Brecht’s more comprehensive one, Heiko Oberman’s more provocative one, Martin Marty’s more accessible one and many more.

    Moreover, Hendrix...

  • April 6, 2016

    In the pantheon of remarkable characters in the Hebrew Bible, from wily Jacob to dauntless Deborah to weird Ezekiel, one figure stands, tall and ruddy, above them all. We simply cannot take our eyes off him. He is David: shepherd, musician, warrior, king, the beloved one of God. The principal biblical account of his life appears in the books 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. Textually corrupt, full of contradictions and duplications, these books are a promiscuous...

  • April 6, 2016

    When Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, those of us who write about humanitarian themes and subjects related to sorrows, like war and conflict, were heartened.

    A fellow journalist had won—a rare feat for a prize that has tended overwhelmingly to go to writers of fiction. (The annual speculation about who will win the honor inevitably focuses on novelists like Philip Roth and Haruki Murakami.)...

  • April 6, 2016

    The playwright Danai Gurira so assiduously resists the easy binaries that might seem inevitable in her work—African versus American, white versus black, colonialism versus nationalism—that it almost feels like a disservice to harp on the sharp contrasts between the two fine plays she recently has run on New York stages. But the contrasts are there, and they are striking. If you happened to walk from a matinee of Eclipsed —her searing drama about Liberia at...

  • April 6, 2016

    “I do not want to belong to any club that would have me as a member” ranks as the most famous of Groucho’s many trenchant remarks. The exact wording and provenance remain a bit fuzzy, even though the sentiment has become a bit shopworn through constant repetition. Now Groucho has gained admittance to the world of scholarly exposition through an Ivy League press. Would he pen an equally acerbic resignation from the faculty club, or would he luxuriate in the...