of the Month: Ingrid Hill
Ingrid Hill's stories are teeming -- they are lush with richly imagined
selves, telling details, and close observations. Her individual stories
are so different from each other that she's not easily identifiable with
a particular region or culture -- she has the chops to write about any
place she wants -- but the common thread in these stories is the way Hill
builds a net of relationships among her characters, a net that itself
becomes a character, not just a backdrop. She makes the communities she
writes about interesting, loveable, particular -- and crowded. It takes
a rare generosity to write that way, to imagine this fully a world full
of selves making decisions, having their own lives. Her characters --
even the minor ones -- are full of sincerity and faith and perceptiveness,
and the result is an energetic, completely persuasive world. Hill, the
mother of twelve children, recently received a $20,000 grant from the
NEA for her story "Jolie Gray." In 1989 she published her first
book, a collection of short stories titled Dixie Church Interstate
Visit Ingrid Hill's
from our Artist of the Month section.
An innovative liturgy using art and literature known as The Renaissance
Service is now underway at the First Lutheran Church of Venice,
California. Services take place on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm at the First
Lutheran Church of Venice and run throughout the months of October and
November. This worship service attempts to discover and worship God through
the medium of art. Subtitled "The Arts as a Window to the Divine,"
the Renaissance Service features poetry readings, music, and moments of
silence. A wide variety of visual art is displayed on slides during the
service. Messages focus on the interplay between faith and the arts. On
Wednesday November 6th, guest poet Marilyn Chandler McEntyre will speak
at The Renaissance Service. McEntyre's recent book Lightfalls is
devoted to "the quiet dignity and compassionate gaze" of Vermeer's
women. These poems were featured earlier this year on the Mars Hill Audio
Journal. Dr. McEntryre is a Professor of Literature at Westmont College
in Santa Barbara. Some other themes this month will include The Lord
of the Rings and the works of Oscar Hijuelos. In its creative use
of both traditional and groundbreaking works of art, the Renaissance Service
has the capacity to inspire a spiritual awakening, both for seekers and
for church "regulars." For more information about the service,
please call Heather Davis at 310 391-6209 or visit the website.
Go to the Renaissance
website for more information.
Miss America Family
Poet and novelist Julianna Baggott has just published her new novel,
and fans of her well-received Girl Talk won't be disappointed.
The Miss America Family swings widely, but easily, between the
endearing, the painful, and the whimsical. The story is of a family in
turmoil dealing with a bizarre and hushed-over past. Despite the secrets
and misconceptions which riddle the family, there's nothing sinister about
the Stockers. Their story is told from the perspectives of both Ezra,
the sixteen-year-old son of a former Miss New Jersey, and Pixie, that
certain former beauty contestant. The voice and perspective of Ezra are
honest, funny, and smart. Not only do the events in the story create a
wonderful and unpredictable ride, the stable, sane, and ever skeptical
Ezra is the ideal narrator. The avoided past comes back with a vengeance
multiple times throughout this story as the family is challenged to redefine
who they are and what they mean to each other. Visit the author's website
for more on this and other works.
Check out Julianna
Baggott's official website.
From out of the desert comes a voice of insight and contemplation
resounding in the rest of the world. Desert Call, a quarterly publication
of "Contemplative Christianity and Vital Culture," is a thoughtful
magazine of poetry and spiritual meditations that emerges out of the tradition
of monastic solitude. Published by the Spiritual Life Institute, a monastic
community of Roman Catholic men and women in the Carmelite tradition,
each issue develops a central theme through essays, poems, prayers, and
illustrations. Desert Call embraces what it means to be spiritual
beings who long for heaven while our humanity keeps us rooted in this
earthly soil. Embracing this paradox in thoughtful theme issues with titles
such as "Suffering and New Life" and "Earthy Mysticism,"
Desert Call speaks to the needs of a generation that is thirsty
for the touch of God in the wilderness of the human heart. SLI maintains
two monasteries which accept retreatants, one in Colorado and one in Ireland.
To subscribe to Desert
Call or to learn more about the Spiritual life Institute, visit their
Pelican in the Wilderness
Novelist Isabel Colegate has turned her gaze to the life of solitude.
By delving into a number of biographies, A Pelican in the Wilderness
takes the reader through the surprisingly varied lives of some of history's
most well-known hermits. Colegate begins each of her studies with history,
the diaries of one recluse or another; accounts of friends and acquaintances
provide context for each life studies. However, the daring aspect of this
wonderful book is that Colegate pushes herself, and the reader, to examine
what it is about each of these lives that led them away from the world.
Colegate writes: "the idea of the hermit's life lurks somewhere on
the periphery of most people's consciousness." By detailing lives
both religious and non-religious, and chronicling those who found terror
as well as peace in the quiet, Colegate has produced a comprehensive and
fascinating look at the motivations and discoveries of those whose search
takes them away from the familiarity of family and friends. The book does
not hold up the eremitic life as the only correct path; Colegate herself
is a wife and mother. However, readers will find, as the author has, that
those who choose a life of solitude have a wealth of discovery and experience
to offer any who are curious.
More from the
Phillips: Into the Silence
Sam Phillips, using her birth name Leslie, recorded five albums and came
to early prominence in the Christian music scene of the 1980s. That experience
still remains unsettling to her-"I was naïve enough to think
I could talk about spiritual issues in my songs within the church. I wanted
to ask questions, push boundaries, and they wanted me to say I'd found
all the answers.... I just don't think life is that simple. True spirituality
is much bigger than that" (iMusic.com). Phillips left the scene,
used her nickname Sam, and signed with a major label. Five critically
acclaimed albums in the 1990s, a Grammy nomination, and still Phillips
remains unknown by the general public. "I've always been a ghost
in pop music...sometimes I hear rumors that people have heard my records,"
she says (Salon.com). Phillips' latest release, produced by Grammy award-winning
producer, T-Bone Burnett (also Phillips' husband), is Fan Dance
(Nonesuch, 2001). Phillips' songs, delivered in her ethereal voice, question
ideas of culture, faith, and the institutionalized church in elliptical
and open-ended lyrics. On her art, she has paraphrased Thomas Merton in
saying, "The piece should point beyond all words into the silence."
The New York Times has written of her music that it is "proof
that the secular and the spiritual can intersect in strange and affecting
For more information,
visit the Sam Phillips website.
For her latest album,
Fan Dance - Nonesuch, 2001, go to www.nonesuch.com.