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on March 27, 2001
This unduly neglected book won the National Book Award in 1963. It is the story of Father Urban, a Catholic Priest in the little know religious order of the Clementines. It takes place in Chicago, where Father Urban is headquarted as the "star" and best known speaker in the Order. He is also something of a fund-raiser with a wealthy, arrogant benefactor named Billy. Father Urban is transferred to a remote town in Minnesota, Duserhaus, shortly after the novel begins as a result of a disagreement with the head of the Order.
This novel operates on many levels. It shows the tenacity of Father Urban in creating a role for himself in the community surrounding Dusterhaus after what was deemed to be his exile there. It is a funny, tightly-written story and the characterization, of Father Urban's colleagues, of the Catholic hierarchy, and of the townspeople and parishoners is acute. Most important it is a story of the difficulty of serving both God and Mammon and of the need and nature for compromise in the work of the Catholic Church in a pluralistic, materialistic, and essentially secular America. There are wonderful descriptions of scenery and people. I particularly enjoyed the discussions of train travel in the Midwest which recall an America vanished not so very long ago... The book features a thoughtful introduction by Elizabeth Hardwick who describes the book as a "most valuable and lasting American novel."
This book is for you if you are interested in books about the United States, about religious experience in the United States, or in unjustly neglected American classics.
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on October 14, 2002
This is a wonderful book. I have an MA in English Lit and never heard about this book at school. I subscribe to the New York Review of Books and it is listed as one of their favorites. Since I am Catholic and this book is about a Catholic priest I decided to read it.
Powers is a great author with a good knowledge of Catholicism and someone who knows how to be humorous. I found myself laughing out loud at certain passages of the book.
Power's shows how even "men of God" can be seduced by "men of power." Father Urban (the main protagonist) begins to understand how this is so and begins to change and become more aware of his journey towards God. I love this book because it shows how one can grow in God's love without being preachy or self righteous.
I would like this book to be made into a movie. Maybe it has already but I'm not aware of it. If there are any directors out there, check this out.
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on April 4, 2000
This is a book about a priest who thinks he has all the answers and feels superior to others around him. His spiritual life gets worse and worse, while he rises to positions of greater and great worldly power. All of a sudden he is stopped - by a golf ball - after which things get worse and worse for him in a wordly way, while we guess that his spritual life is improving. It helps to have read New and Old Testaments, but is not a requirement. If you like this book try... THE EGOIST, by George Meredith; THE GOOD SOLDIER, by Ford Madox Ford, LORD JIM, by Joseph Conrad, THE FALL, by Albert Camus, ALL THE KING'S MEN, by Robert Penn Warren, BABBITT, by Sinclair Lewis, PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, by Philip Roth, & SURFACING, by Margaret Atwood. {THIS IS A VERY FUNNY BOOK! ]
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on January 2, 2001
One of the best books I read in 2000. "Morte" takes apart the pre-Vatican II Catholic church and puts it back together, complete with a compelling hero. Father Urban, exiled to Garrison Keillor's prairie,takes his lumps and does the best with what he's dealt. And in two courageous acts late in the novel, he discovers, almost by accident, the meaning of Christianity and of his priesthood. It's hard to figure out quite where Powers stood on the Roman church, but he certainly creates a world where any believer can find delight and meaning. It's a great dynamic read.
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on July 5, 2000
The brilliance of this narrative is that it's hard to tell where J.F. Powers stands in his opinion of the Roman church. Our lead character, Father Urban, is a smooth operator, at once completely faithful and compellingly human. There's rich religious satire as he heads to a run-down retreat in Minnesota run by his order. He's a snob, but a lovable one. Then he has two wonderfully heroic moments,and you start to see him as a martyr. An extremely well-written novel, impossible to put down, especially if you're religious.
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