The Demons That Possess Us

Vasily-Perov-Dostoyevsky-3When I graduated from Seattle Pacific’s MFA program, I was sorely disappointed to hear Greg Wolfe announce The Brothers Karamazov as the next common reading selection. Upon returning home from my final residency at Whidbey Island, I pulled Dostoyevsky’s great novel down from the shelf as my first post-graduation self-assigned reading. It was such a decrepit old copy that it fell apart as I read, grew smaller as glue gave out and pages fell away—a visual gauge of my progress. When I finished, I had to go out and buy a new copy for my bookshelf.

So I was delighted last month when, over brioche, fresh fruit, and coffee, the summer reading group I attend settled on The Brothers Karamazov for next summer. Though my teaching load is heavy, I have decided to read my way back through all my Dostoyevsky in preparation for our summer with Brothers. I have returned to Brothers and Crime and Punishment several times over the years, and I often teach Notes from the Underground in spring semester, so I’ve decided to start with Dostoyevsky’s books I’ve only read once.

When I was a young man in my last year of seminary, I read Dostoyevsky for the first time. As many do, I started with Crime and Punishment; as maybe not so many do, I went on a Dostoyevsky bender that lasted through his novels and notebooks, to criticism and biographies. This eventually spread to Tolstoy, Chekhov, Pasternak, and then on to the likes of Berdyaev, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Unamuno, Camus. Dostoyevsky diverted me down a whole new stream of literature that I’ve been riding for the past two decades. [Read more...]

The Image Top 50 Contemporary Writers of Faith

By Gregory Wolfe

Last week we posted a list of The Top 25 Contemporary Writers of Faith. We did so for several reasons, perhaps the most important being that there continue to be articles and essays proclaiming a dearth of contemporary literature that grapples with the age-old religious questions of our Western tradition.

We begged to differ, and we put out what we believed to be a pretty outstanding group of writers to furnish irrefutable evidence.

The response was electric. That web page was shared nearly 6,000 times and several dozen comments were received, including suggestions of a slew of writers people thought should have been included.

So we decided to post a new list—of 50 writers. Most of those we’ve added came from your suggestions, a few from the original survey we took, and a couple sprinkled in from our own editorial list of favorites. [Read more...]

Booked: Reading My Way Back to Faith

I accidentally read my way back to church in graduate school. I hadn’t been any kind of practicing Christian since early childhood, but I’d always been a reader, and in those three years, I read more widely and deeply than ever.

I was in training, an MFA candidate preparing to write the story of me: the coming of age of a Louisiana girl trapped in a fringe group of far-out Christians. It was going to be cool and detached and funny, of course. But something happened. Near the end of my reading list, in my last months of the program, I stopped thinking it was all so funny and started believing.

In my research I’d sought out books of theology and stories of conversion, but in the end, it wasn’t Augustine, Merton or Lewis who convinced me—at least, not in isolation. In classes I was studying film as literature, the New Journalists, short stories and memoirs and criticism, and for the first time in my life, poetry that wasn’t a Shakespearean sonnet.

It wasn’t any one book but the collective impression of all that work that sent me back to the pews, convinced there was something vast and eternal governing all, and yet so near and small as to fit in my palm, in a book, in a wafer of bread. [Read more...]


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