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Monday, 29 September 2008

Wheat That Springeth Green by: J.F. Powers

Wheat That Springeth Green
J.F. Powers
NYRB
ISBN 0940322242

Originally Published as:

Wheat That Springeth Green
A.A. Knopf
New York, 1988, 335p.
ISBN 0394496094

This book was nominated for the national book award in 1988 for fiction. It is the story about Father Joe Hackett who as a young man was an athlete and a bit of a partier, and then he became a priest out of saintly ambition but becomes overly fond of the drink. Joe
is a strange hero for a novel. Powers' daughter Kathrine in her introduction to the current edition states: "Written over an increasingly dark time, Wheat That Springeth Green was shaped by my father's growing conviction of the progressive and irredeemable absurdity of things. He was a connoisseur of the dull, the mediocre and the second-rate, and of the disingenuous and fraudulent, but now it seemed that their dominion has truly come." This book captures much of that sentiment - Joe in his own life and in his interactions with most of the other clergy in this book. Though Powers is more famous for his earlier work Morte D'Urban, I personally find this book much more enjoyable and Joe, though he has more visible faults, a person you can relate to more easily. I have known priests in my life that were mirrors of both Joe and Urban and yet I end up seeing a lot of myself in Joe.

Joe desired to live a holy life; he wanted to be pious and devote. He desired to be a man of prayer, serving the world. In chapter 6 Out in the World (previously published as The Warm Sand) Joe, in hi
s last year in seminary, became known as a holy roller and was avoided his last year in school. His first assignment is with a priest who is a truly pious man, and when he criticizes him in front of some other clergy he experiences great remorse. Through this event he tries to change his ways.

Personally I can really relate to Joe; there is much in his small successes and more frequent failures or setbacks. This book is excellent. It was a labour of over 25 years of writing and rewriting. And having read some of the earlier versions of some chapters published as short stories, it was worth the wait. Powers, being the wordsmith he is, crafted and recrafted the stories together into a fabulous novel.

My Reviews and Articles on Powers:

1962 - Morte d'Urban - novel
1963 - Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories
1988 - Wheat that Springeth Green - novel
1991 - The Old Bird, A Love Story - Illustrated Edition
1999 - The Stories of J. F. Powers
J.F. Powers Selected Bibliography
J.F. Powers Book Covers
That Elusive Story
The Warm Sand
Meme Booked By 3 May 2007
Meme Book Meme
Meme Booked by 3 February 2007

RS398 Directed Reading - The Religious Fiction of J.F. Powers
Essay - Why J.F. Powers
The Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
The Presence of Grace
Morte d'Urban
Look How the Fish Live
Wheat that Springeth Green
Essay - J.F. Powers Literary Life and Legacy

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