cover image A Tremor of Bliss: Contemporary Writers on the Saints

A Tremor of Bliss: Contemporary Writers on the Saints

Paul Elie. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-15-100101-9

The 17 diverse essays in this absorbing collection edited by freelancer Elie are marked by the authors' largely unstinting disclosures of how they have been moved by the saints about whom they write. Novelist Kathryn Harrison chillingly describes her own girlhood extravagances of desire and denial in light of the devotions and ascetism of Catherine of Siena. Behind his ``rapt and consuming interest'' in the founder of the Society of Jesus, fiction writer Ron Hansen acknowledges his hope ``to figure out how to live my life magnificently, as Ignatius did.'' Kathleen Norris, a memoirist and poet, convincingly reexamines the lives of the early church's virgin martyrs as models for women of today. Ruminating on St. John of the Cross, novelist David Plante ends with a prayer that his writing be ``not about what has to do with me, but about what has to do with the great and the brilliant darkness of God.'' Francine Prose finds a resonant ironic tone in the writings of St. Theresa of Avila; Paul Baumann, an editor of Commonweal and young parent, considers fatherhood as he connects St. Joseph to James Joyce's Leopold Bloom. In his introduction, Coles calls these essays ``a celebration of the miracle of commitment.'' They suggest a passion as inspiring as that of their subjects. (Nov.)