Easter Reading

Washington Free Beacon | 4/20/2019 | Joseph Bottum
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BY: Joseph Bottum

Reach hither thy hand, the risen Christ tells Doubting Thomas, and thrust it into my side. For an artist—for any believing Christian—a central fact about Easter, the element with the sharpest edge, is that Jesus has returned in the body. Something earthy is present across the gospel narratives, from the story of actual birth in the straw of a stable to the cruel sufferings of the crucifixion. But even so, bodily resurrection—the sheer physicality of it—cuts like a knife through any pale and filmy notion that the Christ event is about mere spirituality.

Fiction - Easter - Center - Bookshelves - Children

Perhaps that's why we seem to lack much fiction that puts Easter at its center. Bookshelves are stuffed, like spoiled children's stockings, with more Christmas books than anyone can read. But then, birth is always easier than death for fiction to treat: more sentimental, more connected to the arc of a traditional novel that wants to pair off its young people in marriage and drop the curtain before its main characters die. Poets have often examined the Passion, while sculptors and painters have returned to the subject again and again.

Fiction, though … What do we have? The Russians have taken up the theme, from Chekhov's 1886 short story "Easter Eve" to Tolstoy's final novel, the 1899 Resurrection. And, I suppose, there's always Nikos Kazantzakis's 1955 The Last Temptation of Christ (a more orthodox book than the clunky 1988 film and the protests against it supposed the story to be). In English, for Holy Week, one might read John Steinbeck's last novel, The Winter of Our Discontent (1961). Or, even better, William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (1929), much of which is deliberately set in the Easter season.

Course - Book - Worth

There are other works we could list, of course. But one under-appreciated book worth digging up for the...
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