Books in Brief


Not only is Father Rutler one of the most brilliant priests in the country; he is also one of the finest writers of the English language today.  In this collection of predominantly short essays, many or most of them reprinted or adapted from Crisis Magazine, he shows to his absolute best.  His elegant and rather formal (by today’s literary standards) prose bears echoes of Chesterton’s and Evelyn Waugh’s (accurately described by one critic as “chaste”), and his field of reference is perhaps broader than either of theirs.  Who else today dares even to flirt with a mildly archaistic style (in places) that is no affectation on the author’s part but rather expresses a mind that acquired its intellectual and artistic sophistication from the cultural wealth of a former era, while exquisitely registering and taking the measure of postmodern culture?  A polymath who plays the violin and the piano while ministering to his parish in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, Father Rutler reaches effortlessly for the most esoteric reference, besides availing himself of more obvious, but always pertinent and felicitously chosen, ones.  Put simply, his writing has a slightly old-fashioned quality that works.  (Of a sculpture at the United Nations,...

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