October 31, 2005

Clerical Fiction

Category: Literature :: Permalink

As I look back over the fiction I’ve read recently, it occurs to me that a lot of it has to do with the church and specifically with ministers in the church. “Clerical fiction” (you could call it “pastoral fiction” if the historical use of the word “pastoral” didn’t call up images of shepherds in Arcadia) isn’t a genre you find in most bookstores. Still, I suppose you could say that’s what I’ve been reading.

Early this year, I read Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage, the fourth of his Barsetshire novels. More recently, I devoured Gene Wolfe’s wonderful Litany of the Long Sun and Epiphany of the Long Sun, which one of my colleagues referred to as the best pastoral theology he’s read, good enough to prompt him to ask himself in various situations, “What would Patera Silk do?”

Since this summer, I’ve also read Susan Howatch’s Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, and Ultimate Prizes, the first three of her Starbridge novels, all of which I found not only particularly enjoyable but also particularly helpful pastorally.

In addition, in the past months I read William Kienzle’s The Rosary Murders and Death Wears a Red Hat, which were okay mysteries, though nothing great, and Andrew Greeley’s The Cardinal Sins.

And perhaps I should add that in the past I’ve also read, enjoyed, and benefitted from Jan Karon’s Mitford novels, about which see Lauren Winner’s recent article. I really would like to read them again.

As I said above, many of these books — Howatch and Wolfe, especially, but also Karon — have not only been enjoyable reads but have also been beneficial to my pastoral work. They have shown me aspects of my calling and taught me to be more faithful in carrying it out.

So do any of you have recommendations for more clerical fiction I ought to read? (Someone’s bound to point me to George Bernanos, and I do intend to read him sometime. Still, you’re welcome to tell me about him again to whet my appetite. Oh, and there’s Father Brown, of course….)

Posted by John Barach @ 6:37 pm | Discuss (0)

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