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New Commonweal podcast.

In his second Commonweal podcast, Paul Lauritzen interviews Karen Long, book review editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, about the magazine's summer-reading feature, along with other notable books, such as Be Near Me and The Gravedigger's Daughter. You can listen to the show via the embedded player below, or you can download the podcast directly via this link. Or subscribe via iTunes right here.

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If you liked "Be Near Me" (and I most certainly did!), then you might also like "Fellow Travelers" by Thomas Mallon.The stories are very different but both deal with the dilemma of dealing with so many factors beyond your control that impact on how you live your life and how you live with yourself.

"Be Near Me" is more of a short story than a novel. The character of the house keeper is better developed than the main character, the pastor. (I have always found that the housekeepers have more powrer in diocesan parishes than Religious ones) The concept of the town people showing contempt for priests is notable but developed so superficially. Is the contempt because the pastor is a aristocrat or a clergyman? Is that a characteristic of Scottish towns?Is the author making a statement about pedophilia, namely, that it is overstated. He does refer to an admired Brother in religious life who was dismissed as if it were unjust.As I see it this book is well done but incomplete. It is highly overrated. Jimmy Mac can you give more details as to your reading. I did mention this book in a blog in June. http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/post/index/1044/Additional-Summer..., I did find Karen Long's review in the Plain dealer almost juvenile. I'm sure she can do better than that. Further if I understand her concept of the novel correctly it is strange. A novelist should not be driven by philosophy. This is the mistake Sartre made. A novelist discovers something and writes uniquely about it in a way that no one else does. I hope I am being constructive. I found your first interview more cohesive. Now if you can interview Joan Acocella I will pay for that.Good idea the podcast. I hope I have been helpful.

My perspective on reading Be Near Me (as well as Fellow Travelers) is probably very different from that of most dotCommonweal participants. As a gay man, I identified with the insidious struggle that a self-imposed closet visits on us. I saw the ruinous effects on David, particularly when he decided after his disastrous youthful affair with a young man who was killed, to get over it by becoming a priest. This may not be the best novel that came down the pike, but I saw so much in it that I have seen in my friends who have struggled with attempting to be Catholic and gay or lesbian. In most cases the Catholicism is jettisoned in favor of sanity. David, unfortunately, attempted to subsume his being gay in a way of life that also detracted from his value as a priest in the community to which he was assigned. He should have never become a priest, or, as time went on, left of his own accord. He was not suited to it nor it to him.The title of the book is best explained in this quote toward the end of the story:And I say: be near to me. The world is rowdy and nothing is certain. Do not stray. None of us was meant to face the day and the night alone, although that is what we do and memory now is a place of fading togetherness. Be near me. True love is what God intends.We all have to learn that and live that. David knew it and failed to live it.

Thank you for that explanation, Jimmy Mac. I found it notable that O'Hagan was able to write such a novel, not being gay. (Or is he? being married is not necessarily proof?)"Be Near Me" is not "Getting Over Homer" but it has found a niche. Is it because it is so rare or are there more novels like that out there?

Bill:Being married does NOT mean being heterosexual.The world is replete with women and men who thought they could "cure" themselves if only they got married and had a family. Sad choice and lots of mistakes.I know nothing about O'Hagan. But a good novelist, as with a good actor, can write about things based on imagination and the experience of others as well as their own.Try "Fellow Travelers" that was mentioned by me about. It, too, has a "wrestling with Catholicism while gay" undertone.