Books in Brief

October 2022

Dwyer Murphy’s debut noir owes something to a certain L.A. predecessor, but though the spirit of Chandler (and the ghost of Marlowe) are detectable, the tale is wholly its own, and suited specifically to its setting: New York in the early twenty-first century. The first-person narrator—world-weary, of course—is a former corporate lawyer turned Brooklyn gumshoe, and the case he finds himself with concerns misdeeds among antiquarian booksellers. Fraudsters, imposters, and corrupt real-estate developers are among the characters, and there’s also a very literary femme fatale. Expertly rendered local details bring to life a city that in many ways has already passed into history, which seems as big a part of Murphy’s aims as teasing his readers toward the climax of this smartly entertaining read.

An Honest Living
A Novel

Dwyer Murphy
Viking
$26 | 278 pp.

*

The history of Christian theology is intertwined with the ever-changing ways faith has been reconciled with reason. But the definitions of both faith and reason have shown themselves to be dynamic over the millennia, thus, “the rationality of faith will always need to be performed anew.” Attuned to key theological movements and historical shifts, Faith and Reason through Christian History: A Theological Essay engages nearly fifty key players in the faith-and-reason conversation. Beginning with the earliest of theological figures—the Apostle Paul himself—to lesser known giants of the scholastic period, like Hugh of St. Victor, into the modern period and after with Luther and John Paul II, Kaplan analyzes texts critically but does not necessarily argue a lofty thesis. Rather, exercising a methodology of remembering and conversing with key texts, he chronologically brings readers with him to the current paradigm, where faith and reason are commonly claimed irreconcilable and we no longer need wonder how we’ve ended up here.

Faith and Reason through Christian History
A Theological Essay

Grant Kaplan
CUA Press
$29.95 | 336 pp.

*

“This was again, not a how-to book, but I don’t want to leave the reader entirely without help.” So goes the duality that seems to shape the whole project of Phil Christman’s not-manual, How to Be Normal. Ten essays of cultural criticism are repositioned to examine, among other things, how to be a man, how to be white, how to be religious, and how to be cultured. (Dedicated readers of this magazine may also recognize the chapter, “How to Care,” to be Christman’s 2020 essay on Mark Fisher.) Here, Christman deftly inhabits our most banal and over-debated modes of identity to resurface critical thinking and imagination in the ways we engage it. While there are no prescriptions to live by, this collection has a deep interest in what it means to be a better person and ally, and an appreciation for our little, very human attempts to get there.

How to Be Normal
Phil Christman
Belt Publishing
$12 | 208 pp.

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