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Mystery at Work: Three Novels in Review

By Jenny Shank Book Review

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (Spiegel & Grau, 2016) Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) Wilberforce by H.S. Cross (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2015)   STRONG NOVELS IMMERSE READERS in distinct worlds, with their own rules, cultures, and belief systems. The best novels refuse to supply pat answers or…

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Perfume Poured Out

By Allison Grace Myers Essay

One of the real tests of writers is how well they write about smells. If they can’t describe the scent of sanctity in a church, can you trust them to describe the suburbs of the heart? _____________________________________ ___________ —Diane Ackerman For your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;…

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Radiant Power: Authority and Violence in New Egyptian Fiction

By M. Lynx Qualey Essay

The Televangelist by Ibrahim Essa, translated by Jonathan Wright (American University in Cairo Press, 2016) The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette (Melville House, 2016) “The Boy Jihadi” by Youssef Rakha (Guernica, 2015)   IN THE EARLY HOURS of January 1, 2011, a bomb was set off among New Year’s Eve worshippers…

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Daring to Do the Good: The Knight and the Theologian

By Kathleen L. Housley Essay

WRITING FROM HIS SMALL CELL in a German prison, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer advised his family and friends to read the lengthy novel Witiko by Adalbert Stifter—the book that gave him great comfort from the time of his arrest in 1943 until his execution in 1945 for his involvement in the plot to kill Hitler.…

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A Conversation with Charles Wright

By Lisa Russ Spaar Interview

Charles Wright is the author of nearly thirty collections of poetry, most recently Sestets, Bye-and-Bye, and Caribou (all from Farrar, Straus and Giroux), as well as two books of criticism and a collection of translations of the Italian poet Eugenio Montale. Born in 1935 in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, Wright attended Davidson College and the Iowa…

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System and Chaos: The Art of Linnéa Spransy

By Brian Volck Essay

I am interested in limits, specifically, in their ability to generate surprise, even freedom. —Linnéa Spransy The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. —Wendell Berry   THE CANVASAS IN LINNÉA SPRANSY’S studio explode with images rich and strange: ribbons and lobes reproducing like bacteria in…

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The Mosque Outside the Mosque: Aerosol Arabic and the One Experience

By George Dardess Essay

The Performance MOHAMMED ALI, a.k.a. Aerosol Arabic, emerges from the darkness onto center stage for his 2014 TED talk at the Vatican (available for streaming at aerosolarabic.com). A burly man, he moves gracefully. He apologizes for the way he’s dressed—not in the snappy outfit of a celebrity lecturer, but in jeans, sneakers, open shirt, and…

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Scale

By Chelsea Wagenaar Poetry

______I am soft sift ______In an hourglass _____________ —Hopkins Against the darkening winterplum sky, a lone contrail whitens—loose thread, untufted cotton. A perfect inverse of me: ____________________________Lenten moon of my belly taut, halved by a slurred gray line. Linea nigra, the doctor says, my belly button’s new ashen tail a ghostly likeness of the cut…

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Advent

By Chelsea Wagenaar Poetry

Last week a jellied disc in one of my husband’s lower vertebrae cinched, slipped—on the x-ray the bones’ thorned edges gritted against each other, his whole spine yearning left, a lily stem arched toward the promise of light. Now the days shrink into themselves, the trees bare-limbed but for squirrels’ nests and the green bloom…

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