California Literary Review


Book Review: Jesus: A Biography from a Believer by Paul Johnson


April 7th, 2010

Jesus of Nazareth started to preach and heal the sick when he “was beginning about the age of thirty years,” according to St. Luke’s Gospel. Of his early life during the first decades of the 1st Century, almost nothing is known. His ministry to the poor and troubled inhabitants of Galilee, Samaria and Judea lasted a mere three years. Then, after arousing the suspicion and anger of the ruling elite, he was crucified, died and was buried. In one of the strangest twists of human history, what should have been the end of the story was just the start.

The Twelve by William Gladstone


September 14th, 2009

This novel follows the exploits of intellectual and spiritual wunderkind Max Doff who, even as an infant, clearly was set apart from the rest of humanity. He’s destined for greatness along the lines of the Buddha and other prophets. During a near-death experience from a severe case of the flu at age 15, Max has a vision in his euphoric delirium that he can’t quite make sense of yet, but it reveals to him the names of twelve people…

From Galileo to Gell-Mann: The Wonder That Inspired The Greatest Scientists of All Time in Their Own Words


August 27th, 2009

Duccio Machetto opines in the book’s introduction that, “Today science and theology are more aware of the specific nature of their methods, and take care to avoid ‘incursions’ into what is clearly the field of the other.” Apparently, young earth creationists are not a factor in Italy. The Holy See, however, does feel obliged to weigh in on scientific endeavor from time-to-time, this on a range of issues from Alzheimer’s research using fetal tissue to new and improved techniques of in vitro fertilization. Conversely, scientists such as Richard Dawkins write bestsellers insisting that religion is disproved by science.

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan’s Most Rigorous Zen Temple by Kaoru Nonomura


July 21st, 2009

Why drop everything—a decent job, girlfriend, your family—and embrace rigor and sacrifice at a Zen Temple? Kaoru Nonomura, author of Eat Sleep Sit, never directly tells us why he goes to Eiheiji, but he brings us inside the walls and describes the year he spent there with remarkable detail and clarity.

The Second Book of the Tao


July 20th, 2009

The principle idea at the core of Existentialism was the denial of Descartes’ I think, therefore I am. Instead it was, I act, therefore I am. As for fishing, Thoreau never tells us what sort of fish there are, or were in his stream; nor if he ever caught anything. It was the fishing that was his active thought, and that sky full of pebbled stars was where his thought was actively cast. That is poetry, and it is untranslatable as paraphrase or a set of maxims. Whereas the sort of profundities Stephen Mitchell sets down in this book — neatly-designed and printed withal — are for this reader rebarbative.

Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes


January 13th, 2009

“For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about; unless you know and feel that the days of wine and roses are limited, that the wine will madeirize and the roses turn brown in their stinking water before all are thrown out forever—including the jug—there is no context to such pleasures and interests as come your way on the road to the grave.”

Dr. Shashi Tharoor: Understanding India


October 8th, 2008

“India is a status-quo power: it wants nothing that Pakistan has. Pakistan’s rulers, however, are obsessed with Kashmir, which they have repeatedly tried and failed to wrest from India through war and militancy, and with a desire to “cut India down to size” by bleeding it through terrorism. What needs to happen is for a new political culture to prevail in Pakistan, one that privileges peace, dialogue, co-operation, tourism and trade instead of resentment, bigotry, militarism, intolerance and violence.”

Lisa Alcalay Klug: Releasing Your Inner Heebster


September 15th, 2008

But for now, there is only one book and it’s a book that’s all about shouting loudly and proudly that it’s great to be a Jew. The idea for her book came about following an article she wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2005. “I was writing a feature about how cool it is to be a Jew in San Francisco and I profiled local ‘Heebsters’ as I now call them,” she says.

Julian The Apostate


June 23rd, 2008

But with the death of Julian we have something different. To all intents and purposes we can say that paganism died as a credible political and social force in the last days of June 363.

God’s Crucible by David Levering Lewis


April 23rd, 2008

For English-speaking peoples, 1066 and 1776 still evoke powerful recollections of liberty lost and freedom won. For most people in the West, however, 711 hardly strikes a note of any significance. But it should, for that was the year when a small force of Muslim Arabs and Berbers from Morocco crossed over from North Africa to Spain. Islam reached Europe in 711 and the world has never been the same.

What the Gospels Meant by Garry Wills


April 15th, 2008

And if Wills reads as persuasive, it is to himself, if not quite to this reader. Taking his stand before the time of St. Ireænus seems somewhat risky to me, if not downright reckless. I did, however, reflect that there yet remains powerful in this late hour of the West’s history a persistent if unacknowledged ambition of theologians per se to legislate for that cowran, tim’rous beastie, mankind. Granted, in our tradition we have Moses to thank for their vocation.

The Common Secret by Susan Wicklund


January 2nd, 2008

Her home was invaded in her absence. Both muddy boot prints and anti-abortion pamphlets were left behind. Her driveway was barricaded with barrels of concrete to keep her from going to work. Threatening phone calls and letters arrived regularly. Her daughter’s school was invaded and the child harassed to tears. She endured the death of colleagues who were gunned down by anti-abortion zealots. On occasion local authorities were indifferent to her plight, so an armored vest and a .38 caliber revolver became part of her clinic attire.

Hanna Rosin Discusses God’s Harvard


October 9th, 2007

“Tensions often arise between secular teachings and Biblical beliefs. Many students are reading, say Kant and Nietzsche for the first time. They may be alarmed, but they also may find those writers intoxicating.”

Michael Behe on The Edge of Evolution


September 24th, 2007

“I conclude that Darwinian processes account for little of the machinery of life, and that most positive evolution must be nonrandom — guided somehow — and I argue that result fits well with the fine-tuning of the universe discovered by physics.”

Jeffrey J. Kripal, Author of Esalen


August 1st, 2007

“By human potentialities, Huxley and Esalen meant to refer to all those aspects of the human being that have not been generally developed in western educational practices and culture but are nevertheless quite real. It was Abraham Maslow who gave the Esalen actors a vocabulary and psychology to express how such potentialities might be actualized.”

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