The Rule of the Clan

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What should be the relationship among individualism, civil society, and state power in a healthy political order? In the Summer 2013 issue of Fare Forward, I considered this question in critiquing an essay by Rutgers Law School professor Mark Weiner. My primary critique of Prof. Weiner's essay was that he did not adequately grapple with civil society as a solution to the “paradox of individualism:”"Weiner presents an impoverished and unconvincing account of civil society, which he reduces t … [Read more...]

Call the Midwife

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  Jennifer Worth’s The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times chronicles the author’s experiences as a nurse and midwife amid the appalling conditions and unrelenting poverty of London’s East End in the 1950s. The book, which is part of a trilogy of bestsellers in the UK, is known mainly in America as the inspiration for the PBS show that “Downton Abbey” fans have turned to when they need their next costume-drama fix. Unlike that gorgeous Edwardian melodrama, Call the Midwife is gr … [Read more...]

The Miniature Wife

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 The Miniature Wife, Manuel Gonzales’ debut collection of short stories, begins with a line by W.B. Yeats: “Things fall apart.” Those three words are a fitting introduction to the eighteen stories that follow, in which a plane is hijacked, a soldier is beset by swamp monsters and robots, and zombies descend on a mall.Whether you want to classify these stories as magical realist, speculative, or genre fiction, they certainly give us the pleasures of traversing well-worn ground to disc … [Read more...]

Why Read Middlemarch?

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 Thanks to Rebecca Mead and her memoir, My Life in Middlemarch, 2014 looks to be “The Year of Middlemarch.” This has created a cultural moment both wonderful and surreal—seeing commentary on Middlemarch at Vulture, reading comments about it on Twitter, and watching friends and acquaintances pick up the book and read it feels like a dream come true.  That’s because George Eliot’s most famous novel has a hold on me so strong that whenever I encounter someone who didn’t care for the book, I … [Read more...]

The Compound

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 Following a catastrophic nuclear attack, fifteen-year-old Eli has spent the past six years living in an elaborate underground compound with his parents and siblings--minus his twin brother, who happened to be separated from the rest of the family when the first nuclear warheads were launched. Ever the sucker for dystopian and speculative fiction, I found the premise of S.A. Bodeen’s young adult novel The Compound too good to pass up when I stumbled across it a couple weeks a … [Read more...]

On God’s Side

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 Jim Wallis’s On God’s Side comes in two parts. In the first, he argues that biblical Christianity involves not only the personal, individual standing of the Christian before God and the individual’s relationship with Christ, but also a deeply communal element that inspires genuine concern for one’s neighbors. In the second, he fleshes out how these sometimes-competing concerns ought to inf luence Christian political thought and engagement. Wallis’s inspiration for the title of the book … [Read more...]

The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography

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 For those who enjoy biographies and love books, what could be better than a good biography... of a great book? The Lives of Great Religious Books series promises many happy hours learning more about old friends and making new acquaintances, from Augustine’s Confessions to Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison, from the book of Genesis, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.One of the latest books in this series, Alan Jacobs’s biography of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), provides a … [Read more...]


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