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Listening for God: Malamud, O’Connor, Updike, & Morrison

By author: Peter C. Brown
Product Code: H999
ISBN: 9780881467680
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Availability: In stock
Price: $35.00

We live in a secular age, where the world and its ways seem to indicate the absence of God. The testimony of ancient and latter-day prophets requires more faith (or credulity) than most of us can manage. Can we still find spiritual truths that will restore a sense of a higher meaning to our lives? For millennia, people have looked to literature, to scriptures, epics, poems, plays, novels, and films for insights into the human condition. In our increasingly rationalized world, some of these contemporary storytellers--like a Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, or Toni Morrison--stretch their art to find new words for the sacred. The God for whom they listen is elusive, a mystery. Their stories and novels are not make-believe accounts of a supernatural Being. They are stories that dig beneath all the ordinary ways we try to justify our lives to uncover in them the traces of a transcending judgment that both exalts and humbles us. Their engrossing stories are not just the moral parables or cunning plots they appear on the surface to be. Peter Brown offers a highly interdisciplinary examination of these four authors who represent four different faith traditions within Judeo-Christianity: Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and syncretistic (blending Africanist creole beliefs with Catholicism). All subversive writers, they work in extraordinary ways to undermine their own stories and open us, their readers, to something more, something that transcends time and fate. The close reading this requires from us is part of the trick, and the pleasure. Brown invites us to reread them to listen for this elusive transcendence, a sacred mystery that rebukes both the atheist's weak humanism and the believer's naïve supernaturalism.
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Review by: Giles Gunn, preeminent Americanist and cultural critic; and distinguished professor emeritus of English and of Global Studies, University of California Santa Barbara - May 15, 2020
Peter Brown’s LISTENING FOR GOD speaks directly to a time like our own so deeply divided between the seductions of believing too much, as William James once called them, and those of believing too little. In the face of such absolutist religious alternatives, he has found in the narratives of four modern American writers--Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, and Toni Morrison--new resonances of the sacred that defamiliarize the spiritual by making it once again strange, mysterious, other, and unavoidable.
Review by: Robert Brinkmeyer, Jr., Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies, University of South Carolina - May 15, 2020
In LISTENING FOR GOD, Peter Brown embarks on a daring quest pursuing the sacred in modern American literature. Deeply versed in philosophy and theology, as well as the complexities of narrative, Brown deftly explores the imaginative work of four important writers--Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, and Toni Morrison--finding in all a "seam of radical responsibility" propelling their fiction toward ultimate meaning and the spirit. Brown’s forceful and passionate analysis signals his own radical responsibility at locating the transcendent, making the significance of Listening for God extend far beyond the literary. Read it and start listening.

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