Sunday, December 28, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: ‘Prayer Journal,’ ‘Darling’

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Parul Sehgal of The New York Times Book Review reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

Two new, fiercely personal accounts of faith by celebrated American writers are out this week: “Prayer Journal” by the short story writer Flannery O’Connor and “Darling” by the essayist Richard Rodriguez.

In 1946, Flannery O’Connor became a student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She was 20 years old and beginning to root herself in a relationship with her faith that would catalyze some of American fiction’s most celebrated—and savage—short stories.

Lucky for us, she decided to keep a journal. Just published for the first time, “Prayer Journal” reveals O’Connor meditating with singular intensity on God and writing. The book was reviewed for The New York Times Book Review by the novelist Marilynne Robinson, who said, “The brilliance that would make her fictions literary classics is fully apparent … her mind is examined, faith questioned, weakness confessed, powers tried as they might not have been under the eye of any human observer.”

For more than thirty years, Richard Rodriguez has studied race, memory, craving, and denial in his discursive essays. In his new collection “Darling,” he searches for the commonalities between what he calls the “desert religions”—Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Rodriguez defines the essay as “a biography of an idea” and our reviewer Leslie Jamison calls his book, “the biography of many intersecting ideas: the relationship between gay rights and women’s rights; the relationship between unforgiving landscapes and enduring faith, between cities and their scribes; between a homosexual man and his church.”

And connecting them, Jamison writes, is “the possibility that deprivation is useful: that barren landscapes offer subtler kinds of fertility.”

Find more reviews of new books in the New York Times Book Review at www.nytimes.com/books.

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