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Now Available! The Man Who Met God in a Bar: The Gospel According to Marvin

Mercury may be in retrograde, but that hasn’t stopped us yet! We are pleased to announce the publication of The Man Who Met God in a Bar: The Gospel According to Marvin, by Robert Farrar Capon.

As many of you may already know, we have been given the distinct privilege of resurrecting a handful of out-of-print books by the acclaimed chef-theologian, Robert Farrar Capon. First up was the never-before-published More Theology and Less Heavy Cream (available here), a collection of musings on food, God, and everything in between, featuring Robert and his wife’s fictional alter-egos; and now, just in time for the big NYC Conference, we are pleased to present to you The Man Who Met God in a Bar, a completely outrageous novel that imaginatively retells the life of Jesus as though it had happened in 1990s Cleveland. Here’s the summary:

It’s time for a drink, Marvin Goodman decides after missing his red-eye out of Cleveland. Moseying into the airport bar, he encounters a charismatic young chef named Jerry—who also claims to be God. Before long, Marvin finds himself in the middle of a spiritual revival—witnessing miracles, healings and one everlasting anchovy pizza—in this weird and wonderfully inspired account of the Gospel story.

Click here to order your copy of The Man Who Met God in a Bar: The Gospel According to Marvin!  And look for it on Amazon soon.

A Passage from William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep

A Passage from William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep

William Deresiewicz (who will be speaking at our upcoming conference on Friday afternoon, 4/28!) made waves in 2008 when the American Scholar published his essay, “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” His full length book from 2011, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, expounded upon the earlier essay and was a bestseller. The book’s premise is that kids arrive at Ivy league schools and other elite colleges proven experts at jumping through hoops. But beyond their noteworthy ability to ace tests, students are woefully unprepared for the real world. Deresiewicz found,…

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“Say Yes” – Tobias Wolff’s Parable of Faith

“Say Yes” – Tobias Wolff’s Parable of Faith

In Tobias Wolff’s 1985 short story, “Say Yes,” a husband and wife are washing and drying the dishes. He is clearly proud of himself for what a considerate husband he is to help with household chores. But whatever goodwill he has earned evaporates when, in casual conversation, he expresses his opposition to interracial marriage. When she challenges his regressive views, he immediately declaims on his long and positive association with blacks. When she presses him for reasons, he claims that “a person from their culture and a person from our culture could never really know each other.” She responds:…

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Hallelujah Anyway: Anne Lamott’s Latest on Rediscovering Mercy

Hallelujah Anyway: Anne Lamott’s Latest on Rediscovering Mercy

I have loved Anne Lamott since I read her first memoir, Traveling Mercies, when I was in law school. In a world where I was, quite literally, surrounded by law, I heard grace in her words, and it was the drink I didn’t even know I was thirsty for. Later, Lamott’s Operating Instructions, her memoir about her son’s first year, prepared me for motherhood in a way that all of the What to Expect books failed to do.

Naturally, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for my favorite lay theologian with my friends, some of whom scoffed at Lamott’s personal history: how could they…

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The Idiot Redux

The Idiot Redux

Elif Batuman takes the title of her first novel, The Idiot, from a Dostoevsky classic. Her young protagonist, Selin, mirrors the innocent Prince Myshkin of the Russian novel. Although an allusion to that giant makes Batuman’s literary ambitions clear, for her sharp narrator, the title may be too self-deprecating. Selin’s a Turkish-American student starting at Harvard with dreams of becoming a writer. From the first pages, we are introduced to her primary writing medium for her early college years: email. Batuman said that when she first finished a draft of the novel in 2001, she had no idea that the…

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Liars and Madmen and You: The Art of Narrative – A Conference Breakout Preview

Here begins our conference breakout previews–sneak peeks of the various topics we’ll talk about in NYC this April! Check out the conference site for more details

Most people will recognize Stephen King’s It as the one about the killer clown. Which it is. But at 1100 pages, it has to be more than that, you know? In his dedication King writes: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie”—which, I’ll admit, I still don’t fully get—but that’s nevertheless a good place to begin investigating one of It’s running themes: extracting the truth from the lies, particularly the ones we tell ourselves. Centered around a group of raggle-taggle tweens, It is a story about growing up and facing fears, about selectively remembering (and discarding) our early painful memories. What the characters develop, as their first line of defense against the killer clown in question, is an elaborate but ultimately fragile method of narrative construction that carries them into adulthood: Mike Hanlon, one of the story’s protagonists, explains, “We lie best when we lie to ourselves.”

It’s true for all of us. With the recent deluge of social studies concerning #confirmationbias, and with the self-righteousness of American politics cropping up wherever we look—not to mention moral dispatches from Starbucks cups—there’s never been a better time to take a second glance at the stories we tell ourselves. If spun right, “taking control of your narrative” can sound just as liberating as “taking a trip to Aruba”; but the late David Carr, in his memoir, The Night of the Gun, illustrates the exhausting side of this self-embossed coin: “You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs—you need, actually—to keep them at one remove.”

So let’s get all our narratives in one place and talk about them, Friday, April 28, 3:30PM, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference. We’ll discuss some of the best stories told by liars and madmen, including some by me and some by you. And—of course—we’ll talk about the great, final page-turner that illuminates the truth about us and pulls us into it, not as tragic heroes but as pardoned villains.

Register for the conference here!

Preaching and Needing Grace, Again and Again

Preaching and Needing Grace, Again and Again

After I became a Christian during my junior year of college, I found myself attending a church where I heard the gospel of grace at Church every Sunday morning, at small group gatherings every Sunday night, and while sitting around kitchen tables and coffee tables with my new Christian friends as our conversations about Jesus lingered into the late hours of many nights. I soaked up the solid teaching and theology that was handed to me every time I turned around. At first I wondered why everyone kept talking about the gospel and how we all needed to “remind each…

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The Ultimate Apocalypse

The Ultimate Apocalypse

Just in time for spring, this one comes to us from our fellow survivor, Zack Verham.

“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves?” – The First History Man (Mad Max: Fury Road)

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” – 1 John 5:11 (NRSV)

My all-time favorite book is Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s a complete four-course science fiction buffet for nerds across the land, and it’s fundamentally post-apocalyptic. The world-building Herbert undertakes is extravagantly meticulous, and the universe as it stands when the…

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A Rabbi and a Psychiatrist Walk into a…

A Rabbi and a Psychiatrist Walk into a…

My love language is books. If you know me for any length of time and I like you, there will probably be books arriving. I might even send you books if I don’t like you. Two that will be among the first to arrive are The Prophets and The Sabbath, both written by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. There is much to be said of Heschel, but for my money, all you need to know about the author is communicated by the tears running down this brother’s face:

Today I was thinking, rather randomly, about something Rabbi Heschel said in…

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Defending The Shack (Sort Of)

Defending The Shack (Sort Of)

A look at the controversial film adaptation, this one comes to us from Bill Walker.

It will perhaps be no surprise to many readers here to learn that, overall, The Shack is simply not a high quality film. It has already received scathing reviews by critics, and for very understandable reasons, even if the popular viewership has been moderately receptive.

A movie like Martin Scorsese’s Silence, for example, is arguably superior to The Shack, and it’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that more people will likely see the latter than the former. But unlike Silence, and this isn’t unimportant, The Shack is a film that…

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The Zacchaeus Option

The Zacchaeus Option

I guess there comes a point in every couple’s life where watching TV and not showering is a more alluring prospect than long hygenic rituals followed by being social. My wife and I are binge-watching a new show called Imposters. I thought the show’s premise was implausible, almost silly at first. But now we’re hooked.

Imposters begins with a newlywed couple so immersed in their own love and happiness, it’s almost nauseating. After some intimate moments (this show is on Bravo) we cut to the husband, Ezra Bloom (played by up-and-coming actor Rob Heaps), talking about his nuptial bliss with co-workers at the…

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James Joyce, circa 1922

Big Little Deaths

In a memorable section of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Daedalus comes upon a relatively large sum of money and squanders it, prodigal son style. Daedalus shifts several times in the novel from extreme penitence and self-denial to full-on pursuit of his sinful desires. This tension between reverence for accepted teachings and the rebellious grandiosity of youth is fertile ground in literature, and well-traveled mental territory for an angsty young man. But groping after a higher plateau, an intimation of immortality, comes at a price. Whether it’s listening to upbeat music in a packed concert…

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