Friday, October 21, 2005

The Mystery of Things

Debra Murphy's novel "The Mystery of Things" is a book that reminds me of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. The characters are deeply steeped in the world of Catholicism, and working out their salvations in fear and trembling. And sin. This may be the most compelling fictional exploration of sin written so far in our post-modern world. Where Tolkien and Lewis projected the inner battle of the spirit out on to worlds where good and evil are writ large on a fantasy background of black and white extremes, Murphy has her characters wrestle with themselves from within an enclave of Catholicism that itself is struggling to carve out an identity within a post-modern US society steeped in the culture wars. In other words, she writes about us. With great insight. I was initially put off by the presence of so many adjectives and adverbs in her prose, but now I wonder if that is deliberate, a conscious decision to buck the minimalist strain in modern fiction that strips sentences of everything but subject, predicate and object.

I have not become so involved in the struggle of characters since... well, I can't remember when. She is writing my life, and she is definitely not preaching. Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. Debra Murphy.

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