Archives For France


Peter Gorday - Francois Fénelon: A BiographyThe Apostle of Pure Love

A review of

Francois Fénelon: A Biography, The Apostle of Pure Love

Peter Gorday

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2012
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner

By the time Paul McCartney asked what was wrong with “Silly Love Songs” in 1976, we were in deep.  Having gorged ourselves on pop culture confections of romantic transcendence, we were in danger of running out of new clichés  to apply to this crazy little thing called love.  Even McCartney himself grasped for new words by the end of his song.  “How can I tell you about my loved one?” he repeated without answer over the disco beat that was drumming in a new age of cynicism about love.  Things were about to get a lot more complicated.

Or perhaps just re-complicated because, as Peter Gorday reveals in his new biography of the pre-Enlightenment French archbishop Francois Fénelon, love has always been a many-splintered thing, the source of great passions, great inspiration, and great controversy.  In Fénelon he finds a rich spirituality of “pure love,” a theme Gorday feels “speaks to the disillusionment that so many people feel with regard to conventional religiosity” (208).  If contemporary society has fallen victim to narratives of self-love or to the cheap packaging and fleeting fulfillment of Osteen-style faith, Fénelon gives us a journey to God that is less about us and more about God – less about consumer and more about cross.

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The Table Comes First - Adam GopnikEver-Broadening Metaphors of Common Life

The Table Comes First:

Family, France and The Meaning of Food.

Adam Gopnik.

Hardback: Knopf, 2011.
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Reviewed by Sara Sterley

The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food, Adam Gopnik’s newest book, is a fascinating and careful study of the role of the table, and, therefore, food, in modern life. Weaving in personal stories and favorite recipes, Gopnik takes the reader on an adventure beginning with the very first food “scene” in Paris and tracing its effects throughout the Western world.

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A Brief Review of

Private Property: A Novel.
Paule Constant.
Translated from the French
by Margot Miller and France Grenaudier-Klijn
Paperback: Bison Books, 2011.
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Reviewed by Ruth Huizenga Everhart

If you’ve ever been a middle schooler enduring a cafeteria lunch, if you’ve ever spent a recess wishing you could disappear into a brick wall, if you’ve ever longed for home — you may find something to relate to in this novel.

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346151: The Popes of Avignon

A Brief Review of

The Popes of Avignon

By Edwin Mullins
Hardback: BlueBridge, 2011.
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner.

Plague!  Soaring cathedrals and palaces!  Corrupt clerics!  Glittering excess!  When I teach Reformation history to United Methodist pastors I try to avoid this tabloid summary of the Church in the medieval period.  Instead I focus on the deep and pervasive spirituality of the European populace, the real theological achievements of the Scholastics, and the radical commitments of the monastics.  It feels important to acknowledge that there were losses as well as gains in the transition to the modern world.

Edwin Mullins’ book The Popes of Avignon: A Century in Exile is not going to disabuse students of too many of the prejudices formed by looking at church history through the lens of the Protestant reformers, but it provides an interesting tour through a neglected period when the center of Western Christianity shifted to a small city in Provence.  From 1308 until 1378, as central Italy devolved into instability, the popes made their home in what is now southern France.  The period coincided with a time of French ascendency and the first of the Avignon popes, Clement V, was a virtual puppet of the French monarch.

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