Morte D'Urban (New York Review Books Classics)

Morte D'Urban (New York Review Books Classics)

J.F. Powers

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0940322234

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Winner of The 1963 National Book Award for Fiction.

The hero of J.F. Powers's comic masterpiece is Father Urban, a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Charming, with an expansive vision of the spiritual life and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, Urban enjoys a national reputation as a speaker on the religious circuit and has big plans for the future. But then the provincial head of his dowdy religious order banishes him to a retreat house in the Minnesota hinterlands. Father Urban soon bounces back, carrying God's word with undaunted enthusiasm through the golf courses, fishing lodges, and backyard barbecues of his new turf. Yet even as he triumphs his tribulations mount, and in the end his greatest success proves a setback from which he cannot recover.

First published in 1962, Morte D'Urban has been praised by writers as various as Gore Vidal, William Gass, Mary Gordon, and Philip Roth. This beautifully observed, often hilarious tale of a most unlikely Knight of Faith is among the finest achievements of an author whose singular vision assures him a permanent place in American literature.

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to take, the whining or the bragging. Why talk of cataloguing this rubbish? Why call the thing parked out-side transportation? Wilf, it seemed, was trying to do it all with words and signs, and, yes, even in the library—rocking chairs. Leaving the library, they went up the back stairway and emerged into a large space (“not being heated at the moment”) that Wilf called the Rec Room: ping-pong table with a dirty piece of canvas over it (“drop cloth”), paper half off the walls (“be surprised how

that he could get his hands up his sleeves—what he needed was a muff—but that he couldn’t do as much for his feet. Presently he removed his shoes and got into bed. Later that afternoon, he pulled himself together and took a walk around the grounds, keeping an eye out for wildlife (and seeing none), and trying to get interested in the trees, which were numerous. They could be broken down into three main groups, red oaks, evergreens, and trees. Here his investigation ended, on account of the cold.

Brother.” Yes, there were many times when Father Urban was moved to cry out—to hoot—but he kept remembering a movie he’d seen just after the war. Londoners caught in the blitz—taxi drivers, young lovers, old drunks, old tea drinkers, nurses, surgeons, everybody—went right on with whatever they happened to be doing, and each time there was an explosion, they seemed to have the best of it, to have the last word, by saying nothing. In the same way, Father Urban maintained a secret ascendancy over

and decided to take a chance on him. “What’s your opinion, Brother?” “It’s up to Father Wilfrid.” “At one time I was considering asphalt tile,” Wilf said. “You see a lot of that in your new buildings. Pretty expensive, though, and we don’t own a blowtorch.” “Blowtorch?” said Father Urban. “You heat your tile with a blowtorch as you lay it.” Father Urban shook his head. He didn’t feel that Wilf should be trusted with a blowtorch. “It’s really quite simple.” “Yeah? Well, I’m for varnishing

hope and pray would take root and become the mark of them all—as, say, scholarliness is the mark of the Jesuit—for there was no use denying that the Clementines lacked distinction and distinctiveness, or persona. What Father Urban would have called this special something he was trying to impart to the young, he didn’t know, but he felt that he had succeeded here and there, and that the Order, to say nothing of St Clement’s Hill, would be a better place for those who’d come after him. Mr

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